by David Kilmer

It's hard to imagine a sweeter end to the mountain biking season than the METHOW VALLEY MOUNTAIN BIKE FESTIVAL, held in Winthrop this weekend, Oct. 6-8. Now in its 14th year, the scenic festival is a great way to get one last fat-tire fix, surrounded by fall colors, prime single-track and plenty of dirt-lovin' comrades.

"It's the coolest thing," says Wendy Zupan, owner of Round and Round Productions, which conducts the festival's racing events. "It's just a really festive atmosphere. So many families and friends. A real feel-good event."

The weekend includes a kid's rodeo with a bike toss and other fun activities. There's plenty of racing, with a circuit race as well as downhill and cross country events.

With 600 to 700 people expected, the whole town fills with mountain bikers, who make sure to get there in time for the salmon dinner on Saturday night.

"There's also adventure rides for people who are non-competitive," Zupan says. "They take you up into the mountains by truck, assign you a trail leader, feed you lunch, and then you ride back to town."

The non-competitive rides vary from 20-25 miles. The trails are nearly all single-track, with a nice mix of easy to technical rides crossing through forests, over streams and generally surrounded by postcard-perfect scenery.

"Winthrop in the fall is stunning," Zupan adds. "There's a lot of poplar trees, streams, just gorgeous country."

The Methow Valley Mountain Bike Festival is held in Winthrop, Oct. 6-8, by the

Methow Valley Sport Trail Association. Register for the event at, or call (509) 996-3287. For lodging in the Methow Valley area, call (800) 422-3048.

Praying for Snow

Yes indeed, there has been snow sighted in the mountains. But you'll have to wait until Thanksgiving weekend, when all three ski resorts are projecting to open.

In the meantime, why not get stoked for snow at the season's first SKI AND SNOWBOARD SWAP, at North Idaho College this weekend, Oct. 6-8. The event is open to the public, and it's a chance to score a great deal on some gear as well as sell those skis that have been gathering dust under the stairs. It's also a first look at what's in store for new gear in 2001.

"It's the first one of the year, a chance for people to get kind of hyped about winter," says Eric O'Brien, president of the NIC Snowriders Club. "Because it's the first show, it's also a chance to get all the good gear."

Major contributors include Loulou's Sports Shop, Ski Shack, Vertical Earth, Ground Zero, Alpine Ski Shop and Lookout Pass Ski Shop. Season passes and clothing will also be available. Last year, children's items were a popular draw.

"It's a great place to bring, sell and trade kids' gear," O'Brien says. Proceeds from the show go to a good cause, sponsoring 350 club members on skiing expeditions.

"The fund raising goes to offset travel costs for students," O'Brien says. "We're able to offer a January trip to Jackson Hole at a super low price, as well as trips to Red Mountain and local resorts."

The Snowriders will also sponsor the Coeur d'Alene Warren Miller show (Nov. 17) and the new flick from Teton Gravity Research (Dec. 15).

The second annual NIC Ski and Snowboard Swap, Oct. 6-8 at the Student Union Building, 1000 W. Garden Ave., Coeur d'Alene, begins with equipment check-in on Friday from 4-9 pm. The sale opens on Saturday from 8 am to 5 pm, and Sunday from 9 am to noon. Gear check-out is noon to 6 pm on Sunday. Call NIC Outdoor Pursuits at 769-7809.

Extreme Higher Ed

The Huskies are coming! Not in helmets and jerseys, but charging downhill on mountain bikes. The Husky racing team, with 10 to 20 men and women from the University of Washington, will flex their muscle against the nation's best at the COLLEGIATE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS, Oct. 13-15 at Schweitzer Mountain Resort.

The race -- which promises to be a great spectator event -- will bring together up to 500 college students from across the country. It's the first time the finals have ever been held in the Pacific Northwest.

"Mountain bike teams at colleges are getting more common," says Wendy Zupan, owner of Round and Round Productions, which will run the event.

The most exciting spectator events look to be the dual slalom -- which places two riders side by side down the mountain -- and the short track race, a half-mile course that winds through Schweitzer Village. Both events take place on Friday.

"The short track race will have about 40 to 60 riders, with each school sending just one -- their very best," Zupan says.

"This is a chance to see the up-and-coming national champions," she adds. "Some of them are already pros."

Schweitzer was chosen for the variety of trails, an established racing reputation, and the support services and lodging available on-mountain, Zupan says.

The Collegiate National Championships will be held Oct. 13-15 at Schweitzer Mountain Resort. For a complete schedule of events, log onto, or call Schweitzer at (208) 263-9555.

Falling Foliage

To celebrate the changing seasons, jump into the FALL LEAF FESTIVAL, to be held Oct. 21 at the John A. Finch Arboretum. "It's typically a great event for kids, but adults love it, too," says Donna McGown, secretary with the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department.

"The kids get a chance to play in a leaf pile, along with a bunch of activities, face painting and games," McGown says. "It's all about horticulture, and environmentally inclined as well."

While kids are busy frolicking in six huge truckloads of leaves, grown-ups can get a crash course in composting, including the chance to take home a free compost bin (available for Spokane County residents only). It's a great chance to learn a little and play a lot, all in a beautiful setting. The arboretum is a 60-acre park filled with a variety of labeled tree species, with Garden Springs Creek running through the center.

"I'd encourage people to bring a picnic and enjoy a day at the arboretum," McGown says. "There's going to be some spectacular fall colors. As for the kids, they just love that pile of leaves."

The Fall Leaf Festival is Oct. 21, 11am-2 pm at the John A. Finch Arboretum. To get there, head west on Second Street through town, then bear onto Government Way and go half a mile to the arboretum sign on your left. Call 624-4832 or 363-5455.

Spokane River Clean-Up @ Downtown Spokane

Sat., Sept. 26, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
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