Monday, October 27, 2014

The best chairlifts of the West

Posted By on Mon, Oct 27, 2014 at 11:48 AM

Disclaimer: While I feel as though I am well-travelled when it comes to ski resorts, I don’t doubt there are some that have been left off this list, not due to any other reason than I haven’t had the opportunity to experience them.

1. 7th Heaven (Stevens Pass):
To ride the 7th Heaven Chair, you need might need more guts to go up the chair than to ski down the runs that are accessible from the top. Well worth the ride up and ski down!


2. Snow Ghost (Schweitzer):
One of the last old school double chairs that runs on a regular basis, this chair delivers advanced skiers and boarders to some of the best terrain Schweitzer offers, the Outback Bowl.


3. Orange Bubble Express (Canyons Resort):
Heated seats, an orange cover to protect you from snow and wind.

4. Gondola (Silver Mountain): World’s longest single-stage gondola that carries skiers and boarders up to the mountaintop village.

5. Chair 1 (Lookout Pass): This is Lookout Pass’ original chairlift which lets you ski two states and two time zones from one chair.

6. Bonanza/Chair #1 (49 Degrees North): Whether you ski off the left or right, this chair offers the type of skiing that can only be found at some of the top notch cat skiing operations around the world.


7. Chair #1 (Mt. Spokane):
This chair accesses all advanced terrain and with a short boot pack to the Vista House, offers amazing views of Spokane, especially at sunset.

8. Lone Peak Tram (Big Sky): They say 13 people can fit in this tram, which feels a slight bit bigger than a soup can. The rise of this chair covers 1,450 feet in four minutes. Another chair to put your big-girl pants on to ride up (and to ski down).

9. Liberator Quad (Mission Ridge): This chair drops you off at the top of Windy Ridge. When something is named windy, it usually means it is. 360-degree vistas from the top include the mountain of the north Cascades, Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker. Ski down a bit and see the wing of a B-24 Liberator bomber that crashed into the side of the mountain in 1944.
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Monday, October 20, 2014

Friends and the changing seasons

Posted By on Mon, Oct 20, 2014 at 9:09 AM

Over the last couple of months, I have run into many of my winter friends. Since these are folks who I typically don’t share summer activities with, our only connection is winter. As a result, the first question out of their mouths is something to do with, “Are you getting excited for ski season?” Mind you, I am always excited to ski, but the reality that we live in an area where summer is off the charts and because we only get two real months of summer weather, I typically like to enjoy and live in that moment for as long as summer will allow me.

Come fall, I am ready to shift gears and start the ski season prep; shopping for gear, loading up on ski movies, reading about winter adventures and starting the last minute work-out routine in hopes of having my legs strong enough to handle more than three runs on opening day. This fall has been the exception for the simple fact that we are getting some of the time back that we lost this summer when we were greeted with rain, cold and windy storms throughout August.

As the lingering summer weather exists, I am running into my sailing friends, and they are saying the same things my winter friends say to me after ski season, “I just don’t know what to do now that my sailboat is out of the water.” Luckily for those of us who embrace each season to its fullest, the change of season allows us to get excited for upcoming adventures with friends. In the end, knowing that ski season is 40 days away makes the dark, cold and rainy fall days feel a little better.   
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Thursday, October 16, 2014

On top of Lookout Pass: Snow!

Posted By on Thu, Oct 16, 2014 at 12:33 PM

Our friends over at Lookout Pass sent us this image, taken this morning in the St. Regis Basin, of the first signs of snow. Not quite enough to ski yet, but it's time to get ready. Check out our first Snowlander issue this week in the Inlander and mark your calendars: Snowlander Expo is back this year Nov. 7-8.

  • Lookout Pass Ski Area photo

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Lot of beer at Schweitzer tomorrow

Posted By on Fri, Mar 28, 2014 at 2:20 PM

Plenty of new snow this week at Schweitzer Mountain. - SCHWEITZER MOUNTAIN RESORT
  • Schweitzer Mountain Resort
  • Plenty of new snow this week at Schweitzer Mountain.

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.

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Inland Northwest ski resorts open

The cold snap means snow on the mountains, and several local resorts are opening this weekend.

Posted By on Fri, Nov 22, 2013 at 12:46 PM

Skiers and snowboarders alike, rejoice! The season is upon us, and the powder is fresh. Here are the opening dates — most are this weekend, though many have already opened — for some of our favorite area ski resorts. 

Mount Spokane opens for the season on Saturday.
  • Mount Spokane opens for the season on Saturday.

Opening Day: Sat, Nov. 23 at 9 am
Cost: Adult: $24-$52, Youth: $24-$42. Opening Day: Adult: $30, Youth: $20
Snow: Lodge, 24 inches; Summit, 31 inches
What’s New: New restrooms, more seating in the main lodge, a new outdoor deck and a new chairlift servicing seven new runs.

Opening Day: Opened on Sun, Nov. 17
Cost: Adult: $45-$57, Youth: $39-$48.
Snow: Lodge, 19 inches; Summit, 39 inches 
What’s New: New lighting, doors and wiring in lodge.

Opening Day: Opened Thurs, Nov. 21
Cost: Adult: $31-$36, Youth: $22-$28.
Snow: Base, 10 inches; Summit, 26 inches
What’s New: A new terrain park, new beginners programs including cross-country skiing, new ski instructions, a downloadable trail map for smart phones and upgrades to ski shop and rental shop for smoother service.

Opening Day: Sat, Nov. 23
Cost: Adult: $61-$71, Youth: $40-$50. Opening Day: $45; Musical Chairs: $25
Snow: Base, 20 inches; Total snowfall, 40 inches
What’s New: Bringing back the sun deck outside the Lakeview Lodge, new progressive terrain park and a new FIS downhill course.

Opening Day: Fri, Nov. 29, conditions permitting
Cost: Adult: $43-$56, Youth: $32-$41. 
Snow: At Kellogg Peak, 23 inches; Mid-mountain, 12 inches
What’s New: A whole new run, and the Bootlegger run has been vastly improved, taking out obstacles like shrubs/bushes.

Check out the Inlander's latest edition of Snowlander for more updates about area resorts and more. 
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Monday, November 11, 2013

PHOTOS: Snowlander Expo

Posted By on Mon, Nov 11, 2013 at 10:53 AM

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.

People waiting to get inside of the Snowlander Expo - SARAH WURTZ
  • Sarah Wurtz
  • People waiting to get inside of the Snowlander Expo

The line inside the convention center before the doors opened for the Snowlander Expo. - SARAH WURTZ
  • Sarah Wurtz
  • The line inside the convention center before the doors opened for the Snowlander Expo.

People receive their free ski passes from either 49 Degrees North or Red Mountain. - SARAH WURTZ
  • Sarah Wurtz
  • People receive their free ski passes from either 49 Degrees North or Red Mountain.

The 49 Degrees North booth, busy with pass processing. - SARAH WURTZ
  • Sarah Wurtz
  • The 49 Degrees North booth, busy with pass processing.

Snowboards and skis at the Tri-State Outfitters booth. - SARAH WURTZ
  • Sarah Wurtz
  • Snowboards and skis at the Tri-State Outfitters booth.

Ski bindings at the Spokane Alpine Haus booth. - SARAH WURTZ
  • Sarah Wurtz
  • Ski bindings at the Spokane Alpine Haus booth.

People get their photo taken on the Red Chair for a free beanie at the Mt. Spokane booth. - SARAH WURTZ
  • Sarah Wurtz
  • People get their photo taken on the Red Chair for a free beanie at the Mt. Spokane booth.

Makenzie Oddino processes Mt. Spokane passes at The Snowlander Expo - SARAH WURTZ
  • Sarah Wurtz
  • Makenzie Oddino processes Mt. Spokane passes at The Snowlander Expo

The Powder Keg Brew Festival at the Snowlander Expo - SARAH WURTZ
  • Sarah Wurtz
  • The Powder Keg Brew Festival at the Snowlander Expo

The PowderKeg prize wheel. - SARAH WURTZ
  • Sarah Wurtz
  • The PowderKeg prize wheel.

Jim Philp spins the PowderKeg prize wheel at the Snowlander Expo. - SARAH WURTZ
  • Sarah Wurtz
  • Jim Philp spins the PowderKeg prize wheel at the Snowlander Expo.

Travis Blanchard, left, Kevin Stone, center, and Donna Walker, right, enjoy the PowderKeg Brew Festival. - SARAH WURTZ
  • Sarah Wurtz
  • Travis Blanchard, left, Kevin Stone, center, and Donna Walker, right, enjoy the PowderKeg Brew Festival.

The Snowlander Expo from the sound room. - SARAH WURTZ
  • Sarah Wurtz
  • The Snowlander Expo from the sound room.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Skijoring, Anyone?

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2012 at 2:58 PM


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 or call (208) 255-1876. For information on Schweitzer activities, go to or call (208) 255-3081.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Ski Demo Hangover

Posted By on Wed, Feb 15, 2012 at 11:19 AM


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.  

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Monday, January 30, 2012

The Illusive Snow Line

Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 10:52 AM


This was the situation for me last season.  On a one year hiatus from the Inland Northwest, my adventures for last season took me to Stevens Pass.  I was there for many reasons, none of which seem important to me today.  Early season snowfall in large proportions and busy bartending shifts made the daily commute from the small town of Leavenworth tolerable.  I made it through the busy holiday season grinning ear to ear.  Then came the hangover.  January brought weeks upon weeks of rain.  The totals that are imprinted in my brain are; 17" of rain for the month, 13" of which fell over Martin Luther King weekend and not one measurable inch of snow the entire month.  It was all worth it as I had the best ski day of my life the following month where 14" - bottomless of 6% moisture content snow fell overnight with no wind which made me a believer that SPKA (Stevens Pass Kicks Ass).

I do remember the day it all turned around.  I was making my daily 35 mile commute to the Pass after 31 days of seeing no snow line when all of a sudden, I drove around one of the last bends on Hwy 2 before reaching the Stevens Pass summit and there it was, the illusive snow line.  Over the course of the next month, with moisture in the forecast the snow line was never an issue.  We had our winter back.

This season, the snow line has been fluctuating in 1000 foot increments on a regular basis.  When I see that swing, it has the same effect on my heart.  Last week, while on a birthday trip to Whitefish Mountain Resort, we opted to stay on the lake at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake.  I receive about 10 email ski reports, none of which were from Whitefish (I do now).  I religiously open the Schweitzer report first as it is my home mountain.  I was saddened to see that they had received 4 inches followed by rain.  With this information, I was a little skeptical about the conditions at Whitefish.  I immediately went from surfing email reports to surfing the web for the local conditions.  The snow reporter mentioned "the snow line" being at Ptarmigan Village (about half way up to the resort).  He also mentioned the 8" of fresh snow that had fallen overnight.  As we exited the lodge to load up the truck I glanced up at the mountain formerly known as Big Mountain and to locals as "the Big", I noticed and exhaled in a sigh of relief noting the snow line well below the village at Whitefish.  

I love the beauty of the snow line. 

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Memories of a Seattle Snowmageddon

Posted By on Fri, Jan 20, 2012 at 2:11 PM


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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