Heard On the Chairlift at Local Inland Northwest Ski Resorts

My mission was to visit four mountain resorts in one week to get the inside scoop from the riders themselves. This deadline was partially self-imposed, thanks to meeting submission deadlines and fitting it in with my other winter gigs—one of which is teaching skiing and snowboarding at Mt. Spokane. But I like to set up challenges and figure out the logistics; plus, I got to check out some old haunts.

First I had to come up with some more inventive questions that were different from my go-to ski lesson questions: What is your favorite animal? Do you have any pets? If you could be any animal, what would it be? I might have an animal theme going.

So I set forth to chat with the menagerie of people in their home habitat: the woodland creatures carving between the trees; the park rats grinding off rails; the raccoon parents using every available opposable appendage to hold boots, skis, poles, and daily provisions while ushering their kids through the parking lot; the playful otters at ski school; and the hooting owls of the ski patrol.

I asked the same set of questions to all my new lift friends. Not all of them answered every question, but they revealed enough information for me to better understand oddities and similarities among the native species of mountain riders.

1. How long have you been riding this resort?

2. What is your favorite run?

3. What do you like about this resort?

4. If you could name a ski run, what would that name be?

5. What is your favorite after-riding beverage?

6. What is the least amount of clothes you have skied/boarded in?

Photo of Cyrus and Jason on the Chairlift.
Cyrus and Jason Bennetch at 49. // Photo: Adam Gebauer

49 Degrees North

 Tim Dotson from Chewelah has been riding 49 since the 70s. He was an instructor in the mid 90s and now has family and friends that bring their RVs for extended staying and riding.

Favorite run: New Prospect

Favorite thing about 49: “The terrain, runs follow the fall line.”

After-riding beverage: Molson

Least amount of clothing: Jeans and a T-shirt

Bonus question: When asked about the condo and the Angle Peak expansion, Tim said, “As long as 49 keep that home town mountain feel….”

Jason Bennetch has been patrolling at 49 for 4 years and riding there with his family for seven. When he is not patrolling or riding with his wife and 5-year-old, he is sneaking away to find a fresh tree stash or straight lining runs to try and beat his speed record.

Favorite run: Peacemaker

Favorite thing about 49: Never seems crowded.

Naming a run: “Lost Glade or something with glade.”

After-riding beverage: Ranger IPA

Least amount of clothing: Board shorts, no shirt.

Bonus question: If Jason could change anything about 49 it would be to add high-speed lifts so he could ride more and sit less.

Cyrus Bennetch, my 5-year-old shredding buddy, lives across the street from 49 and rips black diamonds like someone much older.

Favorite run: Rice Crispy Run (whatever run gets him to a rice crispy treat).

Naming a run: “Dub, no wait, Rice Crispy Run!”

After-riding beverage: Gatorade

Bonus question: I am still not sure what Dub meant because Cyrus doesn’t know what Dub music is yet, but I never got the chance to ask him. He was too focused on Rice Crispy treats to talk about much else.

Silver Mountain Resort

Kyle Person is visiting from the flatlands of Minnesota where they have to put ski hills on manmade hills (retired garbage dumps). He came to Silver on a great powder day for his first time riding there.

How long at Silver: First time ever.

Favorite run: “Blues!”

 Favorite thing about Silver: Not crowded and cheaper than other resorts.

After-riding beverage: Coors Light

Least clothing: “You’re looking at it.”

 Kathryn West was showing Kyle the moderate terrain on Silver Mountain on a powder day.

How long at Silver: One season

Favorite run: Wardner Peak, boot packing.

Favorite thing about Silver: Great terrain and it’s not crowded.

Name a Run: “Steep and Deep”

After-riding beverage: “Nice fresh beer, doesn’t matter the variety.”

Least clothing: T-shirt

Andy Fuzak is a great example of a woodland creature, always finding the freshest powder tucked in the trees and alders. He might show up to the lift with a few twigs or even a nest tucked in his beard.

How long at Silver: 20 years, since he was 8-years-old.

Favorite thing about Silver: “Steeper than where I usually ride.”

Favorite run: North Face Glades

After-riding beverage: “Yellow beer,” meaning cheap beer.

Least clothing: Shorts and t-shirt

Selfie of Erik McLaughlin and the author on the chairlift.
Erik McLaughlin and the author at the ‘Kan. // Photo: Adam Gebauer

Mt. Spokane

 Tom MacLeod has been riding the ‘Kan long enough to see a lot of changes. He originally wasn’t in favor of the new lift and runs, shown by the “no red chair” sticker on his skis, but he has changed his tune and likes the improvements on the mountain.

How long at Mt. Spokane: “1979, not long enough.”

Favorite run: “I don’t know the names, I just head for the best snow.”

Favorite thing about Mt. Spokane: It is close.

Naming a run: Hour Glass

After-riding beverage: “Water. I prefer beer but at my age it puts me to sleep.”

Least clothing: Short sleeves

Erik McLaughlin likes to rock the park on his snowboard when he is not trying to master skis or teaching lessons.

How long at Mt. Spokane: 4 or 5 years

Favorite run: Park Laps and the Bar Run (can’t reveal its location but you can guess where it ends).

Favorite thing: Great community. Ski school is like a family.

Naming a run: “Heaven’s Descent”

After-riding beverage: “Nip of whiskey or an energy drink to get the flow going.”

Least clothing: “T-Shirt and shorts, hoping for just shorts.”

Selfie of Josh Mills and the author on the chairlift.
Josh Mills and the author at Lookout Pass. // Photo: Adam Gebauer

Lookout Pass

Spencer Wade loves the vibe at Lookout, especially since his wife could take three lessons and then get a pass.

How long at Lookout: Second year but first time this year.

Favorite run: “Whatever is fastest!”

Favorite thing about Lookout: Beers at the Loft, which is never crowded.

Naming a run: “Pow Town”

After-riding beverage: Nice stout or shot ski with friends.

Least clothing: “Losing layers by the minute” when it is a warm, bluebird day.

 Lastly, I jumped on the lift with Josh Mills, unbeknownst to me a fellow OTO contributor who writes occasionally about fly fishing. He currently works for I Heart Media and says Lookout puts a smile on his face.

How long at Lookout: 15-20 years

Favorite run: “Groomer, I’m getting older but I like to go fast because I like to do as many runs as possible.”

Favorite thing: “Family friendly, ski school has been great with my kids.”

Naming a run: “Hold On. If you are going to go for it you might as well send it.”

After-riding beverage: whatever IPA is on tap.

Least clothing: Under Armour long sleeve.

This article is sponsored by Ski the NW Rockies.

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