Mt. Spokane Scores New Lift, Hits Rocky Terrain on Expansion Approval

By Paige Browning

In February, Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park announced they have their hands on a new, double chairlift.  It’s called “Red Chair”, but skiers won’t be riding it unless the mountain speeds past legal hurdles.
Mt. Spokane announced plans for the new chair in February. Photo Courtesy
Mt. Spokane 2000 is the concessionaire who runs the ski slopes, and plans to install the Red Chair by the 2014-15 season on an undeveloped section of the mountain, deemed the PASEA (Potential Alpine Ski Expansion Area).  General Manager Brad McQuarrie says they’re getting it used from Bridger Bowl in Montana.

McQuarrie: “It’s a very nice lift, nicer than anything we’ve got on the mountain now.  It’s got some pretty significant upgrades to it.”
But, conservation group the Lands Council has put two legal stalls on the expansion with concerns about the forest in the state’s largest park.

The Lands Council represents the broader group Save Mount Spokane.  Mike Peterson from the group says when Spokane County issued a timber harvest permit the Lands Council appealed in January.  In November when land owner Washington State Parks reclassified the PASEA as recreation allowing the ski area to expand, Peterson’s group sued.
Peterson: “It’s because it’s very rare to have an intact old-growth forest. It’s the only one of that size in Spokane County.  And it provides a huge amount of wildlife habitat.”
The PASEA faces northwest, and is directly behind existing chair one.  Backcountry skiers and snowshoers already use it. McQuarrie and MS 2000 really prefer this area for expansion.  He cites a 1990’s report from resort consultants, who said of the mountain and PASEA:

Mt. Spokane announced plans for the new chair in February.

McQuarrie: “That the mountain had a lack of beginner and low-intermediate terrain; it held snow better on that side of the mountain enabling the season to be more consistent; and there was some safety reasons, too, they had a long list of safety reasons too because there was a lot of people skiing already.”
But Peterson thinks there are other, better options.
Peterson: “Right now chair 4 which is on the north side is empty most of the time, so they could use more runs over there and we’re supportive of that.  And we’d support new lifts, new lodge. They think somehow, by putting another lift on that northwest side that that’s somehow going to increase their business and save their mountain.”

The Red Chair is currently at Bridger Bowl, in Montana. Photo Courtesy Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park.

McQuarrie says the chair 4 area doesn’t offer intermediate terrain.  So, MS 2000 got approval from Washington State Parks to put one chair and seven new runs on the PASEA. MS 2000 initially asked for 850 acres, but Randy Kline with Parks says the agreement opens up 279 agres of new terrain, with only 59 of what allowed for tree clearing.
Now MS 2000 faces the timber harvest appeal and land reclassification appeal from the Lands Council.  McQuarrie isn’t scared off, though.
McQuarrie: “We can’t give up.  And I can’t, I mean I just, for future generations I can’t just say okay well this is getting to hard, it’s costing us too much money.  You know we just can’t do that, we have to be stewards for good, local, cheep recreation, too.”
The hearing over Mt. Spokane’s timber permit takes place Wednesday, March 6th at the Spokane County Public Works Building.  The appeal in the reclassification lawsuit will be in Thurston County in April.
MS 2000 hopes to pick up the Red Chair from Montana this summer.
Copyright 2013 Spokane Public Radio.

Photos Courtesy of Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park,
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