New Terrain, Upgraded Chairlifts Highlight Spokane-Area Openings

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A quartet of Inland Northwest ski and snowboard mountains within a couple of hours' drive from Spokane have new offerings as the 2022-2023 season gets underway.

The Lookout Pass trail map got longer this summer with the Eagle Pass expansion on the western edge of the mountain. New is nearly 500 more acres with the new Eagle Pass fixed-grip quad, reachable by a leisurely green run off the resort's main summit. Terrain includes mostly blue runs, plus a long lift-line black and a few other expert pitches.

Straddling the both the Idaho-Montana border and the Mountain and Pacific time zones, the expansion nearly doubles the ski and snowboard area's size to 1,023 acres, and it raises the mountain's vertical-foot drop to 1,650. Also this summer, crews regraded the Success beginner area and tweaked the base lodge, rentals and parking. Its season pass links with eight Western resorts, including Bluewood and Mission Ridge in Washington state.

Staying up north, Schweitzer expansive Outback Bowl got an upgrade with the Stella high-speed adding more chairs to reduce the ride time to acres of glades and blue groomers. The chairlift anchors the skier's right portion of the large basin on Schweitzer's back side.

Down below, the children's center got an upgrade, and a new spa has gone in next to the base Selkirk Lodge. Schweitzer honors the Ikon Pass for seven free days.

At 49 Degrees North (named for its latitude), the big news came last season with the opening of the mountain's first high-speed quad chair. The base-to-summit Northern Spirit takes skiers and riders to the high ground in seven minutes, clearing out base area clogs and improving access to the wide variety of trails off the 5,774-foot Mt. Chewelah summit.

Along with the Sunrise Basin and Angel Peak expansions in the recent years, 49 Degrees North has jumped from 1,500 to more than 2,300 acres. Its season pass reciprocates with Bluewood, Mission Ridge, Loup Loup and White Pass in the state.

Northern Idaho's Silver Mountain has opened more powder-stash terrain this season by pushing the ski boundaries off Chair 2 . Named South of the Border, it adds about 20 acres of glades and powder meadows -- plus a new trail back to the base of the lift.

On the other side of the mountain at the Chair 4 mid-station, Silver has opened up a new Jackass Snack Shack to commemorate the resort's first name, Jackass Ski Bowl. The resort is now a member of the Powder Alliance. And, Silver is the only mountain in the West that connects to town (Kellogg, Idaho) via a gondola.

 

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Four States In West Gear Up Kids-Ski-Free Programs

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Taking the whole family to ski and ride in the West can be a pricey undertaking, so a number of states have "kids passport programs" that allow schoolchildren from any state to get free passes.

Each program limits the number of free days and has a one-time processing fee. All have blackout periods. They require a pre-application, and some require kids to show proof of age and school, so check websites listed here for specifics.

The digital Colorado Kids Ski Pass is accepted at 20 of the state's mountains, including all four Aspen mountains, Winter Park, Copper Mountain and Steamboat. For $59 fee and completion of online application, school kids in grades 3-6 get four days at each participating resort.

The five Colorado resorts owned by Vail Resorts (plus Park City in Utah) aren't including in this program, but they have their own Epic Schoolkids Pass. However, the deadline for application is Oct. 9.

In Utah, SkiUtah issues its passport for those in grades 4 through 6. For $49, youngsters can ski and ride three days at all 15 mountains in Utah, including Woodward Park City (lift ticket only). The passport must be purchased online, including current photo. Then, show it plus proof of name and date of birth at ticket window to get a lift ticket. (Park City has specific locations for redemption.)

Ski Idaho has gone all in for kids' passports. Seventeen of the state's mountains welcome 5th graders for three free days and 6th graders for two during this season. Online applications at $18 processing fee gets a printed or smart phone passport. With parent or guardian present, kids merely show the passport to get a free lift ticket.

And in Washington, the Fifth Grade Passport costs $20 and gets youngsters onto five of the state's mountains for three days free. Apply online and get an e-mail passport to show at the ticket window of Loup Loup, Mt. Spokane, Lookout Pass, Silver Mountain and 49 Degrees North.

Most mountains in the West give free tickets for the very young -- six years old or younger -- but a few ramp it up. A Power Kids Pass from Southwest regional Power Pass can be picked up at any of eight resorts in the Southwest (and now, Willamette Pass in Oregon) for free skiing all season.

And California's June Mountain also lets kids 12 and under ski and ride for free. Parents need to show up at the ticket window with the child.

 

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West's Resorts Begin To Fire Up Snow Guns For Opening Day

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With opening dates on the horizon, crews at many resorts in the West have been testing snow guns -- and looking longingly to the skies -- in hopes of putting down a base of snow in October.

Most ski and snowboard resorts have announced their anticipated opening days, although persistent warm weather in some regions may have something to say about that. A frequent check of resort websites is recommended.

However, hints of winter whiff the air and the high-country leaves are turning, so it's time to haul skis and snowboards out of storage and get them ready for the season.

The informal race to be the first to open in the nation falls upon the highest-elevation mountains along the spine of the Colorado Rockies. Traditionally, it's been Arapahoe Basin, Keystone and Loveland that vie for the title, but Wolf Creek surreptitiously snuck in last season by firing up its chairlifts on Oct. 16.

This year -- if official dates are to be believed -- Keystone will lead the pack by opening on Oct. 21, followed by Arapahoe Basin on Oct. 22, and Loveland and Wolf Creek on Oct. 29.

In California, 7,700-foot-high Boreal on Donner Pass is optimistic to begin on Oct. 28, while Mammoth Mountain plans to be in second place with an Nov. 11 opening. Tahoe's Heavenly has penciled in Nov. 18 for its first chairs.

Despite having middle-of-the-pack summit elevation, Lookout Pass (5,650 feet) on the border of Idaho and Montana has pushed its first day all the way up to Nov. 6 -- a full two weeks ahead of its previous earliest opening. Schweitzer, Sun Valley and Tamarack all plan to follow later in the month.

A pair of Utah mountains -- Brian Head and Park City Mountain -- hope to be the first in the Beehive State with openings on Nov. 18.

Skiers and riders in Washington will have to wait until December for Stevens Pass (Dec. 2) and 49 Degrees North (Dec. 3), while Oregonians will have to bide their time until Mt. Hood Meadows and Timberline (Dec. 11). Mt. Bachelor expects to follow close behind on Dec. 12.

In New Mexico, Sipapu has had a lock on first-to-open in recent seasons. For 2022-2023, the family resort tucked into the Sangre de Cristos has tabbed Nov. 18 to begin spinning its lifts.

 

 

 

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Three State Of Washington Mountains That Lure Summer Visitors

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In the state of Washington, a trio of ski and snowboard mountains flip the toggle from winter to summer to entice city dwellers and vacationers to head into the Cascades.

Stevens Pass is a two-hour drive from Seattle, pending summer construction delays. Regular bus service runs during the summer, an inexpensive way to avoid traffic on busy U.S. 2.

Owned by Vail Resorts, a Stevens Pass' summer focuses on the mountain bike park. Winding around and down the lower front portion of the mountain, the downhill trail map features two categories: freeride and technical.

The man-made jumps and ramps and berms in the freeride network take riders down two green runs, one blue and one black diamond. The more difficult natural-terrain technical runs rate one short green, three top-to-bottom blues and one black diamond and one double-black.

All runs can be reached via the Hogback chairlift, which is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays to Sundays. Other things to do include scenic chairlift rides, disc golf and guided tours.

A two-hour drive from Seattle, summer at Crystal Mountain takes its cues from its location across from Mt. Ranier -- deep in the Cascade Range. There's hardly a spot on the mountain where the 14,417-foot stratovolcano cannot be seen.

Thus, summer activities at Crystal emphasize getting up and on the mountain. The state's only gondola tops out at 7,000 feet in elevation, where visitor can go on self-guided interpretive walks or spin a Frisbee on the summit disc golf course up there. Other ways to enjoy the scenery and cool mountain air can be had with horseback riding and hiking tours.

The gondola runs seven days a week through Labor Day, then Fridays through Sundays until Sept. 25.

The northernmost ski and snowboard mountain in the West, 49 Degrees North is tucked up in the Colville National Forest near both the Idaho and Canadian borders.

This back-country, hardy setting lends itself to summer hiking and no-lift mountain biking. Take one of several service roads up into the three high-mountain basins. Or top out at 5,774-foot-high Chewelah Peak. From there, nearly 2,000 vertical feet await, and it's hiker's and biker's choice as to the ways down. And don't forget to pull over for pick-and-eat huckleberries that grow all over the mountain.

 

 

 

 

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SnoCast: Making the Turn into April

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With the arrival of April comes soft turns, pond skimming, goggle tans, and sometimes some magical April snow. In this week’s SnoCast, we’ll check out conditions across North America so you know where to bring sunscreen, where you’ll still need layers, and where fresh snow is still expected.

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Epic Pass Fine-Tunes Access, Pricing For 2022-2023 Season

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A modest price increase, more choice for multi-day passes, and a monthly no-interest payment plan are among the changes as the Epic Pass for the 2022-2023 winter season comes on the early-season market.

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Late Snow, Early Snowmaking Prompt Slew Of Season Extensions

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Used to be that the first week of April was the traditional time to hang up the skis, store away the boots, and dust off the summer recreation equipment. Not so much nowadays.

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American Meccas Of Cross Country Skiing

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Ask the general public to name an alpine skiing “Mecca” — described as a location where people, who share a common interest, yearn to go — even those who don’t ski can come up with at least Aspen or Vail, if not Killington and Sun Valley.

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Indy Pass Three-Pack In Washington Offer Full Spring Plate

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With two days on this season's Indy Pass or a Spring Pass, skiers and riders can cop some final spring skiing days at the big, the small and the in-between of the Evergreen State.

 

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Ikon Pass Pairing: Steeps And Deeps Near Seattle

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Ikon Pass holders should head to Seattle and cash in two very different ski and snowboard mountains in the Cascades -- each catching tons of snow out of northern Pacific storms.

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Go Big, Go Deep On Ikon's Mountains In Pacific Northwest

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A trio of ski and snowboard resorts of the Pacific Northwest take the Ikon Pass, and each offers something different for those venturing into the Cascades.

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Bring The Kids And Save Some Bucks This Season

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A burgeoning trend in the ski and snowboard industry is for resorts and states all across the country to expand ski-free programs for youngsters and teens in hopes they stick with the sport -- and also save families a bit on ski vacations.

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Pacific Northwest Ski Resorts Roll Out New Lifts, Terrain, Lodges For 2021-22 Season

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Following the challenging winter of 2020-2021 when ski areas implemented measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic - including limited seating capacity on chairlifts - this season's outdoor operations will look much like they did prior to the pandemic. Ski areas plan to return to full chair lift capacity for 2021-2022.

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Amid Heat Wave, Seattle Climbers Became First Team To Summit, Ski 5 Washington Volcanoes In 5 Days

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As Seattleites languished in hotels and lined their windows with foil during last week’s historic heat wave, Trevor Kostanich and Scott Rinckenberger reached a mountaineering milestone. They climbed, summited and skied down the state’s five volcanoes in five days.

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Indy Pass Adds Powder Mountain, Mt. Ashland, West Mountain for 2021-22 Season

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The Indy Pass will return 100% of its partner resorts for the 2021-22 season along with new additions Powder Mountain, Utah, Mt. Ashland, Oregon, and West Mountain, New York for a total of 66 resorts in the U.S. and Canada.

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Who’s Winning The Battle Of The Cascade Ski Resorts?

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Three years after being acquired by big ski conglomerates, Stevens Pass and Crystal Mountain faced their biggest test yet: COVID-19.

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Lava Laps: Spring Skiing And Riding On Northwest Volcanoes

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Now that spring has hit the West, the place to go this season is the Pacific Northwest with its nation-leading snowpack on the slopes of the high-elevation dormant volcanoes.

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First High-Speed Chair To Go In At 49 Degrees North

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Regulars at 49 Degrees North have been hearing rumors of a new lift and other upgrades since the eastern Washington resort got new owners a couple of years ago -- and now it appears they are coming true.

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SnoCast: Feet Of New Snow Will Close Out February

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A month in which several feet of snow hit several locations of the U.S. and Canada will finish with another burst of 30”+ of fresh powder.

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Indy Pass Road Trip: Pacific Northwest

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Armed with an Indy Pass and full gas tank, the SnoCountry Road Trip team heads to the Pacific Northwest to explore what the state of Washington has to offer.

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