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

Priest Lake area offers wide variety of terrain



 (The Spokesman-Review)
M.D. Kincaid Correspondent

This week we’re venturing a little north of Kootenai’s “back yard” to take advantage of some of the best cross country skiing and snowshoeing in the Northwest. We were finally graced with significant snowfalls, enticing cross country skiers and snowshoe trekkers to drag their equipment from storage and hit the trails. Snow conditions are generally better the farther north one travels and the beautiful Priest Lake area, surrounded by 523,000 acres of forested public lands in the Selkirk Mountains, is a true winter wonderland.

Great ski trails, a wide range of terrain, endless scenery, lodging, dining and a Nordic Sports Center are some of the features of Priest Lake skiing and snowshoeing. Three trails on the east side of the lake are connected: Priest Lake Golf Course, Hill’s Resort and the U.S. Forest Service’s Hanna Flats. From gentle terrain of the Nordic Sports Center (perfect for learning the basics of cross country skiing and skating techniques), to a few trail segments for advanced skiers, the system offers a nice variety.

According to Nordic Sports Center representative Don Anderson, all-day skiing on its course costs $3, or $25 for a season pass. Use of the trails at Hill’s Resort and Hanna Flats is free.

Access from I-90: North on U.S. Highway 95 for approximately 45 miles, then left on Highway 2 for approximately 22.8 miles, then right on Highway 57 approximately 27.7 miles. Right on Fairway Drive, then approximately one-tenth of a mile to the Nordic Sports Center. For Hill’s Resort, continue on Highway 57 about one mile past Fairway Drive to a right on Luby Bay Road for about 1.5 miles to the “T”, then right to the Hill’s Resort sign. The Hanna Flats trailhead parking is just north and across the highway from the USFS Priest Lake Ranger District headquarters, about milepost 32 of Highway 57.

Length: A total of 11 cross country groomed ski trails, from .3k to 7k (about one-quarter mile to 4½ miles), totaling nearly 25 miles of skiing and a variety of snowshoe trails (includes the Nordic Sports Center, Hill’s Resort and Hanna Flats).

Elevation: Averages 2,400 feet above sea level with minor elevation changes.

Use: Moderate.

Trail condition: Generally well-groomed conditions (check for updates as listed below).

Difficulty: Rated “Easy Trails” and “Moderate Trails” and “Hardest Trails” on the trail map.

Restrictions: No pets on groomed trails; skiers must control speed and direction at all times and ski in a manner that does not endanger others; skiers must not stop where the trail will be obstructed or where they are not visible to others; all signs and posted warnings must be obeyed and closed trails must not be used.

What to see: Wildlife (give moose on the trails the right of way), forests and views of the beauty of Priest Lake.

Special features: Heated Nordic Ski Center at the golf course – open weekends from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; cabins and RV parking available at Hill’s Resort; ski and snowshoe rentals at Hill’s Resort; guided ski and snowshoe trips can be arranged through the Nordic Ski Center (208) 443-2525.

Preparation: Free trail maps are available at the U.S. Forest Service, 3815 Schreiber Way, Coeur d’Alene, (208) 765-7223. For additional information and trail condition updates, call (208) 443-2525 or e-mail 4seasons@povn.com. See live Priest Lake conditions on Hill’s Resort Web cam at www.hillsresort.com/webcam.html; check ski conditions at the Web site www.priestlake.org/trailupdate. html. Other phone numbers: U.S. Forest Service Priest Lake Ranger District (208) 443-2512, Hill’s Resort (208) 443-2551.

Gear: Layered winter clothes and snowshoes or cross country skis. Dressing for changing conditions and carrying drinking water and a first-aid kit are always good ideas.

Note: Coming events at Priest Lake – Snowshoe Softball Tournament at Austin’s Field, milepost 28 on Highway 57, next Saturday, Jan. 23, 29, 30, Feb. 12 and 13; U.S. Pacific Coast Championship Sled Dog Races at the USFS Airstrip (milepost 32, Highway 57).