Special Moments With Bob: Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park

The Dude Abides... at Vista Chair

click to enlarge Austin Kautzman makes a run through Mt. Spokane's terrain park, which boasts 50 features. - MIKE MILLER/MT. SPOKANE PHOTO
Mike Miller/Mt. Spokane photo
Austin Kautzman makes a run through Mt. Spokane's terrain park, which boasts 50 features.

I have lots of great memories from my early freestyle skiing days at MT. SPOKANE back in 1978 and '79. Every Wednesday night, a group of about 15 aspiring freestyle skiers, like Scotty Williams, Hilary Bates, Nancy Jenkins, Mike Kondo and my crew from Coeur d'Alene, would night ski up at Mt. Spokane as we trained for freestyle.

The gentle slope in front of Lodge 2 was perfect for training ballet skiing, and the moguls on Two Face under the bright lights made for some exciting bumping action, especially since it was under the Illuminator chairlift. We called that the Hollywood Line, as you skied directly under the chair to the hooting and hollering of skiers riding the chairlift back up. The more "airs" you threw in the bumps, the louder the chair would get, especially when there was a good crash. And there were some spectacular ones!

Back then, we were young and flexible. I'm not sure my body could take a hit like that anymore.

Those were some special times in my life, and I often think about those times night skiing when I'm riding the Beginner's Luck chair.

Nowadays when I'm at the Kan, I spend most of my time riding the trees, searching for powder off Vista Cruiser, where I'm always entertained by longtime Mt. Spokane liftie Patrick Walsh — or, as the locals know him, "The Dude." Patrick's an icon at the Kan, and he's been working the Vista Chair for more than a decade. If you've been to the Kan, you've more than likely crossed paths with The Dude.

— BOB LEGASA


"STEWARDS OF THE MOUNTAIN"

There are winter sports resorts, and then there's Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park.

"We're so lucky to have so many great regional resorts, but we're different because we're a 501(c)(3) nonprofit located in a state park. All of our focus is community-oriented," says Jodi Kayler, assistant general manager. "So we see ourselves as stewards of the mountain, and it's in our mission to create lifetime adventurers and mountain enthusiasts."

That lifelong enthusiasm and love of adventure starts with something like the Never-Ever Lesson Package, a two-hour group lesson for absolute newcomers ages 7 and up. Priced at just $109, it also includes all your ski or snowboard rental equipment and a lift ticket for the Beginner's Luck Chair. The EZ Ski 1-2-3 Lesson Package offers an even steeper discount, giving you three two-hour group lessons on different days over the entire season, plus all the other rental and lift perks for $249. Most group lessons can be booked online via the park's newly revamped website.

"We love getting first-time skiers up here," Kayler says, "and we have some really affordable programs to get them on the snow. And not only do we have really good programs for those beginners, we also have 52 runs. Any level of skier can find something great here. We really don't cater to one type; there is something for everyone."

Accordingly, advanced skiers and snowboarders of all ages have their share of options. New this season are the Park Club and Mountain Adventure Club multi-week programs. These will give teens and preteens a chance to develop their landing skills and technique with seasoned instructors in the Terrain Park or out on the tree-lined trails. There's even a dedicated program for parents of young children. On Friday evenings, Club Shred will keep 4- to 10-year-old skiers occupied with lessons, activities and dinner while their parents enjoy a date night on the slopes.

OPEN EVERY DAY

For the 2021-22 season, Mt. Spokane is also keeping the extended seven-day schedule that it piloted toward the end of last season.

"This is something we started during COVID. Being open Mondays and Tuesdays allows more people to enjoy the slopes. It enabled us to spread out and have more access to the mountain."

Kayler also notes that the park will communicate this year's COVID protocols as they take shape, although guests can be confident that they will align with whatever state mandates are in effect during the season.

And with just over 1,700 skiable acres, 16 night-skiing runs, more than 50 Terrain Park features and a good split between easy (25 percent), intermediate (62 percent) and expert (15 percent) runs, Mt. Spokane offers ample room to move safely and to grow as a skier or snowboarder.

"We really think that Mt. Spokane can be your home mountain, but you will develop skills with us that you can ski anywhere in the world after learning here," Kayler says.

— E.J. IANNELLI

Cross Country Ski Lesson @ Mt. Spokane State Park

Sat., Dec. 11, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Sun., Dec. 12, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Sat., Dec. 18, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Sun., Dec. 19, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Thu., Dec. 30, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and Fri., Dec. 31, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
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