Author's Note: According to the new Hipster Handbook, it is no longer recommended that one use the term "cool." In its place, the term "deck" should now be used by all aspiring hipsters. So, in an effort to maintain my hipster status, this new term will henceforth be employed in this column. Don't be confused when you read this term -- it's just that "cool" was so undeck.
If mountain bike racing is your gig, then head to Sandpoint this month, where there's a near-perfect storm of really "deck" cycling events brewing up at Schweitzer. (Well, maybe not a perfect storm, but it's at least a thunderstorm of cycling events, OK?) From fun-oriented, social rides to nationally televised, world championship-level racing, cycling in Sandpoint this summer promises to be a totally deck experience.
On the weekend of July 24-27, some of the best mountain bike racers in the world, including international Olympic team members, U.S. professionals as well as local hopefuls will converge on Schweitzer for the NORBA (National Off-Road Bicycle Association) National Championship Series Race. "This is a big deal for the entire Inland Northwest and is yet another national sporting event that will be hosted in our region," says Tom Fortune, general manager at Schweitzer.
The four-day event is expected to attract 1,800-2,000 athletes. Past NORBA Nationals events in Colorado and Vermont have attracted crowds of 10,000-15,000 spectators.
"It's a great spectator sport," says race organizer Gino Lisiecki. "It's a great, great course with a brand-new downhill course that's very technical." The chairlifts will be operating throughout the event, Lisiecki reports. "A lot of the spectators will either climb the mountain or take the ski lift up and walk down in pathways close to the course, stopping along the way," he says.
The race consists of four different events, including cross country and downhill, which are endurance events, and short track and mountain cross, which, as the brochure says, "appeal to the X Games enthusiasts." Whether you're a beginner or an expert, you're welcome to race or watch. Call: (509) 455-7657 or visit www.roundandround.com
Now that American Idol is over, your Wednesday nights are free again. To fill the void, we suggest the popular SISNA Twilight Mountain Bike Race Series at Schweitzer. This is a fun-oriented mountain bike race every Wednesday night in July. Each week, between 4:30 and 6:30 pm, riders will test their skill on a different cross country course ranging from 6-10 miles. Each circuit will feature moderate terrain and will be open to all ages and abilities.
Organizer Ken Barrett says it's the perfect mountain bike race for beginners. "This would be a sweet introductory race," says Barrett. "It's set up so everyone can do it -- there's no mass start. We want to encourage fun."
Riders can go solo or ride as part of a team. The fun takes place on Wednesday nights from July 9-30, and there's always a post-race party at the Chimney Rock Grill. Cost is $90 per team of three or $10 bucks a race for solo riders. Clay and Ruben will not be there.
Finally, the Green Owl is back. Make sure your brakes are working for this 24-mile bike ride from the top of Schweitzer down to a little logger bar on the banks of Priest River called the Green Owl Tavern. Here you can take a sip and a dip in the river before taking the shuttle bus back up to the top of Schweitzer. For more info on the Green Owl and the SISNA Twilight races, call (208) 263-6959 or visit www.allaboutadventures.com
If mountain biking isn't your gig, do some wine-tasting or else hang by the lake. Do whatever you want -- it's Sandpoint, man. Everything's cool... I mean deck.
Biwingual Education -- Thousands of years after Greek myths told us of Daedalus and his son Icarus flying on a pair of homemade wings to escape their prison on Crete, people are still strapping on wings and flying. Yet now it's for fun -- and unlike Icarus, whose wings melted when he flew too close to the sun, today's hang gliders and paragliders don't like to stray much more than 15,000 feet from the earth.
This weekend, the skies over Chelan will see increased human air traffic as hang glider and paragliders pilots from around the United States and the world will gather for one of the sport's top events, the Chelan Cross Country Classic.
"Chelan Butte is one of the top five foot-launch hang gliding and paragliding sites in the world," says Larry Majchrzak, one of the event's organizers. "There will be people from all over the world here flying."
Chelan has gained a reputation for its ideal conditions. The area produces an abundance of thermals, which are the flight-sustaining columns of rising air that allow gliders to gain thousands of feet of altitude and then glide cross country, always seeking the next thermal that will let them continue their flights. Last year, the state record for distance was set with a 175-mile, seven-and-a-half-hour flight from Chelan to Kellogg, Idaho. "Last weekend, we had two guys fly 154 miles to Coeur d'Alene," says Majchrzak, adding that "they all fly with GPS."
Paragliding has surpassed hang gliding in popularity because it's relatively easier to learn and master. In addition, parasails are smaller and easier to transport. Hang gliders, however, are faster and can glide further. As a result, many pilots fly both disciplines. (Majchrzak calls these people "biwingual.") Pilots competing in this weekend's competition will fly either a straight line, out-and-back course or else a triangle course. They are awarded points for mileage flown and level of difficulty, with more points available for out-and-back and triangle routes because it's more difficult to fly back against the wind than it is to fly in one direction.
Viewing this event is best done on top of Chelan Butte, where the competitors launch, or at the landing area near Chelan Falls Park along the Columbia River. For more info, call (425) 788-0308 or visit www.chelanflyers.com.