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Skiing Outlook 2020: Mt. Spokane’s family atmosphere beckons

Beginning skiers warm up in the ski school area at Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park  (Libby Kamrowski)
Beginning skiers warm up in the ski school area at Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park (Libby Kamrowski)
By John Nelson For The Spokesman-Review

It’s always there standing over the Spokane region, beckoning skiers and snowboarders with its glistening slopes.

Proximity sets apart Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park from every other resort in the Inland Northwest. One minute, you can be standing on the banks of the Spokane River downtown, and just 45 minutes later, you can be clicking into your skis at a good regional resort.

“There are just so many places to explore here,” said Jim van Löben Sels, Mt. Spokane’s new general manager. “When I patrolled here, I was always surprised by how much it offered.”

This year, you’ll need to take one extra step if you suddenly get the urge to go skiing at Mt. Spokane. The resort is moving to online-only daily ticket sales in an effort to manage crowd sizes as a result of COVID-19, so you’ll need to buy first before heading up to the mountain.

That also goes for ski lessons, van Löben Sels said. On the busiest days of the year, you may find yourself shut out, because Mt. Spokane is limiting capacity to 80% on the slopes, also because of the pandemic.

That’s one reason a season pass might be particularly attractive this year – season pass-holders will be guaranteed a spot on the mountain, van Löben Sels said.

“It’s the loyalty factor,” he said. “That’s the benefit you get from having a season pass.”

In some ways, the pandemic is creating an expansion of sorts at Mt. Spokane. The resort, which has been closed on Mondays and Tuesdays during the season, will remain open seven days a week Dec. 18 through February, adding 14 days to the season. In addition, all lifts will operate during that time and Lodge 1 will be open daily.

“It’s going to be a great offering,” van Löben Sels said of Lodge 1, which has operated only at peak times in past seasons. “It’s our way of making sure all of our spaces are safe and there’s plenty of social distancing.”

Because lodge space will be limited, skiers will be encouraged to purchase grab-and-go meals and eat outside or in their cars. Gear storage will be limited and Mt. Spokane is considering installing outside lockers, van Löben Sels said.

On a bluebird day at Mt. Spokane, follow the sun from early exposure on Chair 1 as it tracks around the mountain to the back side, the new Northwood Chair 6, where the resort’s best intermediate runs are located.

“The Northwood Expansion opened up some great fall-line skiing,” van Löben Sels said. “When you go to that back side, you have these incredible half-mile runs.”

Advanced powder skiers will have plenty of choices on the mountain’s front side.

After that is tracked out, check out the tree skiing on north-facing Chair 4.

Terrain park fans have four popular spaces to explore, with two new features added this year, van Löben Sels said.

Once a ski patroller at Mt. Spokane, van Löben Sels is in the first year of running the resort. His children learned to ski there and he thinks families are what makes the mountain special.

“We can nurture these first-time skiers and they become lifetime skiers,” he said. “I feel like that’s our niche.”

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