Roadtrips: Nordic Skiing in Chewelah and 49 Degrees North

Chewelah has always had good cross-country skiing. For years, many local skiers set their own tracks throughout the area, or simply followed snowmobile trails. However, Chewelah skiers have certainly found their stride in recent seasons, and now 49° North hosts some fabulous groomed cross-country skiing. Thanks to a small, dedicated team and an outstanding groomer, their Nordic Center delivers 16 kilometers of top-notch track and skate trails in beautiful old growth forest.

Spokane skier Eric Barrett, previously a cross-country ski rep and currently a cross-country ski buyer at Mountain Gear, agrees. He said, “From the yurt warming hut to the beautifully manicured skate and classic trails, this area is a great resource for the Inland Northwest’s Nordic ski community. I’ve always enjoyed my trips there.”

Located about a quarter mile before you reach the well-known downhill ski resort, or roughly 40 miles north of Spokane, the cross-country trails nest in a sweet spot right near the Flowery Trail Road Pass. Abundant parking adjacent to a warm, inviting yurt insures that you can change into your ski boots, fiddle with your clothing system, add glide wax and top off your thermos with comfortable ease next to a warm wood burning stove.

Prior to my first trip there, I had heard that it was sort of an expert’s Nordic area. I don’t fancy myself an expert by any means, but I figured this meant that it was going to be a challenging course with lots of big up and big down trails. I’m genuinely pleased to report it’s a very mellow, yet engaging area. The Hoot Owl Loop was just plain fun. The longer Cedar Trail can test timid skiers with its ups and downs, and there is one slick S-curve on Nordic Way. But, by and large, the majority of the trails offer something for everyone. Skate skiers can appreciate the clean lines and good grooming. Beginners will love the modest terrain, particularly the array of loops near the yurt so they can warm up in between laps. Everyone, greenhorn or veteran, can admire the great scenery at roughly 3,800 feet elevation.

After Jim Bauer, the noted Spokane-area ski racer, had lapped me about 100 times out on the trails, we chatted outside the yurt for a little bit. He emphasized, “I really think these guys are doing a great job up here. They’ve put a lot of work into this place, and it shows.”

Uncommon at most cross-country ski areas, 49° North Nordic Center offers onsite rentals for both cross-country ski gear and snowshoes. This is a huge benefit for those who simply want to try one of these activities since it saves so much time – no pickup or drop-off at a ski shop, and you don’t have to accommodate the gear in your car. The staff at the yurt can outfit you and, for a reasonable price, provide quality introductory lessons.

The Nordic Center also hosts a modest snowshoe trail system. A few notable, single-track trails thread through and around some of the ski corridors. These trails aren’t prepared like the ski trails, but you can grab a map at the yurt and follow some interesting frosty terrain. Even though it’s falling apart, the old-timer’s cabin on the eastern end of the circuit remains a popular destination.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind when planning your trip. The Nordic Center’s days of operation include Friday through Sunday and Holidays. They’re open 9 AM to 4 PM. They do not require a parking sticker but they do require a trail pass available at the yurt. Dogs are allowed on the trails after 2 PM, as long as they are kept under control at all times. Snowshoers are required to stay off the groomed tracks, give skiers the right of way, and obey posted signs.

All in all, the Nordic Center really enhances the 49° North Resort. With the upcoming resort village expansion, the Nordic area will certainly increase with trails to link condos, restaurants and other features. Buoyed by area interest in fitness skiing and snowshoeing, and the growing buzz about the quality terrain and great weather, it’s easy to see why the perfectly groomed tracks are ideal for all ages and abilities thereby fulfilling the resort’s family-friendly mission.

Lastly, to soften the edge of your workout, I recommend you finish your cross-country session with a pint at the resort’s Boomtown Bar. Not many Nordic Centers have a bar that close to the trailhead, so definitely take advantage of it.

When You Go:
From Spokane take Highway 395 North to Chewelah (42 miles). Turn East (or right at the stoplight) onto Main Street to Flowery Trail Road. Then travel 10 miles to the resort. OR – Take Argonne Road North to Highway 2. Follow Highway 2 Northeast toward Newport (27 miles). Then take State Route 20 West out of Newport toward Ione/Metaline Falls (20 miles). At State Route 20 turn left and travel about 3/4 mile to Flowery Trail Rd. Turn left again on Flowery Trail Road and follow to the ski area (16 miles).

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