While it's technically spring down here in the valleys, it's still very much winter up on Schweitzer Mountain. They've received about nine inches of snow in the last two days and it's supposed to snow more today and tonight.
To celebrate "winter," Schweitzer is throwing a Winter Fest, replete with all sorts of bells and whistles up on the mountain, including live music from The Rub, a '90s dance party and, perhaps most intriguing, a mini beer festival. There will be 12 different beers on tap from breweries like Iron Horse, Ninkasi, Goose Island (it's in Chicago), Elysian, Widmer, Firestone Walker and, if you'd rather go European, they've got Stella.
$10 gets you a sampling package with a glass and four samples. Additional samples are $2 and full pints are $5. The beer tent opens at 11 am.
Yeah, sunshine might be nice, but fresh snow and cold beer isn't too bad.
On Friday evening, people were lining up at the doors of the Spokane Convention Center for the first day of the Snowlander Expo and PowderKeg Brew Festival. Once the doors opened at 4 pm, there were people everywhere retrieving their season passes, claiming their free lift tickets, and checking out the gear that all of the vendors had set up. There was no dull moment due to the prizes, lager and festivities happening all around. About 3,000 people attended on Friday and Saturday.
Now in it's 38th year, the SANPOINT WINTER CARNIVAL is back with its 10 days of frosty fun from Feb. 17-26. There's the Shop and Dine Around Sandpoint events, the Bio-Luminesce Fire Dancers, the rail jam competition, a performance by X Factor finalist LeRoy Bell and a K9 keg pull. You know, the usual.
Up the hill at Schweitzer, they're getting into the act, too, with special lodging deals and a full slate of events throughout the village and resort, culminating with the Outrageous Air Show (Feb. 24-25) and Torchlight Parade (Feb. 25). But all through the Carnival's run are events like guided snowshoe hikes, scavenger hunts, live music, campfires, night skiing and stuff for the little ones, too.
This carnival is not without its quirks. Ever heard of skijoring? The Scandinavian sport, making its second appearance at the carnival, combines skiing and horseback riding, with horses and their riders pulling skiers around a course of jumps and gates. Participants will compete on Saturday, Feb. 18, and Sunday, Feb. 19, combining their two-day times for a shot at the prize money. Also on Sunday is the skijoring style competition, in which skiers and snowboarders try to land tricks and jumps while, yes, being pulled by a horse. This year, there are also skijoring divisions for juniors and women. Both days of competition are from noon to 4 pm at the Bonner County Fairgrounds.
The Sandpoint Winter Carnival will be held from Feb. 17-26. For more information, visit sandpoint.org/wintercarnival or call (208) 255-1876. For information on Schweitzer activities, go to Schweitzer.com or call (208) 255-3081.
For two days last week I was in a skier's dream. A brand new, freshly tuned and waxed set of skis every run I took (except for that one pair which reminded me that I wasn't dreaming. If you were with me, you will know exactly which ones I am talking about). I have had dreams that are similar in content although usually involve a foot of fresh snow. The first day brought us brilliant sun and fast moving groomers. The second day brought a fresh blanket of snow and less than ideal visibility but a good day to switch out the Red Sol-X lens for my favorite Smith lens, the Red Sensor Mirror.
This is the third consecutive year that I have attended the WWSRA Ski & Snowboard demos at Mission Ridge just outside of Wenatchee, Washington. The conditions are typically not ideal for testing out the big boards, which seems to be all the rage with rocker, camber and sidecut flowing smoothly from all of the ski reps mouths. Attendees range from shop employees, owners and representatives from area ski resorts. Exhibitors are from all over showing off next years alpine and tele skis, snowboards, ski poles, boots, helmets, goggles, GoPro's, foot beds and even some clothing lines.
For two days you are ripping down the mountain at mach speeds, laughing, talking shop, and being stoked about next season's gear (even though we are still enjoying the current one). There are shot-skis filled with whiskey, brats cooking on BBQ's, kegs of IPA and what seems like an endless supply of canned beer. Goggle tanned faces, smiles and friends surround the Salomon fire pit which makes returning to the hotel after the first day nearly impossible. The party does finally dissipate and makes it way to downtown for more of the same.
The morning comes too early after dinner, hot tubs and more apres-ski activities. The morning brings more skiing, more socializing and then reality sets in. It's time to go home and return to my skis. Fortunately, I love my skis but in previous years after returning from the two-day demo party, I have had a hard time motivating myself back on my skis as they just didn't have the same response or the same feel as the new ones I had just been spending the last two days ripping around on. This is when the real hangover kicks in.
There are great things on tap for the 2012-2012 line-up. I am already looking forward to skiing the 2013-14 lineup and, more importantly, attending the demos next February.
My minds jumps back to a time I can hardly remember when I see this image. Winter in Seattle. It was the winter of 1996-97. I had just graduated from college and was living on my own for the first time. I bought a new car and was living in a studio apartment on Capital Hill. I was meeting new people and got reintroduced to skiing. And then it snowed in Seattle. Trying to maneuver in a city outlined with hills, hills and more hills and populated with people driving SUV's and Audi's like they are going out of style. The only problem; most of them aren't equipped with winter tires. Skiing was put on the back burner as I explored other aspects of city living.
Over the course of the next couple of years, I would ski here and there but worked a crazy schedule and had a hard time making it a priority. Until one day it dawned on me that if it is raining in Seattle and 40 degrees, there was a good chance it was snowing in the mountains. This is when I got obsessed with skiing. It was my escape from cold, dreary, wet city weather and let me dream of the white fluffy stuff falling in the mountains. And then it snowed in Seattle. When it snows in Seattle there is little you can do to escape the madness even if you are the best winter driver in the world. It was a hard to comprehend - a bunch of new snow to enjoy but if it wasn't the city streets prohibiting you from being able to get to the mountains then it would most likely be the mountain passes that would prevent it. These memories are in a distant past but I am reminded of that time every so often and usually when Seattle is in the midst of their own "snowmageddon".
As I am hearing reports of stuck travelers at Sea-Tac International airport and read Facebook posts of friends and family inter-lodged in their homes for days straight after a Seattle snowstorm, I sit back and remember my Seattle days and enjoy the falling snow outside my window as I feel the result from skiing powder four days in a row throughout my legs and think to myself how fortunate I am that I am able to avoid the city streets of Seattle and mountain passes of Western Washington to get to the ski hill.
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