Spring has sprung into full gear, leaving much of winter’s wake in its path. Sunny days, warm temperatures and the smell of cottonwood buds and violets waft through the air. But before we spring too fast into this busy season, let’s take a moment to reflect on the fabulous winter we had.
First off, if you can’t remember that far back, we had a very early snow in October that almost sabotaged Halloween. The pandemic did that instead whilst the early flakes melted away. But by Nov. 11, winter was here to stay. This was great news for Methow Trails, which saw its longest season ever and for the Loup Loup Ski Bowl, which enjoyed a 60-day season, the likes of which can’t be recalled spare the true old-timers. Similarly, the Winthrop Rink saw record numbers in both visitors and locals. Due to the pandemic and despite it, people were eager to recreate. And they did so in record numbers.
Mary McFaul from the Loup Loup Ski School reflected, “it was a season like no other … we didn’t know what to expect with the restrictions and no lodge, but people came. They kept coming, and they didn’t stop coming.” Of course, good snow fall has a lot to do with the epic turn out at the Loup.
As a lifelong downhill skier, my preference for the sport ebbs and flows with the conditions. Quite frankly, I have come to be picky. Here in the valley, there are so many alternatives in the winter to be outside, a bad day on the slopes just isn’t worth it. The beauty of being a pass holder and living in Twisp too is that if the skiing is lousy, you’re only 20 minutes from home.
The Methow offers so many great options in the winter, when the conditions aren’t optimal, I prefer to hit the Nordic ski trails, go off-piste in the side country, up into the backcountry, or winter hike. This year, I had only one bad ski day at the Loup, skied two runs and called it a day. Otherwise, I got my money’s worth, averaging two days per week at the mountain. Season passes are on sale now for next year!
After six years of ski patrol, I hung up my cross this past season and, boy, did I miss some action on the mountain. Due to the sheer number of more skiers on the hill, there were more accidents. New to the slopes this year were belligerent guests who were asked to leave the premises because of non-compliance with mask mandates or vulgar behavior, putting management and ski patrol into the uncomfortable and difficult position of enforcement — not a fun task for anyone. Let’s hope tempers and attitudes shift next year as the COVID climate recedes.
This transitional time brings a little something for everyone. For mountaineering types, some of the best spring skiing is yet to be had in the high country. For golfers, the greens are getting ready. River runners are mounting their rafts and kayaks as the waters rise, and runners on the newly freed trails. There’s still snow in the mountains and despite the daffodils, chances are we’ll still see another dusting in the valley just to give us something to talk about.