A Day in the Life of a Cross-Country Ski Family

It never fails: we drive the twisty road up to Mt. Spokane, complete the final hairpin turn, get our first glimpse of the rustic Selkirk Lodge and the kids burst with anticipation. We park, pile out of the car and manage to carry 10 pairs of skis and poles and one loaded child carrier to the perimeter of the lodge. Before we can even get the skis out of the bag, the kids have found their favorite hiding places beneath the trees that surround the lodge and are thigh-deep in fluffy snow with friends. Once the skis are waxed and the food and water is packed, we round up the kids and head out from Selkirk Lodge. No destination, no timeline, no restraints. The only rule – no whining.

The older girls, ages 9 and 7, lead us all up the Bear Grass trail so they can ski off track and catch the powder down to Junction One. The 3-year-old attempts to follow, gets her skis stuck, and instead gleefully floats over the powder hoisted between adult legs. We arrive at Junction One only moments later to find the older siblings “off-roading” the groomed tracks, simultaneously scooping and eating snow as they ski.

On our way to Junction Two, the three-year-old plops herself into the carrier to be pulled up the quick and steep Alpine Trail by mom and dad, while the two older siblings decide to take the backcountry trail that parallels the groomed run. Through the gasps of air from pulling all the weight, we parents can still hear giggling through the trees on the powder trail as the two older kids dart around fallen trees and triumphantly find their way to Junction Two on their own. Meanwhile, the three of us on Alpine crest the hill and stop to let the youngest out of the carrier. It’s a well-deserved speedy tuck down to Junction Two.

We’re now hungry and all minds turn to the Nova Hut. We glide up the gentle slope of the Lodgepole Trail, taking in the vistas, until we arrive at the warming hut. We unload the backpack and carrier and enter the Nova Hut, where there’s always a familiar face, a warm stove and snacks to share. We hang our mittens up to dry, melt snow for tea and sit around the fire with other skiers to warm ourselves. Before leaving, we toss a log onto the fire, load up the basket with firewood and sign the guest book.

On our return to Selkirk Lodge, we choose the quick and easy way back to Junction Two and then collectively decide to navigate the unmarked cut-off to Linder Road. We take turns going down the last steep dip to Linder, laughing at the crashing and the lack of coordination. Then just for the fun of it, we hike up and do it all over again. On the last leg of our journey, we stop to count the rings of a fallen tree to see how old she was before falling: 98 years! We stop again to take off our skis and kick steps into the snow up the steep bank so we can slide down the slope on our backsides again and again. We listen to the calling of the ravens and attempt to mimic their voices in return.

Three hours after we started out, we finally make it back to Selkirk Lodge. Only four and a half kilometers covered, but what a journey! (Kate Burns)

Looking to Connect with the Local Cross-Country Ski Community? Meet Spokane Nordic!

Spokane Nordic Ski Association is a non-profit organization committed to building a strong, engaged cross-country ski community within the greater Spokane area. Members are Nordic skiers who develop and maintain the incredible Mt. Spokane Cross-Country Ski Park trail system and facilities. They also create maps and signs to help skiers get around the trail system and they put on family-friendly events and activities, including lessons for all ages, races and other fun, social Nordic ski events. Learn more and get involved this winter at Spokanenordic.org. 

Planning a Nordic Ski Outing or Vacation? Don’t Miss These Great Trails!

There is a lifetime of cross-country ski trails in the greater Inland Northwest, ranging from free, primitive paths through the woods with little maintenance or grooming, to world-class, impeccably groomed Nordic trails systems. Here are a few favorites, but be sure to look into the required parking and trail permits for each area before setting out for a ski trip this winter.

Spokane Area Nordic Trails

The Mt. Spokane Cross-Country Ski Park has almost 60 km (36 miles) of trails that range from easy to difficult. The main Selkirk Lodge has indoor plumbing, water and tables, and the Nova Hut has a wood stove and tables and is a great destination or a resting point. Spokanenordic.org/ski_park.

49 Degrees North Mountain Resort near Chewelah has a Nordic Center that includes a cozy yurt with hot beverages and snacks for sale at the trailhead and over 25 km of groomed ski trails that roll off into the lush forest. The Nordic Center is adjacent to the alpine ski area. Ski49n.com.

The Geophysical Nordic Ski Trail system is a popular cross-country ski area located near Newport, Wash., in Pend Oreille County. The trail system offers rolling terrain with a few steep pitches and goes through stands of Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine. The trails are groomed weekly during the winter months and provide excellent cross-county skiing. Newashingtontrails.com/geophysical-trails.

Rossland, B.C. & the Black Jack Nordic Trail System

Maintained by the Black Jack Ski Club, this 40 km groomed trail system a few kilometers from the fun and friendly mountain town of Rossland offers beautiful views, a 2.5 kilometer night skiing loop, warming cabins and a terrain park for kids. And there’s a free shuttle bus from town when Red Mountain Resort is open. Skiblackjack.ca/home.

Winthrop, Wash. and the Methow Valley

With over 120 miles of groomed, interconnected Nordic ski trails surrounded by more than a million acres of pristine forest, the Winthrop area in the North Cascade’s Methow Valley is the largest groomed Nordic ski trail system in North America – with unmatchable scenery and mountain town amenities too. Kids 17 and under always ski for free, which makes it an ideal family ski getaway. One could spend an entire winter exploring the endless trail system. More info at Winthropwashington.com.

The Ultimate BC Nordic Ski Vacation

Interested in taking advantage of currency exchange rates this winter that hugely favor the U.S. dollar? British Columbia Nordic is an online resource that will help you plan an awesome, affordable family cross-country ski vacation to amazing places throughout British Columbia, including Nelson, Revelstoke, Big White, Panorama and Whistler. More info: Bcnordic.com. // (OTM)