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Lookout Pass Free Ski School underway today

WINTER SPORTS — The Lookout Pass Free Ski School started its 72nd year this morning to a swarm of enthusiasm. More than 500 kids age 6-17 had been registered in the program last week.

The resort's professional instructors are being joined by Ski School volunteers to ensure that each kid gets started on the road to skiing and snowboarding with a quality lessons.

Classes just started at 10 a.m. and the resort's learning terrain is swarming with little ones.

Expect too see lots of little ones on the slopes on Saturday morning for the next several weeks.

And, of course, many of them will continue skiing or snowboarding when they're not-so-little ones.

Tamarack also offering discounts to bereft Bogus Basin passholders

Tamarack Resort - which unlike Bogus Basin is open for skiing, thanks in part to snowmaking - is joining Brundage Mountain in offering discounts to out-of-luck Bogus Basin season passholders. The resort has announced it'll charge $25 on Thursdays with a Bogus pass, down from the usual $49; and $35 Fridays through Sundays and holidays; there's more info here.

VIDEO: Aerial action at Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park

WINTER SPORTS — A flip-photography contest prompted local slope shredder Blake Sommers to create this nifty glimpse of folks giving a workout to the Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park.  Check it out.

Corgi found 4 days after swept away by deadly avalanche

WINTER SPORTS — A family consumed by grief after a husband and father was killed by an avalanche in Montana last week got something to pick up their spirits:

Their dog, buried in the avalanche, surfaced and was found alive four days later.

Read on for the remarkable story from Brett French of the Billings Gazette.

Winterfest packs two-days of events, activities at 49 Degrees North

WINTER SPORTS — No place in the Inland Northwest will have more cross-country skiing and snowshoeing activities this weeked than the annual Winterfest at 49 Degrees North.

The events are in the downhill ski area as well as on the nordic ski trail system.

From the endurance test of the hill climb and ski down, telemark lessons and gear demos to the night-time nordic ski tours and snowshoe walks and even a paintball biathlon race, this is one  ambitious ageda, sponsored by the resort and Mountain Gear.

Note FREE nordic trail ski passes on Saturday and $5 passes on Sunday.

Read on for the entire list of events:

Lift ticket prices go retro for Jackass Day at Silver Mountain

WINTER SPORTS — Lift ticket prices on Friday at Silver Mountain Resort will be the same as they were in the beginning.

In 1968, the original Jackass Ski Bowl on Wardner Peak opened to the public with a single Riblet chair lift at the end of an adventurous drive to the Tamarack Lodge.

The name was changed in 1972 to Silverhorn and then in 1990, with the addition of new lifts and the famous gondola ride up the mountain, the name was changed again to Silver Mountain Resort.

The resort is offering retro prices Friday (Jan. 6):  $11 plus tax for a day of skiing, snowboarding followed by a party.

On Saturday, the Skier/BoarderX is scheduled.

Brundage reaches out, with deals for Bogus passholders…

With Bogus Basin still closed and its skiers out of luck, Brundage Mountain is reaching out: The McCall ski resort is offering a special deal to Bogus season passholders, starting Thursday: $25 weekday lift tickets (non-holiday), down from the usual $55, and $35 on weekends or holidays. In addition, Brundage will offer the $25 rate to Bogus Basin passholders the second Sunday of each month; there's more info here. Meanwhile, still-closed Bogus has announced cost-cutting measures in light of its continued closure due to lack of snow; among them, the general manager and chief financial officer at the non-profit ski resort will work without pay. Pete Zimowsky of the Idaho Statesman has a full report here.

Snow-starved Bogus Basin eliminates jobs, cuts pay

WINTER SPORTS — All of the region's ski resorts would like to have more snow. But at least the ones in the Inland Northwest have coverage.  

At southern Idaho's Bogus Basin, the situation is grim, as you see in this report that just moved on the AP wire.

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The stingy snow gods are forcing a ski resort above Idaho’s capital to dramatically reduce costs.

Bogus Basin Mountain Resort is eliminating positions, cutting year-round workers’ pay and scaling back capital projects after its lifts remained idle during the holidays, traditionally one of its most-lucrative revenue periods.

Its general manager and chief financial officer plan to work without pay for an extended period, while other positions were eliminated.

There’s almost no chance the resort will open by Friday. If it doesn’t, that would make this the latest opening in the 69-year-old resort’s history.

The latest previous opening was Jan. 6, way back in 1989.

Bogus Basin makes much of its money through annual season pass sales, but it still relies on day-pass customers for a significant share of its revenue.

El Ninia gives region a dry shoulder so far

We thought that first big snowstorm just before Thanksgiving was the beginning of the predicted big snow accumulation associated with an El Ninia year. 

However, to date, Idaho has accumulated only 73 percent of normal snowpack.

Check out this SnoTel chart to see where the snow is — and isn't.

Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game Department Panhandle Region wildlife manager, says he needs a lot more snow in a hurry in order to do his winter aerial elk surveys.

Normal snowpack is needed to concentrate the elk on wintering areas and make them stand out for the count.

Idaho Park N’Ski areas offer free access Jan. 7

WINTER SPORTS – Idaho Park N’ Ski areas —  such as Farragut State Park, Priest Lake State Park and Fourth of July Pass — will offer free access to groomed trails for nordic skiing and snowshoeing on Saturday (Jan. 7).

Free Ski-Snowshoe Day is promoted by Idaho State Parks and Recreation Department at 18 designated Park N’ Ski areas and snow-belt state parks.   

Some areas will have special events that offer free ski/snowshoe clinics, equipment rentals and/or refreshments.

Read on for a list of scheduled events:

Fri. will be Brundage’s 2nd-latest opening ever; 9” new snow pushed it over top

Friday will be Brundage Mountain's second-latest opening day in the ski area's 50-year history; the latest was Jan. 8 in 1977. The McCall-area ski resort announced this afternoon that after receiving 9 inches of new snow in the past 48 hours, it's ready to open to skiers Friday morning; it now has 18 inches at the base and 24 at the top, and it's still snowing. “We may not have as many runs groomed as we normally do on opening day,” said April Russell, resort spokeswoman, “but we're eager to get our skiers and riders on the slopes so they can enjoy some holiday turns.”

Brundage will have about 1,200 of its 1,500 acres open on Friday, with just limited grooming; the front side of the mountain will be open from 9:30 to 4:30 p.m. There's more info here.

Big, wet storm finally arrives, but temps still warm; Brundage to open Friday

Now that a big, wet storm is finally hitting the Treasure Valley, the question for our still-closed local ski areas is one of temperatures and snow levels. Bogus Basin reported an inch and a half of new snow yesterday and an inch overnight, but it's raining and 39 degrees up there now. They smeared some snow around on the bunny hill to allow some already-scheduled lessons to go forward over the past week, but the mountain remains closed. Brundage Mountain is reporting 7 inches of new snow since 5 p.m. yesterday, for a summit depth of 24 inches; it's currently 26 degrees there and snowing. Brundage just announced it will open for the season on Friday; Bogus has yet to announce an opening date.

Meanwhile, Sun Valley is holding at 20 inches top and bottom, thanks to its extensive snowmaking, and has done lots of grooming; Tamarack reported 5 new inches of  snow this morning for a 16-inch base and 24 inches at the top; Grand Targhee reported 5 new inches this morning and a 35-inch base; and Anthony Lakes reported 3 new inches this morning and a 33-inch base. Farther afield, Whistler/Blackcomb up in B.C. reports 9 inches of new snow in the past 24 hours and a 67-inch base, with 34 of 37 lifts open.

So just how unusual is this, to have Bogus Basin still not open? Here's the answer: Only twice in the past three decades has Bogus opened after Christmas Day. Both times, in 1986-87 and 1989-90, it didn't open 'til January - Jan. 1 in '86-87, and Jan. 6 in '89-90. Other than those two years, the latest recorded opening for Bogus in the past three decades was Dec. 20 in '07-08; the opening date was Dec. 19 in both '02-03 and '87-88. (There were two years when it opened early, then had to shut back down; in '03-04, it opened Nov. 28, closed Nov. 30, and reopened Dec. 14; and in '05-06, it opened Dec. 2, closed Dec. 22, and reopened Dec. 27.)

Tree entrapment: lessons to learn for winter backcountry skiers

WINTER SPORTS — A hoot of a day in deep pow can come to a suffocating end should you fall and become trapped upside down in a tree well.

This real-life accident and rescue is worth viewing and discussing.

It points out the obvious value of skiing in a group.

Two other points come to mind immediately

  • Backcountry skiers should have their shovels accessible and ready to use NOW.
  • And EVERYBODY should have a shovel ready to use NOW.

Activities abound for nordic skiers, snowshoers

WINTER SPORTS —  Free-heel skiers and snowshoers have plenty of events to sample in the next two weeks. Among them:

Snowshoeing activites organized by Spokane Parks and Recreation include:

  • Winter survival youth camp, Dec. 28-29, to learn snowshoeing and snow shelter building skills.
  • Mount Spokane guided snowshoe tour with transportation, Dec. 31.
  • Women’s guided  Mount Spokane snowshoe tour, Jan. 1.

Info: spokaneparks.org

Nordic skiing lessons, Dec. 31-Jan. 1, taught as a fundraiser by Spokane Nordic junior ski team at Mount Spokane. Info: email selkirkxc@yahoo.com or call 922-6080.


Idaho Ski-Snowshoe Free Day, Jan. 7, at 18 Park N’Ski area across the state. Skiing and snowshoeing lessons at Farragut and Priest Lake state parks.

Info: parksand- recreation.idaho.gov/

Winterfest at 49 Degrees North, Jan. 7-8.

Features more than a dozen activities, seminars and events. EPIC Hill Climb kicks it off on Jan. 7 followed by telemark and cross-country gear demos, free lessons, gate racing,avalanche seminars and evening nordic ski and snowshoe tours.

Jan. 8 includes a nordic ski race and paintball biathlon, plus tours.

Info: mountaingear.com.

Ferry County Rail Trail Ski Day, Jan. 14, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. based at trailhead north of Curlew.

Groomed trails as conditions allow, free ski lessons, gear and refreshments.

Info: ferrycountytrail.com.

Cheap getaway: Winterfest at 49 Degrees a free-heel bargain

WINTER SPORTS — Nordic skiers and snowshoers should check out the lineup of events and activities for Winterfest, sponsored by Mountain Gear, Jan. 7-8 at 49 Degrees North.

This is a screaming deal:  Free demos, free mini lessons and free trail passes.

Plus, tons of fun from ski races to paintball biathlon.

 Enjoy the moonlight ski and snowshoe tours, and then say overnight on the mountain — bring a sleeping bag and stay for just $15 at the Learning Center. 

“It’s fun and cheap,” said 49 Degrees Nordic guru Doug Elledge, in a classic bit of understatement.

Avalanche advisory: Big transition expected

WINTER SPORTS — The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center has offered suggestions for winter backcountry travelers in its weekly advisory posted today.

Overall, conditions are fairly safe — for now!

“Be cautious near ridgelines and where wind deposited snow is deeper and possibly firmer overlying a weak layer fo surface hoar,” says Kevin Davis. “We'll probably have another buried layer of surface hoar after the storm forecast for Saturday and this will set the stage for increasing avalanche danger in what looks to be a snowy week ahead….

“Be thinking more snow equals more instability on weak layers.  You can check the weak layers pretty easily since they'll be easy to find in the sugary snow above the thick Thanksgiving ice crust, about the upper 1-2 feet of the pack.”

Read on for the full 12-23-11 avalanche advisory:

Grand Targee reports 10” of new snow

At 6 a.m. today, Grand Targhee was reporting 10 inches of new snow in the past 24 hours, and a 37-inch base; check it out here. Meanwhile, Pomerelle got an inch overnight and now has 20-28 inches; and Tamarack reported 2 inches of new snow yesterday, and now has 13-19 inches. Most other area resorts got nothing or just a trace. Bogus Basin and Brundage Mountain remain closed, awaiting more snow.

Screamin’ deal: 50% off Methow Valley 3-day nordic trails pass

NORDIC SKIING — If you have plans to visit the 120 miles of Methow Valley ski trails this season, check out this great Groupon deal:   Pay $25 for a three-day trails pass that normally costs $51.

Vacation time: Looking for snow…

I'm on vacation for the next two weeks, and with both kids home from college, was hoping for some family ski days at Bogus Basin, though the forecast isn't providing much to support that hope at this point - Bogus remains closed for lack of snow, as is Brundage Mountain at McCall. So what's a Boise-area skier to do?

There are some options. Over the weekend, my family and I made the three-hour drive over to Anthony Lakes ski area in Oregon, just out of North Powder. At the time, they had 32 inches of snow top and bottom and their entire mountain open under sunny skies (today, they're reporting another inch of new snow). It was early-season conditions, with plenty of rocks showing, but the rocks there are big and pretty easy to miss; I only got a few scratches on my rock skis.

The biggest surprise: Some rather stunning steeps, amid a variety of terrain. We really enjoyed the area around Tumble Down and Paint Your Wagon runs, to the skier's left of the chairlift, Rock Garden. There's a sunny-side run off to the skier's right, Starbottle Headwall, that softened up by mid-day and offered fun, spring-like conditions. There were four groomed runs, though it's not a place for manicured, Sun Valley-style cruising.

Anthony Lakes has a nice little bunny hill, but when we were there, the rope tow on it wasn't working, so the resort was offering free rides up it in a snowcat, to the kids' delight. We saw a number of kids who weren't actually beginners go ski the bunny hill anyway, just to get the ride up.

This friendly little resort charges an economical $35 for lift tickets, with a $4 discount for season-pass holders from any other resort; you also need an Oregon Sno-Park pass to park in their parking lot, which costs $4 for a day. Food in the lodge is reasonably priced ($5 hamburgers), and there's a saloon downstairs that attracted a nice day-end crowd and had a crackling fire going in the fireplace; unfortunately, we had to pass to hit the road.

Other options in the region: Sun Valley has been open since Thanksgiving, and its extensive snowmaking means you can ski on its famously groomed runs, top to bottom, with 20 inches of snow. Lift tickets are $89. Tamarack Resort near Donnelly is open, and thanks to a snowmaking boost, has 12-19 inches of machine-groomed snow, four lifts and six runs open, and lift tickets at $49.

Grand Targee near Driggs, Idaho has a 30-inch base and is now 100 percent open, including all four chairs; lift tickets are $69. Pomerelle, out of Albion, Idaho, is open with 20 inches at the base and 29 at the top; lift tickets are $35 and there are two chairlifts and a magic carpet. Down in Utah, Snowbird has a 29-inch base at mid-mountain, five of its 10 lifts plus its tram open and $72 lift tickets.

Up north, things are looking better: Schweitzer Mountain Resort near Sandpoint has its whole mountain open, with a 32-inch base and 58 inches on top; lift tickets there are $67. Lookout Pass ski area also is 100 percent open, with all four lifts running, a 34-inch base, 58 inches at the top and $37 lift tickets.

Website points bargain hunters to Salt Lake ski vacations

WINTER SPORTS —  A national travel website is advising clients that Salt Lake County is the place to go for an affordable skiing or snowboarding vacation.

A frugal traveler visit a Salt Lake-area resort for $239, according to a TripIndex Ski program launched this week by TripAdvisor.com.

By contrast, the most expensive destination is Vail, which costs $746. Park City is third on that list at $667, about $6 cheaper than a trip to Aspen. Two other Colorado resorts, Telluride and Steamboat Springs, round out the top five in the most-expensive list.

The closest bargain destination spot to Spokane is listed as Banff, Alberta.

If you need another good reason to go to Utah, consider this:

Per-gallon price for gasoline dips under $3 in Utah
It's been some time since Utah drivers paid less than $3 a gallon for gasoline, but prices have fallen more than 25 cents a gallon lately, putting Utah tied for 10th with Kansas for low prices of the fuel.
—Salt Lake Tribune

$10 lift tickets at Schweitzer benefit local cancer patients

WINTER SPORTSCommunity Cancer Services of Sandpoint and Schweitzer Mountain Resort will team to offer $10 lift tickets Friday as a fundraiser, with 100% of ticket proceeds to be donated to local cancer care, resort officials announced today.

Schweitzer plans to have all 2,900 acres of skiable terrain open and operate eight lifts — including everything but the Sunnyside Double. Lifts will run from 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

“We really look forward to hosting A Day for Heather each year,” said Schweitzer President and CEO, Tom Chasse.

Tickets are available for purchase in Sandpoint at Sandpoint Sports, Panhandle State Bank, and Pend d'Oreille Winery as well as at Schweitzer.

Street skiing video in Trail, B.C., is a classic

JP Auclair Street Segment (from All.I.Can.) from Sherpas Cinema on Vimeo.

SKIING — This street-skiing video clip from the ski film All.I.Can. is one of my favorite moments from the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour that ran three nights at The Bing Crosby Theater in Spokane.

It required skill and a sense of humor. It makes fun of all the virgin powder films people die to make.

It features J.P. Auclair making a wild trip down through the dirty urban snow lining the steep streets in Trail, British Columbia.  It's way more imaginative than screaming off cliffs. Very cool.

Group working on Stevens Peak winter backcountry plan eyes Lookout Pass expansion

WINTER SPORTS — The Stevens Peak Backcountry Coalition has posted an updated map showing a proposed Stevens Peak Backcountry Winter Non-Motorized Area. The proposal is geared to maintaining a sanctuary of peacefulness among the expansion plans for the Lookout Pass Ski Area as well as the expanding range of snowmobiles.

The group also is addressing some scrutiny to the location of a yurt proposed by North Idaho College.

The SPBC is working to preserve a winter non-motorized recreation area of about 6,500 acres in the Idaho Panhandle and Lolo national forests near Lookout Pass.

Digitized newsreel chronicles first winter ascent of Mount Rainier

MOUNTAINEERING — Historians have digitized a newsreel film that documents the February 1922 first winter ascent of Mount Rainier by Jean and Jacques Landry, Jacques Bergues and newsreel cameraman Charles Perryman, according to historical notes by software development specialist and climber Lowell Skoog of Seattle.

In 2003, Perryman's grandson Steve Turner contacted Lowell Skoog about this film after reading about Perryman's climb in the Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project. This led to an eight-year effort by Skoog to acquire the Perryman newsreel films from Turner for The Mountaineers based in Seattle. The project was completed in October (2011).

“This is a truly historic film,” Skoog said. “It was the first motion picture ever taken on the summit of Mount Rainier. It shows the first winter ascent of any significant peak in Washington state, and the highest no less. It is the oldest known climbing or skiing film in Washington.”

Notes about this historic ascent can be found at Alpenglow.org.

Tonight’s killer sunset at 49 Degres North

WINTER SPORTS — It's hard to leave the slopes when the sky's on fire! 

Thanks 49 Degrees North.

Whitefish man sets sights on Ultimate Ski Bum title

WINTER SPORTS —  A 32-year-old Whitefish man is in the running to be named the “Ultimate Ski Bum,” a title that comes with a prize package worth about $30,000, the Associated Press reports.

His resume includes sking about 150 days a year, about 70 at Whitefish Mountain Resort and another 80 in the surrounding backcountry.

Craig Moore recently became one of 10 finalists for the title that’s being sponsored by the Kootenay Rockies tourism board in British Columbia. Moore has skied at least one day every month for the last four years and beat out about 300 other wanna-be ski bums through online voting.

His next step is to submit a 90-second video (click above) showing him at his ski-bum best and why he deserves the title. A winner will be announced Dec. 14. The winner receives a pack of eight season passes to ski areas in British Columbia, along with helicopter trips, lodging, gas and a rental car for three months.

“It would be a pretty regimented winter,” said Moore, a member of the Flathead Nordic Backcountry Ski Patrol. “I would have to take a three-month sabbatical from Whitefish and spend three months up north, which I would have absolutely no problem doing.”

Skiing 150 days a year for the past two years was part of his plan to see if he could ski at least once every month within about 100 miles of Whitefish.

“I was just curious, ‘Is this something I could do?”’ he said. “I figured it would be a good personal project.”

This month he reached 48 months in a row, during that time skiing throughout Glacier National Park, as well as in the Swan range and Whitefish range.

Ski areas offer cool deal to fifth graders

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

The Fifth Grade Ski or Ride Free Passport, costs $20, entitles students to three free lift tickets at each of the participating mountains, including 49 Degrees North, Mt. Spokane, Schweitzer, Silver Mountain, Lookout Pass and 16 other resorts in the Northwest Rockies.

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

Parents and siblings accompanying the fifth- graders sometimes can get discounts.

Get more details, download applications or apply online.

Windy days risky for hiking at Mount Spokane

MOUNTAIN WEATHER — “Today I hiked down to the Spokane Mountaineers chalet (near the cross-country ski trails) through knee-deep snow,” said Holly Weiler, a club member and diehard hiker.

“Then I hiked back to the car and discovered a big tree across the driveway, right over my footprints from 30 minutes before!

“It made me change my mind about doing any other woodland hiking on this windy, windy day!”

Most ski areas open; 5th graders get special deal

WINTER SPORTS — Silver Mountain opend its lifts Monday while 49 Degrees North had customers floating on two feet of prime powder for it's opener on Saturday.

Lookout Pass will reopen on Thanksgiving and Mt. Spokane opens Friday, conditions permitting.


Don't waste this great early season by  you have a fifth grader in the family, take advantage of the 5th grade ski FREE passport that gives these prime learning-age kids free lift tickets at more than 20 Inland Northwest resorts. 

The passport also includes special deals on equipment rentals, lessons and other activities. Some ski areas even offer specials for parents or siblings.

Wind, warming changes avalanche conditions in mountains

WINTER SPORTS — “We just began Chapter II of winter 2011/12,” Kevin Davis of the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center says in an announcement this afternoon. 

“This change in weather is introducing a significant load to a weak snowpack.  As of the sending of this email (Tuesday 3:30 p.m.) freezing levels have risen to 6,000 feet and above and precipitation is rain or a snow/rain mix.  Winds are picking up and blowing a consistent 20 mph with higher gusts; direction seems to be variable but prevailing westerly. 

“Expect an unstable inverted snowpack with heavy wet snow overlying a dry weak base.  Unstable conditions will remain with the passage of the pineapple express and a natural avalanche cycle may become widespread. 

“Human triggered avalanches will be likely for a period following this but you should have some good clues as, “where not to go”, if you choose to venture out.  Travel in avalanche terrain is not advised. ”

Read on for the full pre-season advisory.