Latest from The Spokesman-Review
WINTERSPORTS — If you like snow, Go East!
The snow pack situation around the region is generally below average and continued to deteriorate with the unusually warm and wet pattern of late, says the National Weather Service in today's report. The only location that made some minor improvements was the Basin stretching from the north Cascades to Okanogan Highlands.
The Cascades are really hurting at this point.
But don't forget, March often has been a snow pack savior month.
WINTERSPORTS — I'll drink to that!
- Dry January means more drought across the West —High Country News
WINTERSPORTS — Long before the big football game, a team of 300 ladies flocked to Mount Spokane today backed by a "12th man" support group handing out snowshoes, skis, food and prizes.
The 10th annual Women's Souper Bowl Snowshoe and X-Country Ski Day kicked off Super Sunday with good companionship and sometimes gaggles of giggles as groups trekking around the state park nordic trails put together poker hands for prizes before being served a soup-er lunch.
In 10 years, the event has raised more than $100,000 for the Women's and Children's Free Restaurant.
And as far as I could tell, they were having a blast doing the job.
WINTERSPORTS — Just-released news of special interest to backcountry skiers and snowmobilers alike:
The U.S. Forest Service today released the final policy for managing snowmobile and other "over-snow" vehicle use on national forests and grasslands. As directed by court order, the policy requires that roads, trails and areas where over-snow vehicle use can occur be specifically designated by local Forest Service mangers. Previously, managers had the discretion to decide whether to designate specific areas for over-snow vehicle use.
Following are details in the agency's announcement:
"The Forest Service always seeks to provide a wide range of motorized and non-motorized recreational opportunities," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "This policy maintains community input and local decision-making so that those with knowledge of local areas can decide how to best balance natural resource issues with legitimate recreational uses of national forest land."
Many forests and grasslands currently have oversnow designations—more than 40 percent of national forests where snow depths can accommodate over-snow vehicles have guidance consistent with the final policy—and the agency has directed all remaining forest supervisors where the policy applies to make the providing local guidance a priority. The policy maintains the requirement that all designations must be made with public input as well as ensure protection of natural resources, such as water and soils and wildlife, while continuing appropriate recreational opportunities for over-snow and other recreational uses. The court's order ensures that the final policy also provides consistency across all forests and grasslands by requiring designation of areas where over-snow use is allowed.
The policy, scheduled to be published on Wednesday, Jan. 28 in the Federal Register, is formalized in 30 days. The Forest Service reviewed more than 20,000 comments on the proposed guidelines, which were published in June, 2014.
The best-known use of over-snow vehicles is recreation. However, over snow vehicles are also used for other purposes such as gathering firewood and subsistence hunting. Nationally, the U.S. Forest Service manages more than 200,000 miles of roads and 47,000 miles of trails that are open to motor-vehicle use. These roads and trails vary from single-track trails used by motorcycles to roads designed for high-clearance vehicles such as logging trucks.
The final policy will preserve existing decisions governing over-snow vehicle use that were made under previous authorities with public involvement; allow decisions for over-snow vehicle use to be made independently or in conjunction with decisions for other types of motor vehicle use; and local units will create over-snow vehicle use maps separate from use maps for other kinds of motor vehicles.
The mission of the Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the Nation's clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.
WINTERSPORTS — Only a few spots left. Get on it, ladies.
REI Spokane has set a FREE Women's Snowshoe Basics class for Thursday, Jan. 22, at 7 p.m.
Register here to save your seat.
WINTERSPORTS — The Western Nordic Round, featuring races on cross-country skis plus snowshoeing events, is set for Jan. 24 at Western Pleasure Guest Ranch, sponsored by the Sandpoint Nordic Club. Events will start at 9 a.m.
The snowshoeing events of 5k and 10k are for fun or serious competition, since the races are qualifiers for the National Snowshoe Race in Wisconsin.
Nordic skiers can chose for 5k or 10 events in skating or classic divisions.
While the nordic events would be canceled on the chance that snow conditions are not adequate, the snowshoe events will be held snow or no snow because they are national qualifiers, said event spokeswoman Jennifer Macdonald.
The courses will be set on the gentle terrain of the Meadow trails and will be groomed with skate and classic tracks.
Registration, $20 (includes WPGR trail fee); kids age 12 and under, free.
There will also be a 5 or 10K snow shoe race taking place at the same time so there is fun for the whole family!
Having started in Canada in late October, they're near Lake Tahoe this week, more than halfway toward their destination at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to Pacific Crest Trail Association blogger Jack "Found" Haskel. They hope to finish in April.
"They’ve walked so far that the metal on their snowshoes is wearing thin," Haskel reports. "Soon, they’ll switch to skis."
From frostbite and drenching rain to friendships and stunning and quiet landscapes, their journey is remarkable. The feat requires skill, experience in snow-camping and winter travel plus avalanche awareness, and some luck. Many experts say it's crazy and dangerous.
Lichter, a ski patroller, has more than 35,000 miles of backcountry experience around the world and Forry more than 15,000 miles, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal. The two also completed a 150-mile ski-and-hike trip last year between the Sonora Pass and Mammoth Lakes.
The light snowfall that plagued the region's ski areas in the early season was a boon to the PCT hikers, who've been snowshoeing 20-mile days since Christmas.
One of the pluses of hiking the PCT, say's Lichter, is then when they take a rest day or resupply, they can nab a motel room at cheap winter rates.
PUBLIC LANDS — The Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness based in North Idaho and Western Montana is celebrating the group's 10th anniversary on a high note this month.
Recent passage of the Montana Heritage Act indicates that Congress is able — and even somewhat willing — to designate Wilderness, says FSPW program coordinator Sandy Compton.
The group has not yet succeeded in winning official wilderness designation for the 88,000-acre roadless area that straddles the Idaho-Montana border. But since the group was founded in 2005, it's attracted nearly 5,000 "friends," Compton said.
“Our new commission in Bonner County is very supportive,” said FSPW executive director Phil Hough, who's based in Sandpoint. “We’ve worked hard in our two Western Montana counties to gain support in a number of ways, including opening an office in Libby and helping create the Lincoln County Prosperity Forum Series."
- The 10th anniversary celebration will begin in Sandpoint, Friday, Jan. 9, with live music, silent-auction and picnic-style food at Tango Café in the Columbia Bank. Get tickets here.
- The FSPW schedule of winter group hikes begins on Jan. 11 with an easy-to-moderate snowshoe trek up Lightning Creek.
- March events in Troy and Thompson Falls will feature author and historian Jack Nisbet speaking on David Thompson’s explorations of the Kootenai and Clark Fork valleys in the early 1800s.
Stewardship has joined wilderness advocacy in the group's approach to securing protection for the peaks that overlook Lake Pend Oreille and the Clark Fork River.
FSPW volunteers and staff have contributed hundreds of hours of work to:
- Build or improve Scotchman Peak Trail 65 and Star Peak Trail 999.
- Monitor weeds, conduct multi-day white bark pine surveys, work on stream restoration and assist with trailside tree planting for the national forest “Treasured Landscape” program.
- Coordinate summer hike programs for adults as well as for young children.
- Assist wolverine researchers by setting and monitoring remote camera stations in Idaho and Montana.
- Create a Winter Tracks program to teach tracking skills and wildlife monitoring methods to area youth, including kids from Spokane.
- Plan summer 2015 trail projects on the lower portion of the Scotchman Peak Trail and continue to work on trails in Lightning Creek.
WINTERSPORTS — Snowshoers walked into 2015 by making first tracks in Mount Spokane State Park.
Holly Weiler led a group of six Spokane Mountaineers on Wednesday to celebrate New Years Eve on the summit, where they watched Spokane fireworks. The group romped in the darkness with snowshoe hares, returning to the parking area around 1:30 a.m.
It was a short night for Weiler, who returned to Mount Spokane at 10 a.m. Thursday to co-lead a group of 25 for the state park's First Day snowshoe trek.
A couple of hikers went to the summit while most of the group made tracks to the CCC cabin over a five-mile loop back to the parking area.
Cris Currie of the Friends of Mount Spokane State Park, who co-led the First Day snowshoe trek, says skiers and snowhoers should find excellent snow conditions in the park this weekend.
After touring the Trails 110-140 loop on Wednesday, he said skiing/snowshoeing was great. "Plenty of snow on the trail, but off trail still needs another foot or so. The loop is all tracked with no significant dead fall."
The upper creek crossing is still a pain, he said, but a fix for that could be addressed this year.
WINTERSPORTS — A long list of services and events is forming this winter to help more snowshoers get on the trail.
Through the winter season, new snowshoe and nordic ski rental service is available at Mount Spokane State Park nordic ski area next to Selkirk Lodge and the Mount Spokane nordic ski trails.
Fitness Fanatics has a trailer full of gear to rent, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursdays-Mondays during the winter season. Washington Sno-Park permits also are available.
Rent gear in advance by calling the Spokane Valley store, (509) 922-6080.
On Jan. 3, the 24th annual fun event at Fourth of July Pass sponsored by the Panhandle Nordic Club in conjunction with Idaho's Free Ski Day, when the state Park N Ski vehicle sticker requirement is waived. Check in starting at 10 a.m., and then take off at your own pace at 11:30 a.m. Prizes and refreshments provided. The event is a fundraiser for the club, which maintains the winter trails at the pass.
On Jan. 6 at 7 p.m., a free primer on snowshoeing by the store's staff covering gear selection and where to go.
Pre-register at www.rei.com/spokane.
On Jan. 8 at 7 p.m., learn about skijoring, a winter sport in which a person wearing skis is drawn dog-sled style over snow by one or more dogs.
Pre-register at www.rei.com/spokane.
On Jan. 11, Spokane Nordic is celebrating cross-country skiing and other winter sports at Mount Spokane's Cross-Country Ski Park.
Sign up for activities at www.spokanenordic.org.
Holiday rental bargain
On Jan.17-19 — Mountain Gear is offering a deal — a 50-pecent discount on snowshoe rentals — during the Martin Luther King week. A free Snowshoeing 101 clinic is set for 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 16, at the retail store, 2002 N. Division.
On Feb. 1, the 10th annual snowshoeing or nordic skiing event at Mount Spokane State Park will benefit the Women and Children's Free Restaurant. Snow-shoes, guided treks, prizes and a fabulous lunch provided.
WINTERSPORTS — Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park has announced it will open for the first time this season on Wednesday — Christmas Eve. Although the base is thin — just 7 inches at the lodge — more snow is in the forecast.
- See Mt. Spokane webcam image above and current webcam views here.
That means all of Inland Northwest ski resorts will be open through the holidays.
- See the Ski Northwest Rockies snow report.
WINTERSPORTS — Brown-earth-weary skiers, boarders and snowshoers aren't giving up hope in Idaho.
"The snowshoe hut is ready for the season," reports Geoff Harvey of the Panhandle Nordic Club after rigging up the warming structure on the Fourth of July pass winter trail system and installing the wood-burning stove. "All we need now is snow."
Check in at Fourth of July Pass starting at 10 a.m. Then take off at your own pace at 11:30 a.m. Prizes and refreshments provided.
The event is a fundraiser for the club, which maintains the winter trails at the pass.
"The event is a go no matter what the conditions are," said Jim McMillen, club president. "We expect snow but if there isn't any, we'll go for a hike."
WINTERSPORTS — "It was 57 degrees at 9 p.m. Tuesday" at the Mt. Spokane Ski Area chairlift — and barely any snow in sight at the base, reports local outdoorsman Ken Vanden Heuvel. (See photo above from the Mt. Spokane web cam).
2014 will rank among the slowest starts to the ski and snowboard seasons at area winter resorts.
Stay tuned to the ski reports.
WINTERSPORTS — Don't miss this chance to be prepared for the winter backcountry travel season.
At last check, there were at least 15 spots available for tonight's FREE Avalanche Awareness workshop at the Spokane REI Store, 1125 N Monroe St.
The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education Avalanche Awareness Workshop is for any winter backcountry traveler, whether you ski, snowshoe, snowboard or snowmobile.
Recognition of avalanche danger is an essential and potentially lifesaving skill.
This session introduces and explains where and why avalanches occur and provides a basic approach to managing risk in the backcountry.
Learn to access local avalanche bulletins and weather reports, recognize basic signs of avalanche danger, and learn simple ways to help avoid avalanche danger.
WINTERSPORTS — A new rental service for cross-country skis and snowshoes is officially debuting today at Mount Spokane State Park.
Fitness Fanatics, based at 12425 E. Trent Ave., will have a trailer full of gear to rent, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursdays-Mondays during the winter season. The trailer is next to Selkirk Lodge and the Mount Spokane nordic ski trails.
Fitness Fanatics owner Robin Deruwe said Sno-Park passes and snacks will be sold and snowshoeing maps will be available.
The center will have classic and skate gear for adults and kids, as well as hats, gloves and waxes, she said.
Nordic skis and snowshoes can be reserved by calling the store, (509) 922-6080.
Snowshoeing event Dec. 7
The annual Snowshoe Stomp, Spokane’s only snowshoe event, is set for Sunday, Dec. 7, at Mount Spokane State Park, sponsored by Fitness Fanatics.
It's a day of racing, training and just simply snowshoeing for fun.
Transportation will be available from Mt. Spokane High School on a first come, first serve basis.
$25 for Individual Participant (Includes one beanie)*
$50 for family of four (Parent and child combo; Includes 2 beanies; Option to purchase more beanies)*
*Add $10 if pay at the event
Click HERE to Register
TRAILS — They're at it again on Mount Spokane.
Volunteers who built a bridge over Burping Brook last year on the Mount Spokane State Park trails up from the Lower Mount Kit Carson Loop Road are building more bridges that will be especially helpful to spring hikers and winter snowshoers.
A four-day bridge-building work party starts Friday at Mount Spokane. Holly Weiler of the Washington Trails Association is coordinating helpers for the construction.
You can still sign up on the WTA website to join the work party.
The bridges will be useful to snowshoers using the new winter hut, also being finished by volunteers this summer.
WINTERSPORTS — Volunteers are putting finishing touches on the new winter shelter primarily geared for snowshoers at Mount Spokane State Park.
The hut is 1.25 miles up the Lower Kit Carson Loop Road from the hairpin curve parking lot.
Cris Currie of the Friends of Mount Spokane State Park focused last weekend to painting the hut's interior, and there are several more projects to finish.
"It was a wonderful 73 degrees up there and really peaceful," he said.
To help with the volunteer effort, contact Currie by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
ANOTHER PROJECT seeking volunteers is a four-day bridge-building work party starting Friday at Mount Spokane not far from this cabin. Holly Weiler of the Washington Trails Association is coordinating helpers to build more bridges over Burping Brook and tributaries, much like the bridge that was much appreciated last winter by snowshoers in the area.
- Sign up to help at wta.org/volunteer/east.
STATE PARKS — A hut geared primarily for snowshoers at Mount Spokane is well on its way to being completed for the next winter season.
Nora Searing, above, and Cris Currie of the Friends of Mount Spokane State Park were working on the hut Thursday, as Nora painted the stair railings.
"Afterwards I had a scenic little hike all by myself up Trail 140, while Cris continued to work," she said, making a perfect day of work and pleasure.
Says Cris, who heads the Friends group:
The volunteer project to finish the snowshoe hut at Mt. Spokane is up and running. Today, volunteers painted the first coat on 3 sides and we've made lots of progress insulating the floor. I'm planning to work on it next Thursday through Sunday, so if you would like to help, please let me know what days you are available. If it's showery weather, we'll paint inside, and if not, we'll do the 2nd exterior coat. Three to five people each day would be perfect. It's also not too early to start getting firewood if anyone is so inclined. I could also use a couple more carpenters for the more technical work like the deck railing, the ADA ramp, the wood shed, and the interior siding and window trim. We also need someone to make a table and benches out of a really nice white pine I found in the nordic area. It has been ripped into rough cut lumber and drying since last August. This place is going to be soooo nice when it's all done!!!
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.
WINTER SPORTS — The trend toward more dogs, linked to the growing popularity of snowshoeing, is getting easier to track at Mount Spokane State Park.
And sometimes you might track it into your car.
Snowshoer Warren D. Walker posted several photos of dog poop he observed while hiking the mountain on Monday, noting that there are plenty of similar photo opps and the trend is dramatic and disgusting.
Part of the problem is people who violate the state park leash law while others neglect to bring bags to clean up after their pets. Says Walker:
It is a STATE PARK - not a DOG PARK:
Pictures from today - even one at the top of Mt Kit Carson.
I understand your love of animals - but it can not be that hard to pick up after your dog. We are in a State Park - a public place and on a trail used by many - so out of respect and courtesy for others using the trail please pick up after your dog.
Having a dog inside the State Park is a privilege - not a right.
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.
WINTER SPORTS — Looking for a winter trek to a somewhat cozy room with a view:
Here's a photo my daughter emailed to me from her recent backcountry ski trek to Winchester Lookout near Bellingham. That's Mount Baker in the background. Not a bad backdrop, even if you didn't have the additional eye candy featuring miles and miles of the North Cascades.
WINTER SPORTS — Although skiers would prefer a nice dump of new snow to soften the slopes, conditions were perfect for snowshoers exploring Mount Spokane from top to bottom today: firm footing, sunny skies and not a breath of wind on the summit.
WINTER SPORTS — Packed ice on trails is a safety issue throughout the region where the snow cover is especially thin.
The 23rd annual Best Hand Fun Ski and Snowshoe Event set for Saturday, Jan. 4, at 4th of July Pass has been canceled because of treacherously icy conditions, said Geoff Harvey of the Panhandle Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club.
Usually the club has a plan to walk the trails for the event in the case of thin snow cover, but not this year, Harvey said today:
Glenn Truscott and Van Bennett went up to 4th of July. They reported that you can't drive or walk on the parking lot, much less the trail. Jim, Carol and Geoff talked and decided the best thing would be to cancel Best Hand Fun Ski. Geoff and Glenn will get a sign up so that people don't even try to enter the parking lot as they may not get out. We plan to reschedule.
WINTER SPORTS — Yesterday I noted two snowshoeing trails recently marked on Mount Spokane for all to follow.
Today, snowshoer Warren D. Walker announced that another route has been flagged (tape to be removed at end of season). Here's his notice:
New OFF-TRAIL option to hike to Bald Knob.
A winter trail is marked (flagged) from Trail 100 up to Bald Knob (dashed line on map). The route is approximate – and goes cross country. Just follow the engineer tape. This completes a loop trail to Bald Knob – or as an alternate return route from the CCC Cabin to the parking lot. The double tape is the trail head as seen From Trail 100 - just beyond the first creek drainage - just look uphill.
The printable map of snowshoeing routes on the Friends of Mount Spokane website was recently updated.
It's called the Trail 260 Loop and starts just below the Selkirk Lodge. From the Lodge, hike east and downhill and cross the Linder Ridge Road. Go around the closed sign to the pink flagging and then head straight downhill.If you are on the groomed Nordic trail, you have gone to far! Just find the easiest way and head straight down until you get the to Condo Road. There is no flagging or trail on this portion of the route.Turn right on the road and pass through a large logged area with great views. After going around a bend and crossing over a wooded stream, there will be another small logged area. Head uphill into the logged area, following some more pink flagging, and then find Trail 260 heading to the right. It is an old logging road that gradually climbs the hill back to the starting point.I opened up the trail last summer and trimmed it a few weeks ago. Yesterday I tracked the whole route and added some more flagging. I would consider it an intermediate trail and it took me less than an hour. You can easily extend it by hiking more of the Condo Road in either direction.The road is on Inland Empire Paper Co. property until it enters the SnowBlaze property. If you follow it east, you will come to the groomed Nordic trails at the bridge. (Snowshoeing is prohibited on the groomed ski trails.)Trail 260 was going to be a snowmobile route to get the machines off the Linder Ridge Road until IEPCO banned snowmobiling completely from their property. So now we can use it as a snowshoe route! Enjoy!
WINTER SPORTS — Snowshoer and state park volunteer Warren D. Walker got up very early this morning to be high on the slopes of Mount Spokane for sunrise.
To get even more from his outing, with the permission of park staff, he marked a trail for snowshoers to follow.
I hiked today to see the sunrise from the top and to finish marking Trail 140. Did both. Trail 140 is now marked from Bear Creek Lodge to the summit. A good return route from the top is off the back on Trail 140 down to the CCC Cabin then back on 130/131 to the snowmobile parking lot.
WINTER SPORTS —
UPDATE 12/23/13 at 2:10 p.m.: The historic stone Vista House at the mountain summit will open Dec. 26 and stay open daily through the holiday break, according to Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park. After Jan. 5 it will be open weekends and holidays. New this year, canned beer will be served along with the usual soups, snacks and hot chocolate.
WINTER SPORTS — While fog shrouded low-lying ares in the region Saturday, local snowshoer Don Story climbed to the summit of Mount Spokane for sunshine and sweeping views. Here's his comment:
WINTER SPORTS — Members of the Panhandle Nordic Club put up a Snowshoe Hut on Twisted Klister System this week. A wood stove soon will be installed.
The snow is still thin, but the it's good to know shelter is there for the winter days ahead.