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‘That’s a wrap!’ at most ski areas

WINTERSPORTS — Bob Legasa caught a photo of this happy crowd of skiers getting in their last licks on the sunny slopes of Schweitzer Mountain Resort Sunday.  Most of the region's ski areas shut down their lifts for the season on Sunday afternoon.

The notable exception in this area is Silver Mountain, which still has skiing to offer from top to bottom. Siler has announced plans to open the lifts for “Silver Saturdays” only — April 19 and April 26, the weekend of the legendary Leadman — a triathlon done Kellogg style.

 

49 Degrees boosts spring skiing with free tickets

WINTER SPORTS — Skiing is winding down with a flourish at regional resorts, with good snow going into the last weekend at 49 Degrees North, Silver Mountain and Mount Spokane.

But 49 Degrees is making the temptation hard to resist with FREE lift tickets all week.

Says today's snow report:

Thanks to our friends at Toyota, ALL LIFT TICKETS ARE FREE UNTIL APRIL 13TH!

Looking for solitude? Head for a nordic ski trail in April

WINTERSPORTS — A glorious day was to be found on the Schweitzer Mountain Nordic Trails on Sunday.

What wasn't to be found?  Many people.

“Glorious day of spring skiing at Schweitzer,” said Jette Thorslund Benedetto, who was skiing with Kurt Stellwagen. “We had the XC trails all to ourselves. Views were everywhere and the snow wasn't bad at all.”

 

Bogus Basin to stay open yet another week, ‘til April 13

It’s happened again – Bogus Basin is extending its closing date for another week, with daily operations now scheduled to run through April 13 due to good snow conditions, including 23 inches of new snow in the past week. “Spring skiing conditions couldn’t be better,” the resort announced today. The non-profit community ski resort will begin discounting daily lift tickets to $25 this Friday. Weekday operations will be 10 a.m. to 4:30, and weekends 9 a.m. to 4:30. The Nordic center and trails also remain open.

This Sunday, Bogus will celebrate with a “retro” costume theme day and live music from “Bread and Circus” inside the Simplot Lodge at 1 p.m.; on Sunday April 13, there’ll be live music outside the lodge, also at 1. There’s more info here.

Schweitzer 24-hour skiers rack up $100,000 for cystinosis research

WINTERSPORTS — Rudis Kadzejs of Valleyford, Wash., with 210 solo runs, and another 109 skiers going solo or in teams last weekend, skied their hearts out in the 24 Hours of Schweitzer and raised more than $100,000 for cystinosis research.

The annual marathon downhill event and auction is one of the largest cystinosis fundraisers in the country, bringing the 24 Hours for Hank Foundation’s fundraising total to more than $725,000 in six years.

More than 110 skiers and snowboarders ages 5 to 73 from Sandpoint, Coeur d’Alene, Spokane, Moscow, Tri-Cities and around the region, and as far away as Washington, D.C., Arkansas, Iowa, California, Oregon and Colorado took to the slopes for the round-the-clock relay. The ride a chair up and ski down, over and over.

Young skiers took center stage at the March 21-22 benefit, setting four new records at the sixth-annual event.  Leading the charge in the “Endurance” division was Team Gnar Gnar Norwhals of Sandpoint, who took first place in the four-person team category with 699 runs, besting their performance last year by 108 runs.  The team, whose members are all under age 15, is the youngest ever to earn the top award in the four-person team category.

Sandpoint's Catherine Brenner, who turned 14 the day of the finish, tied for second in the solo division with 208 runs. She is the youngest participant ever to place among the top three in the solo categor. 

Read on for more details and ALL the results:

After today’s powder dump, Bogus decides to stay open for another week

I’ve been feeling really fortunate that this is my week off work, because the skiing has been great up at Bogus Basin, where there were sunny spring conditions early in the week, followed by a reported 5” (much more in places) powder dump today that made for an honest-to-goodness powder day all over the mountain. Bogus had been scheduled to close for the season this Sunday, but has just made an announcement: “Due to all the fresh snow we’ve gotten, Bogus will be open an additional week! Regular mountain operations will continue until Sunday, April 6th. The entire mountain will be open except for Chair #4 (Showcase, accessible from Chair 1 Deer Point) and Chair #5 (Bitterroot, already closed for the season). Lift tickets will be $25 this Sunday and $39 for the remainder of the week.”

The end-of-season party is still on for this Sunday; it’s just changing its title to the Spring Snow Party, and Boise’s non-profit community ski area promises more music and activities on the mountain the following Sunday. For the remainder of April, there still could be additional “bonus weekends” if snow permits. Night skiing operations have ended for the season.

Whitefish reconsidering uphill skiing policy after incident

WINTERSPORTS — The U.S. Forest Service and Whitefish Mountain Resort are considering changes to the resort’s policy of allowing skiers to travel uphill after two people entered an area with active avalanche control.

The Flathead Beacon reports the officials with the federal agency and the resort met Friday to discuss options.

  • Many resorts across the country are taking up the issue of uphill skiing, including Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park.  See story here.

The resort is one of the few that allows people to ascend ski runs and ski down for free, an activity that’s becoming more popular.But ski patrollers say a male and female on Feb. 19 disregarded warnings from ski patrollers and descended a closed slope.

Ski patrollers say they had to extinguish explosives in the area that were about to be deployed.

Flathead National Forest officials say another meeting on the uphill ski policy is planned before next season.

Legislative session decompression: Spring skiing…

Boise’s non-profit ski resort is delivering the spring skiing this week, from soft, smooth, forgiving corduroy on the frontside in the morning (pictured at right) to sweet spring slush on the backside in the afternoon (shown above). It’s the last hurrah for Bogus Basin; the resort has announced that its last day for the season will be this coming Sunday, with possible “bonus” weekends into April if weather and snow conditions permit. Final-day festivities on Sunday will include $25 lift tickets; the annual PBR Ribbon Hunt and kids’ scavenger hunt from 9-2:30; and a live band from 1-5 p.m.

Bogus is reporting that over the course of the season, it had 240,000 skier visits, a figure consistent with the last two seasons; taught lessons to 27,000 skiers or snowboarders, 70 percent of whom were children; and employed more than 600 seasonal workers. This year’s season started Dec. 8, 2013.

Canada reels from rash of avalanche fatalities

WINTER SPORTS — Five avalanche deaths in a week — the first in Banff National Park since 2008 — have prompted a plea from safety officials for backcountry users to be cautious in tricky snow conditions.

It has also sparked a discussion about how to better raise awareness about dangerous conditions.

See the story:

Parks Canada to review warning process after avalanches kill 7

Avalanche danger continues to be high in Cascades

WINTER SPORTS — Massive avalanches have been triggered at Crystal Mountain Resort near Mount Rainier as ski patrollers try to mitigate the huge unstable snowpack and make the area safe. The slides are damaging facilities at the mountain. 

See more photos and details here.

Free cross-country ski day in Methow Valley

WINTER SPORTS — The Methow Valley Sport Trails Association and community partners are sponsoring a free cross-country ski day on Friday, March 14 for people to explore the region's most expansive and varied system of groomed nordic trails.

Trail passes will not be required on Backyard Ski Day and the event even includes free ski rentals and free ski lessons.

Details of the event include:

  • Free trail access all day on all the MVSTA ski trails. 
  • Free ski rentals can be obtained from Winthrop Mountain Sports, Methow Cycle & Sport, and the Mazama Ski School.  Reservations recommended. 
  • Free, one hour cross-country ski lesson courtesy of Methow Valley Ski School will begin at 10:00am at the Corral Trailhead in Mazama.
  • Free snow cat rides from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Corral Trailhead in Mazama
  • Free beverages and s'mores at the Corral Trailhead in Mazama from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Dogs also enjoy complementary trail access (with free deer carcasses here and there.)  

Skiers, boarders gear up for 24-Hours of Schweitzer

WINTER SPORTS – Die-hard soloists and teams on skis and snowboards will be riding the lifts through the night on March 21-22 for the annual 24 Hours of Schweitzer.

The all-day, all-night fundraiser benefits cystinosis research.

Backcountry skier details efficiency: getting skins off and on

WINTER SPORTS — In a group of backcountry skiers and splitboarders who don't regularly get out together, it seems as though somebody's always slow at the top and bottom of the run, leaving others to freeze as they wait.

In this video, mountain guide Martin Volken shares his wisdom on how to efficiently transition from ski-to-skin and back again, along with tips on keeping the system simple to stay better organized in the backcountry. 

Oh, Canada! You’re missing your great outdoors

Quote of the day:
“It's truly amazing to think that in a country as beautiful as Canada — renowned the world over as Canada is for its natural beauty and world-class parks system and green space in abundance — that we would ever house a population that spends 90 percent of their time indoors, but that's exactly what the numbers are telling us.”

Richard Starke, Alberta's minister of tourism, parks and recreation, discussing a recent report from the Canadian Parks Council that said 80 percent of Canadians now live in urban areas, and that they spent just 10 percent of their time outside.
- Calgary Herald

Today is prime for off-trail nordic ski route at Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS — If I weren't forced at knife-point to be here in the office today, I'd be taking advantage of the prime conditions presented by the weekend's dump of 10 inches of new snow to be skiing Art's Boogie and other off-trail routes at Mount Spokane State Park.

See Sunday's story (also click the Photos button for photos) about Art Bookstrom, who helped blaze an off-the-groomed-trails route for people who sometimes long for a peaceful trek through the woods.

Extension:  Art's Boogie is about 3Ks one-way from the Selkirk Lodge area to the Nova Hut.  Extend your pleasure by continuing up the access road to the Quartz Mountain Lookout (see photo).

On the other hand, there's freezing rain in the area, so driving would be tricky and the temperatures will be warming as the day advances.

Maybe the office isn't such a bad place to be?

Devastating Missoula avalanche was human-triggered

WINTER SPORTS — The avalanche that came down off Mount Jumbo on Friday and crushed a house in Missoula was human triggered, according to the Missoula Avalanche Center.  This is an eye opener.

Most nordic routes groomed at 4th of July Pass

WINTER SPORTS — Here's today's grooming report for Fourth of July Pass cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails from Geoff Harvey of the Panhandle Nordic Club:

The last warm system that passed through condensed the dryer snow from Sunday and Monday and dropped a little new wet snow.  The result was 8 - 10 inches of wet snow on the established base of all runs. All trails that we groom were groomed with the exception of Tree Top View and Loose Moose. Double track was set on the Inner Core Trails with a skate lane between. The outer trails (Skywalker, Moonrunner, the Eagle Run, Skateaway and Elderberry) have a single track set at the side to accommodate a wide skate lane. Because the snow was so wet maneuvering the groomers was a challenge  on some turns.  As a result some widely taken corners resulted in one of the two lanes being damaged and some groves in places. 

Wet snow is more of a challenge to groom.  Since it is forecast to turn off cold, we did not pack Loose Moose.  It is better to have broken snow on this steep run as compared to a packed surface that can freeze up and become exceedingly difficult to ski.  Elderberry has a single track to near the benches and packed snow machine tracks on to Ian's hut. We were able to remove to trees from the cut across trail before chainsaw trouble spared for another day the “jackpot” of four trees. The trail is a work in progress, but in most places can be skied or walked. 

Stevens Pass gets 160 inches of snow in February

WINTER SPORTS — Stevens Pass has received 160 inches of snow this month as of today, making it the third snowiest February the resort has had in the last 50 years, resort owners say.

February of the 1998-99 season holds the record with 226 inches of snowfall for the month.

In an 11-day storm cycle from Feb. 10 to Feb. 21, more than 10 feet of snow fell, better than doubling the base depth from 61 inches to 129 inches at the time.

Stevens Pass’ base sits at 145 inches of snow at the top and 124 inches of snow in the base area. February storms have brought the 2013-14 season snowfall total to 342 inches. The resort averages 450 inches of snowfall annually.

February’s snowfall was a 76 percent increase from snowfall through the month of January. According to the USDA Stevens Pass had received 73 percent of its normal amount of precipitation as of Feb. 1; the resort now sits at around 90 percent of normal precipitation.

In the last five years March has also been a dependable month for snowfall, averaging 118 inches.

The new snow has created a massive amount of avalanche mitigation work for the Stevens Pass Pro Patrol. Explosives dropped from a helicopter have even been employed to trigger avalanches outside the ski area boundary that could potentially travel into the resort.  

According to the Northwest Avalanche Center, the backcountry avalanche danger is currently “considerable” in the Stevens Pass area of the Cascades, meaning dangerous avalanche conditions exist.

See video of massive avalanche that was triggered by explosives outside the ski area boundary on Feb. 26.

See February snow photos.


  

Schweitzer to extend ski season through April 13

WINTER SPORTS — Schweitzer Mountain Resort announced today that it will shut down its lifts on April 13, a week later than usual to offer a “bonus” week of skiing and snowboarding to its patrons.

Traditionally, the Sandpoint-area resort has closed at the end of the spring break for local schools.

“With help from recent snowfall, Schweitzer will operate for an additional week to accommodate spring breaks in Spokane school districts as well,” said Sean Briggs, resort spokesman. “The amount of terrain and lifts that will be open has not yet been determined.”

Read on for details about discount ticket offers and special events.

Outdoor industry applauds Inslee’s initiative

OUTDOOR RECREATION — The Outdoor Industry Association has high praise for Gov. Jay Inslee's recent executive order creating a blue-ribbon task force to support outdoor recreation in Washington state.  

Inslee’s task force demonstrates the state’s commitment to supporting and expanding the outdoor recreation and tourism industries, says the group based in Boulder, Colo., with offices in Washington, D.C.

Inslee announced this new effort last week with the Big Tent Outdoor Coalition, which includes Kent-based REI and other organizations representing the outdoor recreation community.

“Outdoor recreation is an untapped economic opportunity that can benefit every state in the nation,” said Kirk Bailey, Vice President of Government Affairs for OIA. “This task force will develop recommendations to strengthen and grow outdoor recreation and tourism, as well as examine opportunities in funding sources for recreation lands. OIA will be excited to see their report due out in the fall of 2014.”

The nation’s network of public lands and waters are the foundation of the $646 billion outdoor recreation industry, the group says, noting that in Washington, outdoor recreation generates $22.5 billion in spending, 227,000 jobs and produces $1.6 billion in state and local tax revenue.

Sparkling view today from Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS — I feel sorry for those of you who couldn't call in sick and head up to a ski area to take advantage of today's clear skies and fresh pow.  

Here's the view from Quartz Mountain in Mount Spokane State Park.

Backcountry skiers get away from it all

WINTER SPORTS — Altough recent winter storms have made mountain slopes unsafe for winter travel in some areas, snow-goers who know how to pick stable terrain are having a ball.

Read on for the report from Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson, who filmed the short video above over the weekend during a ski trek at Rogers Pass in the chill of minus 2 degrees.

Bogus Basin kicks into gear…

Great skiing up at Bogus Basin this weekend, where the mountain is now in excellent shape, opening up favorite spots that hadn’t been accessible all season until now. Paradise was closed for the weekend for the annual Trudi Bolinder Memorial Super-G race, a USSA qualifier in which hundreds of young ski racers 16 and older from several states competed, bringing what looked like our own little slice of the Olympics to town; here’s a view of the start as one young woman pushes off.

Bogus kicked off its sales of season passes for next season over the past week with strong results; though the $229 sale is over, passes still are available for $259, good for the rest of this season plus all next season. And if you have to pay the additional $30 because you didn’t buy by Sunday night, there’s the consolation that the money’s going to a good cause: Boise’s non-profit, community-owned ski area.

Epic snow conditions at area ski resorts

WINTER SPORTS — Storms that have rendered the region's mountains sketchy for winter travel because of avalanche danger are leaving the controlled slopes of area ski resorts with stellar snow conditions.  

For example, here's the report just issued by 49 Degrees North, which will re-open its slopes tomorrow with a lot of untracked landscape:

IT IS SNOWING at a rate of 1 to 2 inches per hour, it's flat out dumping!!! We have received over 35 inches of new snow in the last week and it has been snowing heavily since 12 pm.

Conditions are very nice with fresh dry powder covering the mountain!!! Remember we will be closed Wednesday and Thursday, but with this winter weather advisory, we are looking at between 8-12 inches of new snow for a POWDER FRIDAY!!! T

here are a ton of activities to take part in this upcoming weekend to include a Rail Jam and Demo Day on Saturday February 22nd!!! For more information call 509-935-6649 ex 610. You do not want to miss this EPIC Powder! 

Huge Canada avalanche prompts warnings

WINTER SPORTS — Recent weather is creating hazards. Be careful out there.

Massive avalanche in B.C. prompts warnings there and in Alberta
The Canadian Avalanche Centre issued a high-hazard warning for British Columbia and Alberta after learning of a massive slide on Wednesday near Fernie, B.C., destroyed 200-year-old trees and ran past historical avalanche boundaries.
—Calgary Herald

Another powder skier suffocates in tree well

WINTER SPORTS — It happened last week at Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana, and now another report from Wednesday of a Washington skier without a partner falling into a powder pit at the base of a tree and suffocating.

CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN, Wash. (AP) — The ski patrol at Washington’s Crystal Mountain Resort says a Seattle skier died when he apparently suffocated in a tree well.

The ski patrol says a skier told patrol members shortly before 2:30 p.m. Wednesday that her skiing partner was missing. KOMO-TV reports that the patrol says the man had last been seen about 90 minutes earlier.

Ski patrol members spotted some ski equipment near the base of a tree and located the 35-year-old man. They dug him out and began CPR but he died. He was not immediately identified.

Snow immersion suffocation can happen when a skier falls, usually headfirst, into deep loose snow at the base of a tree and becomes immobilized under the snow.

The resort’s ski patrol director, Paul Baugher, says it’s important to ski with a partner and keep each other in sight.

Crystal Mountain has gotten 19 inches of snow in the past 24 hours. 

Bjornsens looked good in Spokane years before Olympics

WINTER SPORTS —They gave us a preview of their world-class talent during Langlauf on Mount Spokane.  

Erik Bjornsen — and his sister Sadie — of Washington's Methow Valley are skiing their hearts out in the nordic events at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.  But winning Langlauf, the annual 10K classic event at Mount Spokane, was one of their milestone achievements to get there.

The photo above shows Erik competing today in Sochi. A photo below shows Erik in 2008 at the age of 16 when he was the overall Langlauf champ. He's posing with the top woman that year, Annie Pokorny of Spokane.

The photo at left shows Sadie Bjornsen at the age of 13 when she won the Langlauf women's division — the youngest competitor to take the Langlauf crown.

See today's story about the Bjornsen's attraction to a college in Alaska that's primed them for international competition.

See my story on their connection with the Spokane Langlauf.

Click “continue reading” to see photos of Erik and Sadie Bjornsen in action during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

Sport of contrasts: ski hard, shoot straight

WINTER SPORTS — Biathlon is a sport that mixes the oil and water of revving up the heartbeat with aerobic cross-country skiing and then asking your circulatory system to calm down instantly for precise marksmanship with the .22-caliber rifle you must carry with a special harness on your back. Repeat.

The sport was born into the Winter Olympics from its roots in Scandinavian military operations.

In modern times, it may be the ultimate shooting sport.

Where can you check out biathlon in the Inland Northwest?

 

Ladies get special treatment at two ski areas

WINTER SPORTS — Wednesdays and Fridays are “Ladies Days” at certain Inland Northwest ski resorts, with special deals and favors.

Check it out here.

Outdoor Retailer groups demo new winter gear

WINTER SPORTS — The annual Outdoor Retailer winter expo brings out the latest outdoor gear for a show in Salt Lake City. There's cool stuff to explore, and  Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is speaking to the manufacturers and retailers on hand as the show opens today.  This is a big deal.

Read the story from the Salt Lake Tribune.