AT LAST THE TIME HAS COME for winter recreation; and in Spokane, there are plenty of venues to choose from. But before dusting off your Alpine skis or sleds, why not try Nordic skiing (Cross County) at Mt. Spokane?

Located 25 miles northeast of Spokane, the park maintains 13,919 acres within the Selkirk Mountains. A Civilian Conservation Corps development project help turn the area into the first state park east of the Cascades.

The summit reaches an elevation of 5,889 feet with breathtaking views across several states and into Canada. Throughout winter, the park receives an average of 300 inches of snow. Winter recreation includes Nordic skiing, Alpine skiing, snowboarding, dog sledding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and tubing.

NORDIC SKIING
Unique to Mt. Spokane, the Nordic ski area is a destination location for skiers across several states and into Canada, according to George Momany, president of The Spokane Nordic Ski Education Foundation. In fact, Mt. Spokane is the second largest groomed Nordic ski area in Washington.
Until recently, the mountain offered 25 kilometers of trails. As of last year, the organization raised $17,000 and with help and cooperation from the Inland Empire Paper Company, now hosts more than 40 kilometers of trails.

The State Park and Nordic Ski Foundation are responsible for trail grooming which starts at the end of November and generally stops at the end of March. This year with funding from a new grant, grooming will continue into April as conditions permit. Winter hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., however, night skiing trails remain unlit. For more information and the Snow Report call (509) 238-4025.

Although Nordic skiing doesn’t require a ticket, a Sno-Park Permit must be purchased November 1 through May 1. “One pass can take a car load of people, and are good for the entire season,” Momany says. Passes are available at Fitness Fanatics, REI Outfitters, Mountain Gear, Bear Creek Lodge and the Mt. Spokane Ranger Station.

SPOKANE NORDIC SKI EDUCATION FOUNDATION
The Spokane Nordic Ski Education Foundation was founded in 1999. Their main goal is to expand Nordic skiing and promote ski related activities in the Inland Northwest through education, Momany says.

The foundation supports skiers of all ages and skill levels including “children who can barely walk, active racers, to senior citizens,” Momany says. “Nordic skiing is a life-long sport because it’s medium impact,” he said. “Everyone from the very young to the very old can enjoy it.”

Foundation activities include the Nordic Kids Program for kids ages 4-18. Momany says Nordic skiing is a kid-friendly sport that works well with families. Sessions in January and February teach children and their parents proper techniques and the enjoyment of Nordic skiing, he said.

Adult clinics, including joint ventures with the Spokane Mountaineer Club, teach everything from basic instruction, to advanced technique. For more information about The Spokane Nordic Ski Education Foundation, including membership registration, visit http://www.spokanenordic.org/.

TIPS FOR SKIING
Rental equipment is available at Fitness Fanatics, REI Outfitters and Mountain Gear. Often overlooked by drivers, the road to the Nordic ski area leads to Selkirk Lodge, a heated lodge with picnic tables and trail maps. “This is the perfect place to rest and eat lunch before or after a day out on the trails,” Momany says. Tips from Momany:

  • Don’t dress for Alpine skiing. You’ll be too warm. Rather, dress in layers as you would for a brisk walk in the cold.
  • Leave dogs and sleds at home, as no other activities (including walking) are allowed on trails.
  • Bring extra food, water and a friend for the day.
  • When using unfamiliar trails, have a map and follow the signs along the way and most importantly, be aware of the distance you plan to travel and what you’re capable of.

For beginning skiers, Momany recommends taking Valley View Trail, south of Selkirk Lodge. This is a level, gently curved trail with wonderful views of Spokane Valley. Once you reach Junction One, take Sam’s Swoop Trail to Junction Two, and then Lodge Pole Trail to the Nova Hut. “This is a great place to take a break for first time skiers,” Momany says. From there you can either take Lodge Pole, Sam’s or Blue Jay and then Mountain View trail for the way back to Selkirk Lodge.

MT. SPOKANE SKI AND SNOWBOARD PARK
If Nordic skiing isn’t your style, visit Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park. The non-profit organization is operated by skiers and riders, for skiers and riders. The park pledges that “your dollars go right back into your mountain.” With five chair lifts and 45 designated runs, the mountain is perfect for enjoying local winter recreation. For more information about the park, including ticket prices call the lodge at (509) 238-2220 or visit,
http://www.mtspokane.com/lifttickets.php.

Whether you’re flying down powered hillsides at the Alpine park or gliding through groomed trails in the Nordic park, watch for bears, bobcats, moose, eagles, hawks and more. Most of all “bring some friends up to enjoy the mountain, its trails and have some fun,” Momany says.