A regular series of storms keeps refreshing the snowpack and the wintery aesthetic of the eastern slope of the North Cascades, leaving the Methow Valley with picture-perfect conditions for winter recreation.
A weekend snowstorm on top of a warm, firm base is shaping up to position the Methow Valley well for a long Nordic season. Methow Trails has opened all of its 200 kilometers of ski trails and is grooming the majority of those trails nightly on weekends and during the holidays.
Some trailheads fill up during the prime times of the day; try exploring new areas or skiing early or late in the day. Visit www.methowtrails.org/trail-report when planning your ski to find out where the best conditions are. Trail passes are required.
The South Summit Sno-Park area near Loup Loup Pass has had an initial packing of all 50K of its trails. Coverage is thin and will be punchy in the center of the track, so skiers should use caution. Trail passes are not required, but each vehicle must display a Sno-Park permit, which can be purchased at Hank’s Harvest Foods in Twisp or online at https://parks.state.wa.us/134/Sno-Park-non-motorized-Permits.
Methow Fatbike reports that the grooming crew has put in some big sessions to establish and groom all of the Lloyd Ranch trails. Soft conditions may exist in some sections; trails will firm up with more grooming passes and time to set up. Early season conditions exist so exercise care as there is not much snow to cushion a fall and plenty of hard objects under it. Helmets are strongly encouraged when fat biking.
You can help protect the trail surface by choosing other trails or lowering your tire pressure if leaving tracks deeper than 1 inch. Tempering early season excitement with some patience will provide the best trail conditions long term.
Methow Cycle & Sport provides the most comprehensive list of fat biking trails and conditions in the Methow Valley. Visit https://www.methowcyclesport.com/articles/fat-bike-trails-conditions-pg187.htm for more information and trail suggestions. Parking passes are required.
Groomed snowshoe trails can be found on the Methow Trails system in Mazama, the Rendezvous, Winthrop and Sun Mountain. Check the website for conditions: www.methowtrails.org/trail-report. Trail passes are required.
Thanks to the weekend snowstorm, Loup Loup Ski Bowl is one step closer to opening, which they hope to do for the holidays. Full-time Okanogan County residents get a 10% discount on tickets. Check https://skitheloup.com for opening information, conditions, updates, and operating schedule.
Skating under the stars or the big blue Methow Valley sky is a magical way to experience gliding on ice. The Winthrop Rink is open for skating, organized hockey, drop-in hockey, and private rentals, as well as offering equipment rentals. Visit the website for holiday schedules and rates: http://winthroprink.org .
Due to patterns of freezing, thawing, and refreezing coupled with heavy snowfall over the weekend, ice conditions at this time of year are unreliable. The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife recommends waiting until ice is 4 inches thick before venturing onto lakes for ice fishing, and 9 inches for snowmobiling. Most winter anglers head to Davis Lake and Patterson Lake once the ice is reliable. Check these websites for more information about conditions and license requirements: https://okanogancountry.com/fishing–hunting-winter; https://wdfw.wa.gov/places-to-go/weekender/north-central.
The Methow Valley’s six Sno-Parks provide access to 175 miles of groomed snowmobile trails and connections to other areas of the region, like Conconully and Chelan. The Methow Valley Snowmobile Association organizes group rides and reports on conditions; check their website and social media for conditions, grooming, event information: www.facebook.com/methowvalleysnowmobile; http://mvsnowmobile.blogspot.com.
The reason all of the recreation areas listed above are so enjoyable for skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking is that they are expertly groomed, some by paid staff and some by volunteers. 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.
Staying warm outside
Treat the feet: think insulated boots with a thick sole. You may be standing in line outside, waiting to get into a restaurant, to get a coffee, to get your turn on the ice; you may be socializing outdoors with others around fires or on sidewalks. This isn’t the winter to skimp on footwear. If your boots are on the light side, carry some air-activated heat packs that you can slip under your socks if your tootsies start to freeze.
Hats on: You lose a significant amount of heat out of your head. Capture that heat with a fuzzy wool or fleece hat. Learn to knit your own, and you’ll have a new winter hobby as well as a warm noggin.
Cozy core: Your vital organs are all located in your core, so you’ll be warmer if you insulate this zone well with a puffy jacket with plenty of loft. If your puffer is too tight, you’ll lose the layer of warm air between your body and the jacket; if it’s too big, there will be more air space than your body can heat effectively. For those who run chilly, a three-fourths or full-length puffy jacket will be a game changer.
Hot fingers: Our hands do a terrible job of keeping themselves warm, so thick hand wear is essential. Mittens are warmer than gloves, due to the buddy system (fingers can warm themselves on each other), but gloves offer more dexterity. Air-activated heat packs can quickly rewarm frigid fingers or prevent them from getting cold in the first place.
Mask up: You’ll be surprised at how much warmth you’ll get from the covering even a lightweight cotton mask provides. With the Omicron variant inevitably headed our way, COVID masks keep you warm as well as safe.