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?
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
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.”
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.