ARTICLE & PHOTOS BY RICHARD UHLHORN
GET TO THE SNOW!
Snow covers the Lake Chelan Valley and surrounding mountains during the winter months as the apple, cherry orchards and vineyards slumber away in the cold weather.
For many in the Lake Chelan Valley, winter is a special time … a time for enjoying the multitude of recreational opportunities that the valley has to offer.
Check out what Richard Uhlhorn found that Lake Chelan has to offer during the colder months of the year!
ECHO VALLEY SKI AREA
The Lake Chelan Ski Club, owners of Echo Valley Ski Area, were financially strapped with the lack of snow over a several year period. The board approved the construction of a tubing hill, and it has become the financial backbone of the Ski Area since its inception.
This image was taken in the early stages of Echo Ridge development. Today, there are 30 kilometers of groomed ski trails for both classic and skate skiers to use.
A training ground
Echo Valley is a training ground for many new, young skiers and the area has many instructors. This instructor is helping a skier learn the proper way to use the rope tow.
In 1956, Echo Valley Ski Area opened for business. That was back in the day when snow was guaranteed in the valley. There was no such thing as Climate Change yet. Each winter brought one to three feet of snow to the valley as early as November.
Today, Climate Change, if you believe in it, has changed the valley’s winter outlook. Brett LaMar, a local businessman, and winter recreationist said, “Winters are different than 20 years ago. Snow is coming to us later and staying longer.”
Echo Valley Ski Area is a privately owned ski hill (Lake Chelan Ski Club) with three rope tows and a Poma lift and offers alpine skiers 70 acres of groomed area. Also, the hill now has a popular tubing hill. Several years ago, the tubing hill saved Echo Valley from financial destruction. Today, the tubing hill brings in more money than any other activity at the hill, but Echo Valley is still the place that young families bring their kids to learn how to ski.
It all started with rope tows
It all started with rope tows at the hill. The Echo Valley Rope Tows are a safe and easy way for new skiers to access the bunny hill at Echo Valley.
“We had 25 ski lessons on Saturday,” said Jennifer Oatey. “Today we have 20 lessons going on.” Over the years, many a kid has cut their skiing teeth at Echo Valley before graduating to Mission Ridge in Wenatchee or Stevens Pass.
Keith and Adrienne Carpenter
Keith and Adrienne Carpenter have been running Lakeland Ski at Echo Valley since the early 90s.
Echo Ridge Ski Area
Echo Ridge is located several miles out of Echo Valley
Echo Ridge Ski Area is located several miles out of Echo Valley and is one of Washington State’s premier cross-country ski areas. The ski area offers upwards of 30+ kilometers of groomed classic and skate trails from relatively easy to difficult.
The system was first developed in the early 90s when Wally Peterson, a member of the Lake Chelan Snowmobile Club, asked the Chelan Ranger District to look into developing a cross-country ski area before conflicts between skiers and snowmobilers became serious.
Echo Ridge offers the cross-country skier spectacular view of the Lake Chelan Valley and Cascade Mountain Range.
A cross country skier on the trails
A group of Forest Service personnel including then Chelan Ranger, Al Murphy, and snowmobile club members, and other interested people hiked the old logging roads at Echo Ridge and decided to seek a grant to build. A grant came through, and the Forest Service was able to hire an expert XC ski designer to layout a system.
Today, the Echo Ridge Nordic Ski Area has been expanded to include approximately 30 kilometers of groomed trails including both Classic and Skate platforms. Included in the system are two large parking areas, bathrooms, and a warming yurt. On Sundays, commonly called “Soup Days,” skiers can stop in at the Yurt for some hot homemade soup supplied by a skier volunteer.
A few trails like the Lolli Pop loops allow dogs. All the trails are well marked.
A cross-country skier speeds down a gentle slope at Echo Ridge.
Skiers enjoy the gentle follow the terrain trails at Echo Ridge.
Regardless of a skier’s cross-country skiing ability, Echo Ridge offers Easy, More Difficult and Most Difficult notifications on the Lake Chelan Nordic Ski Club’s Winter Trails Map which can be found on the Club’s website at http://www.lakechelannordic.org/
Echo Ridge also offers opportunities for snowshoeing, hiking, fat-tire biking and trails to exercise your dog in a winter wonderland. The Chelan Ranger District hasn’t released any public notices on fat tire biking yet, but Paul Willard, the District’s Resource Manager says, “Somewhere to Ride is probably a mountain biker’s best bet. The Shoe is narrow, and if you go off track, you’ll sink. It’s pretty technical.”
Snowshoeing is gaining popularity
Snowshoeing is gaining popularity at Echo Ridge. The Shoe offers a 2.5-mile loop through the woods, but also provides excellent views of the Lake Chelan Valley.
The Shoe is the perfect place to try snowshoeing. It’s a groomed 3.7-kilometer loop that offers a winter wonderland experience with spectacular views of the Lake Chelan Valley. Lisa Sloan, a local snowshoer recently reported that the snow on the Shoe was pretty good. “It was slightly crunchy with a couple of inches of new snow on top.”
A group of young Winthrop Ski Club members attended the annual Echo Ridge Ski Loppet in 2018 and had a great time skiing the 30-kilometer Echoathon in excellent snow conditions.
The annual Echo Ridge Ski Loppet is was slated for Saturday, February 9 from 10 to 1 p.m., but was cancellled due to adverse weather conditions.This event typically offers three different loops; one for novice skiers (5 kilometers); two, the Best Echo Skate loop (15 km); and three, the Echo Classic (10 km), or those wishing to challenge the system can opt for the Echoathon which is a 30 kilometer run.
Cost is $25.00 plus the $10-day pass and tickets can be purchased at the upper trailhead on the day of the event or online on the Nordic Club’s website under Events.Daily ski passes at Echo Ridge are $10 (skiing, snowshoeing, biking or hiking). Season passes can also be purchased with a Club Membership to the Lake Chelan Nordic Ski Club for $85 (1 pass); family, $155.00 (2 passes); $220.00 (3 passes); and $285 (4 passes) Remember, kids under 17 ski free.
A young ski racer carves a turn in the annual Echo Valley Play Day slalom race that takes place every February
The upper regions of Lake Chelan provide a spectacular view on a bluebird day for snowmobilers accessing the North Shore Snowmobile Trails
Photos contributed by Mark Gores
The South Shore trail system offers spectacular views of the lower Lake Chelan Valley on a clear day.
The Lake Chelan Snowmobile Club has been around for many years, and today, the club manages 170 miles of groomed snowmobile trails on both the North Shore and South Shore of the Lake Chelan Valley in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service and the State.
The North Shore system is comprised of 97 miles of well-marked trails with spectacular views of Lake Chelan, Golf Peak, Hungry Mountain and climbs near Fox Peak. Riders can enjoy warm sunshine on most days and will find many great play areas to enjoy.
Warming huts are part of the system
The Lake Chelan Snowmobile Club in conjunction with the Chelan Ranger District has build several warming huts in the high country for snowmobilers spending the day.
The club keeps the warming huts supplied with firewood and maintains them during the offseason. The club also maintains signage and direction maps. Fatty K’s groomers are currently grooming the trails under contract with Washington State Parks.
Access is by two trailheads
Visitors venturing in the Lake Chelan Valley for a snowmobile adventure can access two different trailheads on the North Shore … one at the Echo Valley Sno-Park (50 spaces) and the other at Antilon Lake Sno-Park (100 spaces). On the South Shore, the 25 Mile Creek Sno-Park has 25 spaces available (No permit required).
On the Methow Valley side, the North Shore trails can be accessed from the Black Canyon Sno-Park (15 spaces) or the Gold Creek Sno-Park (20 spaces).