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Avalanche danger continues to be high in Cascades

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

See more photos and details here.

Free cross-country ski day in Methow Valley

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

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

Details of the event include:

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

Skiers, boarders gear up for 24-Hours of Schweitzer

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

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

Backcountry skier details efficiency: getting skins off and on

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

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

Oh, Canada! You’re missing your great outdoors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Devastating Missoula avalanche was human-triggered

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

Most nordic routes groomed at 4th of July Pass

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

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

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

Stevens Pass gets 160 inches of snow in February

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See February snow photos.


Schweitzer to extend ski season through April 13

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

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

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

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

Outdoor industry applauds Inslee’s initiative

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

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

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

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

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

Sparkling view today from Mount Spokane

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

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

Backcountry skiers get away from it all

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

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

Bogus Basin kicks into gear…

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

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

Epic snow conditions at area ski resorts

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

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

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

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

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

Huge Canada avalanche prompts warnings

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

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

Another powder skier suffocates in tree well

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bjornsens looked good in Spokane years before Olympics

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

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

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

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

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

See my story on their connection with the Spokane Langlauf.

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

Sport of contrasts: ski hard, shoot straight

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

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

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

Where can you check out biathlon in the Inland Northwest?


Ladies get special treatment at two ski areas

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

Check it out here.

Outdoor Retailer groups demo new winter gear

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

Read the story from the Salt Lake Tribune.


4th of July Pass nordic trails groomed

WINTER SPORTS — Snowshoers and cross-country skiers have some decent opportunities this week at Fourth of July Pass.  Here's today's grooming report from Geoff Harvey of the Panhandle Nordic Club:

Glen Truscott and I groomed a good deal of the Area today.  The Inner Loop has some good stretches of snow now packed with track set, but there are icy spots in a few places and a bare patch on the Swoop.  The good snow is up the Twisted Klister  (Snowshoeing) and Skywalker - Moonrunner (FSR 614) (skking) especially  above Skateaway on this latter route their is a foot plus of snow with only a few thin places out to Rose Saddle.  Unfortunately, somebody circumvented the berm IDT built at the bottom and drove the length of the road to Rose Creek Saddle and a ways down Skateaway where the gate was opened.. Glenn and I did our best to reduce the ruts but it will take either a snowfall, not predicted until next week at the earliest or grooming with the scarifier that will redistribute the snow.  We will attempt to get this done next Friday (1/24).  Grooming is in place along the route and tracks set,.  The gate is now closed so no additional damage is anticipated. This snow above Skateway is better than any I saw at Palouse Divide this weekend.

Mount Spokane skiers rise above it all

WINTER SPORTS — Pity everyone who has no way out from the gloom of the lowlands.

A few folks are choosing to rise above the persistent fog by heading to their favorite ski resort.

John Stucke joined Caroline Woodwell got up early enough to be the first skiers at Mount Spokane nordic ski area this morning, early enough to ski perfectly groomed, untracked trails and catch the sunrise from the Shadow Mountain trail.

Good way to start the day.

Wife carrying race a hit at Lookout Pass Winter Carnival

WINTER SPORTS — The 8th annual Wife Carrying Contest will be a feature attraction Sunday, Jan. 19, at the Lookout Pass Winter Carnival.

Info: 208 774-1301.

Question: What about the cases of couples in which the wife is tougher than the husband?  Can we switch roles?

Tough kids ski the elements at Telemark clinic

WINTER SPORTS — The weather served up a bitter pill last weekend for the youth Telemark Turn clinic at 49 Degrees North, with high winds, power outages and crusty snow.  But the few kids that toughed it out had a blast learning the age-old free-heel turning technique with the help of kid-size rental equipment.

Tele Ned Ryerson, who drove up from Colorado, put on the the clinic and provided the gear.

Here's the report from Susan McBurney, one of the parents who has helped promote the Tele Ned opportunity the past two years:

Well, the kids tele clinic was …. interesting.  Cancelled on Saturday due to an absolutely wild weather day up on the mountain — pouring rain, power outage, super high winds (I'm sure you saw that a cell tower got blown over up on Chewelah Peak).  We finally got up on the mountain around 1 pm and skied some of the worst conditions ever.  A crust to kill, chunks of crap everywhere.  Survival skiing.  Ha!

The grooming staff worked wonders, though, and Sunday was decent, as long as you stayed on the groomers.  A few pix attached. 

Small turnout in the end, just four kids.  But it was a gas.  Kids had a great time, and they left begging for more.  49 definitely took a hit on the clinic this year, but we are hoping they'll be willing to host again next year.  Mt. Spokane is interested as well, I think, so it may be that Ned comes out over two weekends.  We'll see.  

Montana ski resorts smothered in powder

WINTER SPORTS — While much of the West suffers for lack of snow, Montana is flush with powder.

An AP news story today notes that the state has an above-normal snowpack already this year — good news for river runners planning their spring.

But for now, it's the industry adding a big exclamation mark to the mountain snow conditions with a media release, including the powder-hound photos above, all snapped in the past 10 days.

"Big Sky Country is enjoying some of the best ski conditions in the lower 48!," Montana Tourism points out. 

"The rest of MT's 15 ski areas have enjoyed consistent storm cycles since October. With more pow on the way — we're in a meteorological heaven," said Molly Ambrogi-Yanson, Tourism spokeswoman.

Skiers to explore Mount Spokane under the stars

WINTER SPORTS — Gather your skis, skins and headlamp for and evening of food, climbing and downhilling under the stars at Mount Spokane on Jan. 24. 

Mountain Gear is sponsoring Nachtspektakel (pronounced knocked-shpeck-tockle), a traditional European-style ski event that bonds people through the sport of ski touring.  

Pre-registered skiers will:

  • Sign in at Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park's Lodge 2 by 5:45 p.m.  
  • The group skins up and begins the uphill tour at 6.
  • At the summit, they'll enjoy drinks and appetizers at the historic Mount Spokane Vista House.
  • Everyone enjoys the downhill run under the resort's lighted slopes back to the base of the mountain by 9 p.m.
  • Enjoy drinks and dinner at Lodge 2 with Mountain Gear hosts.

Click "continue reading" for more details and link for pre-registration.

Backcountry Film Fest coming to Spokane, CdA

2013 Winter Wildlands Alliance Back Country Film Festival Trailer from Backcountry Film Festival on Vimeo.

WINTER SPORTS — The annual Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival is coming to Spokane and Coeur d'Alene courtesy of several local outdoor groups

The lineup featuring all or portions of 10 films tapped by the Alliance committee will be screened:

  • Friday Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Eagles Club, 209 Sherman Ave. in Coeur d'Alene. Tickets $7.
  • Friday, Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. at the Spokane Community College Lair Auditorium. (Park free in the P1 lot. See campus map here.) Tickets: $12 general admission, $10 Spokane Mountaineers, $10 students (with student I.D.). Purchase tickets in advance (recommended) here.

The films spotlight a wide range of outdoor pursuits. This year the features include a trek in Mongolia in search of wolverines, the story of how a small community fought to save its local ski area, a poor man’s alternative to heli-skiing, and “Valhalla” – which was edited down in the Banff World Tour to its nude skiing scene. 

The festival highlights the efforts of the Winter Wildlands Alliance and other grassroots groups’ efforts to preserve and conserve winter landscapes for quiet users.

Read on for the list of films on this year's tour.

A foot of new snow blankets Lookout Pass ski area; more to come

WINTER SPORTS — Great report just posted from Lookout Pass:

…With all the snow this week and more to come, it seems like Lookout Pass is the place to be. We received over 12 inches in the last 48 hours and the forecast is predicting snow everyday until Saturday night!

Time to get your skis and boards waxed at our ski shop and tear up the entire mountain. Get your lift tickets in advance here and get your lessons scheduled here.

The resort's Winter Carnival is set for Jan. 19.