Moving to Spokane - What Am I In For?

Discussion in 'General' started by Joe Hall, Oct 1, 2021.

  1. Joe Hall

    Joe Hall

    Location:
    Spokane
    Hey All,

    My partner and I are moving to Spokane after living in Seattle for a year. Before that we lived in Anchorage, AK.

    I'm just curious how the access is for backcountry skiing out of Spokane. I know it won't be the literal "ski out your door" access of Alaska, but hopefully there are at least a couple decent options within 1.5 hours and a hell of a lot less crowded than Seattle.

    I'm still fairly new, and seeking mellow terrain. I do have my AIARE training. Quiet spaces and a sense of solitude are the most important things to me when recreating, which feels nearly impossible in the Cascades. I'm assuming things are much calmer over here. Won't be buying a snowmachine anytime soon (maybe in a couple years though), so I'll be relegated to hoofing it.

    Anyways, it'd be great to learn a little bit about the access, maybe some pros and cons and what to expect.

    Lastly, I know there's a bunch of resorts within 2 hours of Spokane. If I were to get a season pass, is there one that would expand my backcountry options?

    Thanks for the help and looking forward to meeting folks.
    PowderPanda likes this.
  2. Klawsky

    Klawsky

    Location:
    Spokane
    I can't claim to know a ton on the area as I only just moved here in the past year myself, but I can give you pointers from that perspective.

    As someone who has had to fight traffic from Denver or have access right outside your door in SLC and Jackson, I would say that the drives to goods can be long, but at least they feel quick because you won't be stuck wishing you were able to crack a beer while wondering why someone is trying to drive a Porsche 911 up Berthoud Pass. Within 1.5 - 2 hours you can get up to the Montana border on I90 which gives you plenty of options along the way, up to the Selkirks, or (something new for me this year) the Canadian border.

    Don't plan on seeing people, I think I can count the number of people outside of the parking lot on 1 hand for the entire season.

    Not having skied a maritime snowpack, I can't speak to here relative to your experience. All I can say was there wasn't a day without finding the goods, and they were excellent. Stability was a welcome return, despite the deep persistent layer problem we had, relative to CO where just looking at the snow sideways causes it to slide.

    I was fortunate enough to luck into some people who let me borrow their sleds. It is a very long walk to access most things out here. That being said, if I were in your position, I would probably explore around Steven's Peak/Willow peak drainage. Nice variety of lines within walking distance. Canada (Kootenay Pass) may also be your go to. In the immediate area I found it mainly to be mellow glade skiing, which sounds like what you are looking for. Finding the bigger lines entails heading to Montana or Canada.

    Can't speak to the resorts too much but Schweitzer looks to have some good access, I would assume Lookout Pass as well.
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2021
    Chris Nunley and PowderPanda like this.
  3. Joe Hall

    Joe Hall

    Location:
    Spokane
    Thanks for the input. Sounds pretty encouraging and a big upgrade from Seattle, at least for what I’m looking for.
  4. Natesplitz

    Natesplitz

    Location:
    Spokane
    As someone that has lived in both the Seattle area and the Spokane area, I think you will be happy with the access to the backcountry in Spokane. Spokane is a lot friendlier in terms of low-angle terrain than the Cascades. Mt. Spokane allows uphill traffic at certain times of day and in the past, the resort has been closed one day a week. This makes for a really friendly place to get comfortable with your touring gear as a beginner. There is some great access to the backcountry close by in Idaho and Montana too.

    The downside is that if you want access to some of the more advanced terrain the Cascades have, it's a bit harder to find close to the Spokane area. It is also has a very different snowpack than the Cascades. So definitely look into your local avalanche forecast closely. The local avalanche forecasts are also not as often updated around the Spokane area as NWAC.

    Overall though, as a beginner or someone looking for mellower terrain, it's pretty great.
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  5. PowderPanda

    PowderPanda Staff Member

    Location:
    Liberty Lake, WA
    I'll note, indeed there is easy access off I-90 at Lookout Pass on the North Side.. anything back behind Lookout to the South gets into avy terrain. Most of the gnarly terrain available in North Idaho is mainly accessed by sled (some via left service at The Schiz).

    Cheers,
    PP
    Bill A. likes this.
  6. Joe Hall

    Joe Hall

    Location:
    Spokane
    Thanks all for your info. Super helpful.

    Is this site the best/only place to learn about routes and meet partners? Is there any sort of Facebook group as well?
  7. Klawsky

    Klawsky

    Location:
    Spokane
    There is an associated facebook page with this site, but in terms of beta/folks to meet up with, I have had the most success utilizing the website. Missoula BC Skiers have a pretty active Facebook group depending on how far east you want to ski.
    PowderPanda likes this.
  8. PowderPanda

    PowderPanda Staff Member

    Location:
    Liberty Lake, WA
    Ya, what Klawsky said.. Most people get on the "Touring Partner" section and posts when going out.
    You'll notice that as winter rolls in, this site becomes pretty busy and a lot of visits with people reaching out.
  9. Joe, I would love to link up for some mellow terrain or more. Feel free to reach out via email-mkwalke@gmail.com. Weekends are great and my weekdays can open up when needed.

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