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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

By traveling miles away, she ended right back here

Lisa Gerber The Spokesman-Review

Sure, the weather’s been great, and the snow that we have is nice, but we could certainly use more, and I don’t see it in the forecast.

So I got on a plane and headed down to Crested Butte, Colo., and I met up with a bunch of other ski columnists at the annual board meeting of the North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).

I arrived at the welcome reception late because I needed to work on my column, with which I knew I wasn’t happy. I left it and went to the reception and begged for help. I had little to turn in and needed to start over.

Men being from Mars, they immediately jumped to resolve my problem. I had ski columnists from around the country sharing their ideas. Mitch from New Jersey got on his cell phone to retrieve a forgotten detail, Greg from Colorado was talking to me about the difference between photographing telemarkers, snowboarders and alpine skiers and how snowboarding is by far the most photogenic of the three. John from Seattle entered into a debate about how we humans tend to overgrow wherever we go, citing the high volume of traffic from Vail to Denver on a weekend as an example. How fortunate it is that we in the Inland Northwest don’t have to grapple with that.

Then Mitch hung up the phone and he told me his story. Mitch is a Richard Dreyfus look-alike from New Jersey. His wife, originally from Southern California, had a great-uncle who worked for the railroad out of Spokane in the ‘30s.

Uncle Harold was a 4-foot, 11-inch train conductor and had the great vision to buy a cabin on Lake Pend Oreille in Sandpoint. Mitch’s wife’s family grew up vacationing at “Unc’s,” and although he’d heard much about it, he had yet to visit.

They finally made it out for a family reunion one summer in the early ‘90s. Mitch, being the investigative ski columnist that he is, was most eager to take a look at Schweitzer Mountain.

He dragged the entire disinterested family up to the resort and then up the scenic chairlift to take in the view at the top. It took another 12 years before he would come back and actually ski it. The annual NASJA meeting in Coeur d’Alene last year brought him back to the region and as luck would have it, Schweitzer had closed two weeks earlier because of lack of snow. Fortunately, Silver remained open, but they were just hobbling as well.

But the heavens opened and we were blessed with 18 inches of snow, enough to allow Mitch to come ski this area he’d been eyeing for decades. He had one of the best ski days of his life – a memory that won’t die any time soon.

Six degrees of separation: Here I am in Crested Butte talking to someone from New Jersey who married a lady from Southern California, and we somehow end up with ties to the Inland Northwest. John thought that was nice and all, but he still preferred his story idea written in the first-person perspective of a ski.

If you’re feeling as uninspired as I am, be sure and check out Warren Miller’s “Higher Ground” playing at the Spokane Opera House this weekend. I had a chance to see the film and got all prickly over it. You’d think we’d had enough of the ski flicks, but I’m impressed with the latest release. The ambient, big sound music and excellent cinematography got me all jacked up for when our snow comes.

And it will come. Dry cycles happen. (Someone make that into a bumper sticker.) Tahoe had no skiing over the Thanksgiving holiday and although they are open now, they have little snow. New Mexico is still suffering. We’ll get our share eventually and when we do, we won’t have to fight the traffic to get to it.