by Ted S. McGregor, Jr.
Known as "the biggest little mountain in the West," 49 Degrees North has a family feel to it. Maybe that's because of owner John Eminger, who worked at the resort as a young man; he bought it in 1996 and has improved it every year since. Or maybe it's because of its nice, big bunny slope for learners, or maybe it's the sheer size that makes it one of the least crowded resorts around. Whatever it is, it works.
With 350 acres of glade skiing and sitting at a higher elevation than Stevens Pass, 49 has a lot to offer. This year, they've got their Olympic specification half-pipe for boarders, and they've also upgraded one of their most popular and difficult runs -- the Concentrator.
Also this year, enjoying 49 Degrees North will be smoother than ever, and not just because of the great groomed slopes they have to offer. Those have always been there. This year, however, the trip itself will be much smoother. People who live east of the mountain will have an easier time driving on the new $30 million road improvement from Usk/Cusick up the back of the mountain. In addition, the parking lot has been expanded and resurfaced. Now, for the icing on the cake: The rental shop has been stocked with loads of new equipment, perfect for trying out on the newly groomed and "buffed out" slopes.
For those who do not enjoy driving to the mountain at all, new snow buses will be making trips to and from the mountain, starting December 15 and running through February. These buses are equipped with restrooms, televisions and comfy chairs and will leave both from Eastern Washington University and from Loulou's on North Division; $10 gets you to and from the mountain.