New day lodge a big hit with ski area’s users
With its central location in a county known for its scrappy resourcefulness, it’s no surprise that the Loup Loup Ski Bowl (the Loup) leveraged the season’s lone significant snowstorm to the hilt.
“We had one epic snowstorm on Jan. 4, and we opened all operations on the Jan. 5,” said Executive Director Brent Nourse. “Thanks to our amazing grooming crew, we got 14 fully operational days out of that one snowstorm.”
By any skier’s standards, 14 days is minimal. For die-hards, it’s inadequate. But without the capacity to make snow, the Loup is subject to nature’s vagaries.
This winter snowfall was limited, and what fell in the early season was so cold that it was nearly impossible to pack to establish a base, making grooming challenging.
In addition to the 14 days of full operations — which served 4,400 guests, including fifth-graders on field trips — the Loup opened the tubing hill and the junior poma on a handful of other days, to accommodate ski school participants, as well as to host an event to thank major donors of new day lodge, the result of The years of dreaming and scheming and fundraising come to fruition.
“Everyone loves it,” Nourse said of the lodge. “It’s bigger but still intimate, beautiful, with a great new kitchen and café area.”
Nourse remembers the old lodge from when he was a kid growing up and skiing at the Loup in the 1980s. The new lodge still offers a cozy place to warm up and a stunning view of the mountain, but with increased capacity, more effective heating, and improved foot traffic flow.
More use for lodge
Nourse said that the on-mountain concessionaire, Saskatoon Kitchens, has been wildly successful from a customer satisfaction perspective. “Nomadic caterer” Sophia Boesenberg, who owns and operates Saskatoon Kitchens, was born and raised in the Okanogan Valley and served up traditional ski lodge fare along with vegetarian sandwiches, breakfast options, pastries and beverages.
“Sophia’s food is excellent and she and her staff provide top-notch service,” Nourse said. In fact, Boesenberg’s offerings were so popular that the Loup hosted several dinners catered by Saskatoon Kitchens, providing guests with a tasty meal in the new community space.
“We want to be able to use the lodge as much as we can,” Nourse said, “partly because it’s a great lodge, but also because it’s a labor of love from the community. We want people who don’t ski or snowboard to be able to enjoy the lodge as well.”
Like everyone in the winter recreation industry, Nourse and the Loup board are thinking creatively about the potential for shorter, drier winters of the future. “Careful planning and an eye toward expansion are guiding us,” Nourse said. “We are working with the U.S. Forest Service to explore becoming an all-season venue.”
Although Nourse and the Loup board are not ready to make any official announcements about summer season operations, Nourse said that “we are in the middle of significant strategic planning for the next 10 years, which — pending approval from the Forest Service — will include opportunities for users to enjoy the Loup in the summer.”
Nourse said that he and the board appreciate the working relationship with Methow District Ranger Chris Furr, as well as Program Manager Rosemary Seifried, who are helping Nourse and the Loup navigate the details and permitting required for summer operations.
“They’re great stewards of the forest around here,” he said. “We have to jump through hoops, but they’re helping us through the process.”
Making the most of it
In the meantime, Nourse notes that his staff “did a really great job with what little snow we had,” making it possible for not only regular pass holders and day lift ticket purchasers to get some solid turns in, but also for nearly all the elementary schools in the region to send their fifth-grade classrooms for a day of fun on the snow. Despite the financial hit of a low-snow season, the Loup still prioritizes the “fifth-graders ski free” program.
Toward the end of the season, the Loup made lemonade out of lemons — or slushies out of slush? — by hosting a video contest.
“We were in the middle of 18 days of 50-degree temperatures,” Nourse said. “What could we do? We asked the community to do snow dances for us. We didn’t get much snow, but we got a lot of great submissions to our video contest. We put out four finalists and asked the community to vote.” The winner received a free season pass for next winter.
Although the season was not as snow-packed as Loup users would have hoped, “sometimes the weather is just the weather,” Nourse said. “We appreciate the community’s continued support, patience and trust. We’re looking to the future; we’re focused on the many ways we can continue to offer great recreational opportunities and add to the many reasons why folks love the Loup.”