by Suzanne Schreiner & r & Ah, the joys of winter in the northern latitudes -- in this case just around 49 & deg; degrees north, and smack in the middle of the Colville National Forest. The crunch of snow under skis was first heard on Chewelah Peak around 1935. Cy's Hut, built the following year -- we're picturing a hardy mountain man down on his luck -- was the first sign of permanent winter habitation. By 1939, a rope tow had appeared to the wonderment of all who beheld it. But success was followed by tragedy a few years later when Cy's Hut burned. (We don't think Cy was in it.) In 1950, the Chewelah Mountain Lodge arose, phoenix-like, out of the ashes, soaring two stories into the sky. Today's resort was begun in 1970, a couple of miles east of the old ski area, to the delight of winter-loving families across the Inland Northwest.

In fact, 49 & deg; North is nationally recognized as a family-friendly ski resort -- lift tickets are affordable, there is a ton of space and lots of variety for skiers of different levels, and plenty of kids' competitions, too. And from downtown Spokane, skiers can get there in about 90 minutes, so families can spend a full day on the slopes and be back in time for dinner.

In the East Basin, four new runs have been developed on Huckleberry Ridge as well as three new runs Silver Ridge. The resort has made improvements for Nordic skiers, too. This summer, they broke ground on a new Nordic trail system, the first segment of a five-year project that will create 17 miles of trails for cross-country skiers of all levels. Rumor has it that a Nordic mob from the U.S. Forest Service made enthusiastic noises about this project, causing it to go forward even sooner than planned.

At the beginning of this week, 49 & deg; was trumpeting the excellent news that the resort would be opening Friday, Nov. 11 -- the earliest opening day in 10 years, and the first mountain in the area to open for skiing this year. For now, the operating schedule will be Friday through Sunday. Better dig those skis out of the basement pronto.

Where: Chewelah, Wash. & r & Phone: (866) 376-4949 & r & Web site: & r & Vertical Drop: 1,851 ft. & r & Average snowfall: 301 inches & r & Lifts: Four double, one surface & r & Hill Information: 1,265 acres, 50 trails: 30% Beginner, 40% Intermediate; 25% Adv., 5% Expert & r & Lift Prices: $25 - $37 & r & HOURS: Friday through Tuesday, 9 am -3:30 pm, from Opening Day & r & MAJOR EVENTS: Dec. 28-30, Holiday Camp, Freeride Camp, and Alpine Racing Camp; Jan. 7, USTA Teledaze Race; Jan. 21-22, Masters Race; Jan. 27-28, FAST Blast; Feb 25-26, USASA Competition

Vaccination Happy Hour @ Spokane Arena

Wed., June 16, 5-7 p.m.
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