I did threads like this my first seasons in Portland and Salt Lake back on EpicSki, so I figure I'll continue the tradition. My first year living in Spokane, I skipped purchasing a season pass anywhere, and instead I plan to explore all the local hills. One nice thing immediately apparent about the local resorts is that even day tickets are relatively affordable, so when I picture a new home mountain, it's not that I intend to do 100% of my skiing there necessarily, but I'd like one specific mountain to really focus on getting to know it, And so that I can enjoy the perks of being a passholder, most notably skiing for a few hours if that's what I want or need without guilt for paying for a pricy day ticket.
A bit about me as a skier, for anyone curious or trying to figure out whether my impressions might match theirs. At this point, I think I'm a lifelong intermediate/groomer-zoomer. I have survived multiple encounters with powder and bumps, but I find myself less and less inclined to deal with them (though an inch or two of powder atop something smooth is very nice indeed). I'm not in shape, which contributes to my dislike of poling/uphill stretches, and it means that I'm not going bell-to-bell, at least not in the early season. Love to stop, enjoy the view and the sun, then go shooting off down the hill. I dislike feeling cold, and have an unfortunate tendency to run cold. My helmet (a top suggestion from one of the earlier threads for staying warm) helps. And much as I loved Snowbasin's/Park City's options for staying warm on the lift, wherever I land in the inland northwest isn't going to have such amenities, so I need to make the most of it. Also, I'm not a fan of lines or crowds. I generally enjoy most any groomed run unless it's flat (or uphill). I like plenty of green-marked runs. Also lots of blues and blacks. I enjoy variety, but if something's hitting just right, I'll happily lap it. My previous "home mountains" have been Arizona Snowbowl, Mountain High, Snowbasin, and Mt. Hood Skibowl. I've done significant skiing and really enjoyed Telluride, Brighton, Snowbird, and Mt. Hood Meadows. And I'd like to thank the participants in the 2018/2019 Inland PNW thread for their tips and offers of tours.
Pacific NW/AK/BC Finding a New Home Mountain in the Inland Northwest (intermediate trip reports)
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Silver Mountain: Sunday, 12/9/18
Drive Time: 1 hour 10 min each way (+17 min. each way on the gondola)
Pros: Fun, nicely pitched runs; views forever
Cons: Rocks; awkward lift layout (at least without Chair 4)
Favorite Run: Gold/Lower Gold
I kicked off this season with a trip to Silver Mountain, where they were offering $39 early-season tickets. It was an easy drive down I-90, with tons of parking right near the gondola base. I couldn't find the ticket booth, so I walked to the gondola loading station to ask whether I should just purchase a ticket up top... nope... they pointed me to the ticket stand on the other side of the plaza from the gondola. It was glaringly obvious, so tunnel-vision is my only excuse for missing it, but the location isn't super-convenient. I arrived a bit late, so the plaza was deserted, but pretty, and the water slides look fun. The gondola itself was comfortable and quick, but the cabins were showing their age and/or less diligent maintenance than others I've ridden--a bit dingy, windows hard-to-see-through, loud... nothing that looked unsafe, and I think all the other gondola's I've been on are newer than this one, so probably just age.
My first impression on seeing the actual ski terrain was wow, it's bigger than I thought and man, I wish lift 4 was running! Both impressions bore out throughout the day. Impressions are strange things, I know, but to me Silver felt like a bigger mountain than their current trail map makes it look. 73 trails on 1,600 acres is, of course, a big mountain. But for whatever reason, the current James Niehues painting left me expecting it to feel smaller.
I started with a couple warm-up laps on Lift 5 (nice beginner runs, avoiding double-fall-lines, not too steep, not too flat). Lift 5 is slow, but it's short so it's ok. And I could've kept skiing down to Lift 3, which goes quicker, if I'd wanted. The rest of the day was exploring what was open of the rest of the terrain. The runs under Lift 1 were particularly rocky, so I tried avoiding those for the most part. They did a good job of flagging all the spots where the groomers hit bottom, but there were still way too many little rocks scattered around on the runs. My first trip up Lift 2, I got lost... thought I was heading out Sunset, but then more ski area showed up ahead, including another lift that wasn't running. And I ended up at Lift 3 instead of 1 & 2. Later I figured out I circled Kellogg Peak, and it made sense. The ridge skier's left from the top of Lift 2 was a very fun run, as were the runs I did under the not-yet-open Lift 4 (Centennial and Gold/Lower Gold). Views from the top of Kellogg Peak were expansive and nice, but I suspect the high overcast kept them from looking as good as they could. I definitely want to get back up to Silver on a bluebird day (and when Lift 4 is running).
Everyone I interacted with were friendly. Good mix of skiers & boarders, no crowds or wait anywhere. I could definitely feel a few muscles that hadn't been worked in 7 months, so I headed home early... but I think I need to stay 'til closing time on a future Silver trip and see just how it handles everyone trying to download. Seems like the lines could get messy. I drove through historic Kellogg, too... seems like a neat place. Kind of reminds me of my earliest memories of Telluride, maybe mid-1980s when the headed-toward-ghost-town-status atmosphere could still be found in spots. Kellogg has a similar mix of falling-to-ruin and optimistically-restored. I'll make sure to patronize one of the local restaurants next trip.
Overall, a good start to the season, and a good first impression from Silver!
Think that you will enjoy all of the areas around Spokane. You may not be real thrilled with the light sometimes but ski the groomers near the trees when the light is not good and it will help a lot. The grooming is pretty decent everywhere.
Schweitzer has the most of what you speak of, as it should it is by far the largest. And a longer drive.
Silver meets your needs well too. It will get a little backed-up at the bottom of the gondi to get on the hill but then it thins right out.
Mt Spokane and 49* North are close and offer a lot of what you mentioned. If you are midweek skiing pay attention to who is closed that day, Mt Spokane closed Monday & Tuesday, 49 closed Wednesday & Thursday.
Most important. If you really like the skiing around there, DON"T TELL ANYONE.
Lookout Pass: Friday, 12/14/18
Drive time: 1 h 40 min each way
Pros: Nice fall-line skiing, good snow
Cons: Ambush bumps
Favorite run: Tamarack
First day at Lookout today... I-90 was smooth sailing, but it definitely takes longer than Silver... and driving past Silver really drives that home. My parking place was 4 rows back, a little bit of a hike to the lodge but very convenient to Chair 1. It was a nice morning, not too chilly, with the sun mostly partly-obscured behind thin clouds, but occasionally peeking out a bit more. Enough sun that a few runs started corning up a bit. I started out with a tour of skier's left on Chair 1... Silver, Copper, then Gold. All very nice runs... Gold was in particularly great condition. Glad I started there, because later in the day Black Bear (the access trail for all three) was getting pretty torn up. Lift 1 is a nice length--850 vertical feet, goes quick enough that I don't start feeling cold, and the runs are short enough that I'm not tempted to stop and rest. I explored the other side of the Chair 1 pod later, and really liked it, too. That's a gem of a terrain pod.
There was talk of opening Chair 3 (the North Side), and they seemed to be spinning the lift most of the morning, but when I went over to check it out, all the runs were closed. Something for next time.
Chair 2 (the Montana Side) has steeper sustained pitches, less grooming. I really enjoyed the top, groomed section of Sundance, but then it dumped me at a catwalk that led to an assortment of ungroomed trails. Lots of other people did as I did and went to the end of that catwalk, hoping for something smooth. Instead we all had to pick our way down through the proto-moguls as best we could. The proto-moguls were pretty soft, with the in-betweens even softer, and really they were pretty forgiving bumps. If I'd chosen to ski them, I might have actually enjoyed them. But being duped into them put me in entirely the wrong frame of mind. Also the fact that there were so many other people sharing the run, tentatively trying to get down. I think I saw about 10 falls (none serious) in the little while I was on that run (bottom of Cloud 9), and no patrollers observing the mayhem. Looking at the trail map now, it looks like the uphill direction on the catwalk is labeled "To Lodge," so maybe they expect everyone to pole up the catwalk to the terrain park after the grooming ends? Going against the traffic coming out of the terrain park?
On the other hand, the Montana Side also included Tamarack, a run not shown on their map (off of Rainbow Ridge to skier's right) which was an absolute delight. It was marked up top with "thin cover" signs, which apparently convinced most people to leave it alone. It had a firm, fast groom, and was definitely thin in spots, but it offered my all-out favorite kind of skiing: solitary, fast, super-smooth. I lapped it three times, the last at 12:30, and there was still a ton of unmarred corduroy. The surface was delightful, perfectly packed powder that was in no way icy. Honestly, it made me think of 9:30 or 10:00 am at Deer Valley or Sun Valley, even at noon.
It was significantly busier than I expected for a weekday (and a day when kind-of-nearby Schweitzer was doing $10 lift tickets). I never waited more than a minute in a lift line, but it makes me wonder how busy they get on weekends. Everyone I talked to was friendly, but the vibe seemed very "bro." I encountered several guys obnoxiously taking chairs for themselves, even when others were waiting. Seemed like more than I've ever encountered away from Mountain High (and at least at Mountain High it's because they want to smoke weed on the chair, and didn't bring enough to share). And overall probably the highest male-to-female ratio I've encountered at a ski area. Perhaps there were college kids who weren't at Silver last weekend because they were studying for finals, but are now free for a few weeks and feeling rowdy... or perhaps just random chance... or maybe the Lookout clientele does skew more "bro."
All in all, there's a lot to like at Lookout, but some big turnoffs too. I'd love to go back and give them another chance, and certainly will next year when the new lift is in... but I think I'm ok crossing it off the list of possibilities for 2019-2020 season passes. Distance, vibe, and crowds all influence that. And the lack of specific groomed run reports plus ambush bumps settles it in my mind.
49 Degrees North: Sunday, 12/30/18
Drive time: 1 h 25 min there, 1.5 h back
Pros: Good long runs with nice pitch
Favorite run: Mahre's Gold
Weather.com was forecasting a sunny afternoon at 49 North, so I headed up there for afternoon skiing. Sadly, they were wrong... partly cloudy, with the sun almost exclusively hidden behind those clouds... but still a pretty nice day. Second run I landed on a chairlift covered with ice, which left me a bit less comfortable (how do others deal with this? I carry around a lot of natural padding, but something between that and my long john/snowboarding pant combo might be nice).
Drive up was smooth, but not I-90 smooth. The last few miles was snow-covered and lightly cindered... not enough cinders to make me feel comfortable, but maybe that's a good thing... I never lost traction, but I wasn't overconfident either. I snagged a front-row spot in the free lot that someone had just vacated, but from there it was still a bit of a hike (across slick, slippery parking lot ice). The pay parking looks a bit nicer... does it fill up fast?
The mountain itself is good size, though "2325 patrolled acres" seems like a real stretch. Feels much more like Sunrise Park (800 acres) or Brighton (1050 acres) in size. Does anyone know if ski patrol at 49 North is patrolling another 2+ square miles somewhere? But still, it's a respectable-size ski area. The three lifts I rode today (#1, #4, & #5) are all over 1,500 vertical feet, so there's a good variety of nice long runs. I was confused that the daily grooming reports have been reporting no groomed runs under the Angel Peak chair, so I examined it from Lost Dutchman... looks to me like the beginner run along the ridgeline is groomed (though not reported as such on the website), while everything else looked distinctly ungroomed and, in most cases, lots of bushes poking up through the snow. Maybe that section just needs more coverage to really work?
The terrain varied from ok scraped hardpack to slick icy hardpack. I love a nice firm groom, but unfortunately, that wasn't what we had today. I think they must have gotten rain or very wet snow that then froze yesterday... pretty sure it isn't always that icy. I look forward to exploring more of the mountain under better conditions. It was nicely uncrowded... all lifts were walk-on, with no crowds anywhere except the small, cramped bathroom. The folks I did talk to were all friendly.
I skied 49° North Thursday, December 27 and the snow, both on and off piste, was fairly good. But then I skied there New Year Eve's day and almost all the soft snow had become hard. Even the groomers weren't really fun. Another skier told me that Sunday had been horrible ski conditions with high winds. According to him, a tree had fallen on chair 4 and closed it. Obviously, that wasn't when you were on it. I saw toppled trees all over the mountain. Sorry you didn't get to experience 49° at, or near, its best.
I missed the high winds... earlier in the morning, I guess. Saw a small tree down under #4 that had been cut up some but not moved away... I guess that might've had it closed for a while. But thanks for confirming these conditions weren't typical--I'll definitely plan on trying 49N again, hopefully in better conditions.
Mt. Spokane: Saturday, 1/5/19
Drive Time: 55 min each way
Pros: Fun terrain, awesome snow
Cons: awkward layout
Favorite Run: Upper Nastar/Lower Nastar
First afternoon/evening at Mt. Spokane today, and I'm impressed! Drive up was smooth, although Verizon didn't have service most of the last 20 minutes of the drive (I thought they were everywhere). Saw a decent number of cars headed back down, and tons of cars parked up there. Given all the cars, I was expecting long lines. I took a spot about 150' from Lodge 2, but since part of that distance included a 50' cliff, I had to walk around. A bit of a hike, but seemed less slippery at least than last weekend at 49 North.
I bought my ticket in the lodge and noted a couple bulletin boards saying Lift 1 was temporarily closed. I'm glad I picked Lodge 2! I got in line for Lift 5... about 5 minutes wait, which ended up being the longest of the day by far. I'm not sure whether it's possible to get from Lodge 2 to Lift 3 without riding Lift 5 (or otherwise going uphill). Anyone know?
I wanted to check out the new lift/terrain (the still-unnamed Runs #3 & 4 were groomed according to today's report). After a couple unsuccessful attempts to find my way to them, I consulted the map and figured out I needed to take Lift 1, but wasn't sure whether it was open again. So I went back up Lift 2, then tried poling up/across over to the new terrain, just to find ski patrol putting out the closed signs. So I headed over to see if I could get into the Lift 4 pod, but that was already roped off once I made it. Oh well, next time!
All my skiing today was under lifts 2, 3, & 5. But even so, I got to see some very fun terrain! It reminds me of Skibowl or the old Millicent/Mary/Magnificent core at Brighton. The doubles all moved fast enough, and other than that line-up for #5, the waits weren't bad... ski-on or just a few riders ahead. The groomers were nice enough that I decided to try my luck at the bumps... honestly, not bad conditions at all, but I am totally not in shape for bump skiing and shouldn't have tried. Oh well. If Big 200 or 2 Face is ever groomed, it'll be a blast. The terrain included a lot of double fall-lines, which I'm not normally a fan of, but they weren't bugging me much today and kind of added character to the mountain. I was less enamored with the catwalk back from partway down Lift 3 back to Lift 2/Lodge2... narrow, crowded, and flat enough that it hurts my feet (not sure why catwalks hurt my feet, but there you have it).
Snow quality on the groomers was fantastic... lots of loose-but-smooth spray atop a firm, fast, but carvable underlayer. Given all the cars I saw in the parking lot, I'm really impressed that its quality held up into the night. Kudos to the groomers/surface team at Mt. Spokane, because at least today, they did an awesome job. I've been told in the past (probably over on Epic) that there's no real difference in groomer quality... it's all conditions, crowds, and salt in the spring. Frankly, I don't buy it. I don't doubt that all those factors play a role. But the groomed conditions at Skibowl tonight were among be absolute best late-afternoon/evening conditions I've encountered anywhere... up with Skibowl, Deer Valley, Brighton, Telluride, Keystone, and the Southern California hills. I'll be interested to see whether this experience holds up on repeat visits. And whether any of the other local areas can compare (so far they haven't, but I might give any of them a pass based on early season/bad weather).
I'm excited for my next trip to Mt. Spokane, and eager to try out more of its terrain!
Sounds like you will have to plan a day trip back to Mount Spokane when you can ski lifts 4 and 6.
Silver Mountain: Sunday, 1/13/19
Drive Time: 1 hour 5 min there, 1 hour 7 min back (+17 min. each way on the gondola)
Pros: Very nice, long fall-line runs, very uncrowded
Cons: hardpack, rocks (still)
Favorite Run: Silver Belt
Nice sunny day at Silver today! Sunrise and Silver Belt off Lift 2 softened up nicely, and there were nice patches all over the mountain, but there was also a lot of firm-to-icy terrain that never really managed to soften. I think the lack of sunlight on so much of their terrain is a bonus for base-building and will make for really great spring conditions in another month or two. I'm looking forward to it! Shortcut, the only run (I think) to face southwest, had really nice slush, but also bare patches and rocks scattered in with the snow. It could definitely use a little more snow, and maybe a good raking.
Once again I was really impressed by Silver's terrain. I was bummed when I read the grooming report to see that they didn't have any black diamond runs groomed, but given how firm the snow was, they might not have been skiable anyway. Most of Silver's blue runs are steeper than most other areas' (Their trail ranking might be closer to Snowbird's or Sun Valley's than to the mainstream). At the top of the Saddleback run, I noticed a post & rope that I'm pretty sure is used for a winch-cat. That's something I've never before seen on a blue-marked run.
Scenery was nice--mountains forever in every direction off to the horizon. Although the generally rolling mountains in this area aren't quite as scenic as other places I've skied. With the hardpack on the generally north-facing terrain, I was eying various possibilities for more sun-exposed expansion... the opportunity is definitely out there for expansion, if the new owner wants it, but it seems like a tough prospect from a business perspective unless they're really going to make the big investments needed to turn Silver into a nationally-competitive destination.
Schweitzer: Wednesday, 1/30/19
Drive Time: 1 hour 40 min there, 1 hour 45 min back
Pros: Fantastic snow, great terrain, awesome views, complete absence of crowds
Favorite Run: Jack's Dream/Midway
First day at Schweitzer was tons of fun! Not really a fair comparison, but a weekday at Schweitzer with good conditions is way better than weekends at its competitors under fair-to-poor conditions The drive was smooth, and I think next time around I'll park down at the bottom of the hill and ride the shuttle up--seems like it drops off closer to the lifts, and saves a bit of mountain driving.
The sun was generally in and out of the clouds, with intermittent fog above 6,000 feet or so. The snow was variations on nice packed powder... corn forming in sunny spots, some really nice wind-blown piles, hardpack in a few spots. Very nice skiing on the runs groomed last night; groomed the night before was a tad icy, but still ok; off the corduroy seemed like coral reef when I veered that way.
The terrain is very enjoyable, and I'll enjoy exploring more. For the most part, there are steep upper sections that quickly smooth out to nice rolling intermediate terrain. Ridge Run's steep section has a post that I think is for a winch cat (first time I noticed that for a blue run was last visit at Silver). More sustained steeps seem limited to the terrain under the Great Escape chair--but that terrain is really a gem. Pend Oreille and Stiles are two amazingly wide, long, smooth drops, almost 1700 vertical feet. Lower Jimmy's Run was similarly awesome, and deserted to boot. But lots of really fun intermediate terrain, too, providing tons of fun with a little less pucker factor.
So far I haven't minded the fixed-grip lifts at other area resorts, but Schweitzer quickly got me spoiled again, and riding Snow Ghost felt long and cold. The replacements coming this summer will be welcome indeed! I hope they move the top of the upper lift a bit higher on the slope, as that will help alleviate what I saw as the biggest problem--some troublesome flats. Great Escape chair seems like it's 50 feet too short... too far from the rest of the village, and too far below Sky House and the top of Snow Ghost. Getting back from Outback Bowl seems to be a pain... you have the choice of riding up Snow Ghost and poling across to The Great Divide, or riding up Stella then following the long boring catwalk... I followed it all the way to the village, though maybe I didn't need to... looking at the map now, I think maybe I could've gone on Lower Loophole then over to Musical Chairs (can anyone confirm? I know on weekends/holidays when they run Sunny Side that would've been an option, but does it connect over to Musical Chairs?). I wish there were better options to take fun/steep runs back without the boring slog. Maybe re-open the closed terrain in the Swede Creek drainage with a chair up from the bottom (preferably to the top of Jimmy's Run on The Great Divide). Heading down Poco Loco, then riding up a chair to take Jimmy's Run down into the village seems like it would be a big improvement.
Sandpoint/Ponderay also seems like a very cool area, with neat shops, great restaurants and beer. Views were great, but I'd really like to see it on a clear, sunny day--bet it's spectacular.
bamaman likes this.
Red Mountain: Sunday, 2/10/19
Drive Time: 2 hours 40 minutes there, 2 hours 45 minutes back
Pros: Great views, fun runs, great snow
Cons: too many trail crossings; cold slow chairlifts
Favorite Run: Back Trail/Face of Red
My first time skiing outside the United States was a lot of fun! The drive definitely felt longer than to the 5 other areas I've tried this season. On the way up, I took the Williams Lake Road cutoff, which was snow-slicked in spots, so I took the more scenic drive back through Kettle Falls (I'm not sure I'll ever get tired of seeing the awesome Columbia River). Border crossings were smooth each direction. I slept in, so didn't make it up there until 12:45, which was good timing for finding a very close-in parking spot.
The first few runs were in chilly but nice bluebird conditions. Even with the single-digit Fahrenheit temperatures, corn was forming in the sun. Pretty much everyone on the mountain was sticking to groomers, but there wasn't enough traffic to tear them up, so they were really nice smooth packed powder, with a really fun blend of firmness and cushion. Views all around were pretty magnificent, but I mostly focused on just skiing rather than taking pictures. Got one really nice one, though...
Fragrant cedar trees, which were such a treat at Schweitzer, seem to be scattered around more of the mountain here. After a few runs, the clouds rolled in and the snow started up. This made the long slow rides on Motherlode and Grey Mountain chairs particularly painful, but the skiing stayed really enjoyable. I popped into the lodge to warm up... a slice of pizza, a Pepsi, what might've been a peculiarly Canadian cake (vanilla/chocolate marble with maple frosting), and a 15% tip totaled less than $8 US--at Red, at least, it's true that my dollar goes further! And they were tasty, and let me warm up enough to brave a couple more runs. Which were very fun!
I managed to ski all the chairlifts, although this made for a bit more travelling around than probably would've been ideal... next visit, I'd love to take the time to focus more on specific sections of the mountain and get to know them better. Red Mountain, the original terrain, seems like a forgotten gem at this point--very few skiers on really fun terrain with a quick-but-rickety double. I suppose it's "only" about 1400k vertical, so not worth the time of the crowds? Silverlode has some very nice intermediate terrain, but they're short and chopped up with interrupting catwalks. I think the new terrain under the Topping Creek chair should be fairly similar, but hopefully longer--I'm looking forward to experiencing it next year. Granite Mountain has some really fun, long cruising terrain, and Ruby Tuesday is a fantastic sunny drop... but again these runs are interrupted by catwalks cutting in and out and across. Today Grey Mountain featured some nicely rolling easier terrain--but I got to admire the Corduroy run from the lift and wish that it lived up to its name today--looks like it would be a rocking cruise with some fun dips if groomed.
Lift waits were generally ski-on, with a few waits approaching 1 minute. Employees and patrons I interacted with were all friendly, seemed primarily Canadian (one of the lefties sounded Australian to me, and I saw a few Washington/Idaho plates in the lot... but really it seems like no one's told Americans about Red). Heading out, I did a quick drive through Rossland, which looks like a really cool town--I'd love to spend some more time there next time around. Appearances can be deceptive, of course, but the BC interior mountain towns I've seen (Rossland, Castlegar, Salmo, Creston) seem on the surface to be much healthier than their American counterparts--I didn't see signs of grinding poverty or ostentatiously expensive real estate that excludes the working class. Definitely makes me want to try spending some more time around there.
On the other hand, even though I've routinely done longer drives to ski when living in Phoenix and San Diego, it feels somehow worse now when I know there are so many fantastic options closer. I 100% plan to go back to Red--but I don't think it's going to end up being my new "home mountain," simply because it's so far from home.
Schweitzer, Monday 2/18/19 (Presidents Day)
Drive time (includes shuttle wait & ride): 2 hours there; 2 hours 40 minutes back
Pros: Really fun terrain, great snow
Cons: Cold, no Sunny Side lift
Favorite run: Sundance/lower Jimmie's Run
I headed up to Schweitzer today because my $49.50 ticket was good, while various other discounts I've collected are blacked out. And because it had the sunniest forecast in the region. And I needed to experience Schweitzer on a busy day... I'd already experienced it on a crowd-free Wednesday. I'm glad I went on a holiday to see just how crowded it is:
That pic's about 1:15 in the afternoon, and that terrain includes five nice groomed paths, a few moguls, and lots of tracked-up day-old powder. Near terrain served by a high-speed quad; the rise in the distance has the Lakeview Triple.
In fairness, there were some people there, and it was more crowded than my Wednesday there. With the singles line, I never had more than a 3-chair wait, but I think a couple of the regular lines might have topped a minute at times. I also heard that Saturday was a zoo.
I had a blast lapping the Great Escape Quad. Almost 1700 vertical feet of nicely steep terrain with a bit of roll to relieve it when needed. With three really nice, wide groomers (Stiles, Pend Oreille, and Sundance/Jimmie's Run). Under nice conditions like today's, these runs compare favorably with some of my other all-time favorites (Lookout & Milk Run at T-Ride; Hollywood & Wildflower Downhill at Snowbasin; Chips/Downhill/Phone3 at Snowbird; Stein's Way at Deer Valley, Skier's Left at AZ Snowbowl, Mountain High East). Just the right combination of steep and smooth to bring me to the brink of needing a break and then just amp me up more again. I skied this pod 12 times in a row... the last 8 of those saying to myself, "ok, after this run I'll go in and try to thaw out a bit." And I finally did, but there was no seating available in the Sky House, so I just sat on one of the benches outside the bathrooms and tried to massage life back into my toes. Totally worth it.
The rest of the mountain was nice, too. Outback Bowl was clearer (the local peak-cap clouds are weird in how they favor parts of the mountain), but the bottom stretch of Stella the snow felt noticeably heavier. The only crowds I saw anywhere were milling around the village and inside the Sky House... maybe everyone else decided it was too cold of skiing or boarding.
Riding up from the park & ride lot was smooth--slipped loose boots on at the car, then walked to the bus where I tightened them during the ride. Coming back didn't work out so well, since the bus is scheduled to leave right at 3:30 and I tried for last chair (got to the stop about 3:35). I bet the 3:30 bus was crowded, and the 4:00 bus certainly was. Seems like another good reason why I should be getting myself up earlier, instead of showing up late and then trying to ski as late as possible.
I was bummed that the Sunny Side lift wasn't running, nor the best-looking terrain it serves groomed. I tried to give Loophole Loop/Lower Loophole a try, but apparently followed the sign wrong and ended up at lower Jimmie's Run (which is awesome, so I wasn't too bummed). Still, it's a real shame that Schweitzer won't run this lift even on a holiday when there's cold snow that suits its terrain.marjoram_sage likes this.
Red Mountain, Sunday, 2/24/2019
Drive time: didn't take notes/drive direct, but probably around 2:40 there and 3:10 back.
Pros: Fun in the sun, fun at the bar
Cons: crossing the border, catwalks crossing runs
Favorite Run: Back Trail/Face of Red
The forecast for Sunday was snow in Idaho, clouds in Washington, and sun in BC. So my boyfriend and I headed up to Rossland Saturday evening in hopes of taking advantage of that Sunday Sun. Explored Rossland & Trail a bit... really pretty area. I recommend Clansey's (though I'll ask for extra garlic next time if I order something with garlic, as the chef had a light touch) and Fuel--delicious, fun, friendly, and the exchange rate makes them quite affordable. If I'd found a dance floor with a pounding beat and strobe light I might've stayed up all night, but either Rossland & Trail both close down early on Saturday nights or else we just didn't know where to look (didn't do any advance research), so back to the motel early. But we still slept in, then did a bit more exploring and had brunch and drinks before heading up. Enough folks were leaving by 12:30 or 12:45 that we got a nice close parking spot. My boyfriend relaxed at the bar upstairs in the day lodge (very nice for a day lodge) while I enjoyed some runs in the sun. I focused this time on just Red, Silverlode, and Motherlode. The snow up on Motherlode felt particularly heavy, while down low it felt lighter--not sure what that's about. But it was generally nice... loosely-packed powder, a few harder-pack spots, and corn showing up sometimes in the sun.
The top of Granite Peak was intermittently in clouds, but lower-down it was nice and sunny. Getting to know the Rossland-Trail region meant that I could identify what I had previously taken to be some neighboring lake as actually the Columbia River (that is one big river). I waited in the longest lift lines of the season so far... three different waits of 2 minutes or so. So crowded for the region, but not for most other values of "crowded."
The drive back was marred by a long wait at the border. They seemed to be taking 8-10 minutes with every vehicle. I can only imagine the line kept getting longer behind us.dbostedo likes this.
I'm hope sick with a cold today instead of out enjoying a sunny Saturday on the slopes Hoping to get over the worst of it and make it out skiing Monday, but we'll see. Local areas (except Red) have their 2019/2020 passes on sale now:
$699 Schweitzer (Powder Alliance... maybe Whitewater and/or Bridger? free skiing March 11-April 7)
$379 49° North (free days I might use at Mission Ridge, White Pass, Bluewood, Loup Loup, Lost Trail; 25% off at Red, Whitewater, Sun Peaks, Silver Star, Big White; no info on website re: spring skiing 'til scheduled close 4/7/19).
$369 Mt. Spokane (free days I might use at Mission Ridge, White Pass, Loup Loup; 25$ off at Red, Whitewater, Fairmont Hot Springs; $5 off at Schweitzer, Silver, Lookout, and 49° North; free skiing until close 4/7/19)
$349 Silver Mountain (includes 4 waterpark passes or $10 buddy ski discounts, $5 off Idaho ski area day tickets, free skiing until close--May?)
$239 Lookout Pass ("most benefits have not been established for 2019-20 passholders yet'; free skiing until close--April?)
That's a big price spread. So far this year, I've skied 9 days at $355.43 (just under $40/day); I've got 4 more days already paid for/free, and I hope to use at least one more discount opportunity, which will bring my per-day spend including tax down under $30. It might make a lot of sense for me to just skip a pass next year and cobble stuff together again. Some more random thoughts...
- 9 days before March is more than I did either season in Oregon, but less than I did the prior 4 seasons. It'd be great to get more, but realistically that's probably the ballpark I need to be planning for.
- Schweitzer's a lot more than the others, and I expect Red to be in the same ballpark when they release pricing. But the Lake Louise Plus card that drops daily Schweitzer/Red costs to ~$50/day could be a great fit if it's available next year. Otherwise, Schweitzer's spring pass ($99 this year) would also be great. Or get a Schweitzer pass some year that I'm feeling like I deserve a splurge.
- I like road trips, but we've got some fantastic skiing nearby. I'd probably only use one-three free/discounted days elsewhere, so I shouldn't weight those very heavily in comparing options.
- Lookout's delayed their terrain expansion until 20/21, but they plan to replace the front lift with a quad for next season, which will help with lines (but not with crowding).
- While I'd love to have a "home" mountain, I'm definitely going to keep exploring other spots. And maybe think about switching up my home mountain each year. One big advantage of this region over Utah is that the skiing is more spread out, making it possible to do things like last weekend when I went to British Columbia because sun was in the forecast, whereas it was supposed to be snowing in Idaho. And I'm sure there are other days when BC's snowing and Idaho's sunny.
- 9 days before March is more than I did either season in Oregon, but less than I did the prior 4 seasons. It'd be great to get more, but realistically that's probably the ballpark I need to be planning for.
Silver Mountain, Saturday, 3/9/19
Drive Time: 1 hour 10 min each way
Pros: fun steep runs, nice sun
Cons: icy patches, terrain closing earlier than I think it should
Favorite run: Shortcut/Saddleback
My sinuses are almost fully drained (finally!), but the kittens kept waking me up last night. So I ended up spending 13 hours in bed and getting a very late start. I was thinking Mt. Spokane, but their night skiing is already done for the year, so I went to Silver, which was celebrating their last night of night skiing for the season. Drive was smooth and scenic, and I took one of several free parking spots ~200 feet from the gondola. Really, can't say enough about how easy the access is at Silver. Arriving that late, there was no one else riding up, so I got right on the gondola.
At the top, Collateral was in the sun, so I gave it a try right away. Top was very nice, lower ok but definitely some hardpack spots. There was a line at Lift 3, so I kept going down Centennial, which seemed to have about 6 inches of lightly-tracked loose powder atop a very firm/icy groom. I'm not really sure what that was about... maybe it just got favored by the wind and built up some nice drifts. Lift 4 was long, but didn't seem nearly as long as Motherlode & Gray Mountain chairs at Red... though the fact that it was ~30 degrees Fahrenheit warmer might've contributed to that perception. The intermediate runs from the top of Lift 4 are kind of weird... branching every 50' or so for the first half of the run. I'm sure it's just a matter of getting more practice 'til I'm going to whichever I want to ski without needing to stop and look at each sign. The snow in this area was nice, but almost entirely in shadow at this point, so I took Home James back over to Lift 3 to get in some more time in the sun. I lapped Lift 3 a few times--it's really a nice, quick ride with great steeps beneath. My last time around, I got to Saddleback just as ski patrol was stretching a rope across... I asked whether I could still go, and he said yes, so I did--it had finally gotten just enough sun to be perfect creamy-smooth skiing. I saw the patrolman coming down behind me, so at least I wasn't the only person to enjoy that perfection. But it's definitely a shame that the run closed just once it had gotten enough sun, and while it still had 2 hours of sunlight ahead. And with the ridiculous time change, next week it might get roped off before it ever reaches perfection, then sit in the sun closed for 3+ hours.
After that, it was down to exploring Lifts 1 & 2. Sadly, the Sunrise Ridge/Steep & Deep side got roped off before I got a chance (I was looking forward to trying Steep & Deep today, since it was on the groomed run list). Other than Shortcut, most of the Lift 1 & 2 terrain was in shadow already, but still skied pretty nice... packed powder, with occasional tracked-out loose stuff or hardpack. I also tried the bumps under Lift 1 and found them surprisingly soft & accommodating... not fun enough to do again any time soon, but not bad enough to make me regret giving them a chance (and normally, I do regret moguls)
Lift lines were longer than I've come to expect in the region, but with the singles lines I don't think I ever waited more than a minute. And everyone spread out again nicely once on the slopes, so crowding wasn't an issue. Everyone was friendly, and as this was Silver's Mardi Gras party day, several bead-wearing employees wished me a happy Mardi Gras. The ride down the gondola and drive back went smoothly, and I timed it right to watch the sun set over Lake Coeur d'Alene from I-90. Made me wish there was a spot to pull over and take pictures, but there wasn't. Still, a very nice day.
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