By Ashley Lodato
Longer and warmer days signal the approach of spring, but there is still plenty of good winter recreation out there.
Under state and county guidelines a face covering is not needed when you are outside walking, exercising, or otherwise outdoors as long as you are able to stay 6 feet away from other people who do not live with you. However, at trailheads, busy trails, bathrooms, any indoor spaces and trail intersections, please be ready to pull a mask over your face to keep recreational areas open and trail users safe.
Nordic skiing has remained a COVID-safe way to recreate during the pandemic, and thanks to regular snowfalls of beautiful fluffy flakes throughout the winter, the Nordic skiing conditions are the best they’ve been for nearly as long as anyone can remember.
Ticket sales have been robust, not just on holidays and weekends but also throughout the week. Methow Trails anticipates grooming through April 1, so there is still plenty of time for you to ski every kilometer in the system should you choose to join the unofficial 200K club. Visit www.methowtrails.org for information.
The Nordic trails at South Summit are generally groomed for weekend use as long as conditions allow. Visit https://skitheloup.com/nordic-skiing for trail conditions and grooming updates. Parking passes are required.
There is no camping or any kind of overnight sleeping allowed at Methow Trails trailheads, including Early Winters and Chickadee. Running is not allowed on the Methow Trails winter trail system; try Upper Bear Creek Road if you want a dirt road run.
It has been a banner year at the Loup, both in terms of visitation and revenue, said General Manager Dave Betts.
“It’s been a historic year for us; we’ve had to turn people away because the parking lots are full,” Betts said. With Stevens Pass struggling to keep lifts open, manage reservations and provide parking, Betts said, “The Loup has had people coming from Leavenworth and Wenatchee.”
That use, added to the regular skiers from the Methow Valley and Okanogan region, has kept the Loup busy this season.
Although school districts other than Pateros suspended their school bus shuttles due to COVID logistical obstacles, the fifth-grade free ski program continued this year, and the absence of school buses in the lot freed up parking for personal vehicles, Betts said.
Robust attendance at the Loup also boosted sales at both the ski school and the Mountain Meals food cart.
“He’s been up there every day,” said Betts of Mountain Meals owner Levi Knox. “With our lodge still under construction and the cafeteria closed, Mountain Meals has provided a service for skiers throughout the season.”
Lodge construction is underway, although due to the building boom in the Methow, it’s currently stalled out awaiting subcontractors. “We’ve raised over $900,000 so far,” said Betts, “and we anticipate opening the new lodge by next season.”
Betts adds that donations to the capitol project are still necessary and welcome, and can come in the form of checks dropped off at the ticket window or online contributions through the Loup’s “The Next 50” tab.
Betts said that the Loup will remain open on weekends as long as the snow conditions allow; the hope is through the end of March. Wednesday operations will depend on use patterns on March 3 and 10; if demand is there, lifts will remain open on Wednesdays. Check https://skitheloup.com for info, updates, and operating schedule.
Trail conditions at Pearrygin Lake State Park and Lloyd Ranch continue to provide excellent riding, but it’s the time in the season that riders need to be mindful of staying off trails as they soften.
Deep holes, ruts and tracks caused by boots, snowshoes, and fat bikes are difficult to repair. The way to prolong the season is to plan your outings for early mornings and cold days.
Methow Cycle & Sport provides the most comprehensive list of fat biking trails and conditions in the Methow Valley. Visit www.methowcyclesport.com/articles/fat-bike-trails-conditions-pg187.htm for more information and trail suggestions. Parking passes are required.
A weekend report from Patterson Lake records 18 inches of ice thickness, although conditions vary in different locations. Perch and rainbow trout are still biting, for those who take the time to drop a line under the ice. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife recommends 4 inches of ice for ice fishing.
Enjoying the meticulous trail grooming and maintenance? Equipment, fuel, and personnel all cost money, which trail pass revenues help offset. Purchase your parking and trail use passes, and help support winter recreation in the Methow Valley.