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Washington State Parks seeks winter recreation advisors

WINTER SPORTS — The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission is looking for winter sports enthusiasts to serve on the Washington State Winter Recreation Advisory Committee (WRAC).

The committee for non-motorized recreation has three positions that will soon become vacant. Two of the  positions are  for  non-motorized (cross country skier, snowshoer, dog musher, skijorer) who live in Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Lincoln or Spokane counties (Area 3). Another position is for a non-motorized recreation representative living in Adams, Whitman, Franklin, Garfield, Columbia, Walla Walla or Asotin counties (Area 6).

An additional open position is for an at-large candidate to represent motorized (snowmobiler) winter sports enthusiasts.

Nominations must be received by August 30. New appointments begin Oct. 1, for a term of three years.

The WRAC is made up of six non-motorized representatives and three representatives from snowmobile winter sports. The committee also has one representative each from the Washington Department of Natural Resources, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Washington Association of Counties. Also included is an ex-officio member from the Washington Department of Licensing.

The committee meets at least two weekends each year, once during the winter and once during the summer. The committee reviews vital issues and advises the Commission and its staff on program policy and funding priorities for snow removal, trail grooming, sanitation, education and enforcement. Members are appointed by the Commission and may serve up to two, three-year terms. Travel, lodging and meal costs for the meetings are reimbursed for members.  

The Winter Recreation Program manages more than 3,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails, 300 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails and more than 120 Sno-Parks (plowed parking areas near snowmobile and cross-country ski trails).

The Winter Recreation Program is supported entirely by user fees, snowmobile registrations and a percentage of the state fuel tax.

Contact the Winter Recreation Program by email at winter@parks.wa.gov, or P.O. Box 42650, Olympia, WA 98504-2650,

Info: (360) 902-8684.

Hucking junk off mountains isn’t cool

ENVIRONMENT — Go-Pro video cameras have recorded all sorts of stunts, but to see the company endorse the trashing of pristine mountain environments makes me want to gag and go back to the ol' Super 8 camera.

The video above reportedly shows Erik Roner, who strapped on GoPros on as he drove a snowmobile off the edge of a cliff of a spectacular mountain area.

The stunt supposedly was in memory of his late friend and fellow extreme athlete, Shane McConkey, who died in a skiing accident in 2009.

The stunt was a spectacular “burial” of sorts for McConkey's snowmobile in order to memorialize a legend of extreme sports.

It worked, I guess.

I'll always remember McConkey's name, but not without conjuring up an image of someone unnecessarily desecrating a pristine mountain environment.

Heat wave leaves Selkirk Mountains lakes ice-free

HIKING — What a difference a week makes this time of year in the Idaho Selkirk Mountains.

Last week I reported ice still covering Beehive and Little Harrison lakes at 6,200 feet elevation up the Pack River drainage in the heart of the Selkirks.

Seeing the late opportunity to make some turns on the snow fields above Beehive Lakes, local skier Mike Brede trekked in on Saturday and found a slightly different scene.  

There was still enough snow to make a run of 975 vertical feet from twin Peaks down to the upper Beehive Lake (see photo, that's the ice-free upper lake at the bottom of the run).

But the ice was gone from Beehive and Little Harrison lakes.

“And the mosquitoes are out now,” Brede confirmed.

See more of his photos on Facebook.

Skiers will continue to see Jesus on Whitefish slopes

PUBLIC LANDS — God prevails in the courts.

Federal judge in Montana says ski-slope Jesus can stay
On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen issued a ruling clearing the way for the Flathead National Forest to reissue a permit to the Knights of Columbus to maintain a statue of Jesus on Big Mountain. — Kalispell Daily InterLake;

Lookout Pass Ski Patrol tops — again

WINTER SPORTS — The Lookout Pass Ski Patrol has been named the 2012-2013 “Outstanding Patrol of the Year” for the Inland Empire Region by from the National Ski Patrol – for the third consecutive season.

“These dedicated men and women provide an outstanding service for our skiing guests and we greatly appreciate their commitment and contribution to Lookout Pass,” said Phil Edholm, ski area president.

Other ski patrols in the National Ski Patrol's Inland Empire region include:

Mount Spokane, Silver Mountain, 49 Degrees North, Echo Valley, Loup Loup, Mission Ridge, Cottonwood Butte, Snowhaven, Bald Mountain and Ski Bluewood.

Schweitzer’s 2013-14 passes valid at six other ski resorts

WINTER SPORTS — Schweitzer Mountain Resort has a new far-reaching perk among the deals and discounts ski resorts are offering this time of year to promote advance season pass sales.

If you're a skier/boarder with a yen to travel for your turns, Schweitzer's new association with the Power Alliance is appealing.

The new agreement offers Schweitzer passholders free skiing at six Western resorts. Schweitzer's unlimited and Sunday - Friday passholders alike can take advantage of the Powder Alliance deals at:

Colorado avalanche deaths stun Colorado backcountry snow goers

Saturday's avalanche was deadliest in Colorado in more than 50 years

On Saturday, five men participating in the Rocky Mountain High Backcountry Bash on Colorado's Loveland Pass were killed by an avalanche, the deadliest in the state since 1962. 

The Backcountry Bash was a fundraiser for the area avalanche center. —Denver Post

10 reasons to stay on your skis, snowboards

WINTER SPORTS — Thar's white gold in them thar hills, and plenty of snowpack for getting in a few more runs on skis and snowboards before spring creeps up into the the mountains.

Inland Northwest ski resorts are taking different approaches ending or extending their ski seasons this week.

Meantime, Craig Hill of the Tacoma News Tribune offers a West Side perspective on 10 top reasons you don't want to put your skis away too early in April … and, yes, bikini's are on the list.  Click “continue reading.”

Ski areas winding down; some extending season

WINTER SPORTS — Good spring skiing is in the forecast for skiers and snowboarders as Inland Northwest resorts post various schedules, events and season extensions.

Schweitzer Mountain Resort  announced today the extension of the ski season through April 14, noting the snowpack remains excellent. The annual Tropical Daze celebration is this weekend (April 6-7).

49 Degrees North has announced free lift tickets for skiers and snowboarders for the rest of the week before the resort shuts down for the season after Sunday (April 7).

Silver Mountain will be open Thursday-Sunday this week, with the end of the regular season festival and Splashdown Rail Jam this weekend. Thereafter, lifts will reopen for “Silver Saturdays” through April.

Lookout Pass  is open Thursday through Sunday this week. The annual Slush Cup is set for  Saturday (April 6). Next week the plan is to be open only on April 13 for the last day of the season.

Mt. Spokane is open for spring break, closing for the season on Sunday (April 7).

Stevens Pass  is open this week through Sunday, then reopening April 8-14 to close the season.

Free skiing through Sunday at 49 Degrees North

WINTER SPORTS — 49 Degrees North has announced free lift tickets for skiers and snowboarders for the rest of the week.

The resort plans to shut down for the season after Sunday, the final day of free skiing, sponsored by Toyota dealers.

Judge says backcountry skiers have right to relief from snowmobiles

WINTER SPORTS — Backcountry skiers who have been negotiating against the near-total encroachment of snowmobiles into national forest playgrounds near Lookout Pass and Stevens Peak may find some support in a ruling handed down by a court in Boise.

A federal judge in Idaho says the U.S. Forest Service broke the law when it didn’t craft rules to govern snowmobile travel, handing powder-loving backcountry skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts a victory that could extend to national forests nationwide.

  • The skiers emphasized they didn't want a ban on snowmobiling, just a balance of their use in the winter backcountry.

U.S. District Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush ruled Friday that the Forest Service must go back to work on its 2005 Travel Management Rule and draw up regulations designating areas of use and non-use by all off-road vehicles, including snowmobiles, on national forest lands.

See the story: Judge sides with backcountry skiers

Avalanche reporters find slushy conditions

WINTER SPORTS — “We had it going on for a while, the melt-freeze I mean,” said Kevin Davis in today Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center weekly forecast.  

“Last weekend the conditions were great and if you could have had this week off you would have been getting into some corn snow conditions. No solid overnight freeze put an end to that and you'll find slushy snow prevailing.  

“Possibly a little dust on crust up north and to the south will be slush on slush.  

“Be careful on steep terrain if you venture out today and this weekend.  Use you spring travel techniques.  I'll post that next week.  This is our last official advisory this winter.”

Lookout Pass attracts record number of skiers, snowboarders

WINTER SPORTS — With 10 operating days left in the season, Lookout Pass Ski and Rereation Area announced today that it's already set a record for skier/snowboarder visits.

Lookout CEO Phil Edholm says the resort logged a total of 64,450 visits as of Sunday, topping the record of 64,291 visits set last season.

Here's the schedule for the rest of the season at Lookout Pass:

  • March 28-April 1
  • April 4-7
  • Last day of operation, Saturday, April 13.

Storms left avalanche hazard in area mountains

WINTER SPORTS — “A lot of snow in the past week, and it fell with a lot of wind,” warns Kevin Davis in today's weekly advisory from the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center. 

Winds were mainly out of the west so use caution on the easterly aspects, NE through SE.  I found a decent slab over a weak layer of facets on a north aspect in the Selkirks yesterday and I wouldn't have been on any steep and exposed slopes with that under me. 

No shooting cracks or whumphing but if you dig down through the powdery snow you'll hit an ice crust, isolate a column on that and give er a whack and see what happens.  Go or no go?  It'll settle a little bit today but check it again this weekend.  Great conditions out there right now. 

Avalanche forecast: Warm temps prompt caution for snow goers

WINTER SPORTS — Warm temperatures have softened snow to the tops of the region's mountains this week, according to avalanche forecasters who were out in the Selkirk Mountains Thursday.

“It may have tightened up a bit at the higher elevations but it was wet yesterday, to the top,” says Kevin Davis in the intro to today's report on avalanche conditions from the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center.

“Temperatures seem to be coming down a bit, from 40 last night, but they may go up before they drop back down.  When its this warm you want to be a little more cautious of steep terrain.  

“Some surface slushies were running yesterday.  More snow on the way by Saturday night, with strong west winds.”

Nordic skiing free at Echo Ridge

WINTER SPORTS –The Chelan Ranger District is offering free cross country skiing, snowshoeing or hiking at Echo Ridge Nordic Ski Area.

Trail grooming, conducted by the Lake Chelan Nordic Club, has ended for the year, but many trails still have enough snow for skiing, a U.S. Forest Service news release said Thursday.

Travelers should be prepared for snow, ice or mud on the Forest Service roads.

Info: Chelan Ranger District, (509) 682-4900.

  • MOUNT SPOKANE nordic skiing trails were groomed this week but grooming has stopped until the snow on the mountain freezes again — likely not until Sunday night, park rangers say. Sno-Park permits are required.

Sandpoint among National Geographic’s top ‘emerging’ ski towns

WINTER SPORTS — Although I thought Sandpoint had arrived long ago, the North Idaho town has just been  named one of the nation’s “top 10 emerging ski towns” in the March 2013 issue of  National Geographic’s Adventure magazine.

“These 10 North American ski towns may not have the name recognition of the world’s best-known destinations, but that’s just fine with them. These are the local’s favorites, the up-and-comers. They’re real towns, often cheaper and friendlier than the big dogs—at least for now. If you’re on the hunt for great skiing without the crowds and glitz, read on.” said the article's author, Aaron Teasdale.

Sandpoint, and more specifically, the 2,900 acres of ski terrain at Schweitzer Mountain Resort, is described as being ”Best For: Non-extreme skiers and boarders seeking the famed tree skiing of the Selkirks without the trip to Canada.”

Other ski towns in the Top 10 include Red Lodge, Mont.; Ogden, Utah; Reno, Nev.; Revelstoke, B.C.; Nelson, B.C.; Driggs, Idaho; Mammoth, Calif.; Waitsfield, Vt.; and Durango, Colo.

The article asked locals in each town for suggestions on where to eat, sleep and spend time away from the ski hill, as well as the best ski run on the mountain.

Ski or snowboard 24 Hours for Hank at Schweitzer

WINTER SPORTS — The 5th Annual 24 Hours of Schweitzer is less then two weeks away! Is your team of skiers or snowboarders signed up? 

This first-class event set for March 22-23 raises money to find a cure for a rare disease by inviting teams or individuals to get pledges and run the slopes of Schweitzer, accumating as much vertical as possible in 24 hours.

Also known as “24 Hours for Hank” —  honoring Hank Sturgis of Sandpoint, a 6 year old who has been diagnosed with cystinosis — the event seeks participants to rack up the vertical for bragging rights and a good cause.

To date the foundation has raised more than $500,000 for the Cystinosis Research Foundation.

The Awards Dinner and Auction on Saturday night at Schweitzer Mountain Resort has 100 live and silent auction items and 25 raffle items to raise additional money from skiers and non-skiers alike.

Avalanche danger ranging to high in area mountains

WINTER SPORTS — Be careful out there winter snow goers.  The warm front with heavy wet snow is creating high avalanche danger in the region's mountains, as you'll see in this National Weather Service warning for the North Cascades issued Wednesday evening.

The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center  posts its weekly advisories on Fridays.

Snow hits, Bogus Basin extends season pass sale thru Thursday…

It’s snowing again, and Bogus Basin has extended its season pass sale through Thursday at the $229 price.  The week-long sale that had been scheduled to end last night at midnight saw a dramatic change once snow hit the mountain late last week, general manager Alan Moore reports; last Monday, pass sales were about half of normal, but as the week progressed and 9 inches of new snow fell, that turned around to where sales were above normal on the sale’s final day. “As we all know, snow changes everything for Bogus,” Moore said. “We just want to make sure that no one is left out that would have bought a pass with the changed conditions.” The low-priced season passes allow skiers to ski right away, plus all through next season; it only takes five trips to the mountain to break even on buying a pass. Click below for Bogus’ full announcement.

Great view above the city; tricky road up requires patience…

This was the view up at Bogus Basin yesterday as the sun slanted through the clouds. Despite a thin snow cover so far this year, the local non-profit ski resort delivered an outstanding weekend of skiing, with warm, sunny, spring-like conditions on Saturday and a more wintry feel on Sunday complete with crisp air and new snow.

The new snow, which fell overnight Saturday night, left the resort’s access road very slick Sunday morning, but it had cleared off nicely by the afternoon, rendering all the more inexplicable the fatal accident in which a 50-year-old Boisean in a blue Porsche careened off a 400-foot embankment and was killed. It’s a narrow and winding road, and buses and other slow vehicles sometimes slow down traffic, but with a little patience, everyone usually gets down safely. Be careful out there.

Avalanche forecast: Slopes stable, but watch for changes

WINTER SPORTS — Backcountry snowgoers have been finding great conditions here and there, an reasonably safe slopes.

“Look for sheltered areas to have the lightest surface snow,” says Kevin Davis in today's avalanche conditions report from the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center

“Exposed slopes were firm from wind and sun.  Some shears in the upper 1-2 feet of pack but nothing pulling out with energy that concerned us.  You will want to be concerned when the new snow comes in, possibly wet, heavy, and windloaded.  Bad combo.  Know your lee aspects.”

Langlauf 10K a nordic race for all kinds

WINTER SPORTS — The annual Langlauf cross-country ski race at Mount Spokane has equal parts of waxing anxiety, sweat, cheering, food — and a lot of hope for placing high in an age group or winning one of the many drawings for thousands of dollars worth of prizes. 

It's a colorful event that attracts participants spaning 80 years of age.

Check it out in this gallery of photos I shot today while skiing the race with 244 other participants.

Avalanche hazard generally low in area mountains

WINTER SPORTS — Snow conditions are “mostly stable” in the region's mountains going into the weekend and  the weather forecast calls for improving stability from the slight weak layers discussed in this week's avalanche advisory by the Idaho Panhandle Avalance Center.

Three events coming up for perking up your winter

WINTER SPORTS — This is no time to be a couch potoato:

Winter Wildlands Backcountry Film Festival at Gonzaga University, Wed Jan. 30 from 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Learn more at ibackcountry.org.

Women's Souper Bowl ski and snowshoe event, this Sunday Feb. 3 at 9 a.m. at the Mt. Spokane Cross Country Ski Park. Details at souperbowlspokane.org.
Langlauf race coming up Sunday Feb.10 Enter now — early registration closes Feb. 6. Check it out at spokanelanglauf.org.

Washington outdoor recreation plan needs public input

OUTDOOR REC — If you enjoy the outdoors, you owe it to yourselff to participate in the online Washington State Outdoor Recreation Survey.

So far, about 800 comments have been filed on the easy to navigate Town Hall website

In addition to the survey, which can help channel planning and funding in the future, the site is asking the publicv to post their stories and photos showing how outdoor recreation impacts you and your family.  The information will be used in the final report.

  • In the last statewide survey conducted in in 2005-2006, WALKING was rated the most popular outdoor recreation activity in Washington.

The state’s outdoor recreation strategic plan, called the State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), needs to be updated every 5 years to maintain the state's ability to receive federal funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  The funding is used for grants to local communities to build parks and trails, and conserve wildlife habitat.