Lifestyle

Ski season update

It is said that light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

But what about the written word, since everyone reads at a different speed? As I was musing about these random thoughts, trying to come up with just the right words to snare and captivate every reader of the Reporter, I decided a brief update on winter destinations popular with Northwest snow sliders might just do the trick. So here goes.

Here in Washington, Crystal Mountain is already reveling in fantastic early season reviews. Islanders Bill Raleigh, Sam LeClerc and Matt Rudolph each separately told me about the epic conditions encountered, all on different days. Sadly, I haven’t made it up to this world class terrain yet, but hope to correct that discrepancy shortly. Sturtevant’s demo day is Saturday, Dec. 16; come try out all the skis and boards you want -- for free. More information is available online at www.crystalmt.com.

Mission Ridge Resort undertook major improvements on Skookum Run to ensure the trail meets safety and race specifications for USSA and FIS competitions. Stevens Pass completed major renovations to its Ski and Snowboard School building. Summer trail maintenance has improved the resort’s collection of intermediate and advanced terrain.

Mt. Baker Ski Area spent $1.3 million dollars to upgrade Chair 3 to a fixed-grip, quad chairlift. Bring a snorkel, because Baker has been pounded with snow. The snow base there is a reported 111 inches, which is more than 9 feet so far. Size matters, making Baker the envy of the nation.

The Summit at Snoqualmie constructed a new, base area plaza at Alpental, equipped with two fire pits and a heated surface. The new plaza complements substantial upgrades to Alpental’s day lodge. At Summit Central, earthwork in the lower section of Central Park (terrain park) will help facilitate earlier park openings. Summit Central will introduce new jib elements, including a 30-stair staircase with rideable, dual handrails. On the Net at www.summitatsnoqualmie.com.

In Oregon, Mt. Bachelor has replaced the Pine Marten Chair with a new Quad Express lift. This lift is the one most used at the resort, and provides access to most of the mountain, including the upper day lodge. You can also forget about messing with your ticket to get through the turnstile! Mt. Bachelor will be implementing a hands-free ticketing system during the 2006-07 season. Find more info at www.mtbachelor.com.

Also in Oregon, Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort invested $2.5 million dollars in the creation of a Children’s Learning Center (in the South Lodge), development of the Salomon Rental Center (North Lodge), the addition of 300 restaurant seats (North Lodge) and the implementation of a resort-wide, Smart Locker system that affords in-out locker access. On the Web at www.skihood.com.

Timberline Ski Area completed trail clearing on eight new trails that will be served by the Timberline Express high-speed, quad chairlift (the Timberline Express is scheduled to be installed next summer). In addition, Timberline recently opened The Lodge at Government Camp - Mt. Hood’s newest, luxury vacation rental property - located in the village of Government Camp. Never miss a chance to visit the venerable and fabulous Timberline Lodge. Their site is at www.timberlineresort.com.

In Northern Idaho, Schweitzer Mountain Resort’s Musical Carpet area has been re-graded and equipped with a new snowmaking gun. Glading has been done in the Chair 4 pod, the Great Escape pod and in the North Bowl, where the exit from the expert chutes has been vastly improved. This should be received favorably by Islander Kelly Sterling, who visits this Sandpoint resort frequently with his family. Online at www.schweitzer.com.

Silver Mountain Resort invested millions of dollars, including the construction of Silver Rapids - a year-round, indoor waterpark. Silver Mountain also installed a snow tubing park (lift-served with a moving carpet) and re-graded, lift-served and greatly enlarged the resort’s beginner arena (lift service will be provided by a moving carpet). Lastly, Silver Mountain’s Chair 3 has been upgraded. This is a good choice if travels take you to the Spokane area. Check them out at www.silvermt.com.

America’s newest resort, Tamarack (near McCall), has added 5,000 acres of backcountry terrain to the resort’s alpine guide service. Tamarack’s new Sled Shed snowmobile “outpost” was constructed on the backside of the summit. The Sled Shed will stage snowmobile fueling, minor sled maintenance and guided snowmobiling services. Several new alpine ski and snowshoe trails have been cut and gladed tree skiing has been added. I’ve been to this resort, and it is worth the two-hour drive from Boise. On the net at www.tamarakresort.com.

Sun Valley continues to be one of the most favored of destinations for Mercer Islanders. At present, only 50 percent of the mountain is open, as snow accumulations have not been anywhere near as ample as those in the northern part of the state. Improvements this year include the installation on Dollar Mountain of 44 new snowmaking guns running from top to bottom of this beginners teaching area. In 1936, one of the world’s first two chairlifts was installed here by Union Pacific Railroad, founders of Sun Valley Resort.

Moreover, a newly combined Sun Valley Nordic and North Valley Trails Season Pass will become available for the upcoming ski season. For the first time, this joint pass will provide access to more than 93 miles of groomed Nordic and Snowshoe trails. The pass is on sale now for $350. For more information, visit www.sunvalley.com.

Space limitations require that I stop for now. I will cover our British Columbia resorts in another column, so for now, ponder this: If ignorance is bliss, why aren’t more people happy? Ski you later.

John Naye is a Mercer Island resident and President of the Western Region of the North American Snowsports Journalist’s Association. His e-mail is jnaye@trekworks.com.

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