49° North, Monday, 3/11/19
Drive time: 1h15min there; 1.5h back
Pros: Amazingly fun terrain, awesome snow, great views
Cons: slippery walk from the parking lot, slow lifts
Favorite runs: Klondike; Silver Ridge/Silver Queen
Really awesome day today at 49° North! Fresh-groomed runs were packed powder, ranging from soft-and-fast to firm-and-faster. Different shades of perfect. The great terrain at 49° North really shines on a day like this--lots of awesome steeps, but also plenty of gently rolling options, and the different facets, gullies, ridges, etc. make it a really interesting mountain to ski. Off-piste was fairly soft when I sampled it, but day-old groom was stiff Styrofoam.
They're only running Angel Peak (in the middle distance in the shot above) on weekends right now, and Lift 4 is down for the rest of the season, so I stuck to Lifts 1 & 5 today. But that encompasses a lot of terrain. And when each run was so much fun, there was way more than I could explore thoroughly in a day. Snow was perfect up top. Perfect down at the base. Perfect in the sun (corn!) and in the shade. East, west, and northern exposures were all skiing beautifully.
I grabbed a quick lunch... overpriced but OK pizza in a somewhat run-down cafeteria. I also noticed two out-of-order urinals and numerous missing trail signs (made figuring out where I was a challenge a couple times)… definitely feels like their might be something to the rumors of an impending sale, as it looks like the current owners aren't making any capital expenditures right now. New owners and progress might be a good thing, but it's pretty hard to argue with what they've got going now when it yields a ski day like today. Replacing some of their creaky old lifts with something faster would be nice, but on the other hand the current layout of Lifts 1 (including midway loading), 2, 4, and 5 seem perfect, and I doubt you're going to get all the same options if they start replacing them with detachables.
Sunshine & scenery were fantastic. Above, I believe, is Calispell Peak with British Columbia in the background.
A nice view of Mt. Spokane, too... makes me all the more eager to try out that new terrain!
On the way out, I stopped into the ticket office to see whether I could apply the cost of today's lift ticket to a season pass (I've been a few places that offered that option in the past). They said no, so I left without a pass. I'm not yet sure whether it'll be this year or next, or on a 49° North pass or the Indy Pass or collections of multipacks, but I definitely plan to experience and explore more of 49° North.
Pacific NW/AK/BC Finding a New Home Mountain in the Inland Northwest (intermediate trip reports)
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I skied 49 Monday also, but was likely gone before you arrived if your quick lunch was before you hit the snow. Regarding the slippery walk from the parking lot: I carry my boots into the lodge and change inside. Regular winter boots make the walk a little less hazardous. Another option is to drive up to the sunrise lift parking lot. Most of the time they don't check for lift tickets at the sunrise lift. So one could board lift 5 and then ski down to the ticket office to purchase a ticket. The early skiers, like myself, may have opened a parking spot for midday arrivals.
Do note that 49 is offering a ski free week April 1 - 7. One still needs to pick up a lift ticket at the ticket office.
Based on your trip reports thus far this season, my recommendation is to hold off on purchasing a season pass anywhere yet because you seem to like to explore and you have more exploring waiting for you at the region's ski areas.
I got in the habit of booting up while sitting on my trunk lip after I quit smoking in my car, but before I quit smoking entirely... booting up was a great time for a cigarette. But maybe it's time for a new habit, now that I don't need that cigarette Although, as you say, real winter boots will make a real difference, and I need to buy some before next season. Boarding at Sunrise without a pass also sounds like a good thing to try.
Mt. Spokane: Sunday, 3/17/19
Drive Time: 55 min each way
Pros: Fun, long runs; great snow in some spots
Favorite Run: Upper Geronimo
Late start today, but I made it up to Mt. Spokane just after noon, and just in time to park right next to one of the pathways up to Lodge 1. I booted up, slathered on sunscreen, and regretted that I hadn't brought a lighter-weight jacket as I pulled mine on, then hiked up the slush-covered path to Lodge 1. I had trouble locating ticket sales--positioned right next to the food, I thought the cashier was selling that (and maybe she was doing both, not sure). But soon enough I had my ticket and was hiking once again, up to the base of Lift 1 so I could boot up. Hiking when I want to ski is a pet peeve of mine. It's one thing if a particular run I want to do requires a bit of a hike... I could do it, or pick a different run... but I really hate having to hike before I even get on the lift. And Mt. Spokane is probably the worst I've encountered in that category, assuming you get close parking (if you count hiking up the parking lot, too, then Sandia is probably worse). Mt. Hood Skibowl West has the opposite problem... you have to hike up from the bottom of the runs to get back to the lodge/parking lot, and somehow in my mind that's not so bad.
Anyway, since I got to explore and enjoy Lifts 2 & 3 last trip, this time I was focused on Lifts 1, 4, & 6. These three lifts are all over 1400 vertical feet, so they all represent some fairly serious skiing. Very little was groomed beneath Lift 1 today--I started out on Teakettle, which was very nice before slushing up a bit at the very bottom.
Lift 6, the new one, had nicely-pitched runs, and the snow was ok, but a little chopped up already. Only a couple runs there were groomed today, unfortunately. Great views from over there, too... since I posted a pic of this area from 49 North in the last report, now it's time to return the favor. Calispell Peak is pretty close to center, and I think Mount Chewelaw is one of the bigger humps just to its left.
The only lines of the day were on #6... first, ski patrol was evacuating someone, which took some time. Next run, it was just a few chairs' wait. I also really like the Skytrac triple chair... the lower bar in the back is positioned just right for me to get lumbar support from it; and regardless, I think it's a nice change from the aging center-pole doubles around the rest of the mountain.
But one of those old Riblet doubles was the start today--Lift 4 was fantastic. Ridge Run was partially in shade by the time I made it over there, but the snow was fantastic in the sun and still ok in the shade. Upper Geronimo was picture-perfect spring corn, and a really fun run to boot. I wish the grooming went all the way down, but instead, skiers are filtered over to Ridge Run. That makes for a bit of a bottleneck on lower Ridge Run, particularly the section where it turns into a narrow catwalk returning to the lift. But none of that could undermine just how fun these runs were today. And they were surprisingly uncrowded--maybe they were firmer earlier, and just finally softened up to perfection around the time I arrived? Half Hitch/Lamonga Pass was another really fun run under Lift 4... a long cruiser alongside a near-deserted park full of big and interesting-looking features. I really didn't understand why no one was taking advantage of that great terrain park. I mean, I get why I wasn't (landing hurts!)... but not everyone else
As it approached closing-time for Lift 4, I decided to try out Pond Run heading back--it was marked with a blue square, so I expected a bit more challenge than the green alternatives. But it proved entirely the wrong kind of challenge--I hiked a little bit up to the run, then poled along it, then skied down a tiny bit onto the saddle between the Lift 2 & 3 summits. So apparently the "challenge" of Pond Run is that it's a zero-vertical run that requires a bit of hiking/poling no matter which direction you go.
Once I was under Lift 3, it took me just a few turns to realize that the hot sun had done its work, and it was all soupy slush. There was time for another run or two on the frontside, but the slush just felt like too much work... I took the catwalk back over to Lodge 1, skied down to the car (the bright side of that hike... I took off the skis about 10 feet away from my car) and was soon headed home.
The drive down in clearer weather presented new challenges... without needing to exercise caution for icy patches, it was very easy to pick up too much speed. My car's first gear is really punishing, but on second gear I was riding the brakes, so just had to keep switching back and forth. I don't think I really appreciated how steep that road was last time around.
My second visit to Mt. Spokane confirmed that it's a very fun ski area, with some terrain that really goes beyond reasonable expectations for a "local hill." Everyone was friendly, and it was surprisingly uncrowded for such a nice day. I think a good goal for the next few years is to lose a bunch of weight, and then spend a season as a regular at Mt. Spokane, when I can do those hikes up from the parking lot when carrying maybe 60-70 pounds less.
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