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Methow Valley 2013/2014

TWISP RIVER PUB Real Food • Fresh Brews Live Music

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shel h e t from D?

Illustration by Corinna Luyken


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Call or email to book your Large Party or Event Winter Hours: Lunch & Dinner Thursday-Sunday Sunday Brunch 10 am-2 pm Open every day Dec. 26th-Jan. 1st

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experience winter in the heart of the magnificent



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Winter the way it’s supposed to be! Ski the nation’s largest cross-country ski trail system from downtown Winthrop! Over 120 miles of world-class groomed trails right out your door will take you through spectacular winter scenery. You’ll find great lodging, superb dining, lively pubs, music, galleries and shops, all here in this remarkable place.

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Take a break from the ordinary.

COme TO WinThrOp.

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We’re already ready It starts sometime in autumn, when we look to the west and glimpse the first white dustings on Gardner Mountain. Did you see that, we ask each other. The reminders keep coming. Colder nights after glimmering fall days. Driving through a slushy mess over Washington Pass during a precocious early-October storm. Winter clothing and gear appearing at the local outfitter stores. Scraping frost off windshields. The cycle is inevitable and welcome. In the Methow Valley, winter is not a time to hunker down and wait out the cold and darkness. It’s a time to bolt outside at first light and load the rig with gear – skis, skates, snowshoes, snowmobiles, hockey sticks, snowboards, fat bikes, fishing poles – suck in the crisp air, squint into the brilliant blue sky and get going. As John Wayne said, you’re burnin’ daylight. Winter is action. It’s adventure, exploration, discovery. It’s also restfulness and companionship after an active day. You’ll find all these things in the Methow Valley during this wondrous season – or they will find you. Our annual Methow Valley Winter publication is intended to help visitors and locals alike take full advantage of these magical months when staying inside and staring out the window is not an option. We hope you will find not just good information, but also inspiration. –Don Nelson

Photo by Mary Kiesau

Tranquility is one of the Methow Valley winter’s best traits.

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Winter Wonder Circus Gala fCOG Support 30 years of Arts Education!

Marcy Stamper f

is a Methow Valley News reporter.


is a Methow Valley News reporter.

Ann McCreary

GLOWS! SAT, FEB 1 Nomadic Massive



Mike Maltais is the sports editor of the Methow Valley News.


SAT, MAR 8 Utah Ballroom Dance Co. Ballroom Dance with a locals dance contest

Laurelle Walsh

METHOW ARTS 509.997.4004

is a Methow Valley News reporter and proofreader.

Patrick McGann is a Methow Valley News columnist.

Ashley Lodato is a Methow Valley News columnist.

Dave Ward is an astronomer and columnist for the Methow Valley News.

Joanna Bastian is a Methow Valley News columnist.

4 – Methow Valley Winter

Contents GET TO KNOW YOUR GROOMERS ............ 6 FAT BIKIN’ IT ........................................................9 HIT THE FISHING HOLE ................................ 12 WINTER, METHOW VALLEY ......................... 14

Don Nelson, publisher/editor Robin Doggett, design/advertising Callie Fink, advertising Dana Sphar, ad design/production Linda Day, ad design Marilyn Bardin, office manager

OTHER STUFF BESIDES SNOW ................... 16 SNOWSHOEING AROUND .......................... 18 LOOKING UP TO THE STARS ...................... 21 NORDIC OPTIONS ......................................... 23 RIDE OUT & SNOWMOBILE ........................ 26

On the cover: Bright colors glide above a winter morning landscape fresh with frost and game trails. Photo by Stephen Mitchell

WINTHROP’S ICE RINK ................................. 28

A publication of the Methow Valley News

LOUP LOUP FUN ............................................. 30

P.O. Box 97 / 101 N. Glover St., Twisp, WA

WINTER CALENDAR...................................... 32


Established 1958

DIRECTORY OF ADVERTISERS .................... 34

HWY 20 at LOUP LOUP PASS Washington

ELEVATION 5360’ Just 30 minutes from Winthrop! • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Quad Chair lift Ski Shop Rental Repairs Ski School Tubing Hill Terrain Park X-C Skiing Snowshoeing Day Lodge Food Service Doggie Trails Fat Biking BYOB

CONDITIONS: 509.557.3405 Wild Wolf Tubing Hill RENTALS PARTIES



Loup Loup Mountain Resort is operated by Loup Loup Ski Education Foundation a 501c3 not for profit organization by permit from Okanogan Natl Forest

Methow Valley Winter – 5

Night Riders A devoted crew of ski trail groomers makes sure the valley is ready for Nordic enthusiasts

Photo by Stephen Mitchell

By Laurelle Walsh To communicate his reasons for driving a snowcat alone all night, miles from any awake human being, veteran ski trail groomer Steve Taylor quotes the often-recorded Michael Burton song “Night Rider’s Lament.” One night while I was out a ridin’ The graveyard shift, midnight ’til dawn The moon was bright as a readin’ light For a letter from an old friend back home Why do you ride for your money Tell me why do you rope for short pay You ain’t a gettin’ nowhere And you’re losin’ your share Boy, you must have gone crazy out there “Why do I do it?” asks Taylor, a Methow Valley Sport Trails Association (MVSTA) groomer for 23 years. “It’s kind of like a bad habit. When I was a ski instructor I worked a lot in the ski shop and discovered I don’t do well working indoors. What else are you gonna do in the winter around here?” While Taylor may skew the longevity statistics somewhat, nonetheless MVSTA Executive Director James DeSalvo figures the average tenure of his trail groomers is 14.5 years. “It’s our recipe for success. They are our most valuable employees. It’s a pretty amazing crew,” DeSalvo said. Their stories are as varied as the individuals,

6 – Methow Valley Winter

especially when there’s a surfer, a river guide, a jazz musician and a penguin researcher among the ranks. Eight groomers – Taylor, Ed Stockard, Jake Valentine, Chris Charters, Mike Pruett, Mike Harvey, Lliam Donahue and Torre Stockard – plus trails manager Rob Seckinger, maintain the valley’s 200-plus kilometers of Nordic ski trails to the high standards residents and visitors have come to expect. “People in this valley have no idea how spoiled they are,” said Taylor. “Most people take it for granted that they’ll be able to ski on perfect corduroy 12 weeks every winter.” The legacy The trail grooming legacy began in the mid 1970s when Don Portman, one of the founders of MVSTA and the Methow Valley Ski School, was hired to develop a Nordic ski program at Sun Mountain. “I haven’t groomed trails in 25 years, but in the early years I spent many hours grooming Sun Mountain on a snowmobile,” Portman said. Around the same time, Dick Roberts was grooming trails around the North Cascades Basecamp, while Enoch Kraft groomed trails in the Rendezvous. With a loan guaranteed by the owners of Sun Mountain Lodge, MVSTA purchased its first Pisten Bully snowcat in the early 1980s and began the program that continues to this day.

Today MVSTA runs four snowcats, all Pisten Bully 100s, the oldest dating back to 2003. The trails association purchased a new one last year and hopes to replace another snowcat next year. One cat is assigned to each of four areas of the trails system: Sun Mountain, the Town Trailhead, Mazama, and the Rendezvous. A fleet of eight snowmobiles equipped with grooming implements rounds out the machines. The photographer A thorough understanding of hydraulics and tracked vehicles got Ed Stockard promoted to the position of MVSTA mechanic last December. “I thought I was semi-retired but then James offered me a job,” he mused. Actually, Stockard has been grooming for MVSTA on and off since the late 1990s. These days he splits his time between maintaining the snowcats and grooming trails. He grooms from the Town Trailhead three nights a week as part of the team that maintains the Community Trail up to the Tawlks-Foster suspension bridge and the Winthrop Trail up to Patterson Lake. “It’s a relaxing job,” Stockard said. “I like going out at night, listening to my tunes. I’m comfortable being alone.” Driving the snowcat alone on crystal-clear nights also gives Stockard the opportunity to set up his time-lapse camera to document the Methow sky and then pick it up on his way back to town. His photos of the northern lights and

other celestial phenomena have won awards and received media attention. His photographs can be found at Stockard’s mechanical skills have taken him to Greenland and to Antarctica, which is where he instructed his future wife, Torre, in the finer points of driving tracked vehicles. The PhD “I’ve always been a motorhead, enjoyed operating machines and learning how things work,” said Torre Stockard. This will be her first winter grooming for MVSTA, and she is the organization’s first female groomer. She learned to drive a snowcat – taught by future husband Ed – in Antarctica, where for six seasons she studied emperor penguins and the physiology of diving animals at a Scripps Institute of Oceanography field station. “I trained on a snowmobile and eventually graduated to a Pisten Bully, but I never drove one with jewelry until last winter,” she said. By “jewelry,” Torre Stockard refers to the grooming attachments: the blade or renovator in front that shaves a layer of snow; the tiller in back that grinds the snow; and the combing behind the tiller that creates the corduroy. “It’s satisfying. You start with a churned up trail and end with perfect corduroy,” she said. To train for her new job, last winter Torre Stockard rode along with fellow groomers in all

Photo by Ed Stockard

Torre Stockard learned to drive a snowcat on the job in Antarctica. four areas of the MVSTA system, drove three of the four snowcats, learned to assess trail conditions, and soloed one night in the Rendezvous. “I’m psyched to be the first woman groomer for MVSTA. I like to be a role model for other women and girls to show them that they can do untraditional jobs,” she said. “I’d also like to think I’m still trainable and that having a PhD


won’t handicap me too much,” she joked. The river guide “I feel like I’ve contributed a lot to this valley,” said Taylor. “The two most important jobs in this valley are snowplow drivers and trail groomers. We Continued on p. 8



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Methow Valley Winter – 7

snowplowing Take the worry out of winter access! Serving the upper Methow Valley communities of Mazama, Edelweiss and Lost River. Jerry Palm 509-322-3032 Sign up for service on our website

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Steve Taylor, Ed Stockard, Jake Valentine, Chris Charters, Mike Pruett, Mike Harvey and Lliam Donahue maintain the valley’s 200 kilometers of ski trals. Continued from p. 7

are directly responsible for bringing tourist dollars to the Methow.” Taylor grooms the trails of Sun Mountain five nights a week, and on busy weekends and holidays painstakingly drives 70 kilometers over eight hours to complete the entire trail system. “It’s like taking a snow cat from here to Chelan,” he observed. In the winter of 1996-1997 Taylor averaged 12-hour days for several weeks when a foot of new snow fell every other day, he said. “For three weeks we had to cut trees every single day,” he recalled. “I would cut trees on my way down Little Wolf and around Aqua Loop, and had to cut trees on my way out again.” In the off-season Taylor and


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8 – Methow Valley Winter

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his fellow groomers continue to maintain and improve the trails, clearing trees and brush, mowing, limbing branches, filling in erosion damage from summer storms and removing rocks from trails. But Taylor’s real passion is running rivers, having logged an estimated 250,000 river miles over his guiding career. He took up river guiding again last summer after a 10-year hiatus. Perhaps that’s what motivates him to rise from his warm bed on a dark winter night and climb into the cab of the snowcat. Or maybe it’s skiing after his shift, making first tracks on snow he’s finessed to perfection. Ask him yourself if you can catch him skating down the trail some fine sunny morning.

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Fat bikes roll into the valley

The Methow is a leader in opening trails for low-impact bikes By Laurelle Walsh

Photo by Laurelle Walsh

A frosty rider returns from test driving a fat bike at one of last winter’s fat bike days.

The Merc Playhouse presents

Methow Valley recreationists are taking note of a new creature on roads and trails around the valley this winter: The fat bike has arrived. The website credits the Methow Valley as one of the country’s pioneers in opening cross country ski trails to fat bikes. The Methow Valley Sport Trails Association (MVSTA) reports few conflicts and mostly positive reactions after testing fat bikes on select Nordic ski trails last year, and the organization plans to continue the multi-user program on about 25 kilometers of trail this winter. “In many ways, fat bikes impact the trail platform less than skis and definitely less than other users like snowmobiles,” said James DeSalvo, MVSTA executive director. DeSalvo received calls from trail system managers around the Northwest last winter “checking how it was going” in the Methow. “They are receiving pressure from their bike communities to allow fat bikes on the winter Continued on p. 10

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Methow Valley Winter – 9

OutDoor Demo this year. The fact that most bicycle manufacturers are producing one or more models of fat bikes and that they are already sold out for this year proves that “it is not just a fad, it’s a sustainable family of bikes,” he added.

Continued from p. 9

trails,” and the Methow Valley is providing a kind of test case, he said. What is that? Fat bikes attract attention because they’re new and because they’re, well, fat. They are specially made bicycles with ultrawide tires that can be run at very low pressure. The average mountain bike is designed for tires measuring between 1.5 and 2.5 inches, whereas fat bike tires run from 3.7 up to 5 inches wide. A very low tire pressure on a standard mountain bike would be 20 pounds per square inch (psi); fat bikes can roll as low as 2 psi. In general, high-volume, low-pressure tires have more surface area in contact with the ground, which allows them to conform to trail irregularities and increase traction as well as comfort. On snow, fat bikes are described by riders as floaty, stable and fun. While most fat bikes are ridden in the snow, many people have begun using them year-round as their primary mountain bike since the newer, lighter bikes “offer a ride comparable to their full-suspension mountain bike counterparts,” according to Joe Brown, co-owner of Methow Cycle and Sport. Brown reports that fat bikes were highly visible at the Interbike trade show’s two-day

Photo by Stephen Mitchell

Several groomed, multi-use trails in the valley are open to fat bikes.

A recent phenomenon “Something finally clicked in the last couple years and it really took off,” said Stephen Mitchell, bike aficionado and owner of the Rocking Horse Bakery in Winthrop. Mitchell stands among the pioneers of fat biking. He was living in Seattle in 1987 when he first heard about the 200-mile Iditabike race that had premiered that year in Alaska. The next winter Mitchell traveled to Knik, Alaska, to ride in the second Iditabike. He describes the ordeal of walking his bike for 60 miles of the 200-mile course that year because the snow was so soft. “It was long before fat tires. We were using standard mountain bike tires and didn’t even know that letting air out would help,” he said. Mitchell went on to ride the Iditabike five times over a six-year period, and was race director in 1990. That year Mazama’s Dave Ford, riding a bike with two rims laced to the hub and double tires front and rear, was declared the winner when all the racers decided to quit after slogging through the first 50 miles of heavy fresh snow, Mitchell

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said. Endurance racer Pat Norwil of Twisp was another early snow biker, competing in the Iditabike and other races. Snow bikers customized their own rides until Simon Rakower of Fairbanks, Alaska, began manufacturing and selling the SnowCat rim and Ray Molina of New Mexico started making custom bikes for desert riding. In the early 2000s, Surly Bikes released the Pugsly – the first commercial fat bike. Today there are at least 45 manufacturers of fat bikes, according to Winter biking in the Methow The MVSTA system allows riders with a trail pass on several groomed, multi-use trails: the Town Trailhead with connections to the Bitterbrush and Barnsley loops; the Big Valley trail; and Gunn Ranch Road connecting to the Grizzly Way loop. Two free, 0.5-kilometer bikefriendly loops are also accessible from the Town Trailhead: the Spring Creek Ranch North Loop and the new South Loop. Those wishing to try out a fat bike can borrow one from the MVSTA office (309 Riverside Ave. in downtown Winthrop), “zip over the Spring Creek pedestrian bridge, and ride the two Spring Creek Ranch loops for free,” said DeSalvo. The Sun Mountain Ski Shop, in partnership with Methow Cycle and Sport, has four fat bikes in a range of sizes for rent this season. “We hope to be able to outfit the whole family,” said ski shop owner/operator Don Portman (Sun Mountain re-opens Dec. 13 after a fall hiatus). Although Sun Mountain has chosen to keep fat bikes off its ski

trails for now, the organization has created “a separate little wing” of trails this winter, designed for fat bikers and snowshoers, according to Portman. Approximately 5 kilometers of bike-friendly trail heads out from the lodge on the Lakeview Trail, loops around the former Nordic sprint course area, and heads down the Corral Trail to the new Click-a-Pic loop. Due to the difficulty of the terrain, Sun Mountain’s new dual-use trail will be packed by snowmobile and by staff on snowshoes “to achieve a smooth, flat and firm surface,” according to Portman. Mitchell and Brown are teaming up again this winter to groom trails on the Lloyd Ranch at the Methow Wildlife Area and at Pearrygin Lake State Park – in total around 10-12 miles of connected trails, Mitchell estimates. The project began as “our commitment to making [fat biking] work in the valley,” Brown said. “The more access to trails and alternatives the better.” Mitchell and Brown plan to groom by snowmobile every few days, and although they don’t expect to achieve a perfect surface, “we are trying to provide a good, multi-use, safe and accessible trail,” Brown said. The free Lloyd/Pearrygin trails are open to snowshoers, skiers and snow bikers. A Discover Pass is required for parking. Trail maps are available at Methow Cycle and Sport (29 Highway 20 in Winthrop), which also provides fat bike rentals and information on winter biking.

gear for all seasons . . . whatever your sport

Rules of the trail MVSTA’s Winter Fat Bike Riding Conditions of Use asks bikers on the trail system to: • Purchase a trail pass • Verify daily access on the grooming report at • Only ride purpose-built snow bikes with tires wider than 3.7 inches, inflated less than 10 psi • Yield to all other users; stay to the right; stay out of the classic ski tracks • Do not ride if you leave a rut deeper than 1 inch, have to push your bike or cannot ride in a straight line Winter yield sign designed by Jake Hawkes of Grand Targhee Resort in Wyoming.

open 7 days a week 257 Riverside Ave in Winthrop 509.996.2886 Methow Valley Winter – 11

Note to anglers: drop a line When the lakes freeze over, ice fishing is hot in the Methow By Patrick McGann Don’t let anyone tell you ice fishing isn’t every bit as chilling as bone fishing in the Florida Keys. A 10-inch perch taken through a hole in the ice at Patterson Lake in January will send shivers up and down your spine just as violent as any big ol’ hawg wild steelhead. Yessir, ice fishing is so exciting you need ice water in your veins. Or something. I used to make fun of ice fishing back in the day. The very first outdoor fishing story I ever wrote involved a truck going through the ice way out in the middle of a big eastern Montana reservoir. I think my take was how lucky he was. I might have poked fun a little, but still to this day, I am proud of my restraint. I don’t think I’d have it in me any more.

Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers fans love ice fishing. That should tell you something right there. But we’ve got it all right here in the valley, about as much of it as any sane person could stand, I’d say. The only thing I can think of more fun than ice fishing on Patterson Lake is sitting in a car on the Patterson Lake Road looking at the ice fishers. But it’s a close call.

“ Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers fans love ice fishing. That should tell you something right there.”

Getting the urge Usually, the urge to ice fish is a symptom of cabin fever, which in most years strikes around the first or second week of November here in the Methow. It sneaks up on you.

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12 – Methow Valley Winter

Somebody will stand there looking like they’re about to sneeze but nothing comes out. So you say, “What’s the matter.” And they’ll say, “I think I need to jerk some perch.” Cabin fever, right there. Hopefully the ice is thick enough. “Best advice I could give on knowing when the ice is thick enough is seeing a bunch of people

out there on the ice,” said Rick Lagerway at Winthrop’s Ace Hardware. Sensible fellow. If they look like they know what they’re doing so much the better. How do you tell if they know what they’re doing? Easy. They’ll have an auger, a big wood boring drill contraption, either manual or gas powered for getting through the ice. They’ll have a skimmer for getting and keeping chunks of ice out of the hole. They’ll have something to sit on and a sled to drag all their stuff, which might include a heater of some kind, bait boxes, big furry hats, face masks, neoprene or kitchen dishwashing

gloves and military style “throwoff” mittens, rod holders designed to stick into the ice and snow and short little sensitive rods so they can sit close to the hole and detect those half-hearted trout bites. You can get all that stuff at various stores around the valley including Ace Hardware. “But you don’t need to have all the specialized stuff. You can do just fine with your regular trout fishing gear,” said Lagerway. I thought that was reverse psychology, but didn’t say anything. I do not think it is strange that there are some serious, serious ice fishers here in the Methow. That is because by now I’ve come to know what the Methow is like in the winter and that’s the least strange thing I can think of. Patterson Lake is their main hangout. They usually fish right off the boat launch. “You do not have to drill holes all over the lake,” said Lagerway. “There’s good fishing not more than 20 feet off the shore.” The three other winter lakes are Davis, Cougar and Campbell. Patterson has everything in it. Perch, rainbows, cutthroat, fatty fish (triploid rainbows), smallmouth bass, alligators, tuna, sea monsters, Soviet submarines. You usually only see perch and trout in the winter, however. Davis, Cougar and Campbell are basically trout lakes. That’s why Patterson is

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ing chairs, whatever. This not an athletic sport. So that means good footwear. Leave your cowboy boots at home. If you don’t look like Mickey Mouse, you’re going to get cold. Dress like you’re going Maggots are your to the North Pole friends to sit on your buns Maggots! You need perfectly still out in maggots if you want to the middle of the be a serious ice fisher. wind for 12 hours Maggots can be hard to and you’ll be happy. find, however. Even if Promise. you actually try to find Along about them. Ace has them. Fe b r u a r y o r s o , Check around. depending on the “Wormy things weather, you might work best,” assured start hearing the ice Lagerway. Of course. make a big echoey But jigs combined with cracking sound. That the wormy things can is how the lake says, be good on perch if “Get off me, you they are feeling froggy. idiot!” And unlike “You can catch 100 of your little brother, them on a good day,” it means it. Lagerway said. You reBut the one ally can. thing you will find But I’ve found that about ice fishing is the very best bait for that you will need perch is perch eyeballs. to consume an enorI’m serious. If you want mous amount of a 100-perch day ... calories. This is the I’m just sayin’, go for main enhancement their eyeballs. If you that Packers and can’t find maggots, you Photo by Sue Misao should have no trouble It’s important to dress warmly and take something to Bears fans have conwith nightcrawlers. You sit on when venturing out onto the ice for some winter tributed to the sport (since they’ve pretty really only need one. angling. much given up on If you don’t want to football by Februbuy an auger, you can ice, which you can still get through get by just fine with a hunk of rebar with a hunk of rebar but it takes ary). Just don’t eat the perch eyeballs or the maggots. You’ll need or a piece of galvanized pipe. By some elbow grease. Christmas and through the winter, Take something to sit on. those. you should expect 9 to 14 inches of Buckets with cushion lids, foldmost popular because perch remain enthusiastic during the winter while trout can be grumpy and sluggish. I’m more of a trout type in the winter, I think.

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The seasons of


Our other season comes and goes with its own rhythms Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather gold – John Boswell

By Joanna Bastian

Photo by Joanna Bastian

From the first snowflakes to the final melt, winter has its own timeline that is best experienced through outdoor exploration – with a companion.

Jack’s Hut

Winter begins softly. The first snowflakes drift down as a whisper. Delicate crystalline cells alight on a woolen sleeve. Infinitesimal geometric shapes exist for a frozen second before melting away. Winter is the sound of silence. Before the silence, before the first snowfall, frozen surfaces reflect acoustic waves and the chilled air slows down the sound, amplifying over distances. A quiet conversation in a hot tub carries further than intended and the yips of a coyote can be hear for miles. Early winter sounds are echoed chaos. Until … the first snow blankets the ground and subdues the pandemonium. The porous surface of powdered snow absorbs the waves of sound, burying them beneath billions of snowflakes. The stillness after a heavy snowstorm is deafening.

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509 996-3906 • 14 – Methow Valley Winter

Winter softens sound and lines of sight. Billions upon billions of snowflakes conceal fence posts, benches, lawn chairs and picnic tables. Each hard line now softened with infinite ice crystals forming fractal curves. Winter storms and snow days begin indoors, as you watch drifts build along the windowsill. A pot of spiced apple cider simmers atop a wood stove, the fire crackling and dancing below. Irish coffee and a good book soften winter’s chill. Winter inspires a return to the kitchen, once abandoned to summer’s salads and now found in bottles of warm winter spices. The spice trade is celebrated once more with breads, soups, cookies, pies, hot drinks and winter curries. After a winter storm, snowballs perch on top of fence posts, an arsenal waiting for the volley. The winter sun illuminates pine trees and ash berries, each detail sharply outlined in frost crystals. The frozen air is still, broken softly by muffled thumps as heavily laden trees shake off layers of freshly fallen snow. Blue sky meets glistening snow, marked by the delicate tracks of birds, snowshoe hares and foxes. Hats, mittens and snowsuits tumble into the hallway and boots are tugged on before you grab the sleds and trudge up a long hill, falling exhausted and laughing into the soft

piles of fresh powder. The anticipation Winter is the season of anticipation: breaking trail through untracked fresh snow, the prospect that your tracks will be the first to carve that mountain bowl. Adrenaline overriding the physical exertion as you climb each switchback and kickturn in that one steep section where a false move would be disaster. The cautious assessment of snowpack, checking for stability, apprehensive about the possibility of an avalanche. Finally, after all that exertion, reaching the ridge and taking in the view, the freshly fallen snow glistening in the sunlight. Enjoying the pause before locking down your heel and ripping off the skins. With a firm shove, tipping over the edge for the face shot of crisp air, the adrenaline of speed, the smoothness of the powder, and the bliss of the turn. After a long day of climbing and gliding, you ski down into the parking area where a winter tailgate party is in progress. Brats on the grill and cold beers slosh against the brim as stories are swapped about adrenaline rushes and epic yard sales. Winter nights are cheery and warm with popcorn, peppermint cookies and eggnog. Songs about dashing through the snow on a

starry winter’s eve, or building a snowman in a meadow before getting married by Parson Brown, fill the night air. Every evening there is a holiday show to enjoy, be it Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, It’s a Wonderful Life or a Christmas Story marathon. Winter’s idle hours are rarely idle. The darkened cold hours ignite introspection that transforms into art. In a wood-warmed shop, hours melt away beneath a paintbrush, and thoughts get lost on a potter’s wheel. Garden art and wall art, hand blown vases and hand carved furniture emerge in the dead of winter from an artist’s concept to tangible creations. Art is born in winter to be admired in summer at the farmers market. The first snow in November falls on red and golden leaves, the trees already asleep in seasonal slumber. By December the trees become flocked white with layers of powdery snow and the nights are long and dark. Christmas lights and bonfires glow just as brightly as the winter moon and stars. Winter lingers on through late March as the days lengthen into spring. The valley floor grows warm, along with a gardener’s eager anticipation. But for those of us who enjoy the crunch of snow along a ridgeline, the winter lingers on above the valley in the great North Cascades.

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Methow Valley Winter – 15

Snow relief

The Methow offers a wide range of activities that aren’t all outdoor oriented By Ashley Lodato In certain circles, the concept that a passion for snow sports is the sole motivation for visiting the Methow Valley is accepted as a self-evident truth. But it’s no secret that the Methow also has much to offer beyond snow. Whether you’re taking a break from skiing, staying indoors during a cold snap, or simply not attracted to snow sports, you’ll find great satisfaction in exploring the snow-free activities available in the Methow Valley. One of the best ways to keep yourself busy while getting to know the Methow is to volunteer for one of the many nonprofit organizations in the valley. From sorting plastics at Methow Recycles to reading aloud to kids during story hour at one of the local libraries to painting a set at the local theater, volunteer opportunities exist for every skill set. Options include: • Kiwanis: project support

• Merc Playhouse: theatrical production support • Methow Arts: event and arts administration support • Methow Conservancy: land conservation support • Methow Recycles: sorting and organizing of recyclables • Methow Valley Nordic Team: coaching junior skiers and event support • Methow Valley School District: tutoring and after-school program • Methow Valley Sport Trails Association and Methow Valley Nordic Club: event support • North Central Regional Library in Winthrop and Twisp: book shelving and story hour reading • Room One: social services support • The Cove: food bank support and elderly assistance

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16 – Methow Valley Winter

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Look and listen Another way to explore the Methow is to expand your artistic experience by attending a concert or dance performance, or by visiting an art gallery or studio. The arts partners of the Methow Valley publicize exhibits, readings, performances, and other events through a packed calendar at (Also see the calendar of events on pages 32 and 33.) Many local artists offer open studio hours, particularly those located on the TwispWorks campus at Highway 20 and Glover Street. Once you’re out walking, you might as well cross the pedestrian footbridges in Winthrop. Built in 2006, the Sah-Teekh-Wa Bridge connects Winthrop proper with North Village. At the far end of Main Street, the Spring Creek Bridge was completed in 2011 with the purpose of connecting the western and eastern regions of Winthrop. Both cable-stay bridges are bold and striking, and provide excellent photo opportunities with snowy riverbanks as a dramatic backdrop. When the nights grow long and dark and you seek diversion or companionship, consider joining one of the many book clubs in the valley. Ask for details at the Winthrop or Twisp libraries. Or take a class. Workshops in art, physical fitness, dance, yoga, and natural and biological sciences abound in the valley. Take center stage at The Merc Playhouse

Photo by Marcy Stamper

Productions continue through the winter at The Merc Playhouse in Twisp, as well as at the Methow Valley Community Theater.

or through the Methow Valley Community Theater, both of which offer open auditions for Readers’ Theater and full-scale productions. Participating in community theater is RoasteRs of fine, oRganic, an unrivaled way to faiR tRade coffees. get to know others and to stretch your own comfort zone. And once you’re small-time famous, you’ll never go back to your life of anonymity.

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See the shops Riverside Avenue in Winthrop and Glover Street in Twisp offer pleasant shopping strolls, with a variety of retail options including many that sell locally made items. The holiday bazaars in Winthrop and Twisp are another great way to pick up locally crafted products. Even if your budget doesn’t allow for a major shopping spree, you can still indulge in a little retail therapy at one of the local second-hand stores, such as Winthrop’s Red

Hen, Twisp Treasures, or the ever-popular Methow Valley Senior Center in Twisp (because who can argue with $3 a bag?). Trying to make one of the bakeries your home office will allow you to socialize and people-watch while still preserving the illusion of a sense of purpose. Pretend to type away or complete that research while sipping a latté or nibbling a muffin at the Mazama Store, Noca, Rocking Horse, or Cinnamon Twisp, welcoming the intrusion of the steady stream of acquaintances who will stop by your table. Later, when you ve managed to get no work done, you can blame your lack of productivity on those who interrupted you. When you have finally given up all pretense of working, while away the rest of the afternoon browsing in Trail’s End Bookstore. Kindle all you want at home, but few pleasures beat that of thumbing through the pages of a new book. A trip to Sun Mountain Lodge always feels like a bit of an event, especially if you sign up for a sleigh ride. With bells jingling, draft horses pull you in an open sleigh across snowy vistas to a packer’s tent, where you are welcomed with a hot chocolate or a Westernstyle dinner. Playing pool or ping-pong in the game room afterwards extends your stay at this lovely local lodge. There’s no question that the Methow is a wonderland of winter activities but there is as much to enjoy off the snow as there is on it, so come explore the snow-free side of the Methow Valley.

Methow Valley Winter – 17

Foot traffic

Photo by Joanna Bastian

Snowshoeing is an increasingly popular way to explore the Methow Valley

By Joanna Bastian Whether you’re out for a stroll or intently tracking wildlife, snowshoeing in winter is the preferred method for a growing number of people. Once considered a crucial activity for winter survival, snowshoeing

is now enjoying a revitalized interest as an active winter pastime. There are no special tricks to learn and no athletic prowess required, as there is for downhill skiing. Snowshoeing is an easy and invigorating way to enjoy the outdoors on a clean and crisp winter day. As long as you can

walk, you can snowshoe. Modern snowshoe designs are lightweight and smaller in size with bindings that securely hold the snowshoe to a winter boot. Several local outlets offer snowshoe rentals. The local experts at these shops will outfit you with a pair of snowshoes suited to your stride and choice of terrain. Where to go If this is your first time snowshoeing, you might enjoy a group snowshoe tour. Group tours are led by a nature guide, who identifies animal tracks, the flora and the fauna that define the natural beauty of a Methow Valley winter. Tours are hosted by the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association (MVSTA) every Saturday starting Dec. 21 and continuing through March 8 at North Cascades Basecamp and Sun Mountain Lodge. The tours begin at 11 a.m. and last 90 to 120 minutes, depending on conditions. The guided tours are free (although participants must have a trail pass) and are offered on a first-come, firstserved basis. The Methow Valley is home to the nation’s largest groomed trail

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system, with designated trails for skiers and for snowshoers. Warming huts, cafés and lodges are all within easy trail access. The choices of routes and views are enough to explore all winter long. The scenic MVSTA system connects three distinct, groomed trail networks: Sun Mountain, the Rendezvous and Mazama, and both Sun Mountain and Mazama have numerous trails especially reserved for snowshoers. Snowshoe-clad trekkers can meander through the woods from the North Cascades Basecamp near Mazama, or climb high above the valley and Patterson Lake on a variety of trails in the Sun Mountain area. A day pass is required for use of most of the MVSTA trails. These can be purchased at either at the MVSTA headquarters in downtown Winthrop, at the Sun Mountain Lodge rental shop, or at many retailers throughout the valley. For a taste of the trail system before you buy, visit the Big Valley trail north of Winthrop. This five-mile loop is open free to all visitors, including the four-legged furry kinds. For a view above the valley, the


Loup Loup Ski Bowl boasts two trail systems for snowshoers alongside ski tracks. Parking is free at the Loup Loup Ski area, and day passes are available at the office. A state SnoPark pass is required for use of the South Summit trails across the highway from the Loup Loup Ski Bowl. For untracked snow and quiet solitude, explorers may opt to delve into the Methow Valley’s infinite network of U.S. Forest Service roads and their spurs. All public roads are open to users and do not require passes, although Sno-Parks do require a Sno-Park permit, which is available online at and through some local retailers. Unplowed Forest Service roads are perfect snowshoe routes for the whole family, including the doggies. Use extra caution and be aware of surroundings when traveling off the beaten track. The un-beaten track often looks similar in many directions, especially when tracks become obliterated in the falling snow. Be aware of the direction you take, and use a map and compass. Take along a roll of brightly colored trail tape and leave a Hansel

Love this Valley Working with people to protect the land of the Methow Valley ~ 996-2870

Inspiring people to care for the land of the Methow Valley

Continued on p. 20

Methow Conservancy

photo by Mary Kiesau

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Methow Valley Winter – 19

Continued from p. 19

and Gretel trail of bows to guide you back home. What to know Dogs are allowed on some of the South Summit trails at the Loup Loup summit – consult the map at the trailhead – and on Forest Service roads. Please clean up after yourself and your pets so everyone can enjoy the pristine outdoors. Before using the MVSTA trails, check for information on dog passes, as these are required for some of the trails, and dogs are not allowed on all trails. Dogs are welcome on the Lunachik and Big Valley trails, but not at Sun Mountain or on groomed trails in the Rendezvous. Clean-up stations are located at many trailheads but, just to be prepared, pack along extra bags to pack out trash and doggie souvenirs. Check the weather report before planning any outdoor activities in the magnificent North Cascades. If a large storm is brewing, plan the outing accordingly by keeping the route short, or opt to spend the day with a good book and a steaming cup of brew in one the Methow’s warm

bakeries or pubs. Be particularly cautious during the first 24 hours after a big storm and stay clear of slopes between 25 and 45 degrees, as avalanches are triggered by a rapid accumulation of snow. Always check the avalanche report at the Northwest Avalanche Center, before venturing into mountain terrain. Make sure someone knows where you are going and when you plan to return. Be conscious of the time, as it is easy to lose track of it on a gorgeous day in the great outdoors. Give yourself plenty of time to return back to town before nightfall, unless you are planning on spending several days in the backcountry, camping in a snow cave. What to take Wear several layers of loose, lightweight, warm clothes with a water-repellent outer garment. Avoid cotton and wear several layers of loose, lightweight warm clothes with a tightly woven water repellent outer garment. Snowshoeing is rigorous exercise and sweat-soaked layers can lead to hyperthermia. Trekking poles or ski poles with a

Photo by Mary Kiesau

The valley has many trails designated for snowshoeing, while some more-experienced trekkers don’t mind bushwhacking over unbroken snow. powder basket on the tip are a necessity. Poles help with balance and endurance, and come in handy when testing the surface of a snow bridge to determine if it is safe to cross over a stream. Snowshoeing is hard work, so pack energy-filled lunches with fresh fruit, nuts and a hearty sandwich. Many of the local lodges and delis offer box lunches filled with local ingredi-

ents and prepared by talented chefs. What makes the Methow Valley unique is the varied topography of the area. In just one outing you can experience high elevation views and smooth valley trails under the spires of the North Cascades. And the best view is the one that happens any one of the sunny days in the Methow between mid-December and March.

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By David Ward As the nights get longer and colder, we all would like to curl up by the fire with a good book after a chilly day in the snow. If you are brave enough to drag yourself outside after dark, the brightest stars in the sky will shine down in all their glory on you. In winter we look out in a different direction into the universe. If your stargazing has just been a summer activity, you will now see the opposite side of the cosmos. Photo by Callie Fink More than just a couple of minutes out on a winter’s night, however, requires in winter, so go out and enjoy it when we do have one. a little preparation. Dress warmly. Stargazing is not an Avoid those annoying Christmas lights at all costs. The aerobic activity, like climbing that long hill on skis. We subtleties of the night sky cannot compete with your are not treated to spectacularly clear nights very often Continued on p. 22


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neighbor’s flashing reindeer. Orion is center stage The winter showpiece up in the sky is Orion and his friends. Visible high in the south on a mid-winter’s evening, Orion, the hunter, is probably the most familiar constellation all over the world. Look for his distinctive belt of three equally bright and equally spaced stars in a row. His dimmer sword hangs at an angle below. Surrounding the belt and sword is a rectangle of four bright stars with reddish Betelgeuse at the upper left and white Rigel at the lower right. In Greek mythology Orion was a famous hunter who claimed he could kill any animal on earth. The gods had a low tolerance for boastful mortals and sent a tiny scorpion to sting and kill the mighty Orion. Out

of respect for his inflated ego the scorpion was placed in the summer sky and the two are never seen together. Orion is often depicted in battle with a mighty bull named Taurus. Look for him high overhead, a small V-shaped constellation of dimmer stars with a bright orange star at the end of one of the legs of the V. That is Aldebaran, the eye of the bull. Two hunting dogs accompany Orion on his journey across the heavens each night. Look for a very bright star below and to the east of the hunter. That is Sirius, the brightest star in the sky and the larger of his two dogs. The three stars of Orion’s belt point down and to the left to it. The smaller dog is also to the left but higher in the sky, embodied in a bright star named Procyon. Be sure to look for Orion’s girlfriends, the beautiful Seven Sisters. They can be seen high in the sky to

the west of Taurus the bull. Look for a small cluster of dim stars about the size of the full moon in the shape of a tiny dipper. This little cluster, known as the Pleiades, is easy to spot because there is nothing else in the sky quite like it. Orion chased these beautiful maidens all over ancient Greece, but they always spurned his amorous advances. He chases them still across the sky each night from east to west but he never ever catches them. Look for planets The planet Jupiter will be a spectacular addition to all the bright stars in the sky this winter. Look for it north and east of Orion and notice that it does not twinkle like the stars. If you have a small telescope, it will reveal Jupiter’s four brightest moons which change their positions around the planet each night. The two bright stars left of

Jupiter are Castor and Pollux, the Gemini twins. The planet Venus will be our evening star low in the southwest just after sunset until early January. In December a small telescope will show Venus as a thin crescent. If you have exceptional eyesight, you just may be able to see that crescent with your naked eye at the end of December or early January. A special visitor from deep space will be coming our way at the end of November, Comet ISON. As of this writing no one knows if it will be the most spectacular celestial object any of us have ever seen or a complete dud. Sometimes stargazing is unpredictable. To see this comet you will not only have to go outside in the cold, but you will have to go out there at

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the coldest time of the night, just before sunrise. Look for it low in the east shortly before dawn. If we are lucky we should see a long tail extending up from the eastern

horizon just before the sky begins to brighten. I hope we have some spectacular winter nights when the stars look like brilliant diamonds sprinkled on black velvet. Be sure to look up every now and then – you might see something truly amazing!

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22 – Methow Valley Winter

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Happy trails

The Methow offers a vast network of Nordic skiing challenges By Marcy Stamper If you strung all the groomed ski trails in the Methow Valley end to end, they wouldn’t exactly take you to the moon, but they would get you all the way to Leavenworth, the Pacific Northwest’s own version of Bavaria. That 120 miles of linked trails in the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association (MVSTA) system constitute the largest groomed cross country trail system in the United States. The system is a unique mix of trails, just over half on public lands, with the rest traversing private property with access provided by special easements. Local cross country devotees began rudimentary grooming of trails in the Methow Valley and around Sun Mountain almost four decades ago, when Nordic skiing was still relatively unknown in this country. Over the years, the group negotiated arrangements with landowners to link the trails. They also extended the routes and refined their grooming techniques to be able to offer prime conditions throughout the season for both classic and skate skiing. The MVSTA trails provide an impressive variety of terrain and experiences for novice and experienced skiers. Trails in the Mazama area are generally level, some crossing sun-drenched Photo by Marcy Stamper

Continued on p. 24

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Continued from p. 23

pastures ringed by craggy peaks and others winding through the forest and along the river. The Town Trailhead in Winthrop also provides a level trail that starts along the Methow River, where skiers often see bald eagles. Skiers looking for rolling terrain or more challenging climbs and descents can head up from the valley floor to the trail network at Sun Mountain, which offers its own assortment of interconnected trails affording inspiring views of the valley and surrounding hills and Cascades. Other trails lead to the Rendezvous trail system, the most remote part of the MVSTA network, with longer routes that ascend to mountain passes and overlooks at 4,000 feet. With their higher elevation and higher snowfall, trails at Sun Mountain and the Rendezvous generally open first – often by Thanksgiving – and stay open later than the trails on the valley floor. Shelters and warming huts are available at various points throughout MVSTA’s system, including the independently operated Rendezvous

Photo by Ashley Lodato

Nordic skiers will find miles of trails and incomparable vistas. Huts, which are available as lunch stops for day skiers and, by reservation, for overnight stays. In addition to claiming the largest trail network in the country, MVSTA is proud to be the only Nordic system with free trail access for kids 17 and under. “We haven’t been able to find anyone else who does that,”


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said Kristen Smith, marketing director for MVSTA. “For us, it’s kind of a no-brainer, to get kids introduced to the sport and get families out on the trails.” Beyond getting free trail access, kids can participate in any MVSTA event, such as the Ski Rodeo or Methow Valley Pursuit, for free. Trails

are also free for skiers 75 and older. Several MVSTA trails are free to all skiers – and their dogs – all winter long. That includes the Big Valley trail between Winthrop and Mazama, a level, 5-mile loop that winds through the woods along the Methow River and emerges in a flat, open field dwarfed by rugged peaks. The other free option is a flat loop next to the ice rink at the Town Trailhead, which links to a trail new this year, the South Spring Creek Ranch Loop. People interested in trying Nordic skiing or exploring MVSTA’s trail network have three chances this season to ski any trail for free, and even to get rental equipment for free (see box for details). On those three days, in addition to making your own ski tracks, you can get the groomer’s perspective with a free ride on grooming equipment. The invitation to try winter sports for free on those days also extends to the Winthrop Ice Rink, with free skating and rentals during scheduled open-skate times. Other area trails Although MVSTA’s trail system is

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extensive, cross country skiers seeking variety or solitude often make their own tracks in other areas, particularly when snow is soft and fresh. Many skiers explore unplowed stretches of roads (try Beaver Creek Road, the west end of Twisp River Road, or U.S. Forest Service roads). The open hills of the Methow Wildlife Area are also a favorite with skiers preferring privacy to speed. Other skiers use trails maintained by the Methow Valley Snowmobile Association, which helps groom and maintain a vast network of trails throughout the county. Be sure you respect the shared trails, and think about supporting the club with a donation as a Friend of the Groomer. Another 22 miles of higherelevation trails, from 4,020 to 5,450, are available at Loup Loup Pass, both at the Loup Loup Ski Area and at the South Summit across the road. The Ski Bowl grooms almost 19 miles of trails adjacent to the downhill ski area that circle and climb Bear Mountain, adding a few more easy trails this year. The aptly named Nirvana is one of

several routes to a broad viewpoint that looks west over the Methow Valley and to the Cascades beyond. Across the highway, the 32-mile South Summit trail network is accessible from a state-run Sno-Park (parking permit required). The trails, generally groomed on Fridays, lead through the forest and offer splendid views of the Okanogan Highlands and North Cascades. Some trails are shared with snowmobiles, some allow dogs, and most include gradual climbs or shorter, winding hills. Most trails at both areas on the Loup are groomed with classic tracks and a skating lane. In addition to its groomed ski trails, MVSTA has opened a limited number of trails to fat bikes (see story on page 9). Those equipped with snowshoes, can, of course, go just about anywhere, but they can also explore MVSTA’s specialized snowshoe trails (see story on page 18). So while you may not get to the moon, hopefully you will have an out-of-this-world experience on trails right here.

Winter adventures abound at Sun Mountain Lodge with over 65 km. of beautifully groomed cross-country ski trails, a full service ski shop, expert instructors, top-of-the-line rental gear, sleigh rides, snowshoe rentals, and an expanded network of showshoe trails. NEW THIS YEAR: Exclusive fat bike trails and bike rentals! Then relax with our full service spa, award-winning dining, and 5,000-bottle wine collection. All at surprisingly affordable prices!


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Trail basics Free ski days: Dec. 13, Jan. 24, March 14. Free ski rentals on free ski days at Methow Valley Ski School at the Mazama Junction, Sun Mountain Lodge, Methow Cycle and Sport, Winthrop Mountain Sports. Passes: MVSTA trails require a day, multi-day, or season pass (or lifetime pass, for the devoted skier) Season pass: $325 Weekday-only pass: $199 Day pass: $22 Multi-day pass (3 or more consecutive days): $57, plus $19 per additional day Afternoon pass (after 1 p.m.): $17 Snowshoe pass: $5 Dog pass: season, $35; day, $5 See the MVSTA website at for details and to purchase passes, or call 996-3287. Passes are also available from many local vendors around the valley, including many sporting-goods stores, lodging and restaurants, and groceries. Loup Loup Nordic trails North Summit (at Loup Loup Ski Area): $10, 6 and under free. SnoPark Permit (for South Summit, good at Sno-Parks around the state): $40,; also available at local vendors. Grooming reports MVSTA trails: 996-3860 or Loup Loup and South Summit: (509) 557-3405 Snowmobile trails:

1 hour



1 hour



1 hour



509-996-3257 lic. hiltoci009mK Methow Valley Winter – 25

Get the sled out Miles of trails, unique sights only part of winter snowmobile fun

By Mike Maltais Have you ever seen a ghost tree? How about a henway? Any local snowmobiler can probably tell you what ghost trees are. These phenomena occur at high altitudes when freezing wind-blown snow completely covers ridgeline evergreens, rendering them ghost-like silhouettes. They are “unbelievably beautiful,” said Jerry Schultz, an avid snowmobiler and member of the Methow Valley Snowmobile Association (MVSA). Ghost trees are just one among many breathtaking sights that bring out the snowmobile riders around the county every winter. Thanks to the MVSA, its affiliate organization the Mountain Trails Grooming Association, the Butte Busters in Conconully, and the Tri-Rivers in Pateros/ Brewster, a network of some 175 miles of trails that lace the back country are regularly maintained in western Okanogan County for the winter enjoyment of folks who ride the big sleds. The Mountain Trails Grooming Association

grooms trails out of five SnoParks in the valley: Yellowjacket and Goat Creek around Mazama, Eightmile and Boulder Creek north of Winthrop, and Twisp River west of Twisp. The Butte Busters maintain trails out of Kerr and Peacock Sno-Parks near Conconully and the North and South Summit sites on the Loup Loup pass. Tri-River snowmobilers take care of trails out of the Black Canyon and South Fork Snowmobiling Gold Creek Sno-Parks south of sledders. Carlton. Whichever location you choose, a $20 daily Sno-Park permit or a season pass for $40 gives you access to all 11 launch sites and a sled-load of memories. Buy them online at www.parks, winter/nonmotorparks/permits/ or at Hank’s Harvest Foods in Twisp, Pardners Mini Market or Winthrop Mountain Sports in Winthrop (include a $2 retail

Photo courtesy of Methow Valley Snomobile Association

is a convivial group activity for many local vendor fee). Where to start Yellowjacket Sno-Park north of Mazama is the jumping off point to Harts Pass and the heart-stopping Dead Horse Point along the way. Goat Creek Sno-Park is the portal to the

Ski from your door in the Methow Valley

COme ride the range with the

Methow Valley Snowmobile Club!

North CasCades BaseCamp Mazama, Washington 509.996.2334

Lodging • Local, seasonal meals MVSTA Trailhead • Naturalist programs Family friendly • Hot tub 26 – Methow Valley Winter

Over 175 miles of groomed trails Club rides every weekend Campfire and lunch provided Come Ride with us!! Check us out at:

Methow Valley Snowmobile Association’s weekend group ride schedule December Sunday, Dec. 16 Saturday, Dec. 22 Sunday, Dec. 30

from Goat Creek from Eightmile from Boulder Creek

lunch at Black Pine Hut lunch at Falls Creek lunch at Parachute Meadows

January Saturday, Jan. 5 Sunday, Jan. 13 Saturday, Jan. 19 Sunday, Jan. 27

from North Summit from Goat Creek from Goat Creek from Goat Creek

lunch at Beaver Meadows lunch at Whiteface lunch at Sweetgrass North lunch at Black Pine Hut

Whiteface drainage and 8,000-foot McLeod Mountain, a regular ghost tree viewpoint. “You can also see the backside of Mt. Baker from there,” said Shultz, who made special note of the distinctive patina caused by sulphur fumes steaming from Baker’s volcanic vent. Seriously now, do not eat that yellow snow. Trails from Yellowjacket and Goat Creek also connect via Banker Pass to the Chewuch River basin further east and its Eightmile and Boulder Creek Sno-Parks. Ongoing logging operations in the Buck Lake area will render Eightmile and Buck Lake roads off limits owing to winter truck traffic, advised

February Saturday, Feb. 2 Sunday, Feb. 10 Sunday, Feb. 17

from Eightmile from Goat Creek from Goat Creek

Saturday, Feb. 23

from Poorman

March Sunday, March 3 from Eightmile Saturday, March 9 from Goat Creek Sunday, March 17 from Goat Creek Saturday, March 23 from Boulder Creek

Paul Tillman of MVSA. U.S. Forest Service road 205 just north of Eightmile Road will be the default access during the logging activity and will be well marked for riders departing from Eightmile Sno-Park to access that trail system. Boulder Creek Sno-Park on the East Chewuch Road is a good launch site for points east towards Conconully via scenic vistas like Baldy Pass, Freezeout Pass and Lone Frank Pass, and more ghost tree sightings. A short drive east of Twisp finds the Twisp River Sno-Park and access to Buttermilk Butte and Black Pine Lake. This network also hooks up with the isolated beauty of Gold Creek further

Methow Valley’s

weDDinGs MeetinGs

lunch at Doe Mountain lunch at Whiteface lunch at Black Pine Basin lunch at Parachute Meadows

south and territory bordering the Lake ChelanSawtooth Wilderness Area, also accessible from the South Fork Gold Creek and Black Canyon Sno-Parks. Straddling Highway 20 on the Loup Loup summit, the North and South Summit Sno-Parks offer a variety of options for riders heading north or south of the pass. Riders can stay up to date on current grooming conditions together with the MVSA’s weekly club ride schedule by visiting Oh, almost forgot – what’s a henway? About 3 pounds.

ethow M ic

dio Ra

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lunch at Doe Mountain lunch at cattle guard Bucket Run (President’s Day weekend) lunch at Black Pine Lake

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KTRT 97.5 Methow Valley Winter – 27

The new ice age Refrigeration equipment will expand the use of Winthrop’s outdoor rink By Don Nelson The folks who created the Winthrop Ice & Sports Rink (WISR) have known the cold truth from day one. “We have to have refrigeration,” said Jill Calvert, president of the nonprofit organization that operates the rink. “We have to have ice.” The ice is coming. Earlier this year the Town of Winthrop – which owns the rink – received approval of a $497,000 grant request through the Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. The funds will go toward installation of refrigeration equipment, construction of new bathrooms and the addition of four changing rooms, plus other improvements to the outdoor rink site on White Avenue (Twin Lakes Road). The community will be required

to match the grant with at least $425,000 in cash and the rest in donated labor and materials. The refrigeration is expected to cost up to $650,000, Calvert said. The project is expected to be completed in time for the 2015-16 winter season. Marc Robertson, whose original dream of a European-style skating experience in Winthrop has driven the project since 1997, is enthusiastic and grateful that his vision is close to realization. “It’s exciting and daunting,” Robertson said. The daunting part: raising the community’s part of the project. Longer season Since it opened in 2007, the rink has been flooded with water each winter to create a thick layer of ice over a grassy surface that doubles as a soccer field in the summer. But that can’t be done until

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it’s cold enough outside. Then the ice’s integrity depends on winter conditions sticking around for a while. So the rink has a short and indeterminate season, during which it must pack in as much use and generate as much revenue as possible. The weather Photo by Don Nelson has always been a problematic wild Winthrop’s outdoor rink is a skater’s dream. card, Robertson [hockey] tournaments.” said. “The weather “We’ll add a month to each end has been pretty marginal the past couple of years,” he said. “This of the season,” Calvert said. Now, [the refrigeration] will make a huge she said, “we’re lucky if we’re open difference in our ability to host by Christmas.”

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With the refrigeration in place, Calvert said, “we’ll be able to start selling ice” for events such as regional hockey tournaments. Already, Winthrop is a hot destination for hockey teams looking for a match, Calvert said, and was rated one of the top 10 outdoor skating rinks in the west by Sunset magazine. When the rink advertised a six-team hockey tournament for the end of January 2014, the brackets were filled in 38 minutes, Calvert said. Each team needs about 13 hotel rooms, she added. The certainty of good ice for an extended season will bring more skaters from throughout the Northwest and help the local economy, Calvert and Robertson both noted. The most important overall impact will be in the community Robertson said. “First and foremost is that the rink is utilized,” he said. The rink is well situated for access to ski trails and downtown Winthrop via the Spring Creek pedestrian bridge. Robertson said those connections have always been a vital part of the plan. “To see it all come to fruition is a dream come

true,” he said. The rink operates on an annual budget of about $65,000, Calvert said. It takes in revenue from ice time fees (seasonal passes are available for kids, adults and families), skate and hockey gear rentals, sharpening skates, renting out its viewing room for meetings, and instructional programs. An important program is the USA Hockey program for kids ranging from 5 to 15 years old. Calvert estimated that the WISR operating budget could increase by up to $20,000 with a longer season. Fundraising begins Calvert said WISR is working on fundraising campaigns that will be announced in December. The late Red McComb left about $100,000 from his estate to the rink, she said, giving WISR a big jump-start on its fundraising efforts. “We’re happy he embraced our vision,” Robertson said of McComb. Plans call for development of a site plan this fall. “We’ll choose a specialist to design a rink for us that

meets our needs,” Calvert said. Then comes a request for bids to build the new facilities. The aim is to begin construction in May 2015 and be ready for the 2015-16 season, she said. When the construction is completed, the rinks’ grassy field will be replaced by a “big concrete slab” that’s less conducive to summer use, Calvert said. The tradeoff, she said, is “skating under the stars – youth hockey, women’s hockey, beginners’ hockey, all levels of abilities.” This is Phase 2 of the town’s ice rink project. The effort that pro-

duced the existing facilities started with a $350,000 RCO grant that was matched by local cash and inkind contributions, Calvert said. The Methow Valley Sport Trails Association operated the rink at first, but WISR took over a few years ago under an agreement with the town, she said. With ice on the horizon, Robertson said he can now see the end game for what started out as “a pond in a backyard” more than 15 years ago, Robertson said. “This is the legacy of our times,” he said.

Sign up for passes Sign up by Dec. 1 to get a discount on season passes at the rink. The Methow Valley Sport Trails Association has season pass forms at its office on Riverside Avenue in Winthrop. Forms can also be found on the WISR website,, as well as information about schedules and rental fees. For more information, call 996-4199. Contributions toward the new facilities can be mailed to WISR, P.O. Box 62, Winthrop, WA 98862.

Photo by Laurelle Walsh

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The Loup’s new look

Skiers will find more features at the family-friendly resort By Ann McCreary Low key, family-friendly, uncrowded and easily accessible – the Loup Loup Ski Area is pretty much “perfect the way it is,” according to Manager Sandy Liman. But that’s not stopping the resort on Highway 20 between Twisp and Okanogan from trying to become even more perfect. Loup Loup skiers this winter will find new features to enhance their experience, Liman said. “We’ve done some improvements to the day lodge, because that’s the heart and soul of the resort,” Liman said. The rustic day lodge, built in 1969, features an imposing rock fireplace and big picture windows with a great view of the mountain. Food service includes hot meals and snacks, beer and wine. This winter, for the first time, skiers will be allowed to take beer and wine outside to a new beer garden in front of the lodge. On sunny days, picnic tables in front of the lodge are a magnet for skiers who soak up the rays while lunching and socializing, but imbibing outside the lodge

and provide picnic tables and smaller tables. The fencing and tables will be moved each evening to allow the snow to be groomed, and then replaced, Liman said. Children, he added, are allowed in the beer garden. Loup patrons will also find the lodge aesthetics improved this winter, Liman said. The resort has hired Twisp artist Donna Keyser to serve as “artistic designer” for the lodge. The goal, Liman said, “is to channel Photo courtesy of Loup Loup Ski Bowl the artistic energies of the The skiing is always good at the Loup, and this year the lodge community into the Loup.” The lodge will be spiffed will be spiffed up and offer an outdoor beer garden. up through the use of color was not legal. and paint, and Liman said Within the designated beer garden, taking he hopes to eventually include outdoor art along alcohol outside is now permitted, Liman said. The the Loup’s cross country ski trails. beer garden will be enclosed by portable fencing, In addition to the new beer garden, skiers will

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find some new lunch and resting spots, Liman said, including the “Mile High Sun Lounge” at the top of the Loup’s quad chair lift. The “lounge” is actually picnic tables at the summit. Liman said skiers can take their own food up, or get a bag lunch at the lodge and carry it up on the lift. The resort’s 10-year master plan calls for a warming hut at the top, but for the time-being the bright Okanogan sunshine will provide the heat. The resort has also added picnic tables at a couple of spots along Ridge Run that have good views and south-facing exposure to provide sun. “People can picnic, rest, and hang out,” Liman said. “We can’t build 2,000 more feet of vertical, but we can create more options for fun experiences.” Tube the ‘Wild Wolf’ The Loup’s popular tubing hill has a new name – the “Wild Wolf Tubing Hill” – and 10 more tubes have been purchased to accommodate more sliders. The ski rental shop has also increased its inventory with new shape skis. For skinny skiers, the Loup Loup Ski Area grooms a Nordic trail system offering a combination of flat, easy trails at the base of the resort, and very challenging trails that climb up Bear Mountain. Liman said the resort plans to expand its 23-kilometer system this winter by grooming an additional 8 or 9 kilometers of easy trails

leading from the resort to the U.S. Forest Service campground at Loup Loup pass. The Loup also grooms another 50 kilometers of Nordic trails at nearby South Summit under a contract with the Washington State Parks Department. Plans to log that area have been delayed because required environmental studies and permitting haven’t been completed, so the area will remain open to skiers this winter. Loup Loup Ski Area is planning a special event this winter in conjunction with the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The opening ceremonies will coincide with one of the Loup’s signature events – the annual “Wolf Chase” ski race that draws about 300 skiers from all over the Northwest. “We’re going to do a Loup style opening of the Olympics, with a torchlight parade that night,” Liman said. Mother Nature delivered a great season to the Loup last year, with early snow in December providing good skiing through the holidays, and a snowpack that kept the lifts running through late March. Liman is watching the long-term weather forecasts, and has hopes of another good season. His favorite forecaster, Cliff Mass of the University of Washington, “is calling for a winter similar to last year, but maybe a little bit warmer,” Liman said.

Photo by Ashley Lodato

Basics at the Loup • Located on Little Buck Mountain between Twisp and Okanogan on Highway 20 • 1,240 vertical feet, 10 cut runs on 300 acres • Quad chair lift, platter surface tow and beginner rope tow • Ski school, rental and repair shop, day lodge, food service, terrain park, tubing hill, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, doggie trails, fat biking (byobike) • Open Wednesday (January and February), Friday, Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m.-3:45 p.m. Open every day during Christmas week (except Christmas Day). Open all week for President’s holiday and Martin Luther King holiday. • For conditions: or (509) 557-3405.

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WINTER 2013 /14 November 8 FOLK/AMERICANA: Bradford Loomis at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, Winthrop. Free. 996-3183. 7pm 9 PHOTO EXHIBIT: “Taking Refuge,” featuring Ken Libby’s photos of the Himalayas opens at The Studio in Twisp. Free. 997-0211. 4-8pm 9 ART OPENING: “Visions of Verse,” featuring work of 16 writers and 16 visual artists opens at Confluence Gallery in Twisp. Free. 997-2787. 4-8pm

17 UNITARIAN LECTURE SERIES: “Biophilia (love of life) and the Human Journey” with Dana Visalli at the MV Community School, Winthrop. Free. 9968050. 10:15am 19 MARKETING YOURSELF: Part one of three-part series on professional development for artists with Jenn Tate at Confluence Gallery in Twisp. $20-$45. 9972787. 6-8pm 21 VINYL NIGHT: Bring vinyl records and listen to DJ’s selections at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, Winthrop. Free. 9963183. 5pm 21 GRANT WRITING FOR ARTISTS: Part two of three-part series on professional development for artists with Amanda Jackson at Confluence Gallery in Twisp. $20-$45. 997-2787. 6-8pm 22 ROCK/BLUES: RL Heyer at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, Winthrop. Free. 9963183. 7pm

9 READERS THEATER: Staged reading of Memory House at The Merc Playhouse, Twisp. Donation. 997-7529. 7pm 9 BLUEGRASS/FUNK: Podunk Funk at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, Winthrop. Free. 996-3183. 7pm 12-15 KIDS’ ART PARTIES: a new art party each day with instructors Lesa Sevin, Laura Gunnip and Margaret Kingston for grades 2-6 at Confluence Gallery in Twisp. $35 each day. 997-2787. 12:30pm 14 VINYL NIGHT: Bring vinyl records and listen to the DJ’s selections at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, Winthrop. Free. 9963183. 5pm 15 OPEN MIC: RT Junior hosts at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, Winthrop. Free. 9963183. 7pm 16 POP/SOUL: Andrew Vait at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, Winthrop. Free. 9963183. 7pm

32 – Methow Valley Winter

6-8 THEATER: Performances of Little Women at the Merc Playhouse, Twisp. $5$15. 997-7529. Friday and Saturday 7pm, Sunday 2pm 7 CHRISTMAS BAZAAR: 60 vendors sell arts and crafts, with food by Sunflower Catering at the MV Community Center, Twisp. Free. 997-2926. 9am-3pm 7 HOLIDAY CRAFTS: Make handmade wire-wrapped jewelry and homemade spice mixes with Linda Van Valkenburgh and Theresa Mitchell at Confluence Gallery in Twisp. $15-$35. 997-2787. 10am-3pm 7 WINTER WONDER CIRCUS GALA: Aerialists, stilt walkers, fire dancers jugglers and more at Winthrop Barn. Cost TBD. 997-4004. 7pm 10-11 HOLIDAY CONCERT: Cascadia Chorale and Pipestone Orchestra present two nights of seasonal music. Free. 997-0222. 7pm

23 CHRISTMAS BAZAAR: 60 vendors sell arts and crafts, with food by Sunflower Catering at the MV Community Center, Twisp. Free. 997-2926. 9am-3pm 23 SINGER SONGWRITER: Chris Lay Trio at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, Winthrop. Free. 996-3183. 7pm 29-30 CHRISTMAS AT THE END OF THE ROAD: Santa visit, hot-air balloon glow, fireworks and activities all around downtown Winthrop. Free. 996-2125. All day. 29 PERCUSSIVE GUITAR FUNK: Blake Noble at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, Winthrop. Free. 996-3183. 7pm 30 COUNTRY: Jesse Taylor at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, Winthrop. Free. 9963183. 7pm

December 1 UNITARIAN LECTURE SERIES: “The Merc, Creating a Space” with Carolanne Steinebach at the MV Community School, Winthrop. Free. 9968050. 10:15am

12-15 THEATER: Performances of Little Women at the Merc Playhouse, Twisp. $5-$15 (Thursday pay-what-you-can). 9977529. Thursday-Saturday 7pm, Sunday 2pm 13 KIDS’ ART PARTY: Holiday card making with Deirdre Cassidy for grades 2-6 at Confluence Gallery in Twisp. $3035. 997-2787. 10am 13 BACKYARD SKI DAY: Free skiing on MVSTA trails and ski gear on loan from local shops. Grooming machine rides and refreshments at Chickadee trailhead. Free. 10am-2pm

CALENDAR of EVENTS 14-24 HANDMADE FOR THE HOLIDAYS: Gift show, coffee and treats daily at Local 98856 in Twisp. Free. 997-0978. 10am-4pm 14 BLACK TIE PARTY: Vintage ski lodge-themed annual black-tie party at Confluence Gallery in Twisp. $20-$35. 9972787. 7pm

January 1 PIANO RECITAL: And talk by pianist Michael Brady at The Merc Playhouse. Free. 996-8109. 2pm

6-8 DANCE COLLECTIVE: Methow Dance Collective performances at The Merc Playhouse in Twisp. Cost TBD. 997-7529. 7-9pm 8 WINTHROP SKI DERBY: 16K and 32K classic ski races at Chickadee trailhead. $20-$45. 9am

19-22 THEATER: Performances of Little Women at the Merc Playhouse,Twisp. $5-$15. 997-7529.Thursday-Saturday 7pm, Sunday 2pm

15 TOUR OF THE METHOW: Ski 20K to 80K of the Methow Valley ski trail system. $10, shuttle included. www.methowvalleynordic. com. All day.

20 FOLK: Planes on Paper at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, Winthrop. Free. 9963183. 7pm

15-16 SNOWSHOE SOFTBALL: Tournament at the Winthrop ball field. (888) 463-8469. All day.

21 NATURE OF WINTER: Snowshoe tours every Saturday through March 8 at Sun Mountain Lodge and North Cascades Basecamp. Free with trail pass. www.mvsta. com. 11am

16 DOGGIE DASH: Costumed ski racing with dogs at the Winthrop Town Trailhead. $12. 10am

21 VISIT WITH SANTA: And cookie decorating for kids at Sun Mountain Lodge. Free. 996-2211. 4pm 26 SOUP DINNER: And natural history presentations begin at North Cascades Basecamp. Continuing every Tuesday until Feb. 27. $10. 996-2334. 5:30pm 27 COUNTRY ROCK: RT Junior at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, Winthrop. Free. 996-3183. 7pm 27 CLASSICAL GUITAR: Terry Hunt performs in the Sun Mountain Lodge lobby. Free. 996-2211. 7pm 28 SKI RODEO: Family-friendly ski races, 1K-10K, at the Mazama Community Center. $30-$40. 10am 28 WINTERFEST: Bonfire, music, art, food and drink at TwispWorks. $5-$10. 9973300. 4pm-late 29 CLASSICAL VIOLIN: Tara Kaiyala Weaver performs in the Sun Mountain Lodge lobby. Free. 996-2211. 7pm 30 VINTAGE SKI FEST: Vintage gear costume promenade, wooden ski race and refreshments at the Mazama Store courtyard. Free. 10am-noon 31 NEW YEAR’S EVE PARTY: Honey and the Killer Beez at the Twisp River Pub. $5. 997-6822. 9pm-1am

3 NORDIC SKI CLASSES: 10-week series begins with Methow Valley Nordic Club. Costs and locations vary. Register at 3 JAZZ/POP/SOUL: Alyse Black Trio at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, Winthrop. Free. 996-3183. 7pm 10 AMERICANA: Brian James Trio at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, Winthrop. Free. 996-3183. 7pm 18 SKI CLINIC/MADSHUS DEMO DAY: Day-long Nordic clinic with Sam Naney of Methow Endurance, lunch and ski demos at the Mazama Community Center. $100. 341-4722. 9am-3pm

23 THEATER: Seattle University theater program presents The Imaginary Invalid at The Merc Playhouse in Twisp. Cost TBD. 9977529. Call for time.

March 7-9 BALLOON ROUNDUP: Annual hot-air balloon festival in Winthrop. Free. 996-2125.

24-26 NORDIC FESTIVAL: Free Backyard Ski Day on Friday (10am-3pm); Methow Valley Pursuit races on Saturday and Sunday. Locations vary. $25-$75. www.mvsta. com. All day. 25 NORDIC DINNER: Salmon dinner and beer garden to raise money for MV Nordic Ski Team at the Winthrop Barn. $10$20. 5:30-9pm

February 2 GROUNDHOG DAY: Ski the Community Trail with Wilbur the Whistlepig at the Town Trailhead in Winthrop. Free. 9962387. 9am

Photos by Marcy Stamper

7-23 THEATER: Performances of “Over the River and Through the Woods” at the Merc Playhouse, Twisp. $5-$15. 997-7529. Thursday-Saturday 7pm, Sunday 2pm 14 BACKYARD SKI DAY: Free skiing on MVSTA trails and ski gear on loan from local shops. Grooming machine rides and refreshments at Mazama Corral trailhead. Potluck at 2pm. Free. 10am2pm Methow Valley Winter – 33

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