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Skiing Outlook 2020: New owners, energy for 49 Degrees North

A skier completes a trick in the terrain park at 49 Degrees North.   (49 Degrees North/courtesy)
A skier completes a trick in the terrain park at 49 Degrees North.  (49 Degrees North/courtesy)
By John Nelson For The Spokesman-Review

New owners have brought some new energy to 49 Degrees North.

In 2019, CMR Lands LLC (which also owns Silver Mountain Resort) purchased the sprawling ski area near Chewelah, Washington, and this year riders will see a new snowmaking system on the slopes.

That goes along with the recent lodge remodel and installation of a magic carpet conveyor lift.

“We’re seeing a lot of new investment,” said Eric Bakken, general manager of 49 Degrees North.

The new snowmaking will serve about 30 acres of terrain and help the mountain open early in the season, Bakken said.

“In some years it might not even be needed,” he said.

That might include this season, with a snow-rich La Niña forecast for this winter. All the same, the resort is hustling to get it up and running this year, Bakken said.

On the mountain, 49 Degrees North’s strengths are rooted in its wide-open spaces. Intermediate cruisers are a big draw.

“We’ve got long fall-line advanced intermediate skiing unlike anything else in the Northwest,” Bakken said. “I tell people to check out our classics, like Silver Ridge and Mahre’s Gold.”

The resort is served by seven chairlifts falling off Chewelah Peak (5,774 feet) and Angel Peak (5,295 feet). Beyond the cruisers, 49 Degrees is known for its advanced, gladed tree skiing, Bakken said. Among the favorites is Cy’s Glades, falling off the shoulder of Chewelah Peak.

The Sunrise Basin area of the resort also is popular, with a variety of advanced and intermediate runs served by a quad chairlift.

Off the slopes, the resort is hoping to get skiers to plan ahead and purchase tickets and lessons with a new online sales system.

“Resort-wide, people are going to see a lot more streamlined information flow because of our new point-of-sale system,” Bakken said. “We’re hoping that we can really cut people’s time when they’re not skiing.”

Most people who don’t have season passes are used to coming to the resort and standing in line at the ticket window. Bakken said he’s hoping the pandemic will teach people to plan ahead, but he’s also reluctant to end window ticket sales as other Inland Northwest resorts have done because of the pandemic.

“I’m not going to rule out walk-up ticket-window sales,” he said. “It may be during the peak parts of the season that we may go with online-only ticket sales, but I don’t think so.”

As for other COVID-19 changes, lodge space will be reduced.

“We’re hoping that people can gear up in their cars and if they’re going to bring their own food, eat in their cars,” Bakken said. “Our parking lot is pretty close to the main lift, so it’s pretty easy.”

Operational changes are bound to happen during the season, he added, but ski resorts are used to dealing with uncertainty.

“We’re staying flexible,” he said. “For us, (COVID-19 is) one more variable. We’re so used to having a lot of business operations variables thrown at us, like the weather. I think we’re innately a lot more flexible than a lot of other businesses.”

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