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Nordic skiers still 'head for the chills' as rain persists amid Winterfest on Mount Spokane

Jan. 21—For the Nordic skiers at Winterfest this year, every day on the mountain is a good day — even if it means trekking through the heavy rain.

Nancy Westbrook is a Nordic ski patroller at Mount Spokane. On Sunday, she was in the Selkirk Lodge just off state Route 206, watching Winterfest attendees come in and out, drenched from head to toe with smiles on their faces from exploring the 66 kilometers of trails the mountain has to offer.

"I want people to have fun," Westbrook said. "For those of us who are Nordic skiers, we are having fun."

The lodge's annual Winterfest event is open to all ages who want to learn how to Nordic ski. The event holds multiple clinics, some about ski safety. It also holds adaptive demos and even a treasure hunt for young skiers for a cheaper price and offers those clinics to nonmembers of the Spokane Nordic Ski Association.

The fest also provides guidance from trainers to help those with visual impairments to learn how to ski. Other skiers can partake in a simulation to experience what visually impaired skiing is like.

Moderate rain hit Mount Spokane on Sunday and partially turned to sleet around noon. The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory for the area until Monday, warning of rain turning to ice.

Usually, Winterfest sees much more people, events director Trevor Finchamp said. This year, the number of skiers participating was down by a quarter to a half from last year due to the rain, Finchamp said.

It didn't matter; the weather conditions showed him skiers who wanted to get outside and get active "were really committed to doing it" even after the fest was postponed this year due to frigid temperatures on Jan. 14.

The rain might also help some beginner skiers, according to Spokane Nordic Ski volunteer Susan Engel.

"It actually lets them slow down a bit and help their technique," she said. Last year's Winterfest was "sunny and gorgeous," but "everything's still good."

Some were worried about the snow quality as the rain dragged on, turning the parking lot to mush. Others, who braved the trails, thought the snow was just as good as any other day.

Becky Brown comes to Winterfest every year

She said her two teenagers are on the Spokane Nordic race team, and getting them outside is something she thinks is important no matter what the weather.

"Ever since they were little you'd think they'd be cold and wet out there," she said. "But they would go outside and build forts."

Winterfest brings people together, Brown said, and gives people an opportunity to learn a new hobby. It's something that Westbrook likes to talk about.

"With Nordic skiing, you see all the sights. You can even ski to Idaho from here," she said. "We don't need as much snowpack for Nordic skiing, and I would like to see more snow, but it's not hurting anyone. We are all just having a good time, because every day on the mountain is a good day."