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Love it or Hate it, La Nina promises snow

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Love it or Hate it, La Nina promises snow

October 26. Most area residents woke up to a sodden landscape, the end result of several days of heavy rain. And then Facebook exploded as locals began uploading pictures of Schweitzer.

“Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!” caroled powder lovers as they happily ‘borrowed’ pictures from Schweitzer Mountain Resort to post. About ten inches of snow in the village, over a foot at the top and skiers were itching to grab their poles and hit the slopes.

La Nina is the term used when Pacific Ocean temperatures in the region of the equator are lower than normal, creating a weather pattern of cooler and wetter weather. In our area, that usually means snow. Lots of it.

For those who love winter activities, that’s good news. For those who don’t, now might be a good time to learn to love winter activities. And there are enough of those to tempt many outside.

Downhill skiing and snowboarding is, of course, the one that most people talk about and when skiing or snowboarding is the topic, Schweitzer is the word on everyone’s lips. With almost 3,000 skiable acres, Schweitzer Mountain Resort is the favored playground for many locals.

If you’re not a season pass holder, a great way to experience the mountain is what they call “the Sunday Solution.” With only three black-out days during the season, skiers can go online and purchase a day’s lift ticket for $25 (it’s $35 if you wait ‘til you’re on the mountain and purchase at the window). The slopes open for these ticket holders at 12:30, offering hours of fun. Schweitzer says this is their way of “saying thank you” to the locals.

Downhill skiers who want a change of scenery can also visit Silver Mountain in Kellogg, 49 North in Chewelah, or Mt Spokane in Spokane.

Visit the websites for Schweitzer, Silver Mountain, Mt Spokane or 49 North  for info.

Snow doesn’t stop hardy hikers from getting out into the mountains, though more than a few inches and you’ll want some snowshoes. Jim and Betsy Fulling, who own Mountain Stove and Spa in Sandpoint, are inveterate hikers who almost never miss a Monday out in the woods. Betsy’s “trip reports” are available right here on our River Journal website, and if you’re not quite ready to head into a winter wonderland on your own, you can travel vicariously with the pair as they detail the view from the top regardless of the weather.

For those slightly less adventurous souls not ready to careen down the side of a mountain on skis, the area also boasts several groomed cross-country trails. The local ski areas are one place to start, but there are plenty of others. A catalog of Nordic trails is available from Idaho’s Department of Parks and Recreation, or consider a $25 state parks annual passport for access to trails at areas like Round Lake and Priest Lake. The $25 “Park and Ski” pass gets you access to 11 back country sites across the state.

If you don’t own cross country skis or snowshoes, stop in at any winter sports shop to inquire about rentals.

There are many in the area who like a little power with their powder, and there are ample opportunities for snowmobiling. In fact, Idaho is said to have more groomed snowmobile trails than any other western state. Stop in at your local Forest Service office to find out which area trails are open to snowmobiles. For the high country fan, there’s no better opportunity than Boundary County, where there are many trails open to take you up over 7,000 feet. Going south, there’s probably no place more welcoming than Wallace, Idaho, where the town encourages you to ride your snowmobile within the city limits. Snowmobile rentals are available just about everywhere.

Anyone heading into the high country should educate themselves about avalanche dangers. Online, sandpointwinterriders.org posts a weekly ‘avalanche report’ as does the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. You can also call 208- 765-7323.

Ice skating fans don’t have a lot of opportunities in the area, and certainly not early in the season, but if the weather is cold enough for long enough, some of the small area lakes offer a possible opportunity. If you’re not sure about the ice, call your local Forest Service office to find out where it might be safe.

When the snow is deep and the air is cold it takes a certain amount of fortitude to head out and enjoy the outdoors. There are some people for whom sking, snowmobiling, skating or showshoeing holds no allure. For them, there is one winter activity that almost everyone can enjoy—experiencing the season while submerged to the neck in warm, lovely water. That’s right—winter at the hot springs!

And there’s no better opportunity to be found than just down the road in Montana. Visit the appropriately named town of Hot Springs, or explore the adventure waiting for you just east of Plains in the even more appropriately named Paradise, Montana.

So if La Nina brings us a plethora of powder this year, take the chance to get out and enjoy it. You may find yourself agreeing with J.B. Priestley, who said “The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event.  You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?”

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Landon Otis

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Schweitzer Mountain, skiing, ice skating, La Nina, snow, 49 North, Mt Spokane, snowboarding, Silver Mountain, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, avalanche, hot springs

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