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Four area ski resorts opening this weekend

WINTERSPORTS — Four ski resorts in the Inland Northwest have announced they plan to be running lifts this weekend. Skiing will be on limited terrain until more snow falls; ticket prices are reduced.

49° North Mountain Resort near Chewelah will open to skiers and snowboarders Friday.

Schweitzer Mountain Resort near Sandpoint opened last weekend and will resume operations Friday.

Lookout Pass ski area off Interstate 90 on the Idaho-Montana border will open Friday.  “We received 7” of new snow overnight, 15” since Saturday,” Phil Edholm, Lookout's president, said today. “Our base is currently 14” to 22” and it’s still snowing.

Silver Mountain Resort in Kellogg will open Saturday.

Mount Spokane State Park cross-country skiing trails had only about six inches of snow today, reported Jerry Johnson, Park Ranger. With warm temperatures and rain in the forecast he said, “It's likely to be fairly grim up here until the colder temperatures move in on the weekend.”

Sno-Park permits soon required at Mount Spokane

WINTERSPORTS — The change from Discover Passes to Sno-Park Permits is one of the transitions underway at Mount Spokane State Park as snow begins to pile up and road plowing begins.

Starting Dec.1, vehicles accessing the cross-country skiing and snowshoer parking areas will be required to have Washington Sno-Park permits. The permits can be purchased from a variety of vendors as well as online.

Until then, vehicles accessing the park will still be required to display a Washington Discover Pass, says Steve Christensen park manger, noting that the Sno-Park system is a separate account in state recreation budgeting.

Customers parking at the Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park do not need a vehicle pass — but only when the resort is open and operating.  The ski area has not announced an opening date.

Banff Mountain Films lineup listed for Spokane

ADVENTURE — The lineup of films for the three-day run of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour in Spokane has been decided — just hours before the first films will be shown tonight starting at 7 p.m. at The Bing Crosby Theater.

Shows are sold out for all three nights.

World Tour host — better known as the World Tour road warrior — Holly Elliott met with Phil Bridgers of Mountain Gear met this afternoon at No-Li Brewery to work through the options. They take a lot of care in getting a good mix of 7-9 films of varying lengths and subject matter each night. No repeats through the three-night run.

Elliott already has been on road with screenings in Montana, but Spokane is among the first of hundreds of shows across the globe through September. She says The Bing is one of her favorite venues for sound, intimacy and the atmosphere of the facility and the crowd.

Read on for the lineup in Spokane:

FRIDAY

Vasu Sojitra - Out on a Limb

Tumwater Solitude

Cerro Torre (Best Film: Climbing)

Intermission

Delta Dawn (Best Short Film)

Forgotten Dirt

The Little Things - Meghann O' Brien

Sufferfest 2 - Desert Alpine (People's Choice Award: Radical Reels)

SATURDAY

Danny MacAskill - The Ridge

Caleb

Love in the Tetons

Sculpted in Time - The Wiseman

And Then We Swam (Best Film: Exploration and Adventure)

Intermission

Mending the Line (People's Choice Award at Banff)

Just Keep Running

Valley Uprising - The Golden Age (Grand Prize winner)

Afterglow

SUNDAY

Touch

Happy Winter

Arctic Swell

Tashi and the Monk (Best Film: Mountain Culture)

Intermission

Africa Fusion

14C

Into the Empty Quarter

Wild Women - Faith Dickey

Sun Dog

Let’s name Mt. Spokane’s new downhill ski runs

WINTERSPORTS — Now that the Washington Parks and Recreation Commission has approved the controversial expansion of the downhill skiing area at Mount Spokane State Park, much more work must be done.

More planning is needed, plus permitting, installing a chairlift and building seven new ski runs totaling 74 acres through  279 acres of pristine mountain habitat on the northwest side of the mountain. 

The least the public can do is help Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park name the seven new runs!

A few suggestions to start the process:

  1. Missing Lynx
  2. Former Getaway
  3. Backcountry Found
  4. Wild Hare
  5. Close to Home
  6. Almost Schweitzer
  7. Compromise

State Parks board approves expansion of Mt. Spokane ski area

PUBLIC LANDS — A proposal to expand downhill skiing at Mount Spokane was approved by the Washington Parks Commission today during a meeting in Spokane.

The proposal has been years in the making.

By a 5-2 vote, commissioners approved the designation of the land for skiing, then in a separate vote approved the ski development plan.

See the full story from the meeting by reporter Becky Kramer.

Numerous stories and editorials have followed this proposal over the years.  Some of the most recent samples include:

Nordic skiing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea

WINTERSPORTS — Cross-country skiing is an active way to glide through winter, as S-R columnists explored in the paper this week.

But several readers pointed out that they prefer other less athletic ways to endure the snowy months.  Among them, Gary Polser, who writes:

My Story! Years ago the wife and I lived on 27 acres north of Spokane at Riverside.  We worked at FAFB.  Having been raised in California, I was not familiar with Skiing.  Cross-country skiing sounded like maybe fun on my property.  I checked out some skiing equipment at the base Rec Hall.  Installed same on feet at back deck of house.  Started out in the back parking area.  Made it about six feet and fell on my behind.  Took off the skis and never tried it again.

Perhaps it's a blessing that Gary found some other winter pastime after suffering little more than a bruised ego.

Better to cut your losses early before enduring more serious cross-country skiing rites of passage, such as frostbite and Nordic Nipple.

Gonzaga ranked in top 10 colleges — for skiers!

WINTERSPORTS — In addition to the weekly diet of national ratings for basketball teams, Gonzaga University this week has made a list of top 10 colleges for students and their quest for “higher shreducation.”

Holy sitz-mark!

The list has been posted by Freeskier Magazine in a story that evaluates colleges based on 16 factors, including distance to winter resorts, number of resorts within 100 miles, average annual snowfall of closest resort, transportation offerings, number of ski movies on campus and number of courses related to snow.

Some emphasis also is afforded to normal education advantages in the criteria, including percent of students winning grant aid, professor-student ratio and graduation rate.

Accounting for the tight ranking with Montana State University in Bozeman was the the Zags' ability to score in the relatively exclusive category titled “Is Weed Legal?”

Says the magazine:

Gonzaga University, home to the Bulldogs, is a private Roman Catholic university located in Spokane, Washington, on the southern edge of the rugged Selkirk Mountains. While Spokane only receives an average of 11 inches of annual snowfall, Mount Spokane, a mere 26 mile distance away, receives 300-plus, and resorts like Schweitzer, Lookout Pass, Silver Mountain and 49 Degrees North are all within driving distance.

The survey appears to be a snub at Eastern Washington University, where the money students save on tuition would allow them to buy season passes at all the nearby resorts, including Schweitzer.

But Western Washington University proudly represents Washington state schools on the list, boosted by the prolific snowfall at nearby Mount Baker.

The No. 1 school for skiers received this glowing review:

The University of Utah is the undisputed king of ski colleges. Located in Salt Lake City, almost every ski area in the state is located within 100-miles, each of which offer up Utah’s abundant, bone-dry snow. The closest resort—Snowbird—is a quick 16-mile drive up Little Cottonwood Canyon, so if you schedule your classes right, you can be nipple deep all morning and still make it back in time for Biology 101.

Here's the full list:

  1. University of Utah
  2. Sierra Nevada College
  3.  University of Colorado at Boulder
  4. Westminster College
  5. University of Alaska Anchorage
  6. Montana State University
  7. Gonzaga University
  8. University of Nevada Reno
  9. Western Washington University
  10. University of Denver

Schweitzer sets limited opening for skiers on Saturday

WINTERSPORTS — Schweitzer Mountain Resort will open for the season at 9 a.m. on Saturday officials say. A lift will operate through Sunday with 150 acres available for skiing out of the resort's 2,900 acres of terrain.

Skiers will be limited to Midway, with the Basin Express chair lift scheduled to operate from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. during opening weekend.

“Even though we’re only opening with limited operations, we’re very excited to get the season started in the Inland Northwest,” says President/CEO Tom Chasse.  “The fact that we have anything to offer is a direct result of pre-season brush cutting, our snowmaking capability and our dedication to the skiers/boarders of the region.”

Schweitzer will close mid-week and then re-open on Friday, Nov. 28, for the weekend. 

With new snow in the forecast over the weekend, the resort hopes to expand the terrain and add the Musical Chairs lift for Thanksgiving weekend.

Lift tickets this weekend will cost $40 for everyone except for children 6 and under who will ski free. 

Schweitzer’s Sunday-Friday passholders may also ski this Saturday and next, at no charge.

Sunday Solution tickets will be available on Sunday, half day ticket are $25 if purchased in advance online, or $35 at the ticket window.

Schweitzer has received only 5 inches of natural snow so far this season in the village but colder than usual temperatures in the last week provided optimal snow making conditions, officials said.

Skiing and snowboarding is recommended on groomed trails as early season conditions exist with variable snowpack.

On mountain parking will be free this weekend and the shuttle from the “Red Barn” parking lot will be running on the midweek schedule. 

Info: (208) 263-9562.

  • 49 Degrees North officials say they're still waiting for more snow before making an announcement.

Mount Spokane nordic warming hut takes shape

WINTERSPORTS — The cozy warming hut destined for the outer reaches of the sprawling 60K Mount Spokane Cross-Country Ski Park was taking shape this weekend, thanks to volunteers from Selkirk Nordic.

Days of My Youth ski flick at GU

WINTERSPORTS — A ski movie that examines skiing as a way of life, offering a glimpse into the journey of self-discovery that every skier takes — is coming to Spokane Thursday, Nov. 13.

Days of My Youth will be screened at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at Gonzaga University's Wolff Auditorium, 502 E
Boone Ave.  This is the same flick that screened at the Spokane Fair and Expo Center during the Mt. Spokane Ski Patrol Ski Swap.

The film travels the globe to captures moments that define the cutting-edge of what is possible on skis. From nearly impossible descents in Alaska to massive terrain features with U.S. Olympian Bobby Brown.

Days of My Youth showcases top action from the last two years rolled into one film.

Tickets, $10, are available online.

Spokane's screening is a part of a worldwide tour traveling to more than 80 theaters across the U.S., Canada and Europe.

“This is the first time in over 20 years of making ski films that we've had the luxury of taking 2 full winters to capture the action and really focus on our creative direction,” says executive producer Murray Wais.

The film works with a small cast of top skiers, including Richard Permin, Mark Abma, James Heim, Michelle Parker, Cody Townsend, Markus Eder, Bobby Brown, Sam Anthamatten, and others with a special appearance by freeskiing pioneer Bobbie Burns.

Women rule slopes in flick at GU

WINTERSPORTS — A film celebrating an all-female cast of skiers will screen at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 6, at Gonzaga University, Wolff Auditorium. (See trailer below)

Pretty Faces is a film celebrating women who thrive in the snow. Pro big mountain skier and SheJumps co-founder Lynsey Dyer conceived the film to give women and girls, young and old, a source of inspiration through a unique look at what is possible when boundaries are broken, dreams captured and friendships cultivated.

“I wanted to give young girls something positive to look up to…I wanted to give them their Blizzard of Ahhs, Ski Movie or High Life, but done in a way that also shows the elegance, grace, community and style that is unique to women in the mountains,” Dyer says.

By $10 tickets online:  https://commerce.cashnet.com/guoutdoors
Or visit Gonzaga Outdoors office in the basement of Crosby Student Center.

Unicorn Picnic | Pretty Faces Teaser from Unicorn Picnic Productions on Vimeo.

Resorts offer ski passes to fifth graders

WINTERSPORTS – Once again, fifth-grade students are being treated like royalty at most Inland Northwest ski resorts, with free skiing and other discounts.

The Fifth Grade Ski or Ride Free Passport, costs $20, entitles students to three free lift tickets at each of the participating mountains, including 49 Degrees North, Mt. Spokane, Silver Mountain, Lookout Pass along with Bluewood, Loup Loup and Mission Ridge.

Some resorts also offer free or discounted ski rentals and lessons.

Parents and siblings accompanying the fifth graders can get discounts.

Applications are available in most fifth-grade classrooms in the region.

See details and download applications here.

Mt. Spokane ski area expansion meeting Nov. 19

STATE PARKS — The controversial proposal to expand the downhill ski area at Mount Spokane State Park will get another public hearing in Spokane Valley next month.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission has announced a special  evening public meeting to take testimony about land classification options that could impact the expansion proposal.

The meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 19 at Center Place Recreation Center, 2426 N. Discovery Pl.

“This will be the only opportunity for verbal public comment on the Mount Spokane issues prior to the Commission’s decisions on land classification and the proposed expansion at Mount Spokane at a regular meeting in Spokane the following day,” the commission says in a media release.

In 2010, Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park pared down previous plans and requested an expansion of the concession’s ski area by about 279 acres. The proposal involves adding one lift.

Nov. 14 is the deadline for written comments to the commission before its meeting. Email comments to  Commission@parks.wa.gov.

The options the commission will chose from are spelled out online at 1.usa.gov/1u0NSOA.

This  draft Environmental Impact Statement includes a previous round of public comment received through Sept. 30.

 In 2010, Mount Spokane 2000 approached the Commission with a conceptual proposal to expand skiing into approximately 279 acres of an 800-acre portion of the park known as the Potential Alpine Ski Expansion Area, an area that has not been assigned a land classification.

Options to be considered by the Commission on Nov. 20 include the following land classifications and associated potential development options:

Natural Forest Area: Would allow no ski lift development and would limit recreation activity to Chair 4 Road as well as to a portion of a summit road and an existing mountain biking trail

Resource Recreation and Natural Forest Area: Would allow alpine skiing as a conditional use with no lift or formal runs constructed and limited clearing of downed or damaged trees to reduce hazards for backcountry skiers

Recreation, Resource Recreation and Natural Forest Area: Would permit ski lift development and runs and would provide for more vegetation clearing within the area designated Recreation, while offering a higher level of resource protection in the Resource Recreation portion and no development within the Natural Forest Area.

Jury’s still out on B.C.’s controversial Jumbo Pass ski area

PUBLIC LANDS — The controversial Jumbo Glacier resort in the Purcell Mountains near Invermere, British Columbia, is in a holding pattern after its environmental certificate expired on the weekend, but resort officials say they’re still on track to open the day lodge and a lift by next winter, the Calgary Herald reports.

The $1-billion ski resort’s environmental certificate — which has been in place for 10 years — expired last week.

No additional construction will take place at the site until First Nations and other stakeholders are consulted and until B.C. Minister of Environment Mary Polack rules on whether the resort has “substantially started” the project.

Resort plans call for  construction of 5,500 condos and up to 23 ski lifts.

The upscale resort has divided the community between those who want a boon to local business and others who fear destruction of the pristine wilderness and grizzly bear habitat.

Pre-season ski swaps great for gearing up

WINTERSPORTS – Used equipment and new but year-old products will be coming out of closets and warehouses for great deals at annual ski- and winter-gear swaps in the next two week.

The following fundraisers help finance area ski patrols and racing groups:

Ski trail clearing Oct. 18 at 4th of July Pass

WINTERSPORTS — The Panhandle Nordic Club is calling for volunteers to join them in a “lopping party” to trim brush along the ski and snowshoe trails on Saturday, Oct. 18, at Fourth of July Pass. 

Meet:  Fire Station at Cherry Hill Park on 15th at 9 a.m..  Carpooling is advised since we will take a few cars on the trails to specific locations.

What to bring:  Loppers, gloves, warm clothes, lunch and water.  Dessert will be provided at the picnic shelter. 

Another note:  Club meetings will be held this season through April 2015 at the CDA Police Department meeting room.  Address is 3818 Schreiber Way off of Kathleen.  First meeting is Tuesday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m..  

Info: Jim McMillen, jimmccda@gmail.com.

Harbinger of winter: Ski films booked at The Bing

WINTERSPORTS — Ski season isn't quite here but ski movie season is.

Here's what's scheduled at the Bing Crosby Theater in Spokane in the next month:

  • Saturday, Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m. — Inspired Ski Movie Tour, featuring guest speakers Henrik Harlaut, 2X X-Games gold medalist, and pro skier Phil Casabon.   Advance tickets $12 or $15 as the door.
  • Oct. 11, 7 p.m. — Sports Creel Ski Movie Party, featuring Less, Oil and Water, Burn and Ten and Two.  Professional skiers L.J. Strenio and Mike Hornbeck, who appear in some of the movies, will attend the show . College ski passes to Lookout Pass to be sold for $99.  Advance tickets $5.
  • Nov. 1, 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. — Warren Miller's No Turning Back, the 65th ski film from the father of the genre, pays homage to 65 years of mountain culture and winter adventure filmmaking. Advance tickets $$20.

Mt. Spokane ski area expansion comments extended

WINTERSPORTS — The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission is extending the period for public comments on options for the expansion of the downhill ski area at Mount Spokane State Park.

See my column on the topic published last Thursday.

Comments will be accepted to Sept. 30 on the Combined Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Proposed Land Classification for the Potential Alpine Ski Expansion Area (PASEA) at Mount Spokane Ski Area Expansion.

To provide email comments go to the State Parks web page and enter “Mt Spokane PASEA” in the “Planning Project” box. 

Panhandle Forests respond to forest plan objections

PUBLIC LANDS — Regional Forest Service officials have responded to formal objections to the Idaho Panhandle National Forest’s Revised Forest Plan released earlier this year.

  • See the response document attached to this blog post.

The document of responses is the final step in the new objection process and provides the final decision for the 22 objections received from various groups.

Based on the responses, Northern Rockies Regional Forester Faye Krueger will be making modifications to the plan before signing the final decision that would conclude a forest planning process that began in 2002.

“This objection response is the outcome of a deliberative and extensive review of concerns raised by objectors involving complex regulatory and management issues,” said acting Associate Deputy Chief Greg Smith.

Forest officials say they should be able to complete the instructions this winter if the additional work indicates the forest does not need to go back out for public review.

The forest will begin implementation of the revised forest plan 30 days after the final Record of Decision is signed.

“The Kootenai and Idaho Panhandle Zone plans are the first two of the 1982 Forest Plans to go through the objection process,” Krueger said. “We are still learning how the objection process works and the Forest Service is applying what we have learned here to the other Forest Plans, nation-wide.”

The Idaho Panhandle National Forest’s plan revision process has been ongoing since 2002 and has included numerous public meetings, open houses and more than 100 community based work-group sessions.

A draft forest plan and draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) with multiple alternatives was released to the public in January 2012 and was followed by a 90 day public comment period.

After incorporation of public comments and the selection of an alternative the final Revised Forest Plan, final EIS and draft Record of Decision were released to the public in September 2013, which marked the beginning of the objection process.

Completion of the objection process is the final step before the forest finalizes the Record of Decision and begins implementation of the revised plan.

View the Revised Forest Plan and any of the supporting documents on the Idaho Panhandle NF’s Forest Plan Revision webpage, or contact a Forest Service Office.


Documents:

Video: Hayden skier wins berth in World Heli Challenge

WINTERSPORTS — A Hayden man's extreme skiing video has won an online competition for viewer votes this week, launching him and two freeriding buddies from the training grounds of Schweitzer Mountain Resort to the slopes of New Zealand's Mount Cook for the World Heli Challenge in September.

Essex Prescott and members of Team Vacation — Dylan Siggers and Leo Zukerman — received the most online votes in the World Heli Challenge Call Up competition, according to a just-posted media release.

The extreme skiers and filmmakers used a good dose of humor along with helicopters to drop in powder hounds pounding steep radical slopes. 

Team Vacation has qualified to compete with one other team in the World Heli Challenge — a nine-day, freeride competition including heli-accessed freeriding for up to two days, during which each team will edit a 5-minute video that will be promoted and seen around the world.

Each team will be assigned a professional action photographer to document their extreme skiing challenge and create a portfolio for the Canon Shootout, sponsored by Canon, Inc.

If Team Vacation wins the World Heli Challenge, they will receive more than $8,000 along with camera gear and other prizes.

Mount Spokane ski area expansion options released

STATE PARKS — The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission has released two proposals regarding the expansion of Mount Spokane State Park. Public comments on the proposals will be accepted through Sept. 15.

The proposals are combined under one draft environmental impact statement, which considers the potential impacts of:

  • The expansion of the Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park, with the addition of one ski lift and seven associated ski trails within an approximately 279-acre area.
  •  A formal land classification and reclassification of a portion of the state park known as the Potential Alpine Ski Expansion Area (PASEA).

See details about the proposals, the draft environmental impact statement documents, and a link to provide comments at this website

Comment by email and enter “Mt Spokane PASEA” in the “Planning Project” box.

Info: Randy Kline at randy.kline@parks.wa.gov or 360-902-8632.

Backcountry skiers commenting on Forest Service plan

WINTERSPORTS — The public comment period for the U.S. Forest Service’s draft Over-Snow Vehicle (OSV) Travel Rule ends Aug. 4.   This rule will affect all national forests, including the Idaho Panhandle and Lolo National Forests, which are favorite winter destinations for both backcountry skiers, snowshoers and snowmobilers.

“The proposed OSV Travel Rule is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough,” says John Latta of the Inland Northwest Backcountry Alliance. The group has been working to sort out conflicts between snowmobilers and muscle-powered recreation in the Lookout Pass area and other special areas.

 Latta said nordic skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers and winter mountaineers should be weighing in to ensure the Forest Service adopts a rule “that meets its obligation to minimize the impacts of winter motorized use, and finally bring balance to the winter backcountry.”

Following is the group's recommendation for commenters:

PLEASE COMMENT ON THE OVER-SNOW VEHICLE RULE BY AUGUST 4

STEP 1: Review the WWA informational webpage about the draft rule HERE to get up to speed. Basically, we need to tell the Forest Service that the winter travel management rule should be consistent with the summer travel management rule.

STEP 2: Submit your comments online HERE. You can write your comments in the online form. OR if you prefer (and you’re computer savvy), you can modify and submit the WWA’s comment letter template (a Word document) that you can find HERE.
Let the Forest Service know how management of the winter backcountry has the potential to improve your experience on National Forest lands — or how a lack of management has degraded your experience.

You may want to make sure that you include these important points in your comments:

  • Winter travel management needs to take a “closed unless designated open” approach to OSVs, which is how the Forest Service currently manages off- road vehicles (ORVs).
  • Past administrative decisions about over-snow vehicle use that apply to only part of a forest or that do not consider the impacts of OSVs on other users or the environment, should not be “grandfathered in” and must be reexamined.
  • The draft OSV Rule defines an “area” differently than the existing ORV travel management rule. This change is unnecessary and the definition should be consistent in ALL seasons.

Please include information about your own experiences and local playground, be it the Stevens Peak backcountry area and/or any other backcountry area that you use.

STEP 3: Share your tracking number with WWA. When you submit your comments on the Regulations.gov website, it gives you a tracking number. Please copy that number <Ctrl C>, then paste the tracking number <Ctrl V> in the appropriate field, along with your name and email address, at the bottom of the WWA page HERE and click Submit.

Ski area expansion prompts Mount Spokane land classification proposals

PUBLIC LANDS — Land classification proposals that could make or break a plan to expand the Mount Spokane alpine ski area will be presented at the Washington Parks and Recreation Commission meeting Thursday, July 24, in Bellingham.

In 2010, Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park proposed expanding its ski area within the state park to provide more intermediate terrain needed to remain competitive. Conservation and wildlife groups have contested the expansion.

The ski area concession encompasses 1,425 acres of the 14,000-acre state park.

In 1999, land classifications were adopted for the park, but 850 acres was left unclassified in an area designated for potential alpine ski expansion.

The ski area has proposed installing a lift, which already has been purchased, and expanding skiing with seven new runs over nearly 280 acres of that area.

State Parks staff is releasing a report this week that proposes four land classification options. One of the options would designate the land a “natural forest area,” which would preclude any development and most recreation.

An environmental impact statement on the land classifications is to be released this week. Public comment will be taken through mid-August. The commission is scheduled to choose an option on Nov. 20.

The Lands Council based in Spokane plans to argue that the report has flaws, including the stance that the area does not include old growth forest.

“I guess we’re still in a little bit of a battle,” said Mike Peterson, executive director.


Documents:

Mount Shuksan avalanche kills skier

WINTERSPORTS — The National Parks Service says one skier was killed Wednesday in a North Cascades National Park peak after getting swept by an avalanche.

An avalanche triggered on Mount Shuksan Wednesday morning as two skiers were descending the peak. One skier narrowly avoided the slide, but the other was caught, falling over 2,000 feet. The uninjured skier called for help using his cell phone.

Climbing rangers were able to find the body during an aerial search, but unstable snow conditions prevented them from retrieving the body.

The two skiers, both men, were from Seattle. No further details were immediately available.

Park staff says they’ll attempt to retrieve the body using a helicopter today.

Afghanistan skiing slide show at Magic Lantern

WINTERSPORTS — In case you missed it first time around when we first wrote about a skier's week in Afghanistan, a FREE slide program “Ski Boots on the Ground: Bamiyan Province of Afghanistan” will be shown Thursday, 7:15 p.m., at the Magic Lantern Theatre, 25 W. Main Ave. in Spokane.

Nick Pontarolo, a Cheney resident and graduate of the Spokane Mountaineers Mountain School, will speak and share a slideshow from his recent seven-day ski and sightseeing adventure in an amazingly unlikely destination. 

Snowboarder lawsuit could put chill on liability releases at ski resorts

WINTERSPORTS — The Oregon Supreme Court heard arguments in Astoria last week in a lawsuit filed by a snowboarder paralyzed from the waist down after a jump at a popular Bend resort. The snowboarder says the waiver he signed does not release the resort from liability for his injuries.

According to the Associated Press coverage of the hearing last Wednesday, the arguments centered on the difference between the assumed risk that skiers and snowboarders take on dangerous jumps and the responsibility of a snow park operator to make sure its jumps and moguls are safe.

Myles Bagley was 18 when he was injured at the Mt. Bachelor ski resort in 2006 on a jump. Bagley’s attorneys argued his injuries could have been avoided if the jump were designed differently.

Mt. Bachelor’s attorney says a mandatory waiver signed with a lift pass sale exempts the resort.

Bagley’s case could have broad ramifications for release agreements that must be signed in order to take part in an activity. Some state legislatures have made specific rules for amusement parks, which include ski lifts, but the issue of broader recreational activity has not yet been defined.

Bagley sought $21.5 million in Deschutes County Circuit Court in 2008. A judge threw out the lawsuit, and the court of appeals affirmed.

 

Hydrologist: Ski now, paddle whitewater later

WINTERSPORTS — Hold on to your spray skirts, kayakers.  The ski-snowshoe-snowboard season is not yet over.

This week's weather foray into 70-degree temperatures isn't enough to trigger the big spring runoff events whitewater enthusiasts relish.

“It's still getting below freezing at night in the upper Selkirks, and that means the snowpack is holding on,” said Kevin Davis, Idaho Panhandle National Forests hydrologist who also heads the  Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center out of Sandpoint.

Sunny days and freezing night temperatures add up to prime corn-snow skiing conditions in the high country for backcountry enthusiasts, he said. But kayakers and rafters waiting for the rush of water down their favorite streams must be patient even though its sandal weather.

Harris was on Lightning Creek near Hope, Idaho, on Wednesday, pointing out the creek was low and clear and the high mountains were still white with snow despite the shirt-sleeve weather locals were enjoying around Lake Pend Oreille.

“Basically it takes 70-degree temperatures up in the mountains — that's about the trigger point that sets off the spring runoff,” he said. “So far, it hasn't been getting that warm up high.”

Stevens Pass Ski Area reports record season

WINTERSPORTS — More than 406,000 guests visited Stevens Pass ski area last winter making 2013-14 its largest season since visits have been electronically tracked.  While much of the West Coast saw below average snowfall, Stevens Pass surpassed its 450-inch average with a seasonal total of 463 inches.

The Nov. 16, 2013, opening was the resort's third earliest.  During the last three winters, the Washington resort operated more than 150 days, besting its 134 day average set during the previous 28 years. 

Memorable storms this season included an 11-day snow cycle that dropped 125 inches Feb. 10-21, 2014. That brought the ski area to a total of 160 inches for the month of February

In December Stevens Pass also unveiled its new Doppelmayr high-speed detachable Jupiter Quad in the Mill Valley area capping off over $4 million in seasonal improvements. The resort also expanded to four terrain parks making it the largest park program in the state with more than 70 features.

‘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.