Spokane and surrounding area have great spots to enjoy the winter snowfall
by Joe Westenberg
Once school finally gets out — and Spokane finally gets some substantial snowfall — get ready to enjoy some classic winter activities in and around Spokane.
To hit the slopes in your favorite sled or trash can lid, head over to Spokane’s Manito Park or Holmberg Park for some popular sled runs.
Manito is the most well-known and easily accessed sledding spot in Spokane.
There is one very large hill that is the main attraction for sledders in the front of the park along South Grand Boulevard. Because it is used so often, the surface is often icy, which makes the ride faster, but the crash more painful. Expect some minor bruising to occur as many icy jumps have been constructed on this run. There are many other hills in the area to choose from if you find yourself bored with the main one. Or you can always take a break to build a snowman in one of the many sections of the park.
Holmberg is closer to Whitworth, but lacks the variety of Manito. There are two hills to choose from and both stretch the length of the park.
The first one ends in the park. The second hill is further into the wooded area west of the park and is much steeper and longer. Because these hills are throughout the park, there are many different sections you can choose to sled on. That also makes the park less crowded and there is less danger of running into someone.
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing
If you prefer the slower pace of cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, Mount Spokane and Idaho’s Fourth of July Pass have many trails for that purpose.
Mount Spokane has over 17 miles of groomed trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. It is the best-organized and most expansive Sno-Park facility in the state, with plenty of beautiful winter scenery and strategically placed warming huts throughout its trail system.
Trails are categorized as easy, moderate and expert depending on the length and skill required to navigate them.
Cross-country skis can be rented from Army Surplus or REI, while snowshoes can be rented from Whitworth’s Outdoor Rec program.
A Sno-Park permit and a groomed trail permit are required to park in the designated lots. Spokanenordic.org has more information.
Fourth of July Pass is located in Idaho, about 20 miles west of the state line on Interstate 90. The trail system there is groomed and maintained by the Panhandle Nordic Club.
The trail system on the pass offers the same winter scenery of Mount Spokane but with fewer amenities. It is also a longer drive, but does not require any permits to park and use the area.
The trails are rated using the same system Mount Spokane uses. Because it is in lower elevation, it does not get snow as early as Mount Spokane and is more enjoyable later in the winter.
Snowboarding and skiing
Mount Spokane and Schweitzer Mountain are both open for the season for skiers and snowboards to enjoy the slopes.
Mount Spokane is the closest downhill ski and snowboard area to Spokane. It has a large variety of runs for beginners all the way to experts.
The lodge offers food and refreshments to hungry patrons during all hours of operation. There are also rentals as well as lessons for those who are new to the activity.
Mount Spokane offers night skiing at favorable rates, but only certain parts of the mountain are open to night skiers.
The mountain gets heavy usage, which can be very detrimental to the quality of the snow, so it is best to go after a fresh snowfall and enjoy the powder.
Schweitzer Mountain is located north of Sandpoint, Idaho, and is the largest downhill ski and snowboard area in the immediate vicinity. The runs are well-maintained and get substantial snowfall during winter.
Whitworth’s Outdoor Rec program offers van rides to Schweitzer for Whitworth students who lack transportation.
Although the prices are higher than other areas, the skiing and snowboarding are definitely some of the best in the Inland Northwest.