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Afghanistan skiing slide show at Magic Lantern

WINTERSPORTS — In case you missed it first time around when we first wrote about a skier's week in Afghanistan, a FREE slide program “Ski Boots on the Ground: Bamiyan Province of Afghanistan” will be shown Thursday, 7:15 p.m., at the Magic Lantern Theatre, 25 W. Main Ave. in Spokane.

Nick Pontarolo, a Cheney resident and graduate of the Spokane Mountaineers Mountain School, will speak and share a slideshow from his recent seven-day ski and sightseeing adventure in an amazingly unlikely destination. 

Snowboarder lawsuit could put chill on liability releases at ski resorts

WINTERSPORTS — The Oregon Supreme Court heard arguments in Astoria last week in a lawsuit filed by a snowboarder paralyzed from the waist down after a jump at a popular Bend resort. The snowboarder says the waiver he signed does not release the resort from liability for his injuries.

According to the Associated Press coverage of the hearing last Wednesday, the arguments centered on the difference between the assumed risk that skiers and snowboarders take on dangerous jumps and the responsibility of a snow park operator to make sure its jumps and moguls are safe.

Myles Bagley was 18 when he was injured at the Mt. Bachelor ski resort in 2006 on a jump. Bagley’s attorneys argued his injuries could have been avoided if the jump were designed differently.

Mt. Bachelor’s attorney says a mandatory waiver signed with a lift pass sale exempts the resort.

Bagley’s case could have broad ramifications for release agreements that must be signed in order to take part in an activity. Some state legislatures have made specific rules for amusement parks, which include ski lifts, but the issue of broader recreational activity has not yet been defined.

Bagley sought $21.5 million in Deschutes County Circuit Court in 2008. A judge threw out the lawsuit, and the court of appeals affirmed.


Hydrologist: Ski now, paddle whitewater later

WINTERSPORTS — Hold on to your spray skirts, kayakers.  The ski-snowshoe-snowboard season is not yet over.

This week's weather foray into 70-degree temperatures isn't enough to trigger the big spring runoff events whitewater enthusiasts relish.

“It's still getting below freezing at night in the upper Selkirks, and that means the snowpack is holding on,” said Kevin Davis, Idaho Panhandle National Forests hydrologist who also heads the  Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center out of Sandpoint.

Sunny days and freezing night temperatures add up to prime corn-snow skiing conditions in the high country for backcountry enthusiasts, he said. But kayakers and rafters waiting for the rush of water down their favorite streams must be patient even though its sandal weather.

Harris was on Lightning Creek near Hope, Idaho, on Wednesday, pointing out the creek was low and clear and the high mountains were still white with snow despite the shirt-sleeve weather locals were enjoying around Lake Pend Oreille.

“Basically it takes 70-degree temperatures up in the mountains — that's about the trigger point that sets off the spring runoff,” he said. “So far, it hasn't been getting that warm up high.”

Stevens Pass Ski Area reports record season

WINTERSPORTS — More than 406,000 guests visited Stevens Pass ski area last winter making 2013-14 its largest season since visits have been electronically tracked.  While much of the West Coast saw below average snowfall, Stevens Pass surpassed its 450-inch average with a seasonal total of 463 inches.

The Nov. 16, 2013, opening was the resort's third earliest.  During the last three winters, the Washington resort operated more than 150 days, besting its 134 day average set during the previous 28 years. 

Memorable storms this season included an 11-day snow cycle that dropped 125 inches Feb. 10-21, 2014. That brought the ski area to a total of 160 inches for the month of February

In December Stevens Pass also unveiled its new Doppelmayr high-speed detachable Jupiter Quad in the Mill Valley area capping off over $4 million in seasonal improvements. The resort also expanded to four terrain parks making it the largest park program in the state with more than 70 features.

‘That’s a wrap!’ at most ski areas

WINTERSPORTS — Bob Legasa caught a photo of this happy crowd of skiers getting in their last licks on the sunny slopes of Schweitzer Mountain Resort Sunday.  Most of the region's ski areas shut down their lifts for the season on Sunday afternoon.

The notable exception in this area is Silver Mountain, which still has skiing to offer from top to bottom. Siler has announced plans to open the lifts for “Silver Saturdays” only — April 19 and April 26, the weekend of the legendary Leadman — a triathlon done Kellogg style.


49 Degrees boosts spring skiing with free tickets

WINTER SPORTS — Skiing is winding down with a flourish at regional resorts, with good snow going into the last weekend at 49 Degrees North, Silver Mountain and Mount Spokane.

But 49 Degrees is making the temptation hard to resist with FREE lift tickets all week.

Says today's snow report:

Thanks to our friends at Toyota, ALL LIFT TICKETS ARE FREE UNTIL APRIL 13TH!

Schweitzer 24-hour skiers rack up $100,000 for cystinosis research

WINTERSPORTS — Rudis Kadzejs of Valleyford, Wash., with 210 solo runs, and another 109 skiers going solo or in teams last weekend, skied their hearts out in the 24 Hours of Schweitzer and raised more than $100,000 for cystinosis research.

The annual marathon downhill event and auction is one of the largest cystinosis fundraisers in the country, bringing the 24 Hours for Hank Foundation’s fundraising total to more than $725,000 in six years.

More than 110 skiers and snowboarders ages 5 to 73 from Sandpoint, Coeur d’Alene, Spokane, Moscow, Tri-Cities and around the region, and as far away as Washington, D.C., Arkansas, Iowa, California, Oregon and Colorado took to the slopes for the round-the-clock relay. The ride a chair up and ski down, over and over.

Young skiers took center stage at the March 21-22 benefit, setting four new records at the sixth-annual event.  Leading the charge in the “Endurance” division was Team Gnar Gnar Norwhals of Sandpoint, who took first place in the four-person team category with 699 runs, besting their performance last year by 108 runs.  The team, whose members are all under age 15, is the youngest ever to earn the top award in the four-person team category.

Sandpoint's Catherine Brenner, who turned 14 the day of the finish, tied for second in the solo division with 208 runs. She is the youngest participant ever to place among the top three in the solo categor. 

Read on for more details and ALL the results:

Whitefish reconsidering uphill skiing policy after incident

WINTERSPORTS — The U.S. Forest Service and Whitefish Mountain Resort are considering changes to the resort’s policy of allowing skiers to travel uphill after two people entered an area with active avalanche control.

The Flathead Beacon reports the officials with the federal agency and the resort met Friday to discuss options.

  • Many resorts across the country are taking up the issue of uphill skiing, including Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park.  See story here.

The resort is one of the few that allows people to ascend ski runs and ski down for free, an activity that’s becoming more popular.But ski patrollers say a male and female on Feb. 19 disregarded warnings from ski patrollers and descended a closed slope.

Ski patrollers say they had to extinguish explosives in the area that were about to be deployed.

Flathead National Forest officials say another meeting on the uphill ski policy is planned before next season.

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.

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. 

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.

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! 

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. 

Film celebrates ladies’ outdoor adventure in Iceland

OUTDOOR TRAVEL — Here's a cool 22-minute film worth viewing if you love life, snowboarding, music, yoga, sailing — and want to follow five young ladies living large on a trip to Iceland.

The first in a series of short documentaries, “Explore Iceland with One Life” follows professional snowboarders Chanelle Sladics, Kjersti Buaas, Sarka Pancochova and Marie France-Roy and musician Cindy Santini into the fjords of Iceland. The crew takes on splitboarding, music performances, yoga, sailing, kayaking, and surfing during the trip.

Outside TV premiered the film, which can now be viewed in full on the One Life website and YouTube.

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.


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?

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.

Avalanche eduation scholarship will honor Sandpoint man

WINTER SPORTS — Friends of the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center are sponsoring an avalanche education scholarship in memory of Doug Abromeit, a Sandpoint native who was instrumental in starting the National Avalanche Center.  Abromeit died last fall.

” We will send one student a year to a Level 1 avalanche class under the Doug Abromeit Avalanche Scholarship,” said Kevin Davis of the IPAC based in Sandpoint.  ”Doug was born and raised in Sandpoint and his family still resides here.  Doug retired from the Forest Service in 2011, last stationed in Ketchum, Idaho.”

The scholarship will be introduded at a special public program on Friday (Jan. 17), 4:30 p.m., at the Caribou Room in the Day Lodge at Schweitzer Mountain Resort.  Several presenters will highlight Abromeit’s contributions to avalanche education, the history of avalanche control in the USA, and development of the National Avalanche Center and the Idaho Panhandle center.

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.

Dump! Area ski resorts welcome the storm

WINTER SPORTS — After a long drought, Mt. Spokane and 49 Degrees North are reporting 6-7 inches of new snow in the past 24 hours!

More to come.


Silver Mountain revives good ol’ days of Jackass: tickets $12

WINTER SPORTS — In a half-century flashback to the prices charged by the former Jackass ski area, Silver Mountain Resort will offer $12 lift tickets on Friday, Jan. 10.

Silver Mountain's  “Jackass Day”, celebrates the resort's 45th anniversary with discounts and events on and off the mountain.

The retro lift ticket price of $12 recalls the era when Silver Mountain (then known as Jackass Ski Bowl), was first opened. People are encouraged to bring out their retro ski gear to wear while skiing and boarding.

Moguls, the on-mountain restaurant, will be hosting a party including cake and trivia. The cheap lift tickets bring record-breaking amounts of people from around the area.  It's a party!

Read on for details about other events.

Teen snowboarder fined for chasing moose

WILDLIFE — After a video showing a snowboarder chasing a moose down a ski run on Montana's Big Mountain went viral, the Flathead National Forest tracked down the snowboarder and fined him $255 for harassing wildlife, and forest officials issued warnings to other recreationists to leave wildlife alone.

See the Kalispell Daily Interlake story.

Powder-breaking news from Lookout Pass

WINTER SPORTS — In the past few weeks, snow-goers have been worshipping every new inch of the precious-little snow that's been falling from the sky.

That's why the 4 inches of beautiful snow that fell last night on Lookout Pass stirs some excitement.

And look at those dark clouds in the photo Lookout Pass Ski Area posted this morning!

Dark, threatening clouds rarely look so good!

Video: Where the powder skiers were today

WINTER SPORTS — Skiers and boarders who work at Big Mountain out of Whitefish didn't need to see ads to lure them to the mountain this morning. They heard the powder horn loud and clear.

Here's a short video of today's action put together by Whitefish photographer Craig “Snow” Moore and friends.  It's just a glimpse of what's to come.

Area resorts offer cool deal for 5th 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 Silver Mountain and Lookout Pass.

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.

Backcountry skiers in spotlight at resorts this season

WINTER SPORTS — Backcountry skiers who use alpine ski resorts that operate on public land are being scrutinized this season.

Here's a story from last month.

Here's the latest:

Uphill skiers at Montana resort warned to use designated routes
There are two routes uphill skiers at Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana may use to access the powder under their own power, and a U.S. Forest Service official who works with the resort on its special permit warned skiers to stick to those routes to avoid additional regulations on the practice. —Flathead Beacon 

Big Sky bigger than ever as three ski resorts merge

WINTER SPORTS — The  expansion of Big Sky Resort in Montana is BIG news in every way.

The resort's owners purchased neighboring resorts, Moonlight Basin and Spanish Peaks in August, and debuted the transformed mega resort — now the largest in the country — during the Thanksgiving holiday.

“The acquisitions make Big Sky the big boy on the U.S. alpine skiing and snowboarding scene,” says Brett  French of the Billings Gazette. “The combination means more than 30 lifts, 4,350 vertical feet of drop and 5,750 total acres for riders to roam. In comparison, the other big dog — the tony Vail Mountain Resort in Colorado — has about 5,300 acres and 3,450 vertical feet.”

The new Big Sky is treating skiers to the longest vertical run in the lower 48 states.

Read on for details from the Gazette story: