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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Bill Jennings: Let’s hope our ‘flaws’ keep us perfect

By Bill Jennings For The Spokesman-Review

We couldn’t fly under the radar forever. In its November 2017 issue, Powder, a snow sports industry publication that targets hardcore enthusiasts, featured Spokane in a piece titled “The Next American Ski Towns.” Local media made it a feel good story last week. But is this really good news?

It’s not really news to us locals. Anyone who has been around here for a while understands Spokane has always been a ski town. Today we’re probably no different than skiers and riders from places that were singled out a generation ago who worried about what might happen next.

Powder leads the feature pointing out that attention from the outside world has turned these former outposts, such as Jackson Hole, into wealthy concentrations of luxury resort real estate where the cost of living, let alone skiing and riding, have forced the locals to live and play elsewhere. Could that happen here?

Recently renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking warned us about first contact with intelligent aliens. In his 2016 online film “Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places,” he said that if we receive a signal from a distant planet, “we should be wary of answering back.”

In the film, Hawking suggests extraterrestrial contact carries risks similar to what happened to native civilization in the New World after Columbus showed up. That “didn’t turn out so well.” According to Hawking, an advanced civilization having the wherewithal to pick up our signal, figure out where it came from and launch an expedition in our direction is likely to regard Earth as an easy target to invade and conquer.

I couldn’t help but feel that sentiment as I read Powder’s ode to Spokane, written by John Stifter, Executive Producer at Powder Productions, the digital multimedia arm of Powder Magazine. Stifter is a Gonzaga Prep graduate who grew up skiing at Schweitzer.

Stifter surely had good intentions as he aimed the spotlight on his hometown. Yet he also mentioned that Spokane’s property crime rate, a vexing long-term problem, earned our city the nickname “Spokompton,” an epithet coined by some wag a generation ago. He went on to say the city has “… been slowly shedding its grimy reputation …”

Stifter isn’t the first prodigal son to pen backhanded complements. He follows in the footsteps of Cody Delistraty, a disaffected former Spokane resident who angered the lot of us with an article published in The Guardian on the eve of the 2017 NCAA tournament last spring. Delistraty described Spokane as a bleak, poor and dangerous city with nothing to hope for except Gonzaga’s prospects in the Big Dance.

Perhaps we should thank these authors for pointing out a few flaws that could make multimillionaires think twice about throwing down for a third or fourth home here. But with such a plague of crime, poverty and boredom hanging over our city, just what is it that has put us in the crosshairs of the snow sports elite?

The obvious reasons are cited, such as the number of mountains close by, affordable season passes and a relatively low cost of living. But Stifter notes the carpetbaggers may be most interested in comparatively cheap real estate located among boutique wineries, craft breweries and upscale eateries in a community with a “tepid embrace of a burgeoning arts and environmental culture.”

Of course, there’s the skiing. When I travel to get a taste of the big time at places like Vail and Sun Valley, the experience always helps me realize how great skiers and riders have it here. After returning from slopes that swarm like anthills, I can live without luxury condos, fur-lined jumpsuits and $15 pints as long as the snow is good.

It may be too late for Earth, which has been beaming its cultural predilections into the cosmos at the speed of light with television since the late 1940s. But will the Inland Northwest ski scene be able to protect itself from national attention brought by the likes of this Powder article? Lets hope our cover hasn’t been totally blown just yet.

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