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Wednesday, October 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Mount Spokane transitions to winter

Vista House on the summit of Mount Spokane is being restored and will be open to skiers this winter for the first time in decades. (Rich Landers)
Vista House on the summit of Mount Spokane is being restored and will be open to skiers this winter for the first time in decades. (Rich Landers)

Mount Spokane State Park rangers will lock the gate on the road to the mountain’s summit tonight. The upper road closing marks the beginning of the transition from summer to winter seasons at the park.

The alpine ski area concession is making plans to break ground and start clearing newly approved runs on the backside of the mountain starting next year as officials shop for a new ski lift to install.

At the nordic ski area, volunteers from the Spokane Nordic club have had several work parties to clear brush from the sprawling trail system, but more needs to be done, they say.

A proposal to use heavy equipment to widen some trails hasn’t been approved by state parks officials. “It’s still a possibility if we don’t get snow in early November,” said Steve Christensen, state park manager.

Christensen had proposed to the state’s non-motorized recreation committee a plan to widen the trail system to accommodate a new and larger snowcat groomer.

“We should be getting 10,000 hours out of these machines before major repairs, but they’re breaking down at 4,000 hours because we keep getting smaller groomers that are underpowered for the type of terrain and snow conditions we have,” he said.

“With a bigger groomer, we wouldn’t have to run at 100 percent all the time and we could groom trails with one pass instead of three or four. A big groomer costs more up front, but it would save money in the long run.”

Summer projects at the park included small fixes to problems on single-track trails and finishing a re-route of Trail 140.

This week, crews are working on the road to control erosion undermining portions of the main access road.

A planned re-round of Trail 140 off the top of the mountain to reduce erosion and slow mountain bike speeds has been postponed until next year, Christensen said.

The Discover Pass, created by the Washington Legislature for vehicle access to state parks starting last spring, is expected to be a hassle this winter at Mount Spokane.

“People using the alpine ski concession will not need a Discover Pass in their cars, people with season Sno-Park permits will not need a Discover Pass to be in a Sno-Park lot,” Christensen said.

“But people who want to buy single-day passes are in a bind. The way the law reads, there’s confusion over which pass they would need for the day, depending on where they park. We don’t even know how to say it on a sign.” 

Also closing today: BLM’s Blackwell Island boat launch on Lake Coeur d’Alene.

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