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Winter Adventure/Spokane on Ice 

by The Inlander & r & & r & Backyard Barvaria by Jen Forsyth


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & re you looking for a new getaway that will satisfy the entire family? A ski getaway that's also an easy drive, offers a full array of activities and is located in a stunning landscape? Have you ever considered Kimberley Alpine Resort? Kimberley is located in British Columbia in the Purcell Mountain Range and is roughly a four-hour scenic drive from Spokane.





When we arrived in Kimberley, it was like discovering some kind of Bavarian North Pole. The streets were snow-covered and nicely complimented with lit snowflakes on all the lampposts; the buildings had an authentic Bavarian flare (Kimberley is the Bavarian City of the Rockies), and a small group of mule deer was grazing on one of the side streets. We later found out that wildlife sightings are common in Kimberley, and that the animals find a certain level of safety while roaming the streets of downtown. Charming!





From the town of Kimberley, it's a short drive on a wide and well-maintained road up to the resort. Downtown Kimberley and the resort are within minutes of each other. An added convenience for visitors is the Chamber Express Shuttle Bus, a complimentary shuttle between downtown and the mountain, with late-night service on Friday and Saturday.





Once up at the resort's village, the Polaris Lodge and the Trickle Creek Marriott are two of the featured properties. Views range from skiers carving their way down the slopes to sunrises over the Rocky Mountain Range. Units are nicely equipped with full kitchens, gas fireplaces, spacious bedrooms, underground heated parking and access to heated pool and Jacuzzi tubs. Also located at the resort are other lodging options, from slopeside condominiums to rustic chalets that are off the beaten path.





Skiing and Terrain


Now on to the real reason we all go on winter vacations: the skiing! Because of the time change into Mountain Standard Time, first chair feels pretty early, especially this time of year. Loading the Northstar Express Quad Chairlift, skiers are greeted with the site of the most fantastic and meticulously groomed slope, which seems to go on forever with nice rollers that offer exciting changes of pitch. This run is appropriately named the "Main Run." The majority of the front side is geared for beginners and intermediate skiers, with groomed slopes and spacious glading that has been added this season. Skiing over to the backside brought challenging new terrain that offers steeps, glades and moguls.





Kimberley's terrain is best described by Chris Elder, marketing manager for the B.C. division of Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, which owns the resort, as "fun with a lot of challenges, but not too extreme. It's just perfect for groups and families. The terrain meets all abilities in the middle. You have to ski it to believe it!"





And there's lots of it. Kimberley offers 1,800 skiable acres with a top elevation of 6,500 feet. As we experienced on our trip, Kimberley is known for its consistent weather and sunshine, which means lots of sunny days, making this ideal for a family getaway. They rarely close down for weather. The mountain offers challenges and plenty of terrain, long runs and beautiful surroundings for all levels of skiers.





Nordic skiers are welcome, too. The Kimberley Nordic Ski Trails are located in close proximity to the resort. The trail network consists of a variety of double-track set trails with a center lane for skate skiing. The longest loop is 10 kilometers, with a variety of secondary single-track sets. There is also a 3.3-kilometer lit loop for night skiing until 10 pm. The Kimberley Nordic Ski Club maintains these trails separately from the resort. There is a nominal daily use fee ($5 CDN), so remember your cash.





Beyond the Slopes


There are many other activities that are available locally, including Dinner in an Igloo (or a sleepover for those a little more adventurous), snowmobiling, snowshoeing, hot springs, spas, ice-skating, hockey, ice fishing and wildlife safaris. Kimberley offers a "Welcome Night" every Friday evening at the Stemwinder Bar & amp; Grill, located in the village at the resort, with complimentary snacks and beverage specials to get acquainted with all of the activity options for the area. Depending on your length of stay, Kimberley is a day's drive to some other great activities, too, with helicopter and cat skiing available in the region.





At the resort, there are a couple of casual restaurants, great for the entire family. The Stemwinder Bar & amp; Grill offers pub fare with great pizzas (I would recommend the Thai or Greek pizza). Also is Kelsey's, which is located in the Trickle Creek Marriott and offers a casual menu with a great slopeside location. The Slopeside Coffee & amp; Deli is a well-equipped cafeteria with a Starbucks cart. Great dining options continue in downtown with many offerings from cafes and bakeries to pizza and brats.





For a truly unique dining experience, try the Old Baurenhaus (meaning old barn house), which was built in Munich over 350 years ago. In 1987, the building was taken apart and several sections were repaired. In 1989, the material was packed into two containers and sent by ship to Canada to its current location right down the road from the resort. The menu engulfs you with the history and wonderful dinner offerings while the ambiance makes you feel as though you are dining in the Alps.





The dining room is old Germany all the way, with heavy wood tables and benches and a fireplace to warm those who have spent their days out in the winter air. This popular stop offers German fare like the traditional Wiener schnitzel to the Schnitzel Munich, an unbreaded pork schnitzel. Other menu features include Alberta Beef and local venison, as well as a Group Menu, served family style, which is perfect for a family night out. The Old Baurenhaus also has quite an extensive selection of wine from the Okanogan region of British Columbia, which is becoming well recognized among wine enthusiasts.





Anytime is great to visit, but Feb. 16-18 will be a special weekend, as that's the annual Kimberley Winterfest. The City of Kimberley is hosting some wild events, like attempting to break the world record for snowman building, as well as hosting the Lantern Parade, Fire Spinning Competition and a three-Legged Snowshoe Race, just to name a few.





MUST TRY TIP: DOG SLEDDING


The most unique and endearing adventure can be found with the Adrenaline Dog Tours. The tours start right at the north side of the main parking lot. Craig Ainsworth, the owner and lead musher for the operation, started the tour by offering a short history on dog sledding, the relationship between the dogs and a safety debriefing before hopping in the sled. A typical tour is through the Trickle Creek Golf Course, winding through trees, next to rocks and up and down hills. Options for tours vary from scenic to self-driven tours; they also offer a mushing lesson tour. Tours can be booked through Guest Services at Kimberley Alpine Resort.





For our day out in the wilderness, we had two sleds with six dogs pulling each one. Craig owns a total of 31 huskies, and his love for the dogs and the sport of dog sledding is apparent in his operation. He keeps tour groups small, helping create an intimate experience between the dogs, you and the surroundings. This was truly a magical experience and one I would strongly recommend as a must-do while in Kimberley.


-- Jen Forsyth





Jen Forsyth is the editor of Snow News. The Resorts of the Canadian Rockies hosted Jen during her recent stay at Kimberley Alpine Resort. Check out skikimberley.com to plan your own trip.











NO SKI, NO BOARD by Mary Demarest


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & "M & lt;/span & ight as well pack your ice skates," the alternative dude working at River Park Square's Helly Hansen store said loudly, pitching his voice for as many people as possible. "It's like this in the mountains."





He jumped up and down on the shop's floor. "Forget skiing," he brayed at the regretful-looking woman who brought the subject up. "Ice skates are what you need on that snow."





I bought my new winter coat and departed, happy that the Helly Hansen employee was stuck complaining in the mall instead of on the mountain. But I had heard what he was saying, in various forms, from other people too. Plenty of snow this year, but no powder right now. Where I was heading -- Schweitzer -- a recent rain had even crusted the snow, which is otherwise spectacularly deep this year.





So I decided to see what could be done without skis or a snowboard. And unlike the dude in the store, I don't know anything about ice skating.





& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he website for Schweitzer's Activity Center lists a number of slopeless activities that happen during the season, including dog sledding and snowmobiling. Dog sledding was booked solid, and I wasn't in the mood for the noise of a snowmobile, so after some schedule shuffling, I called and secured a spot on a snowshoe hike.





Arriving at the Schweitzer Activity Center, I met Eli Shostak, a wiry young man who had recently increased the length of snowshoeing trails offered by Schweitzer. Shostak explained that there was a relatively short, pre-existing snowshoe trail at the resort, as well as a new four-mile nature conservation path that he had created himself.





After a quick set of instructions for the snowshoes ("It's pretty much just walking," Eli said accurately) we headed down into a draw, around a clump of trees, and were out of sight of the resort. Eli bent down to pick up a few charred pieces of paper. Fifty feet later he plucked a small piece of plastic from the snow. "We had fireworks last night," he said. "And a band."


Fifteen minutes later, the tree trunks began to thicken dramatically.





Particularly old varieties started drooping with whiskers of dark green lichen. We crossed a small spring where water caught flecks of sunlight at the bottom of snowy banks. "I like to stop here for people," Eli said. "Some people just really want to get out into nature, and this is one of the most beautiful spots on the hike."





Rabbit tracks began appearing in the snow, emerging from the trees around us as we walked deeper into the woods. First there were only several, then flurries of them joined our snowshoe tracks.





At one point the trees opened up a view across the valley, to the village. Seeing it sprawling across the mountainside, it was easy to comprehend the growth that the resort had undergone in recent years. Standing among those buildings, however, I knew that it wasn't so obvious that a new area -- one for people on foot, quietly passing through the trees -- had been established along this side of the mountain.





We walked on, stopping occasionally for Eli to point out a geocache ("people go nuts for that") and stepping over several other springs. Only twice did the snowshoe trail graze the groomed corduroy of ski runs. "One of the things we tried to do, in selecting this route, was get people away from where other people are," Eli said as we headed back into the woods.





Eventually we reached the end of our hike -- a spot at the end of a ridge known as Picnic Point. Eli has been guiding outdoor tours around the western U.S. for nearly 13 years, and he's just finishing a book, Baja by Sea Kayak, with his wife. For him, planning a trip is about taking everything into consideration whether it's the traditional medicinal use of the trees we've passed, or the chocolate chip banana cookies he passed out before we headed back. "There are so many ways to have a good time," he explains. "I just want to help them find out how to do that."





& lt;span class= "dropcap " & B & lt;/span & ack at the Schweitzer village that afternoon, a battalion of children stood poised, holding inner tubes, at the top of a hill. "Here, let me go with you," one brave father said, breaking ranks with the other parents. He plunked his snowtube down next to his daughter, reached over and grabbed her tube, then scooted the two of them until they began to slide down the hill.





Other parents followed, and by the time it was my turn, the first father had been pulled up to the top of the hill by the snowtube winch. He was grinning more than his daughter, and while she stood shivering, he belly flopped his way down again.





The ride is suitably low-impact, but a few beers could change that. Thinking that might help, I headed towards one of the resort's restaurants. Eli had told me about the French fries served at the Lakeview Lodge (one of about eight cafes or restaurants the resort runs). I joined the line of snowboarders and skiers.





"Haven't I already seen you today?" a burgundy-cheeked girl said from behind the counter to a snowboarder behind me whose red hair exploded from beneath his hat.





"No, that was last night at the concert," he said. "I think."





GRAVITY RULES by Steve Ogle


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & W & lt;/span & hat goes up, must come down. It doesn't take an astrophysicist to understand this time-honored principle. In fact, snow-loving citizens all over the West probably know more about this theory than Sir Isaac ever did. Mind you, poor old Newt never had a pair of skis to affirm his hypothesis.





Any skier who has every laid tracks through virgin powder knows that getting up is just a formality; going downhill is what it's all about. "An adrenaline rush" is how the extreme skiers describe it. "Better than sex" can be heard from the 30-something crowd, while faithful ski bums will describe it in religious terms. All of these clich & eacute;s attest to the greatness of skiing. There is one form of skiing, however, that allows people to indulge in the sport at such a level that finding the superlatives to describe it may be near to impossible: heli-skiing in B.C.





Ten-thousand feet above sea level, the helicopter drops your group onto an isolated ridgetop, leaving with you nothing but skis, poles and a trustworthy guide. You crouch down with the rest of the group, rose-colored goggles protecting you from the flying snow. When the rotor-wash clears and the machine descends out of sight, you breathe in the cold, fresh air and look around at your surroundings: White snow, blue skies and maybe a little bit of neon in the clothing of your ski partners. Below you lies an untouched blanket of snow covering a remote glacier, rimmed by granite peaks. You wonder what it's like to leave your ephemeral mark on this magnificent landscape, but you know there's only one way to find out: Click into your bindings -- it's time to drop in!





Skiing 20,000 feet of waist-deep snow in a day can scarcely be described by even the most poetic of skiers. With so much dry Canadian powder flying into your face, it's no wonder that the only thing escaping your mouth is a few exhales and an emphatic "WHOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAHHHH!!!" Poetic indeed.


As you pause for thought instead, your guide is billowing his way down the slope ahead of you, and you'd better keep up. Rather than trying to verbally expound on the experience, you relate back to a basic principle which is now resonating through your endorphin-filled veins: What goes up, must come down.





& lt;span class= "dropcap " & B & lt;/span & ritish Columbia is the birthplace of heli-skiing, and it continues to be the epicenter of the sport. From the coast near Whistler, 800 miles across to the Alberta border and all the way up to the Alaska panhandle, there are dozens of heli-skiing operations open for business -- more than anywhere else in the world. For nearly half a century, people have been testing Newton's theory in the snowiest parts of Canada's most western province.





Canadian Mountain Holidays (known to the skiing community as "CMH") became the first company to fly skiers to the mountaintops in 1963, when Hans Gmoser, the "father of heli-skiing," whisked a group of clients onto a glacier for some turns. Nowadays, CMH sees more than 7,000 guests per year staying at their 12 heli-skiing lodges scattered throughout the Columbia Mountains of B.C.





CMH spokesperson Patty Zinck says that upwards of 3,500 guests have skied with them nine times or more. These devotees become intimately familiar with gravity, earning themselves the coveted CMH "Million Foot Ski Suit," an emblem of skiing loyalty. Yet even these vertical-savvy veterans know that going down is only half of Newton's principle. Factoring in luxury meals, hot tubs and haute cuisine, not to mention the use of a helicopter as a private chair-lift, completes the equation.





"We're intensely proud of our guests' loyalty and zeal," adds Zinck. "Heli-skiing is a way of life for us, so we try to create a family atmosphere in the heights and in the lodges, for our wide-eyed first-timers and for our old friends." With this family atmosphere in mind, Zinck also speaks of even more important issues: "Safety is the absolute first priority for us and for our guides."





& lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & lthough news of avalanches and skiing hazard spreads quickly, the truth is that clients are in safe hands while in the mountains. Since heli-skiing guides and pilots must undergo training and certification that rivals a college degree in complexity (and in some cases, is a college degree), their top consideration is guest safety. Zinck notes that the great majority of CMH's 110 guides are fully certified by the International Federation of Mountain Guides Association, a rigorous process that takes an average of eight years. The beauty of heli-skiing is that you can just show up, kick off your shoes, and let them take care of the details. All you have to worry about is being reasonably fit, having at least an intermediate-level skiing ability and figuring out how much vertical you want to ski.





& lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & lthough few people in the history of heli-skiing have ever said that their trip was not worth the cost, heli-skiing generally doesn't come cheap -- at $1,000 CND per day or more. One consideration in this regard is how much vertical feet people would like to ski during their trip. Some packages offer unlimited verts (basically, ski until you drop), while others are have a pay-as-you-go system, sort of like swiping your credit card at the bottom of every run. Regardless, having a helicopter definitely helps to ensure that you'll be going up and down plenty during your ski vacation.





One bonus about heli-skiing in British Columbia is that there are very few "down days," or periods when the helicopter cannot fly. This is due to the close proximity of skiing from the lodge, and also the abundance of trees that offer refuge from white-out conditions. Compare this with Alaska, where skiers often wait for weeks in a coastal fishing village for the weather to clear. In B.C., when fresh snow builds up to waist-deep conditions, you'll be thankful for the trees. And with such a banner year of snowfall happening in western Canada this season, chest-deep conditions are not out of the question, especially in the mountains north of Spokane.





The Columbias are a mountain group comprised of three separate ranges: the Monashees, Selkirks and Purcells -- all of which are found in southeastern British Columbia, just to the west of the Rockies. The middle of the three ranges, the vast and snowy Selkirks, seem to rise up like a white wall not far north of the border. The fact that a great percentage of the heli-skiing operations in the province are found within the Selkirks is a testimony to the ideal nature of skiing here. Perhaps nowhere else on Earth offers the combination of such reliable snowfall, long runs, massive glaciers and excellent tree skiing. And it's all within a few hours' drive of Spokane.





& lt;span class= "dropcap " & J & lt;/span & ust north of azure-blue Kootenay Lake in the aptly named Kootenay region lies the community of Meadow Creek. Nature rules in this part of the world, and you'll feel like you've just arrived in Alaska even though it's just less than three hours north of the Washington border. When storms pour in from the southwest, they pick up moisture from the gargantuan lake and sprinkle it on the surrounding peaks of the Selkirks and Purcells. This is the realm of Stellar Heli-skiing, a brand-new operation that offers folks exciting skiing opportunities with an intimate Kootenay feel.





Stellar provides custom small-group packages, meaning that a car-load of people can design their own ski vacation, perhaps trying it out for a day then going from there. Owner and lead guide Jason Remple hopes to attract first-timers and veterans alike: "We can offer skiers and snowboarders an unforgettable weekend getaway just hours north of the border," says Remple, who adds that his clients thus far have been blown away by the variety of terrain and classic Kootenay scenery. "We are skiing new runs every day."





The heli-skiing season begins in December and lasts well into April. Booking in advance is highly recommended, but seat sales are often available for smaller groups looking for bargains during shoulder season or on shorter notice. As in the case of gravity, the principle of what goes up must come down also applies to your bank balance, but what better way of spending a hard-earned income on the most easily-earned skiing on the planet?





For more information, check out canadianmountainholidays.com or stellarheliskiing.com








THE CHAMPIONSHIPS IN SPOKANE by Ann M. Colford


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he 2007 U.S. Figure Skating Championships open this week in Spokane, bringing with them several hundred athletes and coaches, along with families, friends, fans, judges and the glare of international attention. In fact, the Spokane Convention and Visitors Bureau expects it to be Spokane's biggest media splash since Expo '74. Plenty of local participants will take part, including hundreds of local volunteers. More than 118,000 tickets have already been sold -- 40 percent of them have gone to people in this area, but the rest represent visitors to our little city by the falls. Company's coming, Spokane, and it might be nice if we knew something about the event that's bringing them here.





The marquee events are still a week away, but the competitive events actually begin Sunday. Three levels of skaters (novice, junior and senior) will compete for national titles here. The elite senior competitors are the ones who get the TV coverage, but there's plenty happening at the novice and junior levels as well.





At each level, there are four divisions of competitors: men, ladies, pairs and dance. Individual and pairs skaters must complete a short program that includes selected required elements -- certain jumps, spins or footwork -- and then a long program in which each skater has more freedom to select the elements, within defined parameters.





Programs for ice dancers are a little bit different. First, each ice dance team must perform one compulsory set-pattern dance that's the same among all competitors; the dance has a fixed, repeating pattern of steps, and everybody has to do the same thing. Then, each team does an original set-pattern dance; there's still a fixed, repeating pattern of steps, but each team creates their own. Finally comes the free dance: no repeating pattern, and all unique and original choreography.





So, add up the numbers -- three levels, four divisions in each level, two or three competitive events within each division -- and you've got a fully packed week of skating competition.





In skating's history, judging has always been the most controversial aspect of the sport (not counting Tonya Harding). After the "Skategate" judging fiasco during the pairs competition in the 2002 Winter Olympics -- in which a judge was unduly influenced to award the gold medal to one pair over another -- the International Skating Union (ISU) completely revamped the system for judging competitions. Gone is the six-point scale of the past; you'll see no more rows of 5.8, 5.9, etc. Gone too is the system of placement, where judges directly ranked the skaters into first place, second, third and so on. Instead, skaters earn points for performing certain elements. The more difficult the trick, the more points earned for completing it cleanly.


Here's how it works. Two panels of officials now score a skater's performance: the technical panel and the judges. The technical panel analyzes the skater's program as it's happening and calculates how many points each element is worth if performed cleanly. The judges gauge the performance of each element carefully and award points based on quality. Each element has its standard score, depending on level of difficulty, but judges can award points within a range, based on whether the performance of the element was spectacularly good, simply average or spectacularly bad.


One oft-quoted example uses the triple axel -- the most difficult jump you'll see in the competition -- to explain. The basic score for a triple axel is 7.5 points. If a skater lands a routine triple axel cleanly (on one foot, under control, with no bobbles), he or she will get those 7.5 points. But the judges can add or subtract up to 3 points based on the quality of the jump. So, a skater could potentially receive up to 10.5 points for an exquisitely executed triple axel; conversely, a skater who attempts a triple axel and lands on his butt will still get 4.5 points for his troubles.


In theory, the new system minimizes subjectivity, but in reality, there are still shades of gray. For instance, how clean is clean? A jump can be clean but not pretty. And there's still an artistic element to the scoring that can't help but be subjective.


There's also the temptation to turn a skater's program into nothing more than a collection of tricks, loosely held together by minimal steps. The ISU rules try to mitigate such point-stacking by capping the number of elements in a program that are eligible for points, but some skate critics note a trend toward the technical at the expense of the artistic. For fans who love skating for its blend of grace and strength, this could ultimately be worse than any judging scandal.





For a schedule of events relating to the Championships in Spokane, go to page 28. Also, pick up next week's Inlander for more skating coverage.





SKATING LIFE by Susan Hamilton


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & F & lt;/span & igure skaters have been competing since early last year for a spot in America's most prestigious competition, the 2007 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Spokane. They work with coaches, choreographers, off-ice trainers and costumers to put together winning programs. But only a few spectators will realize the time, energy and money that have gone into these elite skaters' two- to five-minute programs.





Known as a dramatic and demanding sport, figure skating combines artistry with athleticism. It's one of the few sports women dominate, performing some of the same jumps that men do.





At nationals, a year of skating work is synthesized into two performances -- the short program and free skate. But it can all be wiped out by a bad fall or misplaced toe pick that takes the wind out of a skater's sails. The pressure of performing complex routines on unfamiliar rinks makes it that much more difficult for skaters to decide whether to go for jumps that can be their make-or-break moment.





Since it's not a timed sport, it all comes down to subjective decisions by a panel of judges. And therein lies much of the controversy surrounding figure skating.





"With the new judging system, skaters are rewarded more for jumps and for going from inside to outside edges," says Randy Clark, who's been coaching local ice skaters for 23 years.





Everyone is still adjusting to the new judging system that's been in place for only a year in America.





"Every jump, spin and step sequence has a base value," explains Berkley Villard, a local coach with 16 years experience. "The judges decide if you've completed each element well or not. There's a mathematical formula to it, so it doesn't breed creativity."





That creativity is added with choreography, which Villard says is enormously important since it's worth more than half a skater's program points. Choreography brings meaning and inspiration to each move skaters make, as they interpret a piece of music with artfully dramatic, athletically ambitious programs.





& lt;span class= "dropcap " & E & lt;/span & lite skaters train for years at this disciplined sport, trying to reach peak performance for the regional, sectional and national competitions. They know they must do their best and score high at these competitions because they won't have a second chance.





Four local skaters scored in the top four placements in their divisions at the recent Northwest Pacific Regional Championships, allowing them to compete with the top 12 skaters in each division at the Pacific Coast Sectionals. Ashley Beekman, 17, took first in her novice ladies division at regionals.


"This year, sectionals was bittersweet," Beekman says. "I was only a point away from fourth place that would have put me in nationals."





Beekman was 4 when she started skating. "After I saw the Cinderella Disney on Ice show, I just had to try ice skating," she says. Her first competition was at age 7 in Riverfront Park, where she won her pre-preliminary division.





Beekman has competed in junior nationals (the national championship for lower division skaters) three times since then -- in Denver, Lake Placid and Chicago. Her goal is to make nationals next year and from there take her singles skating as far as possible.





Beekman and her family have made sacrifices for her to be a high-level skater.


"It's not as easy as they make it look," Beekman's mother Michelle says. "It takes a lot of work, physically and mentally, to prepare for these big competitions."





Beekman's parents still drive her to the rink weekday mornings and afternoons for practice because she's been too busy to get her driver's license. "She hasn't had six weeks of afternoons to take drivers' ed," her mom explains.





Families schedule their lives around skating activities -- competitions, rink closures and coaches' schedules. They sacrifice financially to pay hefty fees for coaching, choreography, skates, costumes and ice time.


"I don't think there's a more expensive sport out there," Beekman's mom says.





Heidi Nelson, 13, placed third in novice ladies at regionals. "I was hoping to get to nationals this year, but sectionals was a learning experience for me," she says.





Nelson was 4 when her next-door neighbor invited her to a preschool skate class. Now she skates 20 to 25 hours a week. "I get out of school early and get my schoolwork done on my own so I can practice on the rink," she says. Nelson also takes ballet lessons twice a week for ankle and core strength.





"It's a big time commitment," says Nelson's mother Yumi. "It's not just a winter sport; they skate all year round."





Yumi says she encourages her daughter to have big dreams. "I pushed her to continue ice skating because I could see she had potential."





Kalie Budvarson, 20, and Chris Anders, 21, have known each other since they were 4, roller skating together as kids. When Budvarson switched to ice skating at age 12, she encouraged Anders to get on the rink too. Both competed as singles skaters, switching to pairs three years ago.





But it wasn't an easy transition. Budvarson suffered six concussions as she and Anders learned challenging pairs moves. Besides skating, they maintain a rigorous off-ice regimen, including running, lifting weights and Pilates.


"We made it the past two years to nationals," Budvarson says. "We jumped two levels last year from novice to senior. At sectionals last November, we were fifth in senior pairs with flawless programs, just missing the cutoff for nationals."





Though none of the four local skaters who made it to sectionals will compete at these nationals, they will take the ice for an eight-minute program during Wednesday's opening ceremonies -- interacting together and performing two-minute solos while the Spokane Youth Symphony plays a Vivaldi piece.


"I want to show the audience how much I love skating," says Anders, "and let them feel the weightlessness of a jump or spin."





Fan Central Station by Mick Lloyd-Owen


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & S & lt;/span & katers will be in the house -- the one being built inside the Convention Center for Fan Fest, that is -- as they enter the rink, so autograph hounds can nab them for a memento. Yes, special for the championships, they'll be building an entire skating rink in the Convention Center. That's where you'll also find sponsors offering free goodies and samples. For those who can't be unplugged for long periods of time, Itronix will host a cyber-caf & eacute;. KXLY-TV and 92.9 ZZU will broadcast from the Fan Fest installation, the best of Michelle and Paul Harvath's figure skating photos will be exhibited and auctioned. A free shuttle service will hustle bodies to and from the Spokane Arena every 10 minutes. (Think logistics, people.) Athlete interviews and entertainment acts will be conducted on the community stage, and on Saturday morning, Jan. 27, from 8-10 am, before the temporary rink at the Convention Center is melted and siphoned off, the public will be afforded the opportunity to skate on the very same ice as the stars. No tickets necessary; it's free and open daily Jan. 21-27.





Further afield, Barrister Winery (1213 W. Railroad Ave., 465-3591) is hosting an art exhibit throughout the week, and "Figure Skating: American Champions," the display of skating costumes and memorabilia on loan from the World Figure Skating Museum, is still on at the MAC (2316 W. First Ave., 456-3931).


-- MICK LLOYD-OWEN


PAID EVENTS





Sunday, Jan. 21


6:30 pm, Spokane Arena Junior Ladies Short Program ($20)





Monday, Jan. 22


12:30 pm, Spokane Arena Novice Pairs and Men Finals ($15)


7:20 pm, Spokane Arena Novice Ladies and Dance Finals ($15)





Tuesday, Jan. 23


3 pm, Spokane Arena


Championship Dance Compulsory ($25)


5:40 pm, Spokane Arena Junior Ladies Finals ($25)


8:30 pm, Spokane Arena Championship Dance Original ($40)





Wednesday, Jan. 24


3:30 pm, Spokane Arena Junior Dance Final ($25)


7:30 pm, Spokane Arena Opening Ceremony (Spokane Youth Symphony and local skaters, $50) and Championship Pairs Short Program





Thursday, Jan. 25


11:10 am, Spokane Arena Junior Pairs Finals ($25)


2 pm, Spokane Arena


Championship Men Short ($45)


5:50 pm, Spokane Arena Championship Ladies Short ($50)





Friday, Jan. 26


10 am, Spokane Arena


Junior Men Finals ($25)


12:50 pm, Spokane Arena Championship Pairs Finals ($75)


7:50 pm, Spokane Arena Championship Dance Finals ($75)





Saturday, Jan. 27


10:40 am, Spokane Arena Championship Ladies Finals SOLD OUT


5:40 pm, Spokane Arena Championship Men Finals ($85)





Some sold out events are not listed here. The "Big 4" package -- seats to the four championship finals, including the sold-out ladies final -- are still available for $298. Call 325-SEAT or visit ticketswest.com.

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