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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Silver Mountain extending ski season with Silver Saturdays

WINTER SPORTS — Silver Mountain Resort is maintaining its tradition of exting the ski season into shorts and bikini-top weather. 

The entire 1,600-acre ski area is scheduled to be open for Silver Saturdays in April, and perhaps longer, riding high on the ample remainnig snowpack.

The resort reports 337 inches of snow fell this season on the mountain above Kellogg.

Read on for details:

Snowshoers find plenty to walk on

WINTER SPORTS — Photo shows a group of snowshoers enjoying a fine March 24 during the 6th annual Goat Mountain trek above Lake Pend Oreille. Almost daily snowfall in the previous five days has left fresh layers on a deep snowpack.

The hike is one of the many active events organized by the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

Snowboarders dress up for Playboy

WINTER SPORTS — The current playboy is one for the shredder.

No longer your daddy's magazine, the March issue of the bunny pub features Burton snowboard pros Danny Davis, John Jackson and Mark Sollors.

See more on their Playboy debut in this ESPN online story.

New snocat groomer approved for Mount Spokane nordic trails

WINTER SPORTS — Washington's Winter Recreation Advisory Committee today approved $300,000 to purchase an larger snowcat groomer for the 30-kilometers of nordic trails at Mount Spokane State Park, reports George Momany, the Spokane-region representative on the panel.

The appropriation should allow the state park staff to begin widening trails this summer to accommodate the new groomer.

Steve Christensen, Mount Spokane State Park manager, has been campaigning for a larger groomer for years.

"It will cost more in the beginning, but it will save money in the long run," he said.

"The smaller groomers we've been using are underpowered for the amount and type of snow we get at Mount Spokane, and that results in more breakdowns," he said. 

"Once we get the trails to the right width, a bigger groomer will be able to work a trail in one pass. That will allow us to groom more miles of trail faster without leaving the rough berm in the middle that you get from double-pass grooming. Skaters will love that."

The Spokane Nordic Ski Education Foundation will be calling on volunteers to help trim trails this summer.

Coming Sunday:  The parking lot at Mount Spokane Nordic area will be jammed on Sunday (Feb. 12) for the annual Spokane Langlauf 10K cross-country ski race.

Legislature could raid Sno-Park funds from snowmobilers, nordic skiers

WINTER SPORTS — The Washington Legislature is toying with proposals that could divert dedicated gas-tax funds from established and popular Sno-Park programs. These are the programs, such as those at Mount Spokane, that plow parking areas and groom trails for snowmobiling, cross-country skiers, snowshoers and other winter recreation.

Some recreation groups say there's nothing to fear from the proposals, but the issues should be carefully followed.

See the latest on what some contend is an attempt to raid an important winter recreation component of the state's economy in this story by Scott Sandsberry of the Yakima Herald-Republic.

Update: Souper Bowl brings women to Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS — A great Souper Bowl turnout of women and girls made the most of a perfect day at Mount Spokane to ski, snowshoe and lunch for the benefit of the Women's and Children's Free Restaurant.

The bottom line: ‎280 women came out for the event, enabling volunteers to raise $12,872 for the Women's and Children's Free Restaurant, surpassing last year's effort.

Congratulate yourselves, ladies.

Avalanche advisory: snowpack has weak layers

WINTER SPORTS — Storms helped the region's mountains catch up on precipitation in the past two weeks — as you can see from powder piled deep in this Selkirk Mountains sunrise photo iPhoned to me this morning by backcountry skier Alison Boggs.

But the snowpack also developed some weak layers, avalanche experts say.

Technicians from the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center observed natural avalanches during their Thursday survey and documented some persistent weak layers.

"Falling snow won't be a concern for a while, but the sun and rising temperatures could be," said technician Kevin Davis. "Break out you're spring travel tricks if it's getting too warm or if we get inversions. Those crusts are becoming more of a concern as they continue to break down."

Read on for the full advisory posted this morning, or click here to check out the center's new website under construction.

Snowshoeing basics program Thursday at REI

WINTER SPORTS — A free program on the basics of snowshoeing will be presented Thursday (Feb. 2), 7 p.m. at REI in Spokane.

The class will focus on selecting appropriate gear (including women’s specific gear) and finding out where to go snowshoeing in this region.

The class is free, but space is limited. Preregister at www.rei.com/spokane.

VIDEO: Snowshoer captures scene at Mount Spokane

Bald Knob Snowshoe, Mount Spokane State Park from Tanner Grant on Vimeo.

WINTER SPORTS — Tanner Grant of Spokane video's his recent snowshoe trek at Mount Spokane State Park to give the uninitiated a glimpse of one oft the more popular routes from the main road up to the Bald Knob Picnic area. 

We parked on the road near the snowmobile parking lot (Discover Pass required) and made the short trip to the picnic shelter. With all the new snow in the last week the conditions were great, and lucky for us the weather couldnt have been better. Music by Jack Johnson, "All At Once."

Grant also features a recommendation on how to come back down the mountain on the well-traveled route.

Video captures snowmobiler rescue from avalanche


WINTER SPORTS — In a dramatic event caught on video, a snowmobiler coming down a hill at Stampede Pass in the Cascades was buried by an avalanche but, luckily for him, friends were nearby and quickly responded to dig him out in time to save his life, according the TV news report (above).

The snowmobiler, John Swanson, said in an TV interview Tuesday he was enjoying a weekend with his friends at Stampede pass, which is just south of Snoqualmie Pass.

He said he was roaring down a hill on his snowmobile Sunday when the "hillside broke free … I was running down the hill and I could hear Russ yelling … he was saying, ’Get out of the way!’"

But Swanson said he could not longer steer as "the whole hillside gave way."

He was buried in seconds. It was caught on video by one of his friends who had a camera attached to his helmet.

"It’s like being in concrete," he said of being buried under the snow. "I guess I always figured you could move somewhat, wiggle here, wiggle there and create yourself an air pocket but there was nothing. The snow filled totally in, filled my mask."

Swanson was suffocating.

"Every time I tried to inhale, just inhaling ice balls," he said.

Kettle Range avalanche conditions in a word: Nasty

WINTER SPORTS — The avalanche forecast for the Idaho Panhandle won't be updated until Friday, but forecaster Keith Wakefield of Curlew tramped high into the Kettle Range TODAY and got some unsettling results from his snow pits and sheer tests.   Here's the scoop from a report he just filed:

Out snow geeking on Sherman Pass today, verifying the Canadians forecast for this region. Those Canucks nailed it! They had it at HIGH for today and tomorrow, and trending down to Considerable for the weekend.

Its the most complex the snowpack has been this season, and very upside down in the top 20-24" of the snowpack.

Two sensitive slabs in the uper two thirds of the pack totaling 20+ inches on the leeward N-NE aspects was a #3 ETC test down thru both slabs to a clean shear (q-1)

Wind has created nasty surface styro-crusts on windward S-SW-W aspects as well… Nasty.

Windy 10-15 today with rising temps. Good day for a trail ski. Going to be an interesting weekend in the region's backcountry. Heads up.

Enter your best shot of Scotchman Peaks during winter

OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY — The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness are taking entries in their annual winter outdoor photography contest.

If you are in or around the Scotchman Peaks this winter (you have to be able to see the wilderness), and you take a picture you think is really cool, attach it to an e-mail telling where you took it, when you took it, and maybe even why you took it and send to sandy@scotchmanpeaks.org.

The grand prize: a night’s stay for two next summer at the Huckleberry Tent and Breakfast near Clark Fork, in the shadow of the Scotchman Peaks.

No surprise: Avalanche danger significant in region’s mountains

WINTER SPORTS — Today's avalanche advisory from the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center includes a lot of important details for anyone headed out of bounds to enjoy snow the recent storms have heaped on the backcountry. 

But no one should be surprised at the bottom line:  There's significant danger in many areas.

Heavy snowfall in the region has been acccompanied by high westerly winds. "In the mountains surrounding the Silver Valley and the St. Joe Mountains this has created unstable slabs in the new snow and also stressed an old weak layer from a Christmas surface hoar layer," the report says.

"To the north the mountains have received slightly less snow but there are two weak layers to be cautious of. The avalanche danger will increase due to new snow and rising temperatures. "

Read on for the entire report:

Finally! Bogus Basin gets enough snow to open lifts

WINTER SPORTS — After getting 10 inches of snow on Wednesday, Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation opened for the ski season today.

The Jan. 19 opening is the latest in the history of the southern Idaho ski area, according to this report in the Idaho Statesman.

Wintery adventures and disasters featured in Spokane Library display

WINTER SPORTS — The Spokane Downtown Library's Northwest Room is featuring a timely display celebrating winter in the Northwest, including a lot of snowy outdoor recreation.

Winter weather conditions have long created both challenges and opportunities for Northwest residents. The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw greater hazards than the present, with less than ideal equipment and poor roads.

Winter recreation then and now included skiing, sledding, ice skating, hockey, snowshoeing, hunting, and outdoor work.

This exhibit combines photos of fun in the snow with disasters such as avalanches on railroad tracks. Come and see these images from winters past—you might be surprised at how familiar they look.

The Northwest Room is on the second floor of the Downtown Library.

WHEN: January 11-March 31

TIME: Northwest Room Hours

LOCATION: Downtown

Call 444-5338.

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.

Silver Mountain moves up opening date to Monday

WINTER SPORTSSilver Mountain Resort has just announced it will open lifts for skiing on Monday morning, moving up the date four days from an annoucement made a few days ago.

Steady snowfall in the region's mountains this week has given skiers and snowboarders a wealth of early season options.

Lookout Pass opened Friday to rave reviews from powder hounds. Schweitzer and 49 Degrees North opened today.

Mount Spokane officials say they plan to open on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

Winter Sports Kickoff at REI on Saturday

WINTER SPORTS —  Pick up season lift passes for your favorite mountains, talk to vendors, enter to win outdoors gear and get free info on outside in the winter on Saturday (Nov. 12) at the annual Winter Sports Kickoff, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at REI, 1125 N. Monroe St.

Spring delayed in Washington high country; access delayed, too

OUTDOOR TRAVEL — Winter still has a grip on the region's high country.  Thick snowpacks are still waiting for spring-like conditions, as I mentioned in Friday's post on the region's avalanche advisory.

Access to the mountains for the start of the summer camping and hiking season is the other factor recreationists must consider.    Read on for exerpts from a Cascades Mountains-Mt. St. Helens report by Tom Paulu at the Longview Daily News.

Snowmobile tracks know few boundaries, including wilderness

WINTER SPORTS — Some snowmobilers seem to enjoy breaking the law and offending others more than the sport itself.

Backcountry skiers recently documented snowmobile tracks in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness near Leavenworth. Sadly, they got little reaction from the local Sheriff or Forest Service when reporting the culprits' offenses and vehicle license numbers.

A group called Wenatchee Outdoors is trying to organize people to oppose snowmobile advances into backcountry that was once quiet for wildlife and non-motorized users.

REI offers free class in Avalanche Awareness

WINTER SPORTS — Jon Dodge of Priest Lake Search & Rescue will teach a free introductory course on Avalanche Awareness Thursday, March 3, 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at REI, 1125 N Monroe.

Basics he’ll cover include how to interpret avalanche advisories, gear necessary for travelling in avalanche terrain and how to assess the risks.

Pre-register for this free event. 

Big week for outdoor-related programs, meetings

OUTDO — It's a big week of mostly free activities in Spokane, including nature photographer Art Wolfe, Canadian singer-songwriter conservationist Sid Marty, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, whitewater rafting vendors, youth hunting clinic, snowshoing tours and more.

Check them out here.

Weekly avalanche forecast: danger ranges moderate to high

WINTER SPORTS — The weekly avalanche forecast posted today by the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center indicates that backcountry winter travelers need to pay close attention to conditions in specific areas.

In the Selkirks from Schweitzer north to Caribou Creek the danger is generally rated as MODERATE for the weekend. However, route selection in the Selkirks is important, experts said. "Last weekend’s wind loading and heavy wind slab on the North and Easterly exposed slopes failed naturally in several areas,' rasiding the danger to CONSIDERABLE in those areas.

St. Regis Basin and Silver Valley showed a MUCH GREATER HAZARD.

The hazard will be HIGH anyhere there's pocktes of big cornices and wind-loaded features.


Avalanche accidents reviewed in Sandpoint on Wednesday

WINTER SPORTS — Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center technicians will present, "10 Years of Avalanche Accident Review in North Idaho" Wednesday (Feb. 9) at 6 p.m. at the Sandpoint Forest Service Building.

The hour-long discussion will focus on common characteristics involved in several fatal avalanche accidents and how winter travelers can learn to recognize similar circumstances in the weather patterns, snowpack, and the terrain they choose to play in, said Kevin Davis, IPAC spokesman. 

Google Earth will be used to study terrain.

Winter is Hurricane season at Olympic National Park

NATIONAL PARKS — Winter at Olyimpic National Park conjures up images of pounding surf on wilderness beaches.  But many people don't realize the Western Washington park also offers stunning winter alpine beauty served by the plowed road to Hurricane Ridge.

Bring your skis or snowshoes if you visit this winter paradise, which is served by a shuttle bus from Port Angeles in case you don't have the tire chains required in some conditions.

Get a weather preview via the Hurricane Ridge webcam.

Read on for details or click here for details from the Olympic Peninsual visitors association.

Did you know?
Mount Olympus receives over 200 inches of precipitation each year and most of that falls as snow. At 7,980 feet, Mount Olympus is the highest peak in Olympic National Park and has the third largest glacial system in the contiguous U.S.

Avalanche danger ‘considerable’ in many areas

WINTER S PORTS — The avalanche advisory issued by the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center this morning warns of "considerable" danger on many areas of the Inland Northwest.

Avalanche conditions for the Idaho Panhandle National Forest are rated as Considerable on wind loaded aspects above 5000 feet.  Natural avalanches are possible and human triggered avalanches are likely.  

Avalanche conditions are MODERATE on other aspects and elevations below 4500 feet.  Natural avalanches are unlikely and human caused avalanches are possible.

See the complete avalanche advisory here.

Read on for more details from this morning's advisory:

Holiday avalanche danger rated moderate

WINTER SPORTS — Be careful out there.

Avalanche conditions for the entire Idaho Panhandle National Forest Advisory Area are rated as moderate on all aspects greater than 30 degrees above 5,000 feet, Forest Service experts reported today.
Natural avalanches are unlikely, human triggered avalanches are possible, they advised.
Avalanche conditions are rated as considerable on wind loaded pockets above 6,000 feet above 35 degrees. Natural avalanches are possible and human triggered avalanches are probable.
Read on for the entire advisory issued for today through Dec. 26 in areas OUTSIDE of controlled ski management zones.

Early-season avalanches claiming victims

WINTER SPORTS — The season’s first big snow storms had barely blanketed the mountains before this year’s first avalanche deaths were recorded in the West.

Three people already have been killed.

On Sunday, a Colorado backcountry skier died in a 15-foot avalanche in Clear Creek County between Denver and Breckenridge.

An in-bounds slide Nov. 22 at Colorado’s Wolf Creek Ski Area killed the ski patrol director.

A Nov. 27 slide triggered by a snowmobiler on the Utah-Wyoming border killed a 54-year-old man.

Good snow coverage always makes the lure of backcountry skiing, boarding and snowmobiling nearly irresistible. But try to play it smart.

Avalanche advisories, updated weekly, are a click away on the S-R’s Outdoors web page.

Avalanche awareness classes are being scheduled in the Inland Northwest. Check the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center website for updates and schedules for avalanche education classes.

Winter sport clinics and films in Sandpoint

WINTER SPORTS — The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks and Idaho Conservation League are sponsoring a winter backcountry film festival Friday and winter outdoor skills workshops on Saturday in Sandpoint.

Winter backcountry films will be shown at the Panida Theater Friday starting at 7 p.m.

On Saturday, the free workshops will run 9 a.m.-noon at the Sandpoint Community Hall, featuring Kevin Davis, Forest Service avalanche expert, and Dennison Webb and Erik Yost of Selkirk Outdoor Leadership & Education. The two workshops are designed as beginner (or refresher) courses in backcountry winter travel.

Check it out the details and schedule.

Snowmobile parking changes at Lookout Pass

WINTER SPORTS — A new additional parking area has been designated for snowmobilers heading out to ride areas near Lookout Pass and Mullan, Idaho, the Idaho Panhandle National Forests announced today.

The new parking area is along Mullan Road, behind the fish hatchery, approximately three miles east of Mullan.
The parking lot was made possible through the efforts of the Shoshone County Sportsman Association and was funded through a grant provided by the North Idaho Resource Advisory Committee.
The new location supplements parking that is available at Lookout Pass area and Shoshone Pavilions Park (Pottsville). It includes parking for large trailers, restrooms, picnic tables, a fire pit and a warming hut.
The new parking area is intended to provide better access to local trails, reduce congestion in the Lookout Pass area, and to provide a safer location for snowmobile riders hauling large trailers now that trailers longer than 16 feet are no longer permitted at the Lookout Pass Ski area.
Read on for detailed directions.