Cruise Miles of Nordic trails minutes from downtown at Mt. Spokane Cross-Country Ski Park
The center of the universe when it comes to cross-country skiing (also known as Nordic skiing) in the Inland NW is at the Mt. Spokane Cross-Country Ski Park at Mount Spokane State Park. The park, in fact, is one of the largest Nordic ski areas in the Northwest, say Robin DeRuwe, owner of Fitness Fanatics, a Nordic ski and bike shop in Millwood that also operates an equipment rental trailer at the park. “We have over 60 kilometers of groomed, cross-country trails at Mount Spokane that are unbelievable. They’re incredible.”
Cross-country skiing is a great, affordable way to get out in nature for some exercise in the winter. It can also be a fun way for a family to spend some quality, active time together. And with the Nordic trails at Mount Spokane so close, it’s an option for getting a ski workout in after work since the trails are open until 10 p.m. (bring a headlamp).
Mount Spokane Nordic Trail System
During the snowy months, the park features 37 miles of professionally-groomed Nordic ski trails that have a wide range of length and difficulty levels for both classic and skate skiing. The trails wind through Mount Spokane State Park land and private forestry lands. The Spokane Nordic Ski Association (see sidebar) helps maintain the trails in cooperation with the land owners (Washington State Parks, Idaho Department of Lands, and Inland Paper Company) and other volunteers and businesses like Fitness Fanatics. “It’s taken the whole Spokane community working together to make this wonderful trail system that we have up there that is just outstanding,” says DeRuwe. To check out a map of the trail system with trails color-coded by difficulty level, go to Spokanenordic.org/trailmap.
In addition to the expansive trail system, the Selkirk Lodge at the trailhead has restrooms, water, tables and a wood stove and is open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Dec. 1 through March 31. Once you’re out on the trails, there are two warming shelters for skiers to take a break and warm up by a wood stove, including the Nova Hut and Tripp’s Knob Warming Shelter. Please note that snowshoeing, hiking, dog walking or fat biking on any part of the groomed Nordic trail system is not allowed.
If you don’t own a Nordic set up (skis, bindings, boots and poles), or you want to try modern gear, the cool thing about Mount Spokane is that you can get fitted and rent equipment for adults and kids from Fitness Fanatics from their trailer right up on the mountain (Dec. 1-March 31). Hours are Thursday-Monday, 9 a.m.-4p.m. and daily during Christmas break. This central location is a huge bonus to the alternative of driving around town picking up and returning rental gear.
What to Wear Cross-Country Skiing
If you are new to Nordic skiing, plan to dress in layers, since you’ll be moving a lot and will generate your own heat. Wear or bring layers that you can shed as you warm up or to adapt to different conditions if you are out for a long ski, including:
- Synthetic or wool long underwear tops and bottoms (avoid cotton).
- Breathable layers/jackets to let body moisture escape. (Non-breathable jackets and shells will cause you to sweat out baselayers.)
- Bring extra gloves and light, breathable hats to keep your head warm during breaks or extremely cold temps.
Bring additional insulating layers in a backpack, along with food, water, sunscreen a headlamp, and other essentials for breaks and in case of an emergency that might keep you out in the elements longer than expected. If you need any gear or are unsure if what you have will work, stop by the Fitness Fanatics shop that specializes in Nordic gear at 8919 E. Euclid in Millwood (Spokane Valley).
Where to Buy Used Cross-country Equipment
Every year, Fitness Fanatics puts on a Nordic ski sale and swap, where you can find great deals on used cross-country ski equipment the first weekend of November (Nov. 4 and 5 this year). Show up early for the best selection. If you don’t find the gear you’re looking for used, Fitness Fanatics will have many new items on sale. Sale and swap hours are the same as the shop hours, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday.
Rambleraven Gear Trader in Spokane (3220 N Division) also sells used and new Nordic gear. You can check out their selection of equipment online at Rambleraven.com.
Cross-Country Ski Lessons
If you are new to Nordic skiing, a few lessons can help you get the hang of it much faster. Fitness Fanatics offers group and private lessons up at the Mt. Spokane Cross-Country Ski Park for both classic and skate skiing disciplines. You can sign up for the lessons online at Fitfanatics.com/ski-lessons and Fitness Fanatics offers half off on equipment rentals with a lesson. The Spokane Nordic Ski Association also offers lessons for adults and kids, with more info at Spokanenordic.org.
Which Parking Passes You’ll Need at Mount Spokane
To park up at the Mt. Spokane Cross-Country Park, you’ll need a Sno-Park Permit plus a special groomed trail permit. The good news, on the other hand, is you won’t need a Discover Pass to park there in the winter. You can purchase either day permits or an annual one that will save a lot of money with repeat visits. Permits are available at Fitness Fanatics, other permit vendor locations, or online at Parks.wa.gov.
Spokane Nordic Ski Association
The Spokane area is fortunate to have a non-profit organization that’s totally dedicated to Nordic skiing! The Spokane Nordic Ski Association hosts some amazing cross-country ski classes and events for all ability levels, including kids, but the organization’s primary purpose has been to help develop and maintain the Mt. Spokane Cross-Country Ski Park up at Mount Spokane. Thanks to membership donations and volunteer efforts, Spokane Nordic provides trail maps and signs, maintains trails, and facilitates other trail system and facility operations and improvements. Learn more and get involved in Spokane’s cross-country ski community at Spokanenordic.org.
Cover photo courtesy Fitness Fanatics