Ski Season Ends Here
April 10, 2015
I spent last week out west with Mr. Karen, celebrating his retirement by doing mostly what we would have done on vacation anyway (though he did start on some projects that should get done around the condo before we move out there full time). Our original plan was to stay at our condo and ski all week at Schweitzer, right up until they shut down the mountain for the winter. A day or so before we flew out, the resort announced that they’d be closing a week early due to poor snow conditions, meaning we’d be able to ski only one day of our trip and would miss the passholder party the day before closing day. Bummer. But our tickets were non-refundable, the vacation time approved, and we’d have to go at some point regardless to get our truck back home from its overwintering in the inland Pacific Northwest, so off we went.
I had a Coney dog omelet at the airport before we left, because Detroit (well, Romulus, but you know what I mean). We connected through Seattle, which makes for a longer trip but sometimes we decide it’s worth it to not have to get up so early to make the flights that connect through Minneapolis. When we eventually got to Spokane, we collected our truck and headed out. We got to town and thought we’d try a new to us sushi place, but it was full up with an overflowing waiting area, so we went around the corner for Thai instead. No wait there, and I got to drink tea from a pleasingly asymmetrical handmade cup.
We finally got up to the mountain Saturday night after dark, so the extent of the poorness of the snow conditions wasn’t clear to me until Sunday morning. There were just a few tiny patches of white visible out the back window, the window that in other years has been piled with snow to my knees or waist or chin. The ski runs on the map right side of the mountain were mostly or entirely brown, not white. We walked down to the village and what I saw made me wonder how they’d managed to stay open as long as they had; the path to the lift was grass and mud and bare pavement, not snow, up until just about the line to get on started (or would start, if there were a line). But that lift was running, as was the one above it, the one that accesses the higher elevations, where there was still decent snow coverage, so there was still skiing to be had. And it was fun, of course, though challenging at the lowest elevations threading our way between the bare patches.
Monday we hiked up one of the cat tracks that normally we’d ski down. Since the resort was close and it’s private property, we wondered if we’d get in trouble, but when an employee drove by, he just waved at us. Cool. We also stopped in the village and bought our season passes for next year—we’re in this for the long term.
One day of skiing seemed pretty lame for a week long ski trip, so we got online and researched our options. The places within easiest driving distance were also closed, but a bit farther north the lifts were still running. There are a few places around 3-ish hours away that were open, but their conditions looked a bit sketchy, too, so we eventually decided to take a vacation from our vacation and head seven hours north to Revelstoke, BC. The drive up was beautiful, and included a side hike to a waterfall on Sweet Creek and car ferry across a narrow lake as bonuses.
We checked into our hotel, which I’d picked from Travelocity by virtue of it being the best reviewed of the cheaper properties within walking distance of restaurants. I was not impressed by our reception (it seemed like we were inconveniencing the clerk, who asked why I hadn’t replied to the email she’d sent asking when I’d arrive, to which I wanted to reply a) I am on vacation so not checking my email every minute especially when subject to global data charges and b) we were there at least a couple hours before 10 p.m. which is when their online listing said the desk closed), and was even less impressed by how cold the room was and how inefficient the heating system was at fixing that. Fortunately base layers for skiing make warm pajamas, and by morning the room was a somewhat more tolerable temp.
Our hotel didn’t have breakfast, so we went to what we thought was a restaurant adjacent to another hotel in town, but it turned out that during the morning hours, the restaurant is used for a typical hotel continental breakfast for their guests. The lady we talked to to find that out was so friendly that we felt it would be rude to leave so we paid the $8 per person to eat there before heading up to the ski mountain.
One of the factors that swayed us to Revelstoke was their offer of a 40% discount on lift tickets for season passholders from other resorts. That seemed somewhat less generous when we got there and found out that the whole lower mountain was closed, but there was still a lot of terrain open on the upper elevations, so off we went on the gondola (and then the other gondola) to get up there. The conditions, both weather and snow, were variable all day, but we had fun exploring a new mountain and enjoyed not having to worry about dirt and rocks like we had that last day at Schweitzer. When the clouds cleared, the views were beautiful. At first, the lifties didn’t seem as interactive or friendly as the ones at Schweitzer though when I left my gloves on the upper gondola but didn’t realize it until I was about to get off the lower one I found them quite nice to chat with (and I did eventually get my gloves back, too).
The next day we found an actual restaurant for breakfast before heading up for another day of skiing, enjoying the beautiful scenery (when the clouds deigned to leave so we could see it) and having fun or at least interesting times with the snow depending on which part of which slopes we were on.
Heading back to the hotel at the end of the day, we drove by a train derailment a few blocks from our hotel. Well, I had never seen one in person so convinced Mr. K to walk over and take a look. Once it was clear there were no people hurt or toxic fumes, I felt fine taking photos and gawking from across the street (and had lots of company doing the same).
Eventually I had to tear myself away from the train and we did a little shopping before most things shut down around 6. One of the drugstores had a cage with fluffy baby chickens strutting and peeping; I guess because it was almost Easter. We went back to the hotel and showered and changed and walked to dinner, on the way back from which I made Mr. K detour to see what was going on with the train cars (not much, though more grain had spilled out or been spilled out intentionally to lighten the load). Then it was back to the hotel to sleep before making the drive back to Idaho (I first typed “home” there; my brain is already ready for the move) the next day, via a different but still very scenic route.
We awoke the morning after we got back to see it had snowed. Gee, thanks Universe. It wasn’t a lot of snow, so we waited until it mostly melted and went for a walk around the neighborhood, which since we’re on a mountain, is not the same flat stroll we can do in Michigan. We took a trip to town (mostly to fix the lack of pie in our trip) and putzed around the condo and got up the next day to do more walking and putzing.
The day after that I had to fly back to Michigan and work (Mr. Karen did not, what with being retired and all, so he got driving the truck back home alone duty). We awoke to a legitimate snowstorm. The trip down the mountain road was rather scary at times, as the usual early morning plowing and sanding that happens during ski season didn’t happen because it was not ski season anymore. Fortunately we stayed on the road and there was no oncoming traffic the times we slid out of our lane on curves. I thought once we were down in town the weather would clear, as it so often does, but it pretty much snowed or rained the whole way to the airport in Spokane. I talked to Mr. K after I got home and he said by the time the storm ended, the snow was about six or seven inches deep. Too much, too late, Universe.