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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Dave Dubuque: The return of winter brings much to celebrate. Here is a list.

By Dave Dubuque For The Spokesman-Review

After a slow start, winter is back in full force.

Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park, where the vast majority of my ski days happen, opened earlier this month with limited terrain and heavy, windblown snow. Nearly every day that’s followed has brought progressively colder, lighter snow, culminating in an 8-inch dump of champagne powder Sunday evening that transformed the mountain from a brushy-yet-skiable hill into a soft, marshmallow-covered playground.

At last, the region’s snow-addicted skiers and riders feel like all’s right with the world. I happen to be one of them, and there are so many things about the return of my natural habitat that have put a smile on my face. Here, in no particular order, are a few:

  • Squadrons of young Mt. Spokane Ski Race Team kids gathered at the top of the Vista Cruiser chair, waiting for their coach to point out which part of the mountain to mob down.
  • The parents of the racer kids patiently posting up in Lodge One – jovial, but consistently raising an eyebrow at any sasquatch-like outsider who ventures into the northern room where they congregate.

The politeness that I witnessed while driving up the mountain road to enjoy the season’s first powder morning. There was a shocking lack of tailgating, and slower cars were pulling over to let faster ones by. This generation of kids was raised right.

  • Bags of leftover holiday candy being shared with lift operators. It’s cold out there, and they need the calories.

A temporary chair closure that caused a mass exodus along the fire road between the Northwood and Hidden Treasure

  • chairs. Silently gliding through a snow-covered old-growth forest with a dozen other skiers was unexpected and magical.
  • Riding the Vista Cruiser chair and witnessing a skier’s first attempt at a 360-degree spin that he nearly landed.
  • The way the weather on the Hidden Treasure chair can be completely sunny while the rest of the mountain is completely socked-in.
  • Reuniting with ski-hill friends that I haven’t seen in a year.
  • Late night ski-tuning sessions in anticipation of a big day.
  • The way a favorite pair of skis makes everything easier.
  • Thigh burn from skiing too much powder. (I know, I know – I should get out of the back seat.)
  • Lift operators bellowing-out my mountain nickname, which I will absolutely not share.
  • Hitchhiking after skiing down to the road below the resort and not finding it odd that I was picked up by the first car that passed by – or that I knew the driver. (Thanks, Colton!)
  • Skiers on fat skis making the same all-over-the-mountain turn shapes that they used to complain about snowboarders making. Moguls may never be the same, but would you go back to wiggling straight down the fall line on skinny skis? I didn’t think so.
  • Groups made up of equal parts snowboarders and skiers. The rivalry really is over.
  • Figuring out that you can’t say, “on your right” or “on your left” when passing snowboarders on a cat track. They ride down the mountain sideways. It’s “on your frontside” or “on your backside.”
  • The ingenuity of straps that hold my mittens on my arms and my cellphone to my jacket. Best inventions ever.
  • Meeting people who have skied their local hill for 40 years or more.
  • People having so much fun that they never get around to figuring out that their politics differ.
  • Chairlifts. That they exist never ceases to amaze me. Driving an hour to hike an hour to ski one run is great, but driving an hour to ski 20 runs is at least 20 times greater.
  • Knowing my local hill well enough to find untouched tree runs that drop 1,000 feet.
  • The impossibly gorgeous views from the summit.
  • The way a nonprofit hill makes skiing affordable for everyone.
  • Maybe someday I’ll do a column on all of the things I hate about skiing, but right now, nothing at all comes to mind. I’d better do some more research.

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