Mount Spokane hour change making it harder for morning skiers

March 25, 2019

Morning skiers knocking out a lap or two on Mount Spokane before work will find it hard to make their 9 a.m. meetings next season.

This winter the park’s opening time shifted from 6:30 to 7 a.m.

The time change gives snow plows more time to clear parking lots, said Lara Gricar a program specialist for the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.

“It helps us to mitigate conflict between the plow truck and park visitors,” she said.

The change is also in response to increased visitation at the park, head ranger Jerry Johnson said.

“It’s amazing how many people are coming up now,” he said.

Because the park doesn’t open until 7 a.m., the earliest a skier could be at Mount Spokane’s uphill run is about 7:15. Entering the park before hours could earn you a $150 ticket per state law, although Johnson said that’s “the last thing we want to do.”

The change will be particularly detrimental for uphill skiers and cross-country skiers looking for early-morning workouts.

Some user groups have questioned the change and noted they were not consulted before the decision was made.

“We did not have discussions with user groups regarding this change because we felt that it was a safety issue,” Gricar said.

Although there have been no accidents, there have been close calls, Gricar and Johnson said.

Travis Nichols, an avid skier and a key player in the development of the uphill ski policy, said the change has already had a negative impact.

“That half an hour, believe it or not, really makes a big difference,” he said.

The issues with plowing are real, he said. But the 6:30 a.m. opening time was identified in 2014 as an important component of the uphill policy. Nichols hasn’t spoken with state park managers about the change, but he said it’s something he and others are interested in discussing.

“I don’t think everyone is observing the new time, unfortunately. That’s a challenge to the state park,” he said. “But some people are, and so it’s diminishing some peoples’ ability to go.”