Reimagining Winter

December reminded us just how good winter can be here in the Inland Northwest: knee-deep resort days; cross-country skiing and sledding in city parks; urban fat biking; backcountry ski conditions that get you looking for camper vans on Craigslist; and the silent, white beauty of snow as it piles up in feet across the region. If only it would stay this way all winter. Chances are, though, there will be a snow-free high pressure system and a warm, ice-melting Pineapple Express or two in our winter future. For those of us who thrive on getting outside as much as possible throughout the cold months, there is a way to lessen the pain from such weather events: diversify your winter sports portfolio.

Earlier this season, we took a ski trip north of the border where the snow was already piling up well before some local resorts were even open and the exchange rate, if you haven’t heard, has been saving travelers with U.S. dollars in their wallets 30% and more on everything from hotel rooms and lift tickets to cold jugs of Canadian craft beer and steaming plates of poutine. One of the unexpected joys of the trip was getting to ski with someone who is a true-blue winter sports enthusiast unlike anyone I’ve ever met.

Guy Paulsen is the Winter Sports Manager at Silver Star Mountain Resort near Kelowna, B.C., (6 hours north of Spokane). He is a highly-respected alpine skier and ski instructor, a member of the Canadian Ski Instructors Association Hall of Fame and he has been hugely instrumental in the evolution of Silver Star’s world-class Nordic trail system and cross-country ski program. He also holds certifications in alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, snowboarding, ski guiding and telemark skiing.

When we met up with him for a couple runs at Silver Star, he showed up in a hard-carving tele set-up and he toured us around the blue runs that dominate the front side of the mountain (the famed black and double black Putnam Creek area on the backside of the mountain opened the following Saturday). Turns out, in addition to being a badass tele skier, snowboarder and alpine skier, Paulsen is also a passionate Nordic skier (both skate and classic) and a fat biker. No matter what winter brings, Paulsen will be grabbing the appropriate boards or bike to make the most of the conditions. There was a moment on the chairlift listening to him passionately describe the sprawling, 60-mile Silver Star/Sovereign Lake trail system and how Nordic skiing has helped his alpine skiing, that the term “winter sports” finally made sense to me. With so many ways to experience winter, why limit yourself to just one or even two or three wintertime sports? Paulsen, no doubt, figured this out years ago after taking up and then mastering one winter sport after another after another.

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