Monday, December 31, 2007


Folks in the northern Idaho and eastern Washington area seem mesmerized by Schweitzer. The quality of the snow, the facilities, and the sheer size of the mountain (2900 acres) make it the number one destination for skiers and snowboarders from all around the region. Recent improvements to the lift system have brought Schweitzer to the forefront of modern tech, providing efficient access to most of the mountain (with the notable exception of the over-burdened double serving the lower parking areas), with a new six-pack on the outback side, and a quad and triple combination replacing an aging double on the front. The snow today was day-old powder, but with plenty of groomers, and such dry powder, the chop was minimal.

I began my day with a quick ride up the Basin Express, where I shared the chair with a friendly local who gave some helpful advice on where to point my board, pointing out some groomed chutes on the left of the Lakeview Triple. I did a quick warm-up lap on the Basin chair, and then up to the top. There was just a wisp of cloud at the top, and the day was otherwise bluebird, with beautiful skies and only enough cloud to keep things comfortable. I traversed down to a single-diamond chute called "K-Mac's", where I found dry powder off to the sides, and a very nicely groomed central section. I split my time between the two, and then buzzed through the "Stomping Grounds" terrain park to hit a few small jumps on my way back down.

My next run from the top of Lakeview I cut through some trees below the ridge, and then crossed over to the other side for more trees on my way to the "Great Escape" quad. This lift provided access to some wonderful tree runs on the front side, but I left those until later in the day, intent on becoming familiar with the outback bowl. With no hesitation, other than to snap some photos, I dove into Whiplash, a double-black thigh-burner, and then made the run-out to the Snow Ghost chair.

From there, I caught the ridge and rode the T-bar to the far corner of the Outback, cutting through the trees all the way down along the school-themed side of the bowl, and to a lunch stop at the Outback Inn. After lunch, I rode Stella for a few laps, enjoying the blue cruisers and trees to both sides of the six-pack, before crossing back to the front side to do laps on the Great Escape quad, and then making my way back to the South Bowl chutes, dropping in at letter "F" and cutting across through the trees to untouched stashes below the ridge line.

I finished up the day with a few more tree runs off the Great Escape, and then made my way back to the lodge, where I grabbed a mocha and my powerbook to make some blogging happen for my devoted readers. I hope all who are reading the blog enjoy - and please be patient as I am working hard to get the photos up here very soon. Probably will have more time for that in the next two to three days, so keep your eyes peeled for updates. Sorry, but no video so far in Idaho - technical difficulties involving a frozen camera being the culprit. I'll keep working on it.

Also.... Happy New Year! Keep watching Ski Idaho, Ski Oregon and Ski Washington for 2008 - the trifecta is still in progress, and the revolution will not be televised - it will be broadcast via the web.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Bald Mountain

Bald Mountain is another small T-bar served area, out at the remote end of the Gold Rush Scenic Byway, north of Pierce, ID. This gem of a family ski area is nestled on a peak, with a mid-mountain lodge and beginner tow, and situated with ridge access at the top providing a very wide swath of terrain. Again, it was destined to be a powder day, with about a foot or two loose on top with another two feet or more of base. Steeper than the previous two, Bald Mountain provided plenty of challenge, with great powder, tight trees, and an excellent face below the upper lift house with fresh turns all day.

I followed some friendly locals to find the powder stashes, and even watched some backwoods cliff jumpers brave a 20 foot leap over rocks and into powder. It was clear in the morning, and snowed lightly in the afternoon, making for a very nice snow day. By the end, I was getting a bit tired, and finally had my first unscheduled dismount from the T-bar - so I decided to call it a day. After three more runs in deep powder, I fell again, and really did call it a day. On to bigger things...

Saturday, December 29, 2007


I arrived at Snowhaven around 2:30pm, in time to see the hill in daylight, and I went straight to business. I opted for the combo-marathon ticket, a $20 special allowing unlimited lift access for skiing and tubing. Seeking to rest a little after the drive, I suited up and headed for a few runs on the tubing hill. I was suitably impressed with the size and speed of the hill, but also surprised at the freedom and fun I found.

Unlike many tubing operations, Snowhaven fully appreciates that a waiver of liability means it is okay to let folks have a little fun. Running starts were no problem, and multi-tube flotillas were common as well. I had never seen a mass of eight tubes descend at speed in unison before - it was quite a sight. Satisfied that I would be back for more tubing (open until 9pm), I strapped in and slid over to the T-bar. Unlike the rope-retracted type at Cottonwood, Snowhaven has the traditional hard-bodied hydraulic T-bar - but the skills of riding are largely transferrable. I had no trouble riding the lift to the top, and found myself surprised at the amount of untouched powder remaining so late in the afternoon.

I cruised all the dimensions of the small hill, and satisfied that I had made the most of the boarding possibilities, made my way back to the tubing hill. It was a great relaxation after a long day of T-bar riding to simply sit back and slide up on my back, and then slide down on my front. I had a quick dinner of sausage and fries, did laps until I was ready to hit the road, and finally packed it in around 6:30. 90 minutes later I found a small roadside hotel on the way to my next destination, and checked in for the night.


It turned out that I arrived on opening day at Cottonwood Butte, and the conditions were basically perfect. Three to four feet of untouched powder everywhere, except for the prisitine groomers freshly pressed at dawn. I had never used a T-bar style lift before, but I was so eager to get started, I actually made the mistake of driving down the access road before it had been plowed. I did quite well, and made it to the ski area - but I got stuck when I had to stop for the snow plow, and had to put on chains for about 100 yards of driving. It turns out that on a powder-covered road, the Civic can actually float.

Once I got parked properly, I went in to see how the operation was set up. It was before 9am, and opening was scheduled for 10am, so I crawled back into the car and changed into my gear, watching as the locals began to arrive for the morning. After a sufficient mass had gathered, I made my way back to the ticket counter to begin the challenge proper.

I took a moment to watch and observe at the base of the lift, watching others load before taking the plunge. A single called for a partner, and I hopped up and volunteered - and amazingly, I managed to ride the T-bar to the top with no trouble. From there, I followed the crowd to the right, and followed the groomer down the face of the hill, observing the banks of powder to each side of the trail. I tried another groomer for my second run, taking a left at the top of the lift, and found myself stuck on a skate-out traverse. Comfortable that the conditions were awesome, and eager to hit the powder, my third run I went right at the top, and then cut straight down the face of the hill, following some fresh tracks through the three feet of fluff.

I continued to chase the powder from all angles, until I eventually found a spot too flat, and had to hike out. Lunch time. A quick burger at the lodge had me refueled for another 90 minutes of T-bar and powder punishment, at which point I made the call to head to my next stop. The after-lunch rush was a deciding factor, and I simply felt I had see the hill, and should be on my way in time to see the next hill in daylight.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Idaho snowboarding starting next weekend!

So far this season I have been splitting my time between Ski Washington and Ski Oregon sites - by Christmas, I expect to have boarded at 6 areas in Washington, and 8 areas in Oregon so far this season. I plan to eclipse both with a string of (up to) 16 areas in Idaho (conditions permitting) from next weekend through January 13th. Stay tuned for regular updates as I post the details of my progress.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Ski Idaho Challenge

First, you should know about the N.W.S.C.C. Northwest Ski Challenge. This program, initiated by Steve Coxen, began with a Ski Oregon Challenge in the 2005-2006 season. This program challenged snowriders to ski/board at least 9 areas in Oregon during a single season. There were a total of 11 areas on the list, and to my surprise, I was the first snowrider to reach them all, and the only snowboarder to do so. You can read more about my experience snowboarding Oregon at my Ski Oregon blog.

In the 2006-2007 season, the N.W.S.C.C. added a Ski Washington Challenge, while retaining the Ski Oregon Challenge. Having visited all of Oregon's resorts the previous season, and enjoying the experience, I decided I would make the effort to visit all the areas in Washington. I did so with fervor, and rode many of them on their opening weekends. It was a great early season, and I managed to visit all 12 lift-served areas on the Ski Washington Challenge before the end of 2006. Take a look at my Ski Washington blog for details. I started 2007 by breaking my leg during some post-midnight snowboarding, and had to sit out the season until April 21st.

During the 2007-2008 season, a third challenge has been added to the previous two, completing the trifecta which is the Northwest Ski Challenge. The third challenge is, of course, the Ski Idaho Challenge. This season should be a very good one for Idaho, with early snows already blanketing upper slopes at some ski areas. I will record my progress in snowboarding all 16 Idaho resorts this season using this blog, where you will find narrative, photos, and possibly even the occasional video from my adventures.

You'll still want to keep an eye on the Ski Oregon and Ski Washington blogs as well, as I am planning to update those with more adventures this season as well.