Golf in the summer. Ski in the winter.
That’s a possibility the Spokane Park Board will consider Thursday, following a proposal by the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department to create two cross-country skiing trails on the Indian Canyon golf course.
The trails would include a three-quarter-mile intermediate trail and a .81-mile beginner trail. The trails would be groomed by park staff and would be open to cross-country and skate skiing.
Trailhead access would be at Whittier Park, adjacent to the golf course. The proposal would serve as a pilot program to see how, and if, Spokane’s golf courses can be open during winter.
“Several Park Board members expressed a desire to have golf courses open for winter use,” said Park Board President Chris Wright. “We just have to see what the issues are. It’s a great step forward as far as I’m concerned, because the pros and staff have been very resistant to winter activity at golf courses for as long as I’ve been on the board.”
That resistance comes from a fear that the greens will be damaged by the winter use. Under the Indian Canyon proposal, fairways and greens would be roped off, with the ski trails built on golf course service roads.
Wright said the trails might be a way for the courses to make money during the winter.
“If it costs the courses money, we have to rethink it,” he said. “But if it generates a lot of interest and people want to use the clubhouses and we can make that financially viable, then why not explore?”
There will be no fee for this year’s pilot program, said Leroy Eadie, the director of Parks and Recreation. And, that’s the idea behind the entire program – providing a free and easy recreation option.
“You can go to Mount Spokane and cross-country ski and it’s absolutely phenomenal, but it will cost you a little bit of money,” he said. “I kind of liken it to our disc golf courses. They’re free.”
Still, convincing the golf pros and golf course staff will take some effort.
“This is coming from the board,” Wright said. “This was not something that was generated by staff or the pros. They have to be convinced that this will work.”
Ryan Griffith, the city’s assistant recreation director, emphasized that the Indian Canyon trail proposal is a test.
“This is a pilot program for this season only,” he said. “If we’re going to allow cross-country skiing on the golf courses, people have to be really respectful of the land.”
If approved by the board Thursday, city staff would wait for enough snow to accumulate – a minimum of 6 inches – and for cold enough temperatures. City staff hope that, because Indian Canyon is north facing, what snow does accumulate will last longer than in other parts of the city. Griffith said city crews will groom the trails, creating a solid deck of snow for skate skiers. Tracks for cross-country skiers would be built alongside the deck.
The addition of the Indian Canyon trails likely wouldn’t be the only new cross-country skiing option in Spokane, Griffith said. The city will also consider grooming the Riverside State Park Seven Mile Airstrip, Antoine Peak north of Spokane Valley, Palisades Park, the Finch Arboretum and the Dwight Merkel Sports Complex. Some of these trails may be created as early as this year.
The Indian Canyon trails, if approved, will add to Spokane’s already impressive Nordic ski system. Mount Spokane boasts 37 miles of Nordic ski trails.
“It’s one of the best systems in the Northwest,” said Brad Thiessen, the director of engagement for the Spokane Nordic Ski Association.
The Spokane Nordic Ski Association isn’t part of the Indian Canyon Golf course project, but they “support it from a distance,” Thiessen said.
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