ARMY OF ANYONE
Army of Anyone
I’d be so much more excited about the return of the Brothers DeLeo if it didn’t also involve the return of that dude from Filter (how do you go from “Hey Man, Nice Shot” to “Take a Picture”–you know “Awake on my airplane/Awake on my airplane/My skin is bare/My skin is theirs”?). Still, it’s nice to see something moderately interesting coming from Dean and Robert who, let’s face it, were screwed time and time again by that egomaniac, Scott Weiland. STP fans rejoice, the babies are back. But tell me, which is worse-dealing with Slash and Duff, or dealing with Richard Patrick? Too bad we just can’t have STP back…
For having just come together in March of ’06, this band is incredibly tight (you know, kids, “close knit,” not “super cool, omg”). They’ve got a great following too, and they just opened for Jet in Portland (I’d knock that, but for a local, okay, it’s a good gig). There’s a slew of influences to be seen here–whether or not the band is completely annoying for citing Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, David Bowie, My Bloody Valentine AND Sonic Youth in describing themselves remains to be seen. (Okay, they are.) Try to look past it, though, because Portland, as I’ve said time and time again, has a lot of talent to boast, and Blackheart is working their way up that ladder of deserving praise.
FLEE THE CENTURY
Beyond the Moonwalker
There probably aren’t enough kids in Spokane to make Flee the Century as popular as they should be. Acts of this caliber in places like LA or San Diego have (strictly) all ages followings that would rival in size any would-be “indie rock” band in the scene. So you’re lucky to have them, Spokane, and don’t let it go unrecognized. For someone who’s always appreciated the screamers-you-can-dance-to, Moonwalker is an f-ing gem. Flee the Century is not only the best band in Spokane in its given genre, it’s also just one of the best bands, period.
ALBERT HAMMOND JR.
Yours to Keep
Strokes fans are split on this-they’re not sure if they have to like it, or if they have to hate it. Does it mark the end of the Strokes as we know them? Does it signal disunity in our band of bands? I’ll take on the role of the levelheaded Strokes fan. It’s true that this album is filled with Albert’s rejected Strokes contributions-which is sad, sure. It’s true that the other members of the band are seemingly busy with their ladies and their babies (and Albert’s on-again-off-again with foxy Cat from the Pierces). But, ultimately, Yours to Keep is really great, and Strokes fans the world over (and really just everyone) should appreciate it as an in-between in Strokes history. It’ll be released in the US in late January. Save some holiday cash.
I don’t know many people anymore who admit to liking Incubus. (Yes, the album is selling well, so they are around-maybe I run in the wrong circles, and actually, I know I do). In fact I can take inventory rather quickly (Hi Brian!). I don’t get it. There isn’t an Incubus album I don’t like-even that stupid mushroom album had something to offer. They are consistently good and consistently different. Aside from that stupid copycat Hoobastank that popped up for awhile in the annoying column, Incubus’ sound is something you don’t find in any other band (and Hoob never got it right, anyway). This means they aren’t trying to be trendy, and they therefore can’t be seen as “cool” anymore. Screw that. They put on one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen and they are one of the most genuinely likeable bands around right now. PLUS, they are touring with Albert Hammond Jr., and that’s just awesome! Seattle, January 6!
A Senile Animal
About once a year I give my car a good cleaning. I’m always amazed at the sludge that I find in the wheel wells of the car. It’s dense, hardened, grotesque-but always impressive. How is it possible for such a cocktail of sludge to end up on my car on an annual basis? Equally quixotic is how the Melvins can so regularly push out such plodding and impenetrable music. Not once a year, but three times a year! “A Senile Animal” has it all. Metal, doom, jazzy-fusion, rock, and most importantly two drummers. Embrace the sludge…it’s not going away anytime soon.
MISTRESS AND THE MISTERS
It’s a good time to be a Spokane music fan, isn’t it? We’re just bursting with bands that mix genres like it ain’t no thang, creating music that’s unheard of in our much-much bigger western neighbor. SWEET! Add to the mix Mistress & the Misters, a band whose sound I must have completely forgotten because I had no idea it was going to be this good. And it’s really good. It’s like some sort of Southern Rock-Funk-Hillbilly hybrid band with a firecracker shot up its bum. Cough, cough, press quote, cough, cough.
OHIOAN & ADAM GNADE
We’ll say from the git-go that in recent months enough ink has been spent on Adam Gnade that if you haven’t checked him out yet yr a fool. Here’s one last reminder. Now we’ll proceed on from those (wonderful, worship-worthy) tracks, and set our sights on Ohioan, aka Ryne Warner, of Portland, OR. The final seven tracks on this split EP, exploding with talent and needing-to-be-heard voices, are his. Warner’s a charmingly disheveled chap with cacophony to spare. His tracks are sparse, but overwhelming, distant, but heartfelt. Limited run of 100 copies, they do say, so you best act fast. And, the packaging includes short stories and other loveliness by these two incredibly amazing gentlemen. Hurry!
ROBBERS ON HIGH STREET
The Fatalist and Friends
When the band behind one of your favorite debut albums is in the process of recording their sophomore effort, worry is inevitable. They’re teetering now on trying to “expand their sound” and “evolve as musicians,” and what it always translates to as a fan is “oh, shi-.” When I saw pictures of Robbers on High Street in the studio barefoot and with their new long locks, worry hit the roof. But someone behind them had a great idea-release this digital EP to show everybody that they can stop worrying, this evolution is phenomenal. If these tracks are any indication, the new material from Robbers is more distinctly theirs (they were oft-labeled a just another NY band), and in that has developed the importance they were offering before-the gentle pop, the catchy hooks, and the friendly, accessible vibes that made them a much more comfortable band than most they were said to be copying. Maybe it’s because they’ve been recording in Echo Park in LA. Hmm. So there, New York.
J Dilla, also known as producer/DJ extraordinaire Jay Dee, died of complications of Lupus in 2006. Like most deceased in hip-hop artists he’s got a couple of posthumous CDs in him. Unlike like most posthumous releases this one is actually a gem. Great beats, great music in a range of styles-hardcore thumpin’ to romantic. The list of guest MCs is long prestigious: Common, Madlib, D’Angelo, Pharoahe Monch, and Busta Rhymes. If the record has one weakness it’s that some of the MCs either didn’t bring their ‘A’ game or met their match in J Dilla’s complex, but funky melodies. (I’m talk ’bout YOU Mr. Rhymes.) Don’t let that deter you though. This is an excellent recording by a artist who clearly left life in his creative prime. A portion of the proceeds go to Lupus research.
Magazine Article, Music Reviews |
The Wall (Grand Prize winner Banff Mountain Book Festival)
Atria Books, 2006, 298 pages.
Planning a reunion climb on El Capitan, Hugh Glass and Lewis Cole harbored hopes of regaining some of the self-confidence and excitement the wall had provided them 40 years earlier. Their hope: to return to the venue of the youthful exploits that made them Yosemite legends and defeat the demons of late middle age. Hugh haunted by the loss of his wife to an Alzheimer’s-driven foray into the Arabian Desert; Lewis struggling to hang on to a failing marriage. They had no idea they would become entangled in the rescue of the decade.
On the face of it, The Wall, a book about two old climbers spending the better part of a week clawing up a sheer granite face, has the excitement potential of watching paint dry. Dedicated climbers might abandon reading about Glass and Cole’s exploits in favor of creating their own. Long’s capable pen renders their experience on El Capitan engaging, no, gripping, rather. The story weaves between the physical acts and mental challenges of the climb with flashbacks to earlier climbs and times blended in.
Long deepens the danger of ordinary big wall climbing by dragging Hugh and Lewis into a storm-plagued rescue attempt. Augustine, a part time Yosemite rescuer, seeks their aid reaching his lover trapped high on a new route. With one of the three women climbers known dead and at least one of those trapped on the wall alive, Augustine is determined to save her, though one more sacrifice may be demanded.
Long’s years of experience climbing in Yosemite and around the world make him eminently qualified to detail the physical and psychological hardships of a long, technical rock climb. Notes Long, “In The Wall I wanted to weave a few of these dangers together into a sort of a Gordian knot, one that couldn’t be neatly untied, only cut.”
Yurts: Living in the Round
Gibbs Smith Publisher, 2006, 123 pages.
Want to know what it is like to live in a yurt? Than Becky Kemery’s delightfully-illustrated and well-researched book is for you. The typical yurt is a portable, tent-like round structure distinguished by unique roof construction. Long spans, achieved without intermediate supports, create airy spaces that impart a sense of openness and connection. A hole or skylight in the center of the roof invites the sun in and the occupants’ gaze skyward.
More than a how-to guide, Yurts: Living in the Round documents intangible benefits of yurt living. The welcoming embrace of the yurt’s open, round space gives a sense of well-being and wholeness. People are naturally brought together in a circle which fosters connection and
The yurt dwelling experience is described beginning with ancient, nomadic Turkic and Mongolian tribes in central Asia-the origin of these distinctive shelters. The Turkic tribes refer to their round homes as an uy and the Mongolians call theirs a ger. Out of necessity and custom, portable yurts were, and still are, made from locally available wood and wool felt and usually sized to fit on the backs of pack animals. Yurts are more than a means of shelter for Mongolian and some Turkic tribes. They are considered sacred places and express the world views of people living in close connection with the cycles of life.
Some contemporary renditions of yurts have evolved into permanent structures. The tapered wall yurt pioneered by Bill Coperthwaite and the frame panel yurt designed by David Raitt are made of wood and set on permanent foundations. Plentiful color photos in Yurts: Living in the Round describe these unique structures and help tell the stories of their creators.
Even the modern fabric yurt can last many years and be used as permanent shelter. Kemery shares her personal experiences of yurt living as well as practical considerations she has learned from others. She gives suggestions on choosing, buying, setting up, insuring, and maintaining a fabric yurt. A complete resource guide offers information on yurt companies, financing, plans, as well as homesteading and sustainable living.
“Yurts are my favorite form of shelter,” writes Kemery. “They use the earth’s resources wisely and usually leave a small footprint. They are affordable and accessible. I also think they make fabulous spiritual and creative spaces.”
Book Reveiws, Magazine Article |
This is the kind of story I used to read in the Drama in Real Life section of my grandparents’ Readers Digest-one of those harrowing winter stories in which a group of intrepid adventurers treks out into the wilderness, only to have something go terribly wrong and leave them fighting for their lives.
This is what happened one harsh, unforgiving winter’s night several years ago, when I came face-to-face with death. Well, not death exactly, but a really painful case of hiccups.
I was on a bar-crawl.
For the urban outdoorsman, there’s nothing as thrilling-or dangerous-as a winter bar-crawl. First, it involves what some might consider the “questionable wisdom” of binge drinking. And it’s cold.
Our method was to choose a street (say, North Monroe) and then go on foot into every bar on that street and have at least one drink in each place. There were only two other rules: 1. No drink may be repeated. 2. Okay, there was only one rule.
The crawl ended when one person in the party either (a) couldn’t drink anymore or (b) couldn’t walk anymore. It often ended with a team member doubled over and the other team members giving him a respectable distance so as not to get vomit on their shoes.
In harrowing outdoor adventure stories like this, the group always makes some small decision that mushrooms into a tragic error and spells their doom. Maybe they don’t factor in bad weather, or they don’t pack enough food, or they ignore the “Bear Feeding Ground” signs and slather each other with turkey gravy before climbing into beef jerky sleeping bags.
It was like that for us. We made the classic mistake of deciding it would be funny to also eat something different in every bar. We sampled the worst in bar cuisine, not just Buffalo wings, but pork rinds and pickled eggs. We were approaching the eighth bar when I gasped in some cold air and got an epic case of hiccups.
I had never lost a bar crawl but my stomach was churning. There was no way I was going to make it. We staggered into a bar and ordered booze and food. I got curly fries. My brother ordered a corn dog. I watched over my brother’s shoulder as the bartender opened the freezer. He felt around for the box of corn dogs, couldn’t find it and was about to tell us they were out when he saw something in the corner of the freezer and stood up holding a single, shriveled freezer-burned corn dog-not in any kind of box or wrapper. I watched as he stared at this abomination for a few seconds, then shrugged and dropped it in the deep fryer.
I knew I should say something, but I was crazy with booze and hiccups. As often happens in survival situations, it became every drunk for himself. I watched as the corn dog was delivered to our table, looking like something that had fallen off a cadaver.
That’s when I realized I couldn’t do this to my own brother. I opened my mouth to warn him. “Hic.”
“Ha ha!” my brother said. “Him’s got the hiccups!”
I closed my mouth. To this day, I am haunted by my decision. Until I remember my brother doubled over on the sidewalk. And then I laugh really hard.
Jess Walter’s new novel, The Zero, is available in bookstores
Jess Walters: The Urban Outdoors, Magazine Article |
Look, i don’t know what it is about Bald Eagles, but they seem to bring out both the best and the worst of us. We tend to think they’re beautiful. Majestic. Powerful. But then we think maybe they’re stealing our salmon, so we put a bounty out on them and make sure they are practically extinct before repealing that bounty. We protect and admire them, yet we flock to their habitat with our kids and our minivans and our digital cameras with the hope of getting a peek.
So here I am, me and my kids at Wolf Lodge Bay, equipped with snacks, binoculars, maps, cell phone, camera, and doodle pad, ready to see some big birds. And my sweet, adorable daughter says to me, “Tell me one more time, Papa. Why are we going to see the eagles?”
In lieu of actually supplying you with an answer to that question, I’ll try and distract you by providing you with a little information regarding the eagles at Wolf Lodge Bay.
Once a year, the great white north (that’s Canada, eh) gets a little more great and white, and the eagles’ food source freezes over, so they head south. In the winter they tend to congregate where there’s good, easy food to be found, snacking on spawning salmon. The landlocked Kokanee salmon (insert lame beer joke) of Lake Coeur d’ Alene provide the eagles with an easy diet (after spawning, the salmon are slow and dying and easy prey), and the surrounding trees and hillsides make a good spot for eagles to daydream and watch for tourists (as of this writing, at least 49 eagles have already been spotted at Wolf Lodge Bay, and it’s not even the peak of the season yet).
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) suggests the following when looking for bald eagles at the bay: 1. Bring binoculars (because you likely won’t get too close to the eagles … and if you do, you aren’t following the rules, Chester); 2. Stick to Higgins Point, Mineral Ridge Boat Ramp and the Mineral Ridge Trail head. Maps can be found on the BLM website or at the Mineral Ridge Trail head itself. 3. Do not stop on the road or look for eagles while you are driving because, well, not all of the locals will offer to tow you out of the bay.
Peak days to view the eagles are in the few weeks following December 25, coincidentally the same time you may be at home with kids who are sitting amidst a pile of new toys claiming there is “nothing to do.” So you pack ‘em into the car, strap them into gamepods and iboys and tell them instead of doing nothing, you’re going to look at eagles.
On our trip, we didn’t start out seeing much until we’d been at the Mineral Ridge Trail head long enough to explore the outhouses (which, thankfully, were open) and return to the car. I spotted an eagle atop a snag tree across Beauty Bay, and pointed it out to my kids.
“See there. Not on that tall tree on top of the hill, but the one down at the base. Right on top. There’s an eagle on the top of that tree.”
“I see it,” says one.
“I don’t see anything,” says the other. So I’m trying to describe the tree for her in detail, thinking she’s probably looking at the tree at the top of the hill, when I happen to notice that the tree at the top of the hill has some interesting shades of green in it. And it’s particularly symmetrical.
“Hey,” I say. “That’s no tree. That’s a … it’s a … well it’s a cell tower made to look like a tree.”
You know what? One of the things that makes this place so attractive for watching eagles-you really aren’t that far from “civilization”-is also what makes me wonder how long we’ll be lucky enough to see the eagles stop here on their way south. They may just all fly off one day, and find a better place to find salmon-somewhere with fewer tourists. According to the BLM, some of the eagles have already been moving their winter perches, but it’s hard to say exactly how much human activity disturbs them-they at least tolerate us to some extent. And when we did see the eagles a little closer (without me putting the car into the lake), it didn’t take them long to decide to perch elsewhere.
I could get really preachy here and repeat the rules about watching eagles from a distance and remind you not to go pestering this rare and dignified bird, but I have a feeling that’s what you expect me to do, so it’s really quite unnecessary. Just use your head. See some eagles. Learn something. And if your daughter asks you one more time why you’re going out to see the eagles, be honest about it. Tell her what I did.
“Because they’re cool,” I said. And that’s just about the extent of it.
For more information visit:
When You Go:
About 8 miles east of Coeur d’Alene on Interstate 90, take the Wolf Lodge exit. Turn right and follow State Highway 97 to the BLM Boat Launch and the Mineral Ridge Trailhead.
Magazine Article |
The atmosphere is more open than a Zen monastery but less so than a resort or spa. Located just five hours to the north in British Columbia, the Ashram Yasodhara offers a reflective getaway to individuals of all spiritual traditions. Whether participating in daily yoga classes, attending sacred dance courses or participating in satsangs (communal gatherings devoted to chanting and studying yogic devotional texts), the Ashram offers a reflective experience where visitors are guided towards a deeper understanding of themselves.
“At the Ashram, visitors come seeking time alone, but also wanting to feel a part of a community. It is a place to reflect on your life,” says Elizabeth, a resident of the Ashram.
In 1963, German-born Swami Sivananda Radha, returned from her studies in India and founded the Ashram Yasodhara. Resting on 120 acres along the shores of glacier-fed Kootenay Lake, the Ashram is a vibrant spiritual community with 16 permanent residents. In addition to the Ashram, Swami Radha went on to found 15 additional Radha Centers internationally, one of which is located in Spokane.
In Hindi tradition, an Ashram is a place for disciplined community living. The Ashram Yasodhara is a celibate community that offers comfortable, but separate accommodations for men and women. The Ashram does not allow alcohol or illegal drugs.
Various buildings dot the landscape at the Ashram. While walking along gravel and dirt paths that wind through the site, visitors encounter everything from housing accommodations (the newest of which utilizes a geothermal heat source, and recycled and local materials) and a shared workshop to a community garden and the Temple of Divine Light, a white, circular domed structure built from a visionary dream of Swami Radha’s. A main reception building, that greets visitors when they first arrive houses classrooms, the dining hall where silent meals are shared, and a bookstore with a rich and varied collection of spiritual titles.
All meals prepared at the Ashram are vegetarian and include, as much as possible, organic vegetables grown from their gardens. Meals are nutritionally sound, comprehensive and delicious. Homeade soups, fresh salads and a variety of bean spreads are typical of the fare served daily in the dining hall. Monthly recipes are published on their website.
Central to the Ashram are the yoga courses, intensives and retreats that are offered throughout the year. All classes focus on personal reflection.
“All questions are answered here in an integral way. There is a lot of time here-time expands. I was guided deeper into myself in a way I did not know how to do on my own,” says Elizabeth.
The Ashram’s most popular course is their Yoga Development Course, a three-month intensive that is full for 2007. This course studies the major branches of yoga through group study, personal reflection and practices.
The Ashram also welcomes families with young children, teens and young adults. “We have a Teen Program for ages 13 – 18 and families can be here together and retreat separately, as well,” says Elizabeth.
Families on retreat can save up to 40% registration costs, and residents are available for periodic childcare for families with smaller children so that mom and/or dad can attend classes.
The Ashram also supports a Young Adult program, where ages 18 – 30 spend two weeks at the Ashram. Participants receive a 50% discount and perform karma yoga (service to the community) for 8 hours a day full-time, attend daily hatha yoga, satsang and a weekly in-depth reflection class. Young adults are encouraged to develop their focus, discipline and independence in a supportive spiritual environment.
If you are unable to attend one of the scheduled retreats, the Ashram accepts visitors regularly on a pay per night basis. The cost is $100/ night for accommodations, three meals and two hours of karma yoga.
Visitors to the Ashram include an international mix of residents fromVancouver, Montreal and Alberta, B.C., Washington, Idaho, England, Australia and Japan.
“Our goal is harmonious community living. It is a sacred place, not just community. To live teachings of yoga day to day. Throughout the day. It is all about you, us and our evolution.”
For more information and schedules please call (800) 661-8711 or visit http://www.yasodhara.org.
When You Go:
FROM COEUR D’ALENE HEAD north on U.S. 95. You’ll pass through Sandpoint and then Bonner’s Ferry. After Bonner’s, about 15 or 20 miles toward the border, watch for a turn off to the left onto Highway #1 which goes to the U.S. Border Crossing at Porthill, ID (If you continue on U.S. 95 you will end up further east at the Eastport Border Crossing-the long way round!).
Once across the border, head north on Canadian Highway 21 toward Creston. The city of Creston will be on your right. You can drive straight through on 21 (you don’t have to go into Creston). Watch for signs for Highway 3A. The turn is under Highway 3 that goes west to Salmo and Nelson (don’t go there!). Highway 3A goes north along the east shore of Kootenay Lake to where the ferry crosses the lake at Kootenay Bay. It is a winding road up the east shore of the lake.
From Creston to the Ashram takes about 1 hour 15 minutes.
On Highway 3A, you will pass through Crawford Bay and then go up over a low pass and descend toward Kootenay Bay. Watch for a sign to the right to a village called Riondel. There are also signs to the Ashram. This junction is just before you get to the ferry terminal at Kootenay Bay.
Drive north along the Riondel Road about a mile. Watch for Ashram signs pointing to the left onto Walker’s Landing Road.
Turn onto Walker’s Landing Road (a dirt road) and drive about a quarter mile to the end. The first building you will see is the main reception building. Parking is located to the right of the main building.
Magazine Article |
Every outdoor pursuit has its hazard. For mountain bikers, it may be a rut or a rock garden in a steep, technical downhill stretch. If you’re a surfer or kayaker, you’re always susceptible to a sneaker wave or hole waiting to school your ass. And wilderness trekkers may have to contend with lions, tigers, bears or more likely West Nile virus. For skiers and boarders seeking the untouched powder potential of backcountry slopes, suffocating in the bowels of a pile of gravity-driven snow is likely your biggest adversary.
Backcountry skiing including telemarking, heliskiing and catskiing are all growing in popularity nationwide. Increased interest in backcountry skiing has also led to increased avalanche fatalities. Editor-in-chief Marc Peruzzi for Skiing, struggles in his editorial this past November with the pros and cons of backcountry skiing. Peruzzi, a self-titled “rope ducker” addresses the need for personal responsibility while at the same time acknowledging the dangers and fun of venturing out of bounds.
“As with life, skiing is a calculated risk. I’d ask myself: Should I stay on the crowded groomer where some moron could hit me or ski fresh snow in the unpatrolled glades where I could smack a tree and die of exposure?”
With all the potential danger, backcountry skiing still holds a strong appeal for skiers seeking fresh powder and challenging terrain. “It’s the closest thing out there to be free like a bird with a motor being attached-it is very empowering. You get to experience new terrain … new skiing opportunities you would otherwise never get,” says avid backcountry skier, Paul Shankenberger.
In response to growing public interest in backcountry skiing, The New York Times reported recently that “the ski industry is responding with education programs designed to heighten awareness and minimize the risk.” Regionally, a number of resorts have accomodated this surge in interest with avalanche safety courses and backcountry guides. While some nearby ski hills have very open relationships with their backcountry; others do not. Following is a round-up of where you can and can’t backcountry ski at area resorts.
SCHWEITZER SKI RESORT
“We have an open gate policy, so there are a few places where you can experience backcountry skiing,” says Schweitzer’s Marketing Manager, Patrick Sande. This does not mean, however, that you can expect Schweitzer to manage those areas. According to John Pucci, the director of Schweitzer’s Ski Patrol, “we just take care of the designated ski area as seen on the map.” There is no avalanche control or skier assistance available in the backcountry.
There is, however, the Selkirk Powder Company, a backcountry guide service that operates in conjunction with Schweitzer, and Pucci says that Schweitzer’s ski patrol would be involved in rescue attempts, especially if the Selkirk Powder Company comes into any trouble.
Pucci also says that the mountain’s ski patrol would not be involved in rescuing snowmobilers in neighboring areas, and that backcountry rescues are conducted at the victim’s expense.
According to Hendrik Weigldt, the Snow Sports Manager at Red Mountain, “there’s a lot of backcountry skiing” there. The way the lifts are set up at Red means that backcountry skiing entails a short hike to the top of one of the nearby peaks, and from some of them you can ski back into the ski area itself.
Weigldt also says that “if people get lost, [the rescue] is their responsibility,” a reminder of the importance of always telling someone about your plans to head into the backcountry. That way, they can put a rescue attempt in action if you fail to come home. At Red, there is a local volunteer search and rescue team in which some of the mountain’s patrollers are involved.
“People often make arrangements to be picked up,” says Weigldt, if they know they’ll be coming out on the mountain access road, or they hitchhike.
“People generally are pretty careful,” Weigldt says, “but we’re hoping they’ll start paying us to do it through our guide service.” No hitching? Stellar.
This might be the smallest ski area around, but its backcountry potential is right up there with the big dogs. “We have tremendous backcountry opportunities right out of our back door,” says General Manager Phil Edholm. “Once you’re out of the boundary, it’s public domain.” Like the other resorts, Lookout Pass posts significant signage to inform potential backcountry adventurers of the risks they’re taking by crossing the ski area boundary, and provides no routine assistance or snow management for the backcountry area.
“If they do need some kind of assistance, or if they’re lost, that triggers a response from the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue,” or from the comparable department in Montana, said Edholm.
So don’t take the risk unless you’re prepared to owe the county a lot of money for saving your skin.
Then again, “some people say it’s the best backcountry skiing in the country,” says Edholm, “they call it a little Alta [Utah].”
WHITEWATER SKI RESORT
Another small ski area with immense backcountry potential. “We encourage people to enjoy the backcountry safely,” says Anne Pigeon, the area’s Marketing Manager.
Whitewater offers avalanche safety courses, including a one-day intro course and a three-day hands-on learning experience. They also offer an introduction to backcountry skiing lesson through the ski school that will help students learn to find a good route, how to skin their way up, and how to ski back down safely.
Skiers can come to Whitewater and hire the resort’s guides, “snow safety avalanche technicians,” or they can even buy a one-ride ticket (after signing a waiver) that can take the first few hundred feet of hiking out of the picture.
Pigeon cautioned, however, that some of the most visible out-of-bounds territory is also the most dangerous. “There are so many places to go through touring that are less steep and less dangerous,” so the resort tends to encourage ridge-touring rather than peak-hiking and cliff-hucking.
KIMBERLY & FERNIE
Elsewhere in the Canadian Rockies, the backcountry beckons. “Backcountry access out of Kimberly is limited,” says Chris Elder of Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, but at Fernie the freshies are just a duck and a hike away.
“It’s very much an open policy,” says Elder, ” but we hope they make an informed decision.” Fernie posts signs to warn skiers and riders of the risks. They also post current avalanche conditions and encourage people to take the right equipment and a partner. “They should be prepared for self-rescue,” said Elder. If a rescue situation were to escalate, the RCMP, provincial emergency program, and the mountain’s ski patrol could be involved in the recovery.
As at other resorts in B.C., the provincial search and rescue team, consisting of local volunteers and organized by the provincial government, could also be involved in a rescue attempt.
Fernie and Kimberly both have mountain guides available for hire, generally to help patrons get the most from an in-bounds experience, and there are also several backcountry guiding companies based in Fernie.
49 DEGREES NORTH
With the new construction at 49 Degrees North, the resort effectively incorporated its backcountry. Much of what used to be out of bounds is now in. That doesn’t mean, however, that there isn’t plenty of backcountry around the resort.
“Skiers and boarders wishing to go outside of the marked area boundaries do so at their own risk. Areas outside of area boundaries are not patrolled,” says Josh King, 49′s Marketing Manager, quoting the resort’s policy verbatim. “Search and rescue operations may be authorized and conducted by the Stevens County Sheriff’s Department. You and your heirs will be financially responsible for this service.”
King said that the resort ski patrol would be involved in potential search and rescue, especially within and very near area boundaries, though rescue attempts outside of the resort would be operated by the local Sheriff’s Department. Snowmobile tracks abound near 49 for backcountry access, but don’t poach the off-piste unless you’re prepared to answer to the Stevens County Sheriff.
If you want to beat the crowds at Mt. Spokane, night skiing is great way to do it. Skiiers and boarders are at a minimum during the evening hours. Mt. Spokane, however, does not encourage backcountry skiing.
“[Backcountry skiing] is something all of our risk managers dwell on. Out-of-bounds sking or riding is just that, you are skiing or riding outside of the operational boundary of that particular ski area that was set forth by the individual ski area(s) and/or other various parties, to ensure the safety of each and every guest. Most of this acreage is not patrolled,” says Gabe Lawson, Mt. Spokane’s Marketing Manager.
While Mt. Spokane has some backcountry routes that are frequented by local skiiers familiar with the terrain, these areas are un-patrolled, “except by other skiers,” says Lawson, though if a rescue attempt became necessary Mt. Spokane’s volunteer ski patrol would assist the Park Service in trying to find the lost skier or boarder.
Another mountain that controls access to its backcountry with gates and warnings. “We have zero tolerance for anybody who ducks a rope or goes out of bounds anywhere except our designated backcountry gates,” says Dave Alley, the Director of Ski Patrol at Silver. That is not to say you will get in trouble for skiing out of bounds on Silver, but the Ski Patrol urges backcountry skiers to be careful and to be aware of the dangers they might encounter. There is no avalanche control, nor any routine Ski Patrol presence in the backcountry, though patrollers would participate in any necessary rescue attempt, Alley says.
“The sheriff’s department will be called and you’ll accrue the costs.” Silver’s Ski Patrol was involved in four rescues last year in the backcountry, each one demanding long, tiring days from patrollers who’ve been on the clock since well before dawn. Don’t think they won’t charge you for the overtime manpower when you decide to play hide and seek in the backcountry.
For a summary of ski conditions at area resorts, please visit: www.ski-inlandnorthwest.com/conditions.php
For avalanche conditions please visit the following website: www.fs.fed.us/ipnf/visit/conditions/backcountry/index.html
For avalanche advisories, please call:
Idaho Panhandle NF: (208) 765-7323
Lolo & Bitterroot NF: (406) 549-4488
Northwest Montana: (406) 257-8402
Magazine Article |
If you thought Coeur d’Alene would be less interested in promoting bicycle and pedestrian use because it’s a smaller metro area than Spokane-you would be wrong. “We are looking at going to the city council and requesting to expand the board to 15 members,” says Mike Gridley, Coeur d’Alene City Attorney and Coordinator of the city’s Ped and Bike Advisory Committee. Currently the board has 11 members representing a variety of stakeholders. Gridley says that they all understand the need for ped and bike enhancements.” We’ve been too car-friendly for a while,” Gridley says. “We need to look at being ped and bike friendly.”
Gridley sees the committee’s work as helping to facilitate active lifestyles with an economic development twist. “More people are looking to hike, bike and walk. Developers are seeing that trails and paths are things that people want.” As for specific projects there is a lot of “low-hanging fruit” as Gridley describes it. He’s talking about enhancements such as ped-ramps cut into sidewalks, which are a great benefit to the elderly and the disabled. Resident Bill Porath represents the physically challenged community on the board. According to Gridley the two major projects the Committee is focusing on at the moment are:
- The 15th Street Corridor: A major North/South route in Coeur d’Alene that traverses two schools. They are looking for grants for improvements and bike lanes.
- Bike parking in downtown. The committee is looking to work with the downtown business association to get more racks. “We think more people will ride if there is a place to lock them up,”Gridley says.
The group is also distributing an educational video in schools and elsewhere aimed at educating drivers about ped and bike safety issues. “A lot of it is attention to details that you may not be aware of when you are driving a five thousand pound car,” Gridley says.
Speaking as a cyclist who often shares a lane with five thousand pound vehicles all I can say to that is “Amen, brother.”
And that’s not all that’s going on in North Idaho. John Bowman, owner of Mountain View Cyclery and Fitness reports to me that he has been drafted to serve on the city of Hayden’s new ped/bike committee. Go Hayden. There’s always room on the ped/bike bandwagon.
Editorial, Magazine Article |