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

David Dubuque: Hate winter? Try skiing, snowboarding

A skier descends from the summit of Mount Spokane on Dec. 2.  (Eli Francovich)
A skier descends from the summit of Mount Spokane on Dec. 2. (Eli Francovich)
By David Dubuque For The Spokesman-Review

What’s your favorite season?

It’s inevitable. And you can love it or hate it. But the Inland Northwest gets four distinct seasons, and when you’re checking out at the grocery store, cashiers looking for easy conversation can always count on a shared disapproval of shorter, colder days to quickly reach common ground.

A loathing of winter is that universal. And for good reason.

Days are short. Office workers may only see weekday sun through windows, driving to and from jobs in darkness.

Muscles tense as cold drafts find their way to skin. Windshields need scraping. It can feel like Earth has it out for you.

And if you respond to that cashier with anything but an affirmation of the upcoming unpleasantness, you’re going to come off like a bit of a nut.

But the Inland Northwest is full of nuts like that. Skiers and snowboarders who look forward to winter every year with rabid hunger. And there’s a good reason they do. Here are a few list toppers:

Inversions

Somewhere down there, Spokane is having a dismal, gray day.

For days on end, the valley floor is cold, gun-metal gray and foggy.

Depressing.

Just a short drive away at any one of the local ski hills, you’d never know that there’s a bright, sunny day happening.

Maybe you’ll burst out of the clouds halfway up the road.

Maybe it’ll be on the chairlift to the top of the mountain.

But when you lift out of the gray and look back down the hill, you’d swear that the bright cloud carpet that stretches out below you could hold your weight.

Take away the thrill of skiing and riding itself, and the mood-boosting power of being on the upper half of an inversion day is still one of the most dependable endorphin release mechanisms known to man.

Everyone is there to have a good time

Work? Politics? Bad day? Everybody seems to leave their negativity back at lower elevations.

We’re all on a playground. People whose world views differ from your own may well show you their favorite powder stashes.

And skiers who like to hit Mt. Spokane’s switchback run – the end of which is located well below the ski area’s boundaries – know that they can stick out a thumb and get a ride back to the lifts in the back of a pickup truck. Possibly even from a park ranger.

Goodwill abounds.

It’s easy to learn

One of the great things about learning to ski or ride is that fitness and flexibility – while factors that can decrease the chance of injury – aren’t a prerequisite. Once you’ve taken some lessons and have a few days under your belt, making turns down a groomed run may actually make your heart beat more slowly. It’s effortless.

There’s always a new challenge

As you put in days on the hill, you’ll find yourself drawn toward steeper slopes and weirder, bumpier snow, requiring a greater level of fitness and encouraging the development of new skills. You’ll realize that you can ski far more aggressively when you’re stronger and more flexible. You may find yourself picking up a running habit, quitting smoking or attending workout classes just so you can accomplish increasingly ridiculous feats.

Powder

Fresh, untracked snow is the fastest and most socially acceptable way to turn any adult into a giddy child – and it’s easily the thing that skiers and boarders dream of most. There’s a reason people rave about it. Once you get the hang of skiing powder, its softness allows even folks with old knees to launch themselves off of bumps and stumps, reducing the risk that a fall will result in an injury and inspiring stupid amounts of confidence.

When skiing through trees, powder helps control speed. It makes incredibly steep slopes skiable. Secret powder stashes, like favorite fishing holes, are guarded secrets. If you’re looking for a living definition of “champing at the bit,” show up 45 minutes before first chair the morning after fresh snowfall.

As a resident of this region, you owe it to yourself to do better than simply being resigned to the inevitability of winter.

You, too, can be a full-fledged winter sports nut, making conversations with well-meaning cashiers awkward.

Be one of us. Good things await!

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