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

Bill Jennings: Everybody wins when canned goods equal lift tickets

The weather on Sunday featured servings of cold and cool, snow and rain, with a side of overcast. It wasn’t necessarily a tempting menu for spring skiing. But Mount Spokane made an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Eight cans of food were good for a lift ticket, thanks to Mount Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park, KREM’s Tom Sherry Free to Ski and Second Harvest Food Bank. Mountain resorts around the region have participated in the program, with proceeds usually going to the nearest food bank to the hill. The Mead Food Bank, an agency affiliated with Second Harvest which helps fight hunger for families living within the Mead School District, managed Sunday’s food drive.

Skiing and riding can get kind of expensive and the clock is ticking on the season. So I hit the grocery store with a shopping list provided by Mount Spokane on its website. The Mead Food Bank was especially in need of protein and fruit. I picked up some peaches, pineapple and pears, some tuna and chicken, some red and black beans and a small jar of peanut butter.

I was out about $15. An adult lift ticket at Mount Spokane costs $58. A few minutes of aisle cruising saved me about 75 percent. My modest stash of canned goods could help feed several people for several days. Everybody wins.

Spring skiing at Mount Spokane can be a study in abrupt contrast. You look down from snow-covered slopes upon green valleys below. Sunday the parking lot was a quagmire of greasy brown mud set against the clean white terrain of the ski area. We squished through the muck to a small canopy set up at the transition between mud and snow.

I talked with Mead Food Bank director Bette Monahan, who was swaddled in layers up to her eyeballs as protection from a biting breeze. It was almost noon. She said the mountain had exchanged roughly 350 lift tickets up to that time. The event’s volunteers had already collected well more than 2,000 pounds of food.

At the end of the day, Mount Spokane gave away 500 lift tickets in exchange for approximately 4,000 cans of food. Based on the average cost of a lift ticket, the value of those food donations likely exceeded $26,000. A KREM Free 2 Ski event earlier in the season at Lookout Pass gathered 3,200 pounds of food that was distributed to families in the Silver Valley.

The snow conditions were what I was hoping to find. The freeze/thaw cycle had produced a layer of velvety corn – but there was a catch. Most of the mountain was socked in with blinding fog. Fortunately, on foggy days you can usually count on terrain served by chair four on the lower northeast-facing slope to be clear. This happens due to a weather phenomenon with the fancy term “adiabatic cooling and heating.”

Adiabatic heating and cooling is driven by changes in air pressure. Air typically hits Mount Spokane from the southwest. Adiabatic cooling occurs as the mountain’s slopes force the air upward. As air pressure decreases with altitude, the air expands, causing it to cool. When the air cools to its dew point, water vapor condenses into dense fog.

Adiabatic heating occurs on the chair four side of the mountain as prevailing winds push air over the summit and down the northeast side. When the cool air sinks and compresses, the compression results in increased temperature. When the temperature rises above the dew point, the fog dissipates. At Mount Spokane, the effect is like lifting a veil.

Skiing with my friend JP, we repeated high-speed laps on the Ridge Run, carving arcs on perfect spring snow in intermittent sunshine until the lift closed. By that time, our ski desire had been satiated. But having skipped lunch, we had raging appetites.

My guts rumbled and my stomach felt as though it were gnawing on my backbone. We made a beeline to our favorite South Hill pizza joint and ordered a brace of three delectable pies. I indulged myself and it was wonderful.

But I also thought about the vital and growing need food banks are asked to meet in our theoretically affluent society. It reminded me there is a profound difference between feeling hungry, and living with hunger.

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