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

Panhandle powder excites skiers

Bill Jennings The Spokesman-Review

There may be hope for me yet. My conscience won out over my powder jones last weekend, if only for a moment. It happened on the way to 2 feet of fresh snow at Lookout Pass – first stop on a double-dip into the Panhandle powder corridor during a historic snowstorm.

Our plan: Exploit Lookout’s steep north aspect in the morning, then line up for seconds at Silver Mountain in the afternoon.

My thoughts were focused on the big day ahead. Driving was slow going. The clock ticked on first tracks. A stranded vehicle loomed ahead in the snow-obscured distance. The driver waved for help on the side of the highway. Every vehicle in front of us plowed by, ignoring her.

The devil on my left shoulder whispered in my ear, “You know the rules: no friends on a powder day.” The angel on my right shoulder replied, “If you don’t pull over now you’ll be sorry when you get in the same situation – and you will.”

Considering the miles I drive in nasty conditions during a ski season, goodness prevailed. So we got to meet Sunshine, from Smelterville. She was on her way to work at Lookout when her car quit halfway up the pass. A jump didn’t revive her rig so she hopped in and we pressed on.

The hounds were released without us and they got the untouched lines. But Sunshine arranged free lift tickets in return for our good deed, and there was plenty of good stuff left at a great price.

We cycled through the steepest lines off the North Star chair. Then hit deep snow in the Lucky Friday Glades, an area that gets light traffic until late morning, with everyone’s focus on the north side.

In three hours 5 inches of snow accumulated on the car.

Lookout was the first destination on our double-dip because it’s so easy to get into – and out of there. Just ski to your vehicle, de-boot and pull onto the interstate. Plus, you gain positive miles homeward toward Silver Mountain.

We left Lookout at noon. Heading west, a semi driver pushing the envelope in heavy snowfall flattened out tracks for us to follow. At 1 p.m. we clicked in at Silver.

By the time we hit the snow, powder hounds had done their damage, tuckered out and hit the bar. Meanwhile, the perpetual storm filled in their tracks.

This winter Silver Mountain is as good as it has been. (On Thursday the resort reported it had received 42 inches of new snow in six days, for a total of 261 inches.) Deep snow grants access to coveted terrain often off-limits the past few winters. From the Mountain Haus we dropped through the Terrible Edith glades to Lower Terrible Edith, a steep, stumpy powder trough normally available by poaching only, and a bit risky.

All the best lines off Wardner Peak and below chair four’s midway were freshened up by wind-blown snow. Camelbacks and Cliff Bars kept us going. Finally the lifties kicked us off the mountain.

A great day in the Panhandle powder corridor isn’t complete without a stop at the Snake Pit, also known as the Enaville Resort. Heading west on 1-90 just past Pinehurst, the Kingston exit brings you to Route 503 along the Coeur d’Alene River.

A few miles upriver, the Snake Pit is an Old West saloon established in 1880 owned by Joe and Rose Mary Peak. The place has real nice people, great steak and seafood, plus something special to recharge your mojo after an exciting, exhausting day: Rocky Mountain oysters.