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

Dave Dubuque: Area skiers, snowboarders impatiently waiting for snow

By Dave Dubuque For The Spokesman-Review

For Inland Northwest skiers and snowboarders, patience is in short supply.

For obsessed and addicted Inland Northwest skiers and riders, this time of year is always torture – waiting and wondering when the snow will come.

Earlier this year, with reports pointing to a strong chance of a La Nina winter – the kind that favors below-average temperatures and above-average precipitation (i.e., lots of snow) – my hopes were high. A few mid-November storms had dropped a foot or so of snow on my home hill, Mount Spokane, and, on Thanksgiving Day, my brother-in-law, who lives at the ski area, reported powdery conditions and enough snow to hike for some turns. The forecast even predicted an additional inch of accumulation overnight.

In the morning, though, as I got into my beat-up ’95 Subaru, he called to report that the night’s precipitation had come in the form of rain, and not to bother coming up. Runs that were piled high with snow the day before were now scoured down to rocks and brush.

No way. With all of my gear located and packed, a Friday morning free of obligations, and a healthy dose of denial, I decided to head up anyway. At the very least, I’d get a chance to get out of town and spend some quality time in nature.

As I reached the ski area parking lot, it became apparent that the rain had thinned the snow on many of the main runs to the point that they were not skiable.

As I drove farther a patch of pure white came into view: an area near the base of Chair 1 that had been completely cleared of brush during the summer. After collecting my brother-in-law, we booted up the top of what appeared to be a tiny run and stared down on at least 10 turns worth of hillside, with a pitch that was considerably steeper than it had appeared from below.

We also noticed we weren’t alone. At the base of the hill near the parking lot, a small group of skiers and snowboarders was spinning on and off a rail at the end of a small jump, practicing tricks that only the young and rubbery would try. I am neither.

After several bouncy laps of indescribable bliss that had us laughing like maniacs, a like-minded group of snowboarders who hailed from Renton, Washington, and San Diego , joined the fun for a few laps, enthusiastic dog in tow, then ventured off to explore other parts of the mountain.

Headed back to town, I was pinching myself, almost unable to believe that Day 1 had come to pass. My favorite time of year had arrived.

By Saturday morning, everything changed.

Warm temperatures mean that late November’s atmospheric rivers have been bringing rain instead of snow, and the region’s resorts are either closed or are offering limited skiing on ribbons of man-made snow.

Mount Spokane’s webcams – and my brother in law’s firsthand snow reports – have been dismal.

At the time of writing, I am coping with our current snowlessness in unhealthy ways: finding some solace in the fact that the state’s other resorts are in the same boat as Mount Spokane (schadenfreude); visiting the webcams of Banff’s ski areas, where over 9 feet of snow have fallen (envy); and trying to counter my inability to control the weather by obsessing over forecasts, looking for signs of a storm (witchcraft?).

The snow will come, the Inland Northwest’s ski areas will open, and soon, all this preseason fretting will be a distant memory. But for now, the anticipation is killing me. I’m taking solace, though, in the fact I am most certainly not alone.

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