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Deep snow leaves clean view of Quartz Mountain lookout

STATE PARKS — A good clean photo of the Quartz Mountain lookout in Mount Spokane State Park is difficult to achieve without getting the darned outhouse in the picture, said Cris Currie, head of the Friends of Mount Spokane State Park.

But this year's deep snowpack spelled RELIEF.

“The outhouse is completely covered by snow!” he said, flushed with enthusiasm after skiing to the the peak's summit this week and getting the purest shot of the lookout he's ever seen.

House oks bill making closed-area skiing a crime in Washington

SKIING — It has a ways to go to become law, but the Washington House this week approved a bill making it a misdemeanor to ski in clearly marked closed hazard areas at ski resorts.

Supporters argued that a criminal trespassing charge and a potential $1,000 fine would help deter behavior that causes avalanches and endanger the lives of ski patrol and search-and-rescue workers, according to the Associated Press.

But opponents say criminalizing recreational behavior is overreaching, and could result in young people unwittingly receiving blots on their permanent records.

Opponents favored a $500 fine and more harshly worded signs.

The bill applies to runs that are in-bounds at ski areas but have been intentionally marked and closed off for safety reasons.

The measure returns to the Senate for approval of amendments.

Ski Bluewood new owners not singing the blues

SKIING — The new owners of Ski Bluewood aren’t complaining about the lingering winter weather as they prepare for the final weekend of their first season.

“We’ve had great snow all through March, and April has been fantastic,” said Travis Stephenson, who operates the Dayton ski area for an ownership group headed by his Pasco-based family. “But then we typically have a great spring, which is a little-known secret in the area,” the told the Tri-City Herald.

Bluewood reported 2 inches of new snow Thursday morning.

Wednesday morning, Stephenson arrived to 14 fresh inches. In the past week, more than 26 inches fell. That made for 90 inches at the base, which will be more than enough for the 25th annual Bluewood Bash on Sunday.

Read on for details.

Spring delayed in Washington high country; access delayed, too

OUTDOOR TRAVEL — Winter still has a grip on the region's high country.  Thick snowpacks are still waiting for spring-like conditions, as I mentioned in Friday's post on the region's avalanche advisory.

Access to the mountains for the start of the summer camping and hiking season is the other factor recreationists must consider.    Read on for exerpts from a Cascades Mountains-Mt. St. Helens report by Tom Paulu at the Longview Daily News.

Red Mountain skiing ends this weekend, other resorts continue

SKIING — Even though Red Mountain Ski Area received more than 200 cm of snow in March, the resort near Rossland, British Columbia, is closing for the season on Sunday with more new snow in the forecast.

Most resorts are staying open for at least another week.

Posted last day of operations in this region:

49 Degrees North — April 10.

Mt. Spokane — April 10.

Silver Mountain — Splash Down rail jam is April 9. Mountain operations end the 10th, but the resort plans to open on Saturdays through April depending on snow.

Lookout Pass — Slush Cup ends official season on April 10.

Schweitzer — April 10.

Meanwhile in Montana near Missoula:

“I don’t think we’ve gotten to the corn-snow stage yet,” said Montana Snowbowl owner Brad Morris, referring to a late-season type of snow that looks like corn kernels. “The temperatures are dropping below freezing every night. We’ve gotten some spring days, but it’s still winter here.”

Snowbowl closed last year with 66 inches of snow at the summit. This year, the summit has about 120 inches, Morris said.

He said the area was staying open until April 17 and was within a few thousand of hitting its record for skier visits

24 Hours of Schweitzer skiing fundraiser April 1-2

SKIING — The third annual “24 Hours of Schweitzer”  has begun at Schweitzer Mountain Resort to challenge skiers and raise money for a good cause.

The event has been moved further into spring for more daylight hours to rack up the vertical for bragging rights and cystinosis research.

The event will wrap up tomorrow for the weary skiers as well as for other supporters with a banquet and auction.

Read on for details.

Montana ski areas delay closures, cite good snow

SKI RESORTS — While many ski and snowboard resorts will close their lifts on April 10,  some Montana ski areas are delaying closing dates by several weeks — perhaps April 17 — because the late-season snow is fabulous — and skiers and snowboarders haven't lost interest.

Posted last day of operations in this region:

49 Degrees North — April 10.

Mt. Spokane — April 10.

Silver Mountain — Splash Down rail jam is April 9. No firm word on season closing.

Lookout Pass — April 10 is Slush Cup.

Schweitzer — April 10.

“I don’t think we’ve gotten to the corn-snow stage yet,” said Montana Snowbowl owner Brad Morris, referring to a late-season type of snow that looks like corn kernels. “The temperatures are dropping below freezing every night. We’ve gotten some spring days, but it’s still winter here.”

Snowbowl closed last year with 66 inches of snow at the summit. This year, the summit has about 120 inches, Morris said.

He said the area was staying open until April 17 and was within a few thousand of hitting its record for skier visits during a season.

Read on for more of an Associated Press story about Montana ski resorts:

Snowboarder’s death focuses concern on spring snowpack

WINTER SPORTS — The weekend avalanche death of a snowboarder near Stevens Pass has sobered some backcountry travelers, and brought forth some worthwhile thoughts. 

Following is a comment from a skier named Ed posted with the news story about the death. It follows the same train of thought in the recommendations of the weekly avalanche forecast for this region.

Check it out.

Snowmobilers desecrate backcountry skiers’ favorite slopes near Mullan

WINTER SPORTS — A clash has been brewing for years near Lookout Pass as snowmobilers' insatiable appetite for high-marking and tracking fresh snow continues to invade more and more areas used by backcountry skiers.

Thirty years ago, snowmobilers tended to stay north of I-90 while skiers found peace and quiet to the south in the St. Regis Basin, around Stevens Peak and other areas.

Snowmobilers pretty much drove skiers out of the St. Regis Basin by the late 1990s — their high-marking and potential to set off avalanches often made it dangerous to be a skier below.

A backcountry skier can make only a few runs up and down a mountain slope in a day.  A snowmobiler can foul an entire basin with tracks and noise in a few hours.

This winter, snowmobilers seem to be making a point to go in an trash some sacred ground for backcountry skiing in the West Willow Peak area south of Mullan. 

Backcountry skiers, who seem to shun organization, are starting to react.   Check out the Stevens Peak Backcountry Coalition website, and the update on what skiers encountered last weekend.

Backcountry Film Festival reset for Friday at GU

WINTER SPORTS — The Winter Wildlands Backcountry Film Festival, canceled in February by a storm that closed the school, is rescheduled for Friday at Gonzaga University.

Several winning festival films will be shown at the Jepson Center, Wolfe Auditorium. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., show at 7.

Admission is $5 or $3 for students. Tickets will be available at the door, or in advance through Gonzaga University Outdoors website: http://commerce.cashnet.com/guoutdoors
For directions to the Jepson Center, go to www.gonzaga.edu/about/campus-map.asp.
Read on for details about the films.

Snowmobile tracks know few boundaries, including wilderness

WINTER SPORTS — Some snowmobilers seem to enjoy breaking the law and offending others more than the sport itself.

Backcountry skiers recently documented snowmobile tracks in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness near Leavenworth. Sadly, they got little reaction from the local Sheriff or Forest Service when reporting the culprits' offenses and vehicle license numbers.

A group called Wenatchee Outdoors is trying to organize people to oppose snowmobile advances into backcountry that was once quiet for wildlife and non-motorized users.

Plan for expanding Mount Spokane ski area presented tonight

STATE PARKS — The latest step in a long effort to expand the downhill ski area at Mount Spokane State Park will be explained in a public workshop with time for public comment tonight, 6:30 p.m., in Building 17 at Spokane Falls Community College, 3410 W. Fort George Wright Dr. in Spokane.

The proposal by concessionaire Mount Spokane 2000 would expand the the Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park  by 279 acres into an 800-acre portion of the 13,919-acre state park on the west side of the mountain that does not yet have a formal land-use classification.

The expansion would include one ski lift and seven new ski runs. Mount Spokane 2000 would be responsible for the costs of improvements and additional expenses.

Ski area proponents say the expansion is necessary for the resort to stay competitive and would bring managed skiing back to the best snow area on the mountain. See our page 1 story from this week and last week's column by ski writer Bill Jennings.

Opponents to the proposal say the west side of the mountain — which has some old growth timber and meadows and wetlands important to wildlife — should be classified as Natural Forest Area, which would allow current recreation uses to continue but prevent the installation of a ski lift and cutting swaths into the forest.

Skiers, dogs to give skijoring a try

SKIING — If your dog has any pull around the house, its probably game for trying the skijoring demo at Mount Spokane on Sunday.

Meet at 2:15 p.m. on the nordic ski trails where Linder Road passes ski trail Junction 1 (skiers an tell you where that is).

“We bring the dogs and harnesses,” said organizer Diana Roberts. “You bring your skis and poles. Skate skis provide better mobility for some skiers, but classic skis are fine too.”

Questions? Contact Diana Roberts at 509-570-8242 or skijorspokane@yahoo.com

World-class powder dump smothers Lookout Pass

WINTER SPORTSLookout Pass ski area has just been cited as having received “the most snowfall in the world” among reporting ski resorts during the past seven days.

The one week total:  6.5 FEET, most of which fell Sunday-Tuesday.

The distinction has just been distributed around the globe by Skiinfo.com, which collects daily reports and compiles stats from more than 2,000 ski areas in Europe and North America.

Earlier today I posted a photo with a first-hand report on Monday's epic powder day at Lookout.

Of course, the high country throughout the Inland Northwest has been enjoying the late-winter dump.

Stevens Pass was No. 5 and Schweitzer was No. 6 in the world, as you can see on this skiinfo list.

And just a little farther north, Fernie (see photo above) isn't doing so bad, either, reporting 32 inches in the past three days.

REI offers free class in Avalanche Awareness

WINTER SPORTS — Jon Dodge of Priest Lake Search & Rescue will teach a free introductory course on Avalanche Awareness Thursday, March 3, 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at REI, 1125 N Monroe.

Basics he’ll cover include how to interpret avalanche advisories, gear necessary for travelling in avalanche terrain and how to assess the risks.

Pre-register for this free event. 

Powder hounds loved Monday at Lookout

SKIING — It took a day for the pow pounders to surface with stories from Lookout Pass.

“We picked a good day for a vacation on Monday,” confessed Spokane skier Bill Fuzak. “The photo was shot at Lookout Pass, in the trees off the Northstar lift in about 32 inches of new snow.

“I am on my Profit 115s (dimensions 153-115-143) and still not fat enough.My buddy Kimbo May is on a double rocker tele ski.

“I had to learn to breathe on the way up, rather than on the down — like swimming rapids.”

Chill doesn’t ground Yoke’s Outrageous Air Show

FREESTYLE SKIING — Even though it was cold enough to freeze your eyelids shut, the freestyle skiers in the Yoke's Outrageous Air Show let it fly at Schweitzer Mountain Resort on Friday and Saturday.

Here Matt Gillis and Jordan Valenaar launch in one of the many spectacular aerial displays, complete with fireworks.

See more great photos by Werner Nennecker on his Facebook page.

Above it all…

Thank you, Bogus Basin, for keeping me sane this winter. The politics may be hot and heavy in town, but up on the mountain, when I get to sneak up there on weekends, it's cold, clear and crisp. Not only that, it's cheap, it's non-profit, and everyone's welcome. Let it snow.

Free skier abandons snow, hits the surf

SKIING — If the bitter cold is turning you off to hitting the slopes in the Inland Northwest this week, maybe you should consider the possibilities of skiing Hawaii — in the surf!

Check out big-time freeskier Chuck Patterson's switch from the steep and deep to the steep and deep blue seas on skis — complete with plastic ski boots.

Get the complete story from Surf magazine here.

Jennings: Who’s flying high at Schweitzer?

SKIING — Fireworks will pierce the cold mountain air tonight and Saturday around a stunning display of aerial skiing stunts during  the Yoke's Outrageous Air Show at Schweitzer Mountain Resort. 

S-R skiing columnist Bill Jennings has the down to earth story on the Olympian who makes aerials look easy.

City Parks offers tours on skis, snowshoes

WINTER SPORTS – The first weekend in March is a time to tour for women on skis and families on snowshoes.

The Spokane Parks and Recreation Outdoor Program is sponsoring a family snowshoe tour on March 4 at Mount Spokane. The activity is geared to include active kids as young as 4.

A women’s ski tour of the 49 Degrees North nordic trails is set for Sunday March 5, complete with lunch in the rustic yurt.

Sign-up: Spokane Parks Outdoors Program or (509) 625-6200.

Backcountry skiers find peak experience on Scotchman

WINTER SPORTS — A Saturday trek to the top of Scotchman Peak gave three backcountry skiers a heavenly if not gusty view of Lake Pend Oreille.

Jake Ostman, Jacob Styler and Michael Lucid — along with their canine companions Coco and Mojo — skinned up their skis for the ascent and made great tracks back down through the powder and wind-packed slopes.

Ostman's Facebook page has good photos of the day that hint at why the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness are working so hard to protect the area northeast of the lake.

The photos, including the one above, also readily tell backcountry travelers that new snow and high winds have created huge cornices on ridges and avalanche danger on wind-loaded slopes.

Be careful out there.

Nordic trails dazzle at Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS — The trails, grooming and skiing conditions simply could not be better than they were Sunday at Mount Spokane's cross-country ski trails.

One more brilliant day in the forecast before grimness returns.


Region’s resorts welcome holiday skiers with powder

WINTER SPORTS — Powder is the word for President's Day Weekend skiers.

Around 2 feet of blower powder piled up and was waiting for skiers today. The full moon is out and everyone is ready to go out and shred!  

For those of you heading off the managed slopes of area resorts, John Olson, Forest Service hydrologist in North Idaho had this reminder:

“No matter how much fun you are having, you can still die in an avalanche.”

The weekend avalanche advisory from the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center says avalanche danger ranges from MODERATE to HIGH depending on the area.  


Fernie Alpine Resort  reported 9 inches of new powder snow earlier today and it was still snowing.

– 22cm in the last 48hrs and currently snowing close to 5cm an hour of Blower Powder.

Mt. Spokane ski area expansion clears hurdle

STATE PARKS — The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission today OKed environmental considerations in the conceptual expansion proposals for expanding Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park.

According to a press release just posted, the commission “issued a Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) for the proposed action.”

 The Commission is expected to consider this proposal at its May 19 meeting in Spokane. 

Comments on the proposal may be submitted through March 16, 2011 to randy.kline@parks.wa.gov

The SEPA determination, checklist, maps, and additional documents related to the proposal have been posted to the State Parks website.

Sky-high skiers to fly at Schweitzer

Outrageous Air Show from Bob Legasa on Vimeo.

OUTDOOR SPECTATING — Here are a few men with skills worth looking up to.

What: Yoke’s Outrageous Air Show aerial ski-jumping exhibition, plus fireworks, music. FREE.

Who: Olympic freestyle gold medalist Jean Marc Rozon; four-time world champion Steve Omischl, Olympian Brad Suey and others.

When: Friday Feb. 25-Saturday Feb. 26 at 6:30 p.m.

Where: Schweitzer Mountain Resort.

Details: Hour-long shows includes synchronized multiple twisting flips, fireworks and outdoor music.

Weekly avalanche forecast: danger ranges moderate to high

WINTER SPORTS — The weekly avalanche forecast posted today by the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center indicates that backcountry winter travelers need to pay close attention to conditions in specific areas.

In the Selkirks from Schweitzer north to Caribou Creek the danger is generally rated as MODERATE for the weekend. However, route selection in the Selkirks is important, experts said. “Last weekend’s wind loading and heavy wind slab on the North and Easterly exposed slopes failed naturally in several areas,' rasiding the danger to CONSIDERABLE in those areas.

St. Regis Basin and Silver Valley showed a MUCH GREATER HAZARD.

The hazard will be HIGH anyhere there's pocktes of big cornices and wind-loaded features.


Free Langlauf nordic waxing clinic tonight

NORDIC SKIING — The countdown has begun for the annualLanglauf 10K classic cross-country citizens race set to start at 11 a.m. Sunday at Mount Spokane. 

A free waxing clinic geared to the race will be held today, 6 p.m., at Fitness Fanatics, 2425 E. Trent., where you can pre-register or pick up entry packet from 5 p.m.-7 p.m.

Tip:  If you're not a Langlauf skier, expect the parking lot at the Mount Spokane nordic trails to be jam packed Sunday until about 2:30 p.m. 

This is the biggest cross-country skiing event in the region, a distinction boosted by the $6,000 in prizes.

Cross-country snowboarding catches on, a little

WINTER SPORTS — If you're looking to be a maverick on the snow, cross-country snowboarding is a good bet. Put a little skooch in your getalong with this video.

For you incurable traditionalists, the Spokane Langlauf 10 cross-country citizens race is Sunday, 11 a.m. at Mount Spokane. Don't expect to see any snowboards on the course.

Avalanche accidents reviewed in Sandpoint on Wednesday

WINTER SPORTS — Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center technicians will present, “10 Years of Avalanche Accident Review in North Idaho” Wednesday (Feb. 9) at 6 p.m. at the Sandpoint Forest Service Building.

The hour-long discussion will focus on common characteristics involved in several fatal avalanche accidents and how winter travelers can learn to recognize similar circumstances in the weather patterns, snowpack, and the terrain they choose to play in, said Kevin Davis, IPAC spokesman. 

Google Earth will be used to study terrain.