Consider, for a moment, this number: 2,000. That's how many first-in-line attendees will get a free lift ticket to 49 Degrees North or Red Mountain each day at this year's Snowlander Expo, put on by the Inlander at the Spokane Convention Center. When doors open at 4 pm on Friday, Nov. 7, and 10 am on Saturday, Nov. 8, expect a stampede from local skiers and snowboarders eager to snatch up the hottest gear at rock-bottom prices and season tickets from 12 different resorts.
"It's the lowest prices of the year on new gear," says Kristina Elverum, the Inlander's marketing director. "It is all brand-new gear. It's intended to get people really excited about the ski season."
Along with the Inlander, it's put on by three local stores just as pumped about the ski season as any Spokanite: Wintersport, Tri-State Outfitters and Spokane Alpine Haus.
"We put it on, but what we're most excited about is creating the kickoff to the ski season, the winter culture for the Inland Northwest area," says Eli Coski, Wintersport store manager.
He says Wintersport is offering its best selection of product in the expo's three-year history. For the experts, there's the finest, state-of-the-art equipment. Specialists will be standing by to help guide bunny-hill beginners through their first selection of quality, low-priced gear. Factory reps from companies including Atomic, Blizzard, K2 and Nordica will be there.
"The [factory reps] who have committed all say, 'It's our favorite event,'" Coski says. "The vibe is really fun and funky."
That's because it's more than just a place for vendors to hock their wares and give away swag. It's a celebration of every aspect of ski culture — from the equipment to the competitions to the powder-porn videos to the beer.
The Inlander will hold its PowderKeg brew festival, with more than 50 varieties of local and regional beers. A rail jam competition, with snow trucked in, will take place outside. Teton Gravity Research will showcase gorgeous snow-sport movies Higher and Almost Ablaze.
Before the Inlander stepped in, Elverum says, there wasn't an event like this. "We felt it was kind of a gap," she says. "We felt it was something the Inlander needed to do to bring together all the retailers and all the resorts."
To Coski, Spokane citizens have a choice: You can either rage in vain against Spokane's long winters, or you can embrace them. You can ski downhill.
"Our thought is the people who live here have got to get out and enjoy, or otherwise it's going to be a miserable winter," Coski says.
To get your tickets ahead of time and skip the long lines, check out the new website Snowlanderexpo.com.