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Backcountry Film Festival tonight in Spokane; Feb. 13 in CdA


The Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival touring films will show at more than 100 venues this year, including the Inland Northwest;

  • Tonight, Jan. 29, 7 p.m., at the Bing Crosby Theater in Spokane. Tickets: $12 at Mountain Gear, 2002 N. Division St., or TicketsWest.  Sponsored by Inland Northwest Backcountry Alliance, or #speak4thepeak.
  • Feb. 13, 7 p.m., at the Eagles Club in Coeur d’Alene, 209 Sherman Ave. Tickets: $7. Sponsored by the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness and the Idaho Conservation League. For more information: www.idahoconservation.org, or call (208) 265-9565.

See my Sunday story about the film fest in Spokane.

Following is the lineup of films coming to the Spokane showing of the Backcountry Film Festival:

  • From the Road (Fischer Creative) – Dynafit team goes to Alaska.
  • Afterglow (Sweetgrass Production) – Skiers light up the backcountry slopes.
  • Backcountry Baker (Jeremy Lurgio) – A Labrador retriever and his owner pursue their love of mountains through backcountry skiing in Montana’s Bitterroot Mountains; Best Grassroots Film Award.
  • Out on a Limb (T-bar Films) – An amputee overcomes obstacles through his love for skiing; Best of Festival Award.
  • 95 to Infinity (Doglotion Media) – Brothers Andy and Mike Traslin keep the torch lit for 95 months of winter turns.
  • IRS Traverse (Luc Mehl) – A fun but grueling adventure through Alaska wilderness.
  • Powder Pilgrimage (Joey Howell) – Two friends ski bumming near Valdez; Best of Backcountry Award.
  • Sundog (Sturge Films) – Capturing the dog days of skiing in Patagonia.
  • Higher (Teton Gravity Research) – Pro athlete Jeremy Jones reaches new heights.

Be the 12th player on the slopes - for $12

WINTERSPORTS — Acknowledging that there might be some serious competition for visitors this weekend, Stevens Pass Ski Area as well as Silver Mountain are deflating ticket prices on Super Bowl Sunday.

Silver Mountain is offering all-day tickets for $12.

Stevens Pass is offering $12 lift tickets good for 4 hours — just enough time to hit the slopes before funneling into the lodges for Super Bowl festivities or make way back home for the big game.

The resort is offering only 1,200 of the $12 ticket vouchers, which are available online.

Forest Service sets rule for oversnow vehicles

WINTERSPORTS — Just-released news of special interest to backcountry skiers and snowmobilers alike:

The U.S. Forest Service today released the final policy for managing snowmobile and other "over-snow" vehicle use on national forests and grasslands. As directed by court order, the policy requires that roads, trails and areas where over-snow vehicle use can occur be specifically designated by local Forest Service mangers. Previously, managers had the discretion to decide whether to designate specific areas for over-snow vehicle use.

Following are details in the agency's announcement:

"The Forest Service always seeks to provide a wide range of motorized and non-motorized recreational opportunities," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "This policy maintains community input and local decision-making so that those with knowledge of local areas can decide how to best balance natural resource issues with legitimate recreational uses of national forest land."

Many forests and grasslands currently have oversnow designations—more than 40 percent of national forests where snow depths can accommodate over-snow vehicles have guidance consistent with the final policy—and the agency has directed all remaining forest supervisors where the policy applies to make the providing local guidance a priority. The policy maintains the requirement that all designations must be made with public input as well as ensure protection of natural resources, such as water and soils and wildlife, while continuing appropriate recreational opportunities for over-snow and other recreational uses. The court's order ensures that the final policy also provides consistency across all forests and grasslands by requiring designation of areas where over-snow use is allowed.

The policy, scheduled to be published on Wednesday, Jan. 28 in the Federal Register, is formalized in 30 days. The Forest Service reviewed more than 20,000 comments on the proposed guidelines, which were published in June, 2014.

The best-known use of over-snow vehicles is recreation. However, over snow vehicles are also used for other purposes such as gathering firewood and subsistence hunting. Nationally, the U.S. Forest Service manages more than 200,000 miles of roads and 47,000 miles of trails that are open to motor-vehicle use. These roads and trails vary from single-track trails used by motorcycles to roads designed for high-clearance vehicles such as logging trucks.

The final policy will preserve existing decisions governing over-snow vehicle use that were made under previous authorities with public involvement; allow decisions for over-snow vehicle use to be made independently or in conjunction with decisions for other types of motor vehicle use; and local units will create over-snow vehicle use maps separate from use maps for other kinds of motor vehicles.

The mission of the Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the Nation's clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.

Skiers set visitation records at Lookout Pass

WINTERSPORTS — Lookout Pass ski area has had some record-breaking skier visit days in January, according to owner Phil Edholm.

The resort off I-90 at the Idaho-Montana state line posted these numbers:

  • Saturday, Jan. 17, single day attendance record of 2, 243 skier visits.
  • Saturday, Jan. 10, single day Free Ski School lesson program record with 403 kids in attendance.

Methow Nordic Fest for skis, bikes, snowshoes

WINTERSPORTS — The annual Methow Valley Nordic Festival based in Winthrop, Wash., kicks off Friday, Jan 23, for a three-day weekend to celebrate nordic skiing, snowshoeing, fat biking and winter trail running. 

To sweeten the event, Methow Trails, Winthrop Mountain Sports and other local business partners are offering:

  • Free cross-country skiing all day (no trail passes required)
  • Free rentals at participating businesses
  • Free ski lessons courtesy of Methow Valley Ski School
  • Free fat bike demo hosted by Methow Cycle and Sport

Saturday, Jan.24, events include:

  • 30k classic ski race from Winthrop to Mazama as part of a one or two day skiing competition. 
  • Winter trail runners can enjoy a 9k or a 15k winter trail run organized by Rainshadow Running
  • Free skate ski clinic for runners hosted by Methow Endurance
  • Free snowshoe nature tour begins at 11:00am from two Methow Valley locations.
  • Nordic Festival Dinner, a fundraiser for the Methow Valley Ski Team. 

Sunday, Jan. 25, events include:

  • ​The 30k Pursuit skate ski (race, tour, or relay) from Mazama to Winthrop with post-race party. 

Methow Trails is North America’s largest cross-country ski area with more than 120 miles of groomed trails where visitors 17 and under and those 75 and older ski free everyday.


Ultimate heli-skiing holiday is rich experience

WINTERSPORTS — Most doctors and lawyers can save their time and skip this notice, which is aimed at the truly rich people who love jet-set traveling, heli-skiing, gear, first-class food, accommodations and pampering.

Canadian Mountain Holidays, the world’s largest heli-ski operator, is celebrating its 50th anniversary in many ways, including an offer for the "ultimate heli-ski experience."

The word "ultimate" has been overused for  years, but in this case it might be appropriate.  The one-week package will set back the lucky group of up to 10 a smart CDN $549,500. Taxes are extra, but if you can afford the asking price you don't need to worry.

  • Actually, the cost isn't THAT high when you consider it flushes out to only about $60K apiece for full group of 10.

CMH Heli-Skiing first took a handful of skiers by helicopter to carve a few turns in the British Columbia backcountry 50 years ago, it was among the most decadent things to happen to skiing since the invention of the sport. The company introduced the innovation is offering  the most extravagant private powder party ever.

A private jet will be provided to whisk the group to CMH Valemount, one of the most exclusive ski lodges in the world.  The executive chef will be flown in from the world-famous Nobu restaurant to whip up exquisite culinary creations courtesy.

Leave the old rags and rock boards at home. The package includes a full line of limited edition CMH ski gear - including jackets, pants, gloves, goggles and skis or snowboards – waiting for all of you courtesy of the CMH’s industry-leading partners.

Here's the deal maker: the company promises to fly this exclusive group in a Bell 212 helicopter to a legendary area drenched in a winter’s worth of base and powder in the virgin terrain of CMH McBride. CHM says no one has skied or snowboarded there for years. 

If you have the dough, CHM Heli-Skiing says it plans to deliver the most exciting alpine adventure of all time.

“It seems fitting to celebrate our jubilee year by dreaming up the most amazing Heli-Ski experience we could ever imagine,” says Joe Flannery, president of CMH Heli-Skiing and Summer Adventures.

Here's what the "ultimate experiece" trip includes:

  • Seven days and nights of private Heli-Skiing at CMH Valemount for up to 10 people with exclusive access to the CMH McBride tenure, April 11 – 18, 2015.
  • Private jet transportation provided by Chapman Freeborn from New York City to Valemount.*
  • All dinners catered by a private chef from Nobu restaurant.
  • Evening wine pairings from the world’s finest vintages.
  • Dedicated personal concierge on hand throughout.
  • Limited edition CMH-branded Arc’teryx ski jacket and pants, Smith googles and Hestra gloves.
  • Limited edition Atomic skis or Burton snowboards and transportation bags.
  • Private videographer to capture and record the entire trip.
  • A surprise 50th Anniversary welcome gift.

Again, all of this for a mere $549,500 (Canadian) + taxes.

There's no mention of whether the Weather Gods have given their blessings to this deal.

But please, if you jump at this once-in-a-lifetime skiing vacation because of this blog post, don't embarrass me by being cheap with tips for the guides.

Snow in the mountains…

Here's some good news for skiers: Almost five inches of new snow has fallen at Bogus Basin, as of 9:15 this morning. It was needed; things were getting a little thin up there. Brundage is reporting 7 inches of new snow; Tamarack is reporting 5 new inches; and Sun Valley has 4 new inches. The forecast calls for more snow in the mountains today, tonight and tomorrow.

Nordic sports rule Mount Spokane during Winterfest

Winterfest at Mount Spokane on Sunday, sponsored by Spokane Nordic, was a huge success in introducing people to cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, new products and skijoring with dogs.

It was a fabulous day on the mountain for young and old, as these photos suggest.

Ferry County Rail Trail Ski Day a hit

WINTERSPORTS — The fifth-annual Ferry County Rail Trail Ski Day was a huge success on Saturday at Curlew with nearly 90 people showing up, many of them taking their first shot at cross-country skiing.

The event is sponsored by the Ferry County Rail Trail Partners.

Thanks to J. Foster Fanning for capturing images of the moment.

Mt. Spokane ski area asking state for $2.2 million in upgrades

WINTERSPORTS — The downhill ski resort operator at Mount Spokane State Park says it will ask the Washington Legislature for $2.23 million to update state-owned base area facilities.

“At a time when ski destinations are investing in significant upgrades to capture market share, we’re working with aging facilities that are inefficient, undersized, and in need of improvements to serve a growing number of visitors,” said Brad McQuarrie, general manager of Mt. Spokane 2000, the non-profit organization that contracts with Washington State Parks to manage downhill ski area operations. 

Skier visits increased from 22,250 in 1997 to more than 90,000 in 2013 at Mt. Spokane, McQuarrie said, noting that the ski area operates at bargain prices and has the largest ski school in the Inland Northwest. 

Mt. Spokane is requesting $2,224,500 from the Governor’s capital budget to:

  • Design and build a 15,200-square-foot guest services building for ticket sales, a snow sports center, rentals, ski school and the childcare center.  It would accommodate conferences and meetings, concerts, weddings and other events at the state park.
  • Improve Lodge 1, built in 1956, with infrastructure and ADA compliance upgrades.
  • Update Lodge 2, constructed in 1961, with a new roof, windows and other repairs.

“This investment in facilities improvements and a new building will expand access to recreation and generate economic benefits to Washington State,” said Tom Reese, co-chair of Greater Spokane Incorporated’s Public Policy Committee, which endorsed the funding request as one of its top three capital projects to support in its 2015 State Legislative Priority Agenda. 

Ski areas serve up special special events

WINTERSPORTS — Inland Northwest ski and snowboard resorts are promoting a delicious slate of events and offers this week:

49 Degrees North: This weekend is an introduction to and celebration of all the winter activities available at 49° North during WinterSportsFest.  In conjunction with the nationwide Winter Trails event, 49° North makes available free trail fees, rentals, and mini XC lessons at the Nordic Center for everyone (not just newbies!) on Jan. 10-11.  And try out some new gear from Wintersport and Alpine Haus on Friday, Jan. 10 during their demo day.

Mt Spokane: Mt Spokane is open 6 days a week, Wednesday-Sunday with night turns on Wednesday-Saturday.  Sign up for their 6 week lesson program for all ages or their montly Ladies Days

Lookout Pass: Lookout Pass is open six days a week Wednesday-Sunday in January and February.  This  Saturday, Jan. 11 enjoy the Rail Jam Competition held by USASA for the Inland NW Series.

Silver Mt: This Friday, Jan. 9 is Jackass Day! Help Silver Mt celebrate their 47th birthday with retro priced $12 lift tickets and birthday cake at Moguls at 2 p.m.  Then join them on Saturday, Jan. 10 for the USASA Skier/Boarder Cross.

Avalanche danger rating is high, duh

WINTERSPORTS — Backcountry winter travel basics tell us that heavy snowfall followed by significant warming results in increased avalanche danger for snowgoers.

The last Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center forecast was Jan. 2, when conditions were relatively stable and the avalanche danger was rated at Level 2.

The conditions changed dramatically on Sunday and Monday, but the avalanche center won't issue another advisory until Friday, Jan. 9.

Be careful in the the gap.

Boise National Forest officials are cautioning backcountry skiers and snowmobilers to be extra careful in the mountains over the next few days because of recent avalanche evidence.  Similar advice is coming from throughout the region.

Locations that received significant snowfall will pose an increased risk of human-triggered avalanches for several days while the new snow settles and bonds with the existing snow pack, officials said.

Backcountry skiers and snowmobilers should always carry avalanche rescue gear when traveling on or adjacent to steep slopes

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2015/01/05/3574857_forest-service-warns-of-increased.html?sp=/99/1687/&rh=1#storylink=cpy

Resorts gear up for Learn to Ski Month

WINTERSPORTS — Novice skiers and snowboarders can find bargains on ski instruction during January, which is "Learn to Ski & Snowboard Month."

Participating resorts in 34 states are offering discounts and incentives to motivate children and adults to take lessons from instructors certified by the Professional Ski Instructors Association or American Association of Snowboard Instructors.

Here are a couple of examples:

  • Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park is offering a $99 three-day package (regularly $119) that includes instruction, rentals and lift tickets.
  • Lookout Pass Ski & Recreation Area is beginning its 75th annual "Famous Free Ski School" on Jan. 10.  Nearly 500 children age 6-17 have already registered for the 10-week program.   Kids can show up for as many of the sessions as they desire. No lift ticket is required during the lesson sessions, but equipment rental is extra and lift tickets are required after the lesson session.

Snowshoers didn’t miss First Night fireworks

WINTERSPORTS — Snowshoers walked into 2015 by making first tracks in Mount Spokane State Park.

Holly Weiler led a group of six Spokane Mountaineers on Wednesday to celebrate New Years Eve on the summit, where they watched Spokane fireworks.  The group romped in the darkness with snowshoe hares, returning to the parking area around 1:30 a.m.

It was a short night for Weiler, who returned to Mount Spokane at 10 a.m. Thursday to co-lead a group of 25 for the state park's First Day snowshoe trek.

A couple of hikers went to the summit while most of the group made tracks to the CCC cabin over a five-mile loop back to the parking area.

Cris Currie of the Friends of Mount Spokane State Park, who co-led the First Day snowshoe trek, says skiers and snowhoers should find excellent snow conditions in the park this weekend.

After touring the Trails 110-140 loop on Wednesday, he said skiing/snowshoeing was great. "Plenty of snow on the trail, but off trail still needs another foot or so. The loop is all tracked with no significant dead fall."

The upper creek crossing is still a pain, he said, but a fix for that could be addressed this year.



Winter inversion season has arrived…

Inversion conditions – when colder air, clouds and pollution get trapped in the valley, with clear skies above in the mountains – set in this morning in the Treasure Valley, seen here from above at Bogus Basin, which had bluebird skies. A yellow air-quality alert was issued for Boise by the Idaho DEQ, with a prediction for moderate air quality continuing through Wednesday. But by mid-afternoon today, the clouds had lifted down below, and up on the hill, as we left, the fog was arriving with a few snow flurries. As I’m posting this, it’s 22 degrees in Boise and 15 degrees up on the mountain, which is the opposite of an inversion.

Still, the forecast calls for inversion conditions tomorrow, too. If so, I know where it’ll be clear…

The Slice meets the Mount Spokane nordic trails

WINTERSPORTS — The Mount Spokane cross-country ski trails were a happy place to be on Saturday, as snow dumped onto the sprawling 60K trail system — finally — and The Spokesman-Review's beloved columnist Paul Turner turned out for his first cross-country skiing lesson.

Lisa Sunderman, one of several capable Spokane Nordic volunteers who are offering cross-country skiing lessons this season, took Paul and his partner Carol under her wing.

Even though Sunderman is an expert skier, not to mention a triathlete, she made Turner comfortable on snow in no time.

I suspect we'll read more about it.

Meantime, check out Spokane Nordic, the lessons the local club offers in classic and skating technique, and the special Jan. 11 Winterfest with a long list of events and activities, including clinics on backcountry skiing and skijoring.

Lost skier avoids night on the mountain

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press:

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A skier who traveled out of the boundaries of the Bogus Basin Ski Area near Boise almost spent a night on the mountain before being spotted by a grooming machine operator. Thirty-year-old Remington Kendall of Boise managed to alert the snow cat operator by signaling with his camera flash after his cell phone died at about 10:30 p.m. Thursday, KBOI2 News reported. He had been reported missing at about 1 p.m. and searchers had called off efforts at 9 p.m. due to darkness. Authorities say Remington was not injured. Snow cat operator Jasun Temple tells KBOI-TV (http://bit.ly/13zr2DQ) that he thought he saw a light but then it disappeared. On the next pass through the area he stopped again and spotted Kendall signaling.

Mt. Spokane finally opens

Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park webcam photo at the base of the mountain from 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 23, the day before the 2014 opening.

Finally, Mt. Spokane to open; all area ski resorts operating

WINTERSPORTS — Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park has announced it will open for the first time this season on Wednesday — Christmas Eve. Although the base is thin — just 7 inches at the lodge — more snow is in the forecast.

That means all of Inland Northwest ski resorts will be open through the holidays.

Backside of Bogus set for limited opening Tuesday at noon

Bogus Basin has announced that, thanks to a foot of new snow in the past 72 hours, it will open the No. 6 Pine Creek chairlift on the mountain’s backside on Tuesday, starting at noon. That’s a big step, opening up much more terrain at the local non-profit ski hill during this week’s holiday rush. The ski resort said limited grooming will be done on the Pine Creek side of the mountain on Nugget cat track, Lower Nugget and Easiest Way Down. Also, the Pioneer Lodge will open on Tuesday, and night skiing will start Friday night. Ticket prices will rise to $49 full-day for adults. For now, lifts are open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. There’s more info here.

Clinics prep skiers, dogs for skijoring

WINTERSPORTS — Skiers can learn to have a wild time with their dogs during skijoring clinics this season.

Skijoring is a sport in which a person wearing skis is drawn over snow dog-sledding style by one or more dogs. Clinics include:

  • Jan. 8 at the Spokane REI store. Spaces limited. Sign up in advance. The in-store clinic (no dogs allowed) will discuss the sport, equipment, local opportunities and what it takes to get started.
  • Jan. 11 or later, an on-snow clinic with dogs is being organized by Skijor Spokane, a group organized on Facebook.

At Mount Spokane Cross-Country Ski Park, the times and groomed nordic trails open to skijoring have expanded dramatically this year: Skijoring will be allowed:

  • Noon to dusk on Sundays and all day on Wednesdays.
  • On Upper Tripps, but uphill only. That means skijorers going out Lower Tripps from Brickel Creek Bridge No. 1 may turn around at Tripps Knob or continue to climb Upper Tripps.
  •  On Mica Road to the end at Junction 8.


Methow Valley nordic trails on record pace for grooming

WINTERSPORTS — The foot of snow that accumulated on Methow Valley cross-country ski and fat biking trails last night isn't the most impressive number from Washington's Nordic Nirvana.  

Get a load of the season's accumulated miles of grooming in today's Methow Trails report:

The first official day of winter brings a welcome storm that dropped 8-12 inches of very dense snow. These storms are great season builders/extenders and has gone a long way to leveling the trail platform. To celebrate we groomed just about the entire trail system; Winthrop, Sun Mtn., Rendezvous, and Mazama. Sun forecast for the upcoming holiday so it should be a very magical time. We are fortunate enough to be one of only a few ski areas in the region that has good skiing so consider an early holiday trip. We have already groomed more than 2,700 miles of trail and on pace to have a record setting year.

The Methow Valley’s skiing, scenery, and trails are world class with a 120-mile (200K) trail system for skiing in peaceful, freshly groomed and uncrowded conditions.

The nordic ski trail system is divided into four areas, all connected by the Methow Community Trail, which includes a suspension bridge crossing the Methow River, trailheads, and lodges along the way.

Snowshoe hut looks lonesome on brown ground

WINTERSPORTS —  Brown-earth-weary skiers, boarders and snowshoers aren't giving up hope in Idaho.

"The snowshoe hut is ready for the season," reports Geoff Harvey of the Panhandle Nordic Club after rigging up the warming structure on the Fourth of July pass winter trail system and installing the wood-burning stove.  "All we need now is snow."

The club's 24th annual "Best Hand Fun Ski and Snowshoe" event is set for Jan. 3 at the pass in conjunction with Idaho's Free Ski Day, when the state Park N Ski vehicle sticker requirement is waived.

Check in at Fourth of July Pass starting at 10 a.m. Then take off at your own pace at 11:30 a.m.  Prizes and refreshments provided.

The event is a fundraiser for the club, which maintains the winter trails at the pass.

"The event is a go no matter what the conditions are," said Jim McMillen, club president.  "We expect snow but if there isn't any, we'll go for a hike."

Nordic skiing gets boost at Chief Joseph Pass

WINTERSPORTS — Montana's Bitterroot Cross-Country Ski Club is getting a boost from Lost Trail Powder Mountain to keep the nordic trails at Chief Joseph Pass groomed, even after a big dump of powder snow.

The agreement calls for the resort to deploy the ski hill’s new PistenBully groomer to keep the 11 miles of classic ski trail and 19 miles of multi-use trail smooth for the growing number of winter enthusiasts who have discovered the area.

Last year, the club documented 9,000 user days at the area, President Mike Hoyt told the Ravalli Republic. But when the the big storms hit — the area at the end of the Bitterroot Valley is famous for powder — the club sometimes had too much of a good thing to groom with its snowmobile groomer.

Those numbers don’t include most of the people on snowmobiles, fat tire bikers or dogsledders using the multiple use trails.

The PistenBully will be used to groom the multi-use trail. Lost Trail Powder Mountain owner Scott Grasser has purchased a smaller grooming machine to groom the classic ski trail system that winds through the forest on a narrower set of roads that are too small for the traditional sized groomer.

Word is continuing to spread about all the improvements that are occurring at the winter recreation area at Lost Trail and Chief Joseph passes.

Four years ago, Hoyt said there were about 5,000 to 6,000 people using the area through the winter months. That usage has taken a major jump over the last couple of years.

Bogus Basin announces Friday opening

Bogus Basin has announced that it will open for skiing on Friday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with three chairlifts on the front side of the mountain operating: Deer Point (#1), Showcase (#4), and Coach (#7), along with the Easy Rider magic carpet and a small terrain park in Stewart’s Bowl. Lift tickets will be discounted to $35 for adults for the limited opening. A limited opening also is planned for the Nordic center, with tickets half-price at $11, or $8 for Nordic skiers who arrive after 1 p.m. Round-trip bus service will begin Saturday, as will holiday hours: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through Jan. 4. Click below for Bogus’ full announcement.

Brundage to open Friday for the ski season

Brundage Mountain has announced it will open Friday for the ski season, with three lifts, the BlueBird Quad, Lakeview Lift and Easy Street, operating from 9:30 to 4:30 and seven-day operations planned. Early-season conditions remain on the lower half of the mountain, according to spokeswoman April Whitney, due to recent warm temperatures, so the Bear Chair and the lower portions of some runs won't be open, but conditions are expected to be excellent on the Lakeview side; Brundage has gotten 6 inches of new snow since Saturday, and has a 10-inch base but 36 inches at the summit. "Terrain for beginners will, unfortunately, be limited," Whitney said. "We have some snow in the forecast and will open more terrain as soon as it's safe and feasible to do so." Lift tickets will be discounted to $48 for adults; there's more info here. Meanwhile, Bogus Basin, which is reporting a 13" base, is hoping to open for the holiday break by this weekend but has made no announcement; there's a chance of snow in the forecast from tonight through the weekend.

Photo: Area winter resorts still begging for snow

WINTERSPORTS — "It was 57 degrees at 9 p.m. Tuesday" at the Mt. Spokane Ski Area chairlift — and barely any snow in sight at the base, reports local outdoorsman Ken Vanden Heuvel. (See photo above from the Mt. Spokane web cam).

2014 will rank among the slowest starts to the ski and snowboard seasons at area winter resorts.

Stay tuned to the ski reports.

Check out Web cam links for ski areas and highways around the region at Spokesman.com/outdoors.

Spots available for tonight’s free avalanche class at REI

WINTERSPORTS — Don't miss this chance to be prepared for the winter backcountry travel season.

At last check, there were at least 15 spots available for tonight's FREE Avalanche Awareness workshop at the Spokane REI Store, 1125 N Monroe St.

The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education Avalanche Awareness Workshop is for any winter backcountry traveler, whether you ski, snowshoe, snowboard or snowmobile.

Recognition of avalanche danger is an essential and potentially lifesaving skill.

This session introduces and explains where and why avalanches occur and provides a basic approach to managing risk in the backcountry.

Learn to access local avalanche bulletins and weather reports, recognize basic signs of avalanche danger, and learn simple ways to help avoid avalanche danger.

Chelan’s Echo Ridge nordic ski area open

WINTERSPORTS — The snow that had accumulated on Mount Spokane's cross-country ski park last week was rendered to a few inches of ice and hardpack by the rains that followed. Be patient.

But as we reported yesterday, the Methow Trails are groomed and open for business.

And so is Chelan’s Echo Ridge Nordic Ski Area, which opened this week, although ski conditions are variable.

Chelan Ranger District expects grooming to begin on an intermittent basis.

The small ski area located 10 miles from Chelan is managed cooperatively by the U.S. Forest Service and the Lake Chelan Nordic Ski Club.

Ski area personnel will monitor ski conditions to determine when to begin charging for groomed skiing.

When fees are charged, day passes are available on-site for $10, and free for skiers or snowshoers age 17 and younger. Season passes are $70, available at the Chelan Ranger District office.

Information is available weekdays at the district office, 428 W. Woodin Ave. in Chelan, or by calling (509) 682-4900.

Level 1 avalanche courses offered for winter backcountry travelers

WINTERSPORTS — Two Level 1 Avalanche Awareness classes — a basic requirement for safe backcountry travel on skis, snowshoes — whatever — are being offered in the Sandpoint area and in Spokane by Selkirk Powder Co as well as by Selkirk Outdoor Leadership & Education.

Selkirk Powder, which operates backcountry snowcat ski tours adjacent to Schweitzer Mountain, has staffers with advanced training and teaching certifications.

Each course consists of two four-hour classroom sessions followed by a field practical day in the backcountry with Selkirk Powder.

"No prior experience is necessary, and the courses are open to anyone who desires to enhance their understanding of natural snow conditions and hazards in the backcountry, and how to safely move about in such terrain," said Ken Barrett, company president.

Classes are limited to 14 participants.

Cost: $299.

Sign-up at reservations@selkirkpowder.com.

Class 1: Dec. 9-10 at Sagle Center in Sagle.

  • Jan. 25, Field Practical at Selkirk Powder.

Class 2: Jan. 14-15 at Mountain Gear, Spokane.

  • Feb. 25, Field Practical at Selkirk Powder.

See an EXPANDED LIST of regional avalanche courses and programs for backcountry skiers as well as snowmobilers at Panhandle Backcountry.