Safety Net

Don’t go bumbling alone into the winter wild.

Rich Bennett, of the Spokane Mountaineers
Rich Bennett, of the Spokane Mountaineers

It’s easy to make an ass of yourself in the wilderness. Eat the wrong mushroom or step on the wrong boulder, and you’re either dead or in traction.

Winter only ups the ante — and the thrill — exposing you to the nastiest conditions in the most solitary environments.

So if you want to stay active during this inhospitable season, it’s wise to hook up with an organization that will get you outside and keep you safe at the same time.

Enter: the Spokane Mountaineers. The group caters to novice enthusiasts and winter crusaders alike, combining education and exploration.

“We’re here for people who want to be adventurous but don’t know how to get out there,” says Sara Schmelzer, president of the Spokane Mountaineers. “We have the skills to teach you how to be safe in the outdoors and preserve the natural environment that we all enjoy.”

The volunteer organization was founded in 1915 by an outdoorsy group of librarians. Today the organization serves as a resource and event hub for like-minded people in the outdoor-recreation community.

With upwards of 900 members, the group promotes wildlife conservation and outdoor recreation through annual schools, clinics and trips.

“The schools are really a way to give back to the community,” Schmelzer says. “Someone that is totally fresh and green can find out what type of recreation is out there and learn the practical aspects of any given sport.” The organization is known for its world-class climbers and mountaineering schools, and they’re no less active in winter. They offer ice climbing courses, avalanche seminars, snow camping retreats, Nordic skiing clinics, snowshoeing excursions and skiing trips, among other events.

“People tend to diversify in the winter,” Schmelzer says. “We have so many different niches in the outdoor community.” But only about a quarter of the members lead clinics and instructions, Schmelzer says. Everyone else is outside playing.

The hiking committee leads weekly snowshoeing treks and trips around Mount Spokane, Sherman Peak and the surrounding areas. The ski committee hosts weekly Alpine and Nordic skiing runs throughout the back-country, and at resorts and other sites as far-flung as Lake Louise, Red Mountain and Mount Bachelor. The climbing committee traverses glaciers, backpacks through snowy terrain and climbs frozen waterfalls throughout Canada and Montana.

“We do like to travel, but we also take advantage of the amazing recreation out our own back doors,” Schmelzer says. “Anyone with the gusto to get outside will benefit from joining the Spokane Mountaineers. We’ll teach you common outdoor practices and if anything, teach you to keep off hypothermia and stay safe this winter.”


You don’t have to be a Spokane Mountaineer to get in on the winter sports action. Local gear shops and outdoor organizations also have the equipment and expertise to get you outside playing.


(1125 N. Monroe St.) offers winter courses and excursions geared towards families and beginners. The store offers monthly snowshoeing and cross-country lessons, ski/snowboard tuning classes and lift ticket discounts for REI members.

The Spokane Hobnailers

( offer group hiking and walking trips weekly. Treks are generally 6 to 8 miles long and visit a mixture of residential landscapes, Centennial Trail cruises and Lake Coeur d’Alene views. Shorter hikes are offered every Sunday.

Mountain Gear

(2002 N. Division St.) provides monthly clinics and day trips. The shop holds a series of intermediate cross-country and skate-skiing lessons, snowshoe classes, ski/snowboard wax and tune-up classes and winter youth survival camps.

The Outdoor Recreation Program with Spokane Parks and Recreation

( operates Nordic ski and skate schools, moonlight snowshoe hikes and specialized winter adventures for organizations and corporations.

Car d'Lane @ Downtown Coeur d'Alene

Fri., June 18 and Sat., June 19
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About The Author

Jordy Byrd

Jordy Byrd is The Inlander's listings editor. Since 2009, she has covered the local music and arts scenes, cruising with taxis and canoodling with hippies. She is also a lazy cyclist, a die-hard rugby player and the Inlander's managing cat editor....