Just over the ridge, up the river, and over the hill sits a little-known secret to the ski industry in the Pacific Northwest, Sitzmark Ski Area. I meet skiers across the state who have rarely heard of the Loup Loup Ski Bowl, so the fact that Sitzmark opened this year after a three-year hiatus and welcomed in some turns, is noteworthy. Some local Loup devotees switched it up and made the trek to Sitzmark a couple week ago and said the powder was worth the drive. Greg and Keller Knab of Winthrop and Tory and Tesh Karpenko of Twisp attest that the mountain had a lot of fun to offer, with great wide open terrain.
The 80-acre ski area just outside Tonasket opened after the big dump in January and the snowpack has held steady for three weeks. Let’s hope this next blip on the radar with the possibility of snow helps them stay that way. The area opened in 1951 with a rope tow and later added the lift in the 1980s. The family-owned resort maintains a Facebook Page with current operating hours and conditions.
The unfortunate closure of the Loup Loup due to low snow meant the cancellation of the Wolf Chase downhill race this past weekend. This was a blow for the team, the mountains, as well as the regional skiers who come from nearby resorts to have a homegrown experience independently owned and operated small operations offer. Despite the closure, the previous weekend, Feb. 5, Cascade Endurance hosted the Loup Loup Skimo event at the hill.
Racing Skimo means you climb up the hill and race back down. Skimo racers use specialized skins adhered to the bottom of their skis with boots and binding made for climbing. The equipment is lighter weight than traditional backcountry gear, but for local races like the Loup Loup Skimo, almost anything goes. Spandex and wigs were hot items at the local event. The Loup Loup Skimo event was designed to challenge racers to make as many laps up and back down the hill as possible in a 1 hour or a 4-hour timed option. Sam and Allison Naney of Mazama who operate Cascade Endurance, an endurance sports event and training company, put on a fun and festive event with raucous music, food, and jubilee. Skimo stands for Ski Mountaineering and the uphill/down race will make an appearance in the Olympics in Italy in 2026.
As Olympic competition continues through the Feb. 20, Olympic fever has given way to anticipation of spring due to the lackluster winter we’ve had. Watching the Beijing Olympics reminds me that we are not alone in the lack of snow. The downhill courses look like ribbons of Elmer’s glue painted on brown hills. The conditions for these racers have been challenging, if not outright treacherous. One more week of competition and then it feels like its time to trade in the ski boots for a bicycle and with not much snow in the distant forecast, my frustrated friends are talking about garden starts. We will probably get another two feet in April with an Arctic blast shattering that plan, so I’ll wait.