• 12 Feb 2017 10:14 PM | Todd Dunfield


    The Gary Silver Lifetime Contribution award is an award given annually to the person or persons who have made significant contributions to the sport of cross-country skiing in the Spokane area over a period of years.

    This year Spokane Nordic Ski Association honored Lou Slak as the Gary Silver Award Recipient at the 37th Langlauf Ski Race on February 12th. Many in our ski community already know how deserving Lou is of this award and recognition, but there is always more to learn about Lou’s ongoing love of skiing. 

    Lou’s outdoor enthusiasm extends back to when she was 13 years old when she was the first and youngest woman to complete Colorado’s twenty-two-mile Pack Burro Race in Leadville.  Lucky for those of us in Spokane Lou relocated from Colorado to Spokane in 1972 and has made skiing her number one winter sport ever since. During her past four decades, she has been a great ambassador for the sport of Nordic skiing.

    Her earliest converts were her own family to include her children and this tradition has continued through her seven grandchildren.  Lou has been dedicated to growing the sport through her support of things like the building of the Selkirk lodge, tirelessly supporting Nordic Kids (from when her daughters were taking lessons until today), and teaching Nordic Skiing through the Spokane Mountaineers for several years. 

    Skiing with Lou can be somewhat of a hazard because she knows over half of the skiers on the mountain and is recognized by at least 80% of the people skiing. Lou has been instrumental in organizing volunteer groups for Langlauf, trail clearing days, course monitoring for races, night skiing groups, she has helped with previous loppets as well as the Souper Bowl.

    During the past 40 years Lou has made it a habit to ski twice a week all winter long.  Now in her retirement she averages more like three times a week.  Lou knows the trails at Mt. Spokane like some people know their oldest and dearest friends.  When she goes for a ski she always challenges herself, finding peace and positivity in the sea of snow, the quiet of the trees, and the company of her friends. 

    Those seven grandchildren have coined a new name for Lou.  They affectionately refer to their grandmother as the “Adventure Grandma.” A title that fits her perfectly.  We have been very lucky to have Lou Slak in our cross-country skiing community and we can’t thank her enough for all the many great contributions she has made to the sport.  


  • 23 Jan 2017 3:11 PM | Todd Dunfield


    Participants in SNSA skijor clinics come in all sizes and colors, with names like Bo, Chester, and Aki. The dogs, that is. We’re not good at remembering their humans’ names.

    Some of the dogs are vocally excited about being out in the snow, while others want to roll in it, or run circles around their human. But after several entanglements with the tug-line, everyone is pointed in the right direction and the dogs take off down the trail, their humans gliding along behind. Yay!

    Inevitably, nature calls 100 yards down the trail. Whoa! Cognizant of the recent discussions on trail etiquette, the humans pull out poop bags, pick up their dog’s waste, and untangle their tug-lines once again.

    We’ve been offering skijor clinics at the Mount Spokane Nordic Center the last five years, and we’ve seen consequent growth in skijoring on the mountain. We emphasize trail etiquette, dog-on-dog safety, and the importance of having fun with one’s pet.

    There’s nothing like on-snow practice for learning how to remain upright behind a racing dog while remembering the difference between “Gee” and “Haw.” So we keep the indoor session brief, and hook up the dogs as soon as possible.

    While it’s an amazing bonding experience to fly along the trail behind one’s furry friend, some days the pup’s focused interest in pee-mail is akin to a two-year-old child saying, “I won’t.” At those times, it’s important to chill out and inhale the fresh mountain air. Literally.

    At our most recent skijoring clinic, however, all the dogs were eager to pull, from the two mini-Schnauzers to the athletic black Lab. Comments from several participants were along the lines of, “That was fantastic, we had so much fun!”

    There are still spaces in this season’s final skijor clinic on January 29th. You may register online for the clinic at http://www.spokanenordic.org

    You can learn more at http://www.spokanenordic.org/skijoring

    While most of us who enjoy the Mt Spokane Nordic trails with our dogs are recreational skijorers, opportunities are increasing for those with a competitive spirit.  There are now many skijor and sleddog races across the Pacific Northwest. And beginning on January 23rd, a local skijor team will represent the US at the International Federation of Sleddog Sports World Championship in Ontario, Canada!

    See a TV feature about Dan Hanks and his three dogs at http://www.kxly.com/features/coeur-dalene-man-takes-winter-sport-hobby-to-international-competition/267558663. Have a howling good time, Dan, Lucky, Louie, and Mountie…


  • 04 Jan 2017 11:17 PM | Todd Dunfield

    Winter usually brings people inside for indoor activities, but once you’ve been introduced to Nordic skiing, that’s usually not the case. I’ve lived most of my adult life in Florida, so I’ve missed out of winter activities. Now that I’ve moved here, I get the best of both worlds and I’ve fully embraced the summer activities that the Northwest offers like hiking, climbing, river, and lake activities; but the one sport that won my heart over was triathlons. My daughter loves it almost as much as I do and introducing her to a healthy lifestyle has had many perks!

    Last year, we discovered the Nordic Kids program. As a first timer, my daughter had a blast making new friends and being able to have fun in the snow. For me, it gave me an excuse to be outside for hours on end! I attended almost every class and adored the smiles and giggles I witnessed from the little ones as they skied up and down the hills and chased each other as they fell and got back up dozens of times. What a great workout! Have you ever fallen on skis a dozen times and got back up?


    For me, all those long hours of running, biking, swimming come to a pause and it’s time to fill the lungs with fresh, crisp, cold air and enjoy the full body workout in another form. I consider cross country skiing as the absolute best option during winter for full body workout.

    Just like running, biking and swimming, skiing requires forward propulsion by using several different muscle groups. Nordic skiing for triathlon prep addresses all three of the sport's components: it is weight-bearing, like running, so it is good for developing bone density, but unlike running, it is non-impact, so the chance of injury is much lower, so you can partake in longer and/or more frequent training sessions! Since skiing uses all your major muscle groups, it burns a lot of calories and it trains your body to utilize more oxygen, it increases your VO2 max, which will help you in every sport. Both skate and classic help for running and riding. As a bonus, double-poling is one of the best off-season activities possible for swimming. Skiing really is the complete package!



  • 30 Dec 2016 12:34 AM | Todd Dunfield


    Last February I had the most amazing opportunity working with some of the men and woman at the VA Hospital. It had been a couple years in the making from when they 1st asked Spokane Parks and Recreation to help offer a Nordic Ski program for their adaptive and (VI) visually impaired sports groups.

    The group met on a sunny weekday morning in February at the VA. All spirits were high as the group loaded up in the 15 passenger bus. There was not a moment of silence on our drive up to Mt Spokane. George cracking jokes, everyone sharing snacks and talking ski experiences. It really gave me a sense of confidence in the day to come. All participants were VI except for Fred, who, from the VA’s adaptive sports group came to show us how to use his slider.


    The moment we stepped out of the van into the parking lot at the Selkirk Nordic Area, as a guide we were “On the Job”. Carefully using our training from the week prior with Ski for Light we walked with our skiers through the parking lot, them holding onto our elbow, us talking them over the snow, through the Selkirk Lodge doors, into the lodge, around the wood burning stove, into the bathrooms, out of the bathrooms and to our table. Whoa, step one check! Next steps, fit boots, pass out bright orange safety vests that say “BLIND SKIIER”, safety talk, grab a quick snack and water. What’s taking so long I thought we came here to ski…….let’s go!

    Off to the snow we went with a 1:1 guide to skier ratio. Your relationship becomes quite unique and building trust was 1st and foremost. Our wonderful guides had no problem with this; you could see everyone truly enjoying themselves.


    We were all skiing! Linder Road makes for a perfect spot to get things moving. After our initial orientation to basic movements on the skis, ski position in tracks, falling, getting back up, as well as other important safety commands. Everyone was skiing back and forth from junction 1, having the greatest of times. At the end of the ski day it was truly a success; tired, sweaty, worn out, and wondering when we could do it again was on all our minds.

    The outdoors brings us together in ways that surprises me every time I go out. It gives us an outlet to explore places within ourselves that may have never been thought possible. The guys from the VA new they could do it, and as soon as that warm sun kissed our faces and the light breeze whispered through the trees, those gorgeous blues skies and great company… man… what was I worried about?, this was Nordic skiing at its Best!

    -----Ryan Griffith, Spokane Parks & Recreation


  • 12 Dec 2016 5:23 PM | Todd Dunfield

    Written by Anne-Marie Misko-Kennedy 

    Originally Published in South Hill Living Magazine Nov 2016


    Winter in Spokane can be long, cold and gray. What can a family do to make these long wintery days go quicker? This was the exact question my husband, Scott and I asked 7 years ago after moving from Portland, Oregon that summer.  We needed to find something to do with our two active boys.  My husband and I had both grown up in Northern Canada and loved to cross country ski (Nordic) and downhill ski (alpine). So with the assistance of the internet, we found Spokane Nordic Ski Association (SNSA) website and started our wonderful winter journey on Mount Spokane with the Spokane Nordic Kids. 

    Spokane Nordic Ski Association(SNSA) is a volunteer run organization that offers lessons for children and adults, maintaining 60 miles of groomed trails  and various other Nordic activities on Mount Spokane.  To keep the costs low so that all families can afford to ski and learn this sport. There are a few unique things Nordic kids does: the instructors are volunteers and not paid (however they are certified through the professional ski and snowboard association and these courses are paid by SNSA), and parents are expected to volunteer while the kids are in lessons. Oh this may seem like a huge commitment, it’s NOT!!!  There are plenty of volunteer options: ski instructor-coach, registration weekly, snack attendant, snow helpers and course set up). Nordic kids ‘lessons are 6 weeks long on Saturday afternoons.  The lessons are two hours long and this is a perfect amount of time for the kids to learn a sport they can do for the rest of their lives. 


    So that first year we signed up our kids, Scott signed up as a course helper, which was setting up the Nordic Kids on snow sign-in posts where the different skill levels of kids meet with their coach at the start of lessons. I signed up as assistant coach for my eldest son’s ski group.  Our first year on Mount Spokane was magical, we all loved learning more about Nordic skiing and the community on the mountain was amazing and unbelievably supportive.  The coach that I assisted with strongly encouraged me to sign up the following year to be a coach and take the national ski instructor course. So guess what, I did! The 2nd year I taught with another coach my youngest son’s ski group.  The teaching ideology of Spokane Nordic Kids is kids are taught important skills through games.  I love hearing the kids say even after 2 hours on snow, “Why do we have to leave this was SO MUCH FUN!!!!”  Spokane Nordic Kids has a unique ending of the season, NORDIC GAMES-its Nordic kids version of Winter Olympics.  The first year, I thought it was going to be something little, nope I was WRONG. The coaches make up costumes, have flags from the country their team represents, dress up and cheer on everyone. The energy on NORDIC GAMES DAY is AWESOME! And it ends with a super yummy potluck in the Selkirk lodge. The laughter and the pure joy I have observed over last 7 years has been truly a wonderful gift.


    So two years ago when it was time to register the boys again for Nordic Kids, our boys did not want us to sign them up. Both Scott and I did not want either of our boys to lose their Nordic skills so I went to the leader of Nordic Kids and asked if there was any other options for my kids.  Yes, there is transition team for kids who want to move to Ski Team but neither of my boys wanted to compete in Nordic skiing. So we were introduced to another cool program run through Nordic Kids, Rangers. So we signed up our eldest son, Jonas (13 year old) for Rangers, a non-competitive Nordic ski program teaches the kids first aid, survival skills and back country. My eldest son’s goal is to get his ski patrol so this was a perfect fit. This winter will be Jonas’ third year as a Ranger….

    Now my youngest, Samuel (11 year old) was a little more difficult to convince and find a good program for his personality.  Samuel has a great sense of humor and is known in the Nordic community as the friendly giant.  Samuel has special skill of encouraging and including everyone. So guess what I asked him, if he would be interested in being my assistant coach for Nordic Kids.  So for the past 2 winters I have had the best assistant coach ever. He may tower over the little kids but he is always laughing and pushing the kids to the next level.  Samuel and I make a great team and I can hardly wait for our third year of teaching on Mount Spokane together.  As Samuel would say, everyone needs to try Nordic skiing it may look easy but it’s NOT!  Plus your reward after climbing huge hills on Mount Spokane, you can go as fast as you want down the hill on SKINNY SKIS….That’s the BEST MOM!!! Maybe this winter if your family does not already have winter tradition we might see you on Mount Spokane Nordic…. Check out Spokane Nordic on the website: http://spokanenordic.org/


  • 14 Nov 2016 2:03 PM | Todd Dunfield


    Local Skijor Team of Louie (Australian Shepherd), Lucky (Border Collie), Mountie (Greyster) and Dan Hanks (Human) are headed to the 2017 IFSS World Championships in Haliburton Ontario to compete for team USA in the categories of 1-dog and 2-dog Skijor.  The World Championships are held every two years and consist of competitors from national teams of over 30+ countries. 2017 will be held in the Haliburton Forrest in Ontario, Canada from January 23rd to February 3rd.

    During the 2015-2016 season Team Hanks competed in six total dog powered sports events resulting in three 1st place finishes and three 3rd place finishes. Including a 1st place finish in one of the longest running snow dog events in the United States at Priest Lake Sled Dog Race. During the ski season, you will find the team on Mt. Spokane almost every Wednesday morning and Sunday afternoon taking advantage of the opportunity to share the trails with other Nordic skiers. Skijoring friendly trails also abound in the Methow valley and is a regular training spot during the season.

    Dan says that “Skijoring is an amazing opportunity to deeply bond with your dog and really learn what it means to fully work together as a team”.  He further goes on to explain that locally there are so many Nordic and endurance athletes and so many dog lovers, that there seems to be a logical opportunity for more athletes wanting to get out exercise with their dogs through cannicross, bikjoring, and skijoring.

    Internationally the sport is dominated by Northern European countries, with teams from the United States steadily making ground. The sport in the United States has significant opportunities for new athletes to be competitive quickly, especially young athletes who love to ski and love dogs.

    If you have never heard of the “International Federation of Sled Dog Sport” (IFSS)  The mission of IFSS is to promote comprehensive development, expansion and participation in sled dog sports in all their diverse aspects, with the ultimate goal of Olympic recognition. Rumors inside the United States Federation of Sled Dog Sports indicate a strong possibility of inclusion of Skijor in 2018 or 2022 Winter Olympics. 


  • 27 Oct 2016 2:47 PM | Todd Dunfield

    In 2006 my husband, Trond, our two children, Johannes and Oleanna (then 4 and 2 respectively) and I moved to Spokane from Strasbourg, France, where we had been living for two years as ex-pats while Trond worked overseas for his Spokane based company.

    Now that we were back in the area we were longing for a winter experience to share with our children. We had skied on Mt. Spokane’s 15k of Nordic trails for a few years previously, pulling our babies behind us, and wanted more from the mountain. Serendipitously, we were introduced to Nordic Kids, and that program had a profound impact on our family.

    Fast forward to 2016, ten years later.

    Our children, now 14 and 12 respectively, have grown up spending amazing winters on Mt. Spokane. Over the past decade they have gained an appreciation for the beauty and challenge of the Nordic trails and the wholesome friends and community we have become part of.

    The Mt. Spokane Nordic area now boasts over 65 km of trails, more than four times what we had skied on just ten years ago. The Nordic Kids, Transition Team and Race Team are still going strong and in fact, last year SNSA sent four racers to Nordic Junior Nationals with Andrew Potyk earning All American status from his top 10 finish. Additionally, Coach George Bryant was named PNSA Coach of the Year by his peers this year – a very well deserved honor. SNSA offers an amazing adult program that has been supported by Lisa Sunderman and a small army of incredible volunteer instructors. The Youth Rangers program is now in its third season and offers a fun variety of back country and winter activities for young skiers that want to play outside in the snow and learn new skills.

    In short, the Mt. Spokane Nordic area has a lot to offer and I’m proud to take on the responsibility of President for the Spokane Nordic Ski Association Board of Directors and to support our mission of creating, developing and delivering programs to foster Nordic skiing within the greater Spokane community through efforts of organization, advocacy and communication. We have an exciting season ahead of us, with a LOT of snow expected early in the season – so go out and get your gear ready and buy that SnoPark pass and grooming sticker so you’re ready when it hits!

    - Alison Liaboe (Spokane Nordic Board President)

Spokane Nordic is committed to creating, developing and delivering programs to foster Nordic skiing
within the greater Spokane Community through efforts of organization, advocacy, and communication.

Spokane Nordic Ski Association is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

P.O. Box 501, Spokane, WA, 99210

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