The SnowboarderMelissa Pingree
I had not been to Mt. Spokane since the middle of December ’02, and as a huge fan of the mountain (for reasons I will explain later), you can imagine my excitement when invited to review the mountain. Steve and I set out on Sunday morning from Spokane at 9:45 a.m. and, surprisingly, the parking lot was still somewhat empty. The conditions looked promising; a constant, fluffy snow fall upon reaching half way up the windy road to the resort. After our first run on the Northwest Passage (next to chair three) I realized what kind of day it would be: a chunky powder day. It had been about two and a half hours since the trails were groomed, but you couldn’t tell. The new inches of snow were hacked up, creating difficult terrain to maneuver on a snowboard.
We rode chair one to the top and found the snow was smoother up there, yet definitely windier (like always). The run that rounds the backside and spits you out just above Northwest Passage, called Skookum, has obviously been detailed by boarders. Just above the run is a wide wall littered with small tracks and jumps ideal for freestyle. This pattern continues in the trees and just above the cat tracks on the front side of the mountain. Mt. Spokane may be small, but don’t let the size mislead you. There are plenty of little routes perfect for boarders; you just have to find them.
Just past mid-day, the mountain began to fog up, a usual occurrence at Mt. Spokane. From experience, I know when it’s foggy on the front side, try chair four. It’s almost always crystal clear by chair four whenever it’s foggy on the front side.
Since it had snowed so much, Steve and I decided to hit Upper Geronimo, which follows chair four’s path straight down the mountain. Usually I stay clear of this run because of the moguls. Moguls can suck on a snowboard if you’re not a pro at them (which I’m not). But, surprisingly Geronimo kicked major ass. The chunky snow made it impossible to display one’s graceful maneuvers. Thus, the run was completely comical. I haven’t been that covered in snow since I jumped off a condo roof at Schweitzer last winter. On powder days, defiantly check out Geronimo. It’s great for polishing up your carving skills and there are numerous hidden jumps. I wouldn’t recommend riding in the trees by chair four because it’s mostly dirt. Though, the tree riding on the front side is ideal. The runs off to the left of chair one also harbor some sweet tree terrain.
Speaking of terrain, Mt. Spokane’s terrain park has obviously matured. I counted five or six rails, all of which are different. The rails ranged from a straight, double bar rail to a rainbow rail, and a split-level. Also, a really funky rail about four feet in height that is totally new to me. There are some new, larger jumps both with and without flattops. The tree area in the park has also been modified for freestyle. Little dips, jumps, and surprises are all over that park. Yet, still no half pipe (sigh).
Overall I give Mt. Spokane a seven out of ten. Though small and seemingly a skier’s paradise, that mountain holds secrets only local boarders know. And, as a local I can tell you Mt. Spokane is full of wonderful secrets that one must earn the privilege of knowing. Once you find its sweet spots, there is no limit to the fun you can have.
The SkierBy Steven J. Barry
I have visited Mt. Spokane probably four or five times in the past few years, and it has never failed to meet my expectations. It’s a spotty mountain; that is, it’s nearly always great in some spots and, well, less-great in others. Where the good spots are naturally depends on the weather which, in Mt. Spokane’s case, during this time of year, essentially consits of either fog or precipitation.
On Sunday it snowed all day and so much that the groomers could not keep up with it, and the lift attendants were all ecstatic since they would be able to continue working. Moderately thick fog lay on the front side of the mountain, and Melissa, who knows the area better than I do, said that almost every time that happens the back side of the mountain remains clear. It was, and the fresh snowfall made for chunky, challenging runs in parts and smooth, slow skiing in others.
El NiÃ±o has plagued most mountains this season, and Mt. Spokane is no exception, but the only place this is a visible problem is at the bottom of chair four. With 34 inches at the base and 62 inches of snow at the summit, current day-to-day skiing conditions are quite good.
There is more to the mountain than meets the eye, though it may seem small at first glance. Until this year, there were two different lodges skiers could use to reheat. Now there are three. The historic Vista House, which sits atop chair one, is a rustic, simple and perfect place to reheat.
Originally built as a firewatch station in 1934, the government had further plans to turn it into a weather station. When those plans fell through, it was designated a ski lodge. Until its recent renovation, the lodge was run down, with broken windows and a decrepid roof. Now it’s an excellent warming station with a roaring fire and a snack bar serving hot beverages and soups, among other things. It is furnished with rustic wooden benches and tables built buy a local high school wood shop teacher, and complimentary crackers and pieces of swiss cheese are available to skiers.
Geronimo, which parallels chair four to the bottom of the back of the mountain, is a challenging run that can be hit quite a few different ways. We took it a few times during the day, and every time there were several people working their way down, and they were all covered in powder. We were no exception in that regard.My favorite run on the mountain, however, is the Exterminator (on the back side). It’s got some great moguls and is steep for the first half of the run, and then levels out into more shallow terrain until dropping you out on Lamonga Pass, an excellent spot for some extreme yet controllable speed.