Joe and Kathy Fontana moved to the Spokane area from northern California over two decades ago. Growing up, they had maybe skied a dozen times. “We come from families with a lot of kids,” Joe explains, “and Tahoe was a good four-and-a-half hour drive.” It was also expensive. “It’s only something rich people can do,” says Kathy.
They soon discovered that this wasn’t the case in the Inland Northwest. “When we moved up here and found out how affordable skiing was, it was pretty unbelievable,” Kathy says. The first hill they skied was 49° North near Chewelah, and although they tried other resorts in the area, they just fell in love with 49°.
In 1999, the Fontanas got their first season passes, and their two girls started racing at 49° in 2000. “We now have a house up there,” Joe says. “Most of our friends that we still socialize with we met through skiing.” The family-friendly and warmly-social atmosphere was the biggest reason the Fontanas ended up being 49 locals. “It’s very welcoming,” says Kathy. “We could bring our family up there, and we didn’t have to worry about them.”
Now Joe and Kathy are empty nesters. Without the kids in the mix, the Fontanas are realizing more and more how blessed they are to have a great mountain in their backyard. “It’s a wonderful hill,” says Joe. “Some of the fall lines are pretty unique.” Kathy adds, “Even though we’ve tried all the other ski resorts, we still feel like 49° is home.” //