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John's Outdoor TipsPacific Northwest Adventures for the outdoor enthusiast.
Winter Ski Sports
The National Weather Service is predicting strong La Nina ocean currents this winter which usually means a better than average snow pack for the Pacific NW. So it should be a good year for both experienced and beginning winter enthusiasts alike. There are lots of ways to get out and enjoy the quiet winter scenery this year.
There are a number of great lift area resorts within a few hours drive from the Moscow/Pullman area, where one can downhill ski, telemark ski, or snowboard. All these areas offer lessons for those just starting out. But for people that don’t want to drive as far, or don’t want to pay for lift tickets, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing can be done locally at little expense. Both these sports also lend themselves for family outings with an occasional snowball fight being the only serious hazard. Like bicycling, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing can be used for an aerobic workout, or done at a more leisurely pace, just to get out and enjoy some fresh air and snow-filled scenery. Because poles are used in both snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, they are excellent forms of exercise as they offer a whole body workout.
Depending on the snow level, the relatively flat Chipman Trail provides an easy way for beginners to learn to keep their skis under themselves. The Latah Trail has a few more hills and is farther east, which usually means a better and more abundant snowpack. Since both the Chipman and Latah Trails are paved, it doesn’t take too much snow to be able to ski them, but because they are so flat, they are a little boring to snowshoe. These trails are a great local destination for night skiing during the short winter days. The snow is often colder and better at night and there is usually enough ambient light from the Moscow/Pullman city lights on the Chipman trail for night skiing. The Latah trail can also be skied at night, but you will probably want a full moon, or better yet, a headlamp to light the way.
The Eastern continuation of the Latah Trail, down Little Bear Creek Canyon in Troy, requires more snow for it to be skiable, as this section is not paved. But the skier is rewarded with solitude and a beautiful forested canyon to ski down and back. To find the start of Little Bear Creek Canyon, drive through Troy on Highway 8. As you begin to leave town, cross a bridge, then immediately look to the right for a road that ends at the Troy sewage treatment plan. There is a parking area there and the trail is in front of you.
The road into Kamiak Butte County Park, near Palouse is usually not plowed in the winter, but you can park near the gated entrance and ski or snowshoe the road into the park and then up the trail to the summit. The summit offers great views of the snow-covered Palouse hills. It is a quick trip down the trail, then down the road back to your car.
Moscow Mountain is a popular area in the summer for hiking and biking, but it is also a good winter destination. The roads are normally gated near the base of the mountain, so skiers, snowshoers and boarders can earn their downhill turns by ascending the roads. A popular trail in the summer, the Headwaters Trail is also a good trail in the winter for snowshoeing. While snowshoers should have no problem negotiating its steep slopes and hairpin turns, it is an advanced cross-country ski trail. However, the Paradise Point road near the trail makes for a good cross-country or telemark ski trail. To find the Headwaters trail, drive north from Moscow on Highway 95 for about 4 miles to the base of Steakhouse Hill on Moscow Mountain. Turn right on Lewis road and follow it to a T intersection. Turn left and park in a pullout with a large “Moscow Mountain Recreation Area” sign. Ski up the road a few hundred yards past a small, gated road to your right. You may see a small pond (probably a flat snow-covered area) to the right and immediately to the right behind the pond is the start of the Headwaters trail. Cross-country skiers can continue up the road to the summit of Paradise Point and along the Ridge Road toward the summit of Moscow Mountain. The Ridge Road offers outstanding views to the south and on a clear winter day, the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon are visible.
Telemark skiers and snowboarders may want to drive eastward to Troy and take a left as they enter Troy near the cedar mill onto Randall Flat Road. Drive a couple of miles and turn right on Tamarack Road. This road leads to the eastern side of Moscow Mountain and the old Tamarack Ski area. Park, then chug up the hill to the top of Tamarack Point. Continue westward along the road and look to the north. Usually by mid-December there is enough snow to bury the underbrush and there will be some excellent turns waiting to be made in clearcuts and glades on the north side of Moscow Mountain. If the snow is not deep enough, or if you have had enough, point your board/skis downhill and enjoy the ride down the road back to your car.
Don’t forget that even though it is cold, you’re working hard and losing moisture, so remember to bring water and some snacks. Finally, because you are out in the snow and sweating, cotton clothes will pick up moisture and quickly become cold and wet. Cotton loses nearly all of its insulating properties when wet and dries slowly, if at all. Synthetics and wool are far better choices to wear as they dry fast, lose little warmth when wet and help wick moisture away from your skin. A down jacket is a good thing to carry in your pack, as it weighs little, stuffs away into a small space and provides lots of warmth while you stop for lunch.
Above information provided by John Crock.
More insightful trip ideas to follow, please check back often.
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