Winter fun and relaxation abundant across Inland Northwest By Colin Anderson
It’s easy to get away from the simple things in life. We are tied to technology, work, information and various commitments. While we can’t eliminate all of our stresses and distractions, breaking up the routine and taking pause to enjoy what’s around us can go a long way toward a happier day.
With fewer daylight hours, drizzle, cold, and cloudy skies, winter can be an especially challenging time to keep a smile on your face. What we can do to keep that smile bright is take some time for ourselves and our families to enjoy what we appreciate most about the region in which we live. A bit of fun outdoor exercise, seeing your favorite summertime sights transform in winter, or finding comfort in food and drink, and a brief change of scenery, can all do the body good. The weather may be glum, but the wonderful experiences of the Inland Northwest continue on, even as the snow piles up.
Ice Skating There are few things more calming on a crisp and clear winter night than strapping on the ice skates and gliding across a frozen lake with only the moon and stars to guide you. The sounds of only your breath and that of the skate piercing the ice heighten the senses but simultaneously calm the mind. Even if you aren’t lucky enough to have access to this type of skating experience, there are several other ways in which to pursue this fun winter activity.
The Numerica Skate Ribbon in downtown Spokane continues to see steady visitation both throughout the day and into the evening. The ribbon is 650-feet long and has an adjacent 3,500-square-foot circle in which to spread out. It also features gentle up-and-down slopes, something quite rare when skating. Rates are by the hour. In Post Falls, Frontier Ice Arena also offers various open skate times in a more traditional rink setting. The rink hosts birthday parties, drop-in pickup hockey sessions, and you can also learn the finer points of broomball and even curling through local clubs that play here. All rental gear is available, and there are also learn-to-skate programs onsite.
Cross-Country Skiing Whether on skinny skis or fat shoes, exploring local trails in winter is a great way to sneak in some exercise while also enjoying the beauty of nature all around us. Truth be told, cross-country skiing is one of the best exercises you can do, as it not only works the legs, upper body and core but also gets the heart rate up for a great cardio burn. Many of our local mountains, including Mount Spokane, 49˚ North and Schweitzer, have groomed trails for both classic and skate skiing adjacent to the main ski areas. If you are up for a long weekend, these are great opportunities to break up a three-day downhill weekend.
Snowshoeing If you are seeking a somewhat slower pace, snowshoeing might be more your calling. Resorts will also allow snowshoes on groomed trails, but the beauty of the shoe is your ability to really access whatever trails or recreational area you want. 4th of July Pass, Mineral Ridge, Gold Hill and Dishman Hills are some of the easily accessible trails in the region. State parks are often another great place to explore, as the trail systems are well maintained and much less crowded than during the summer rush. There are several outfitters in the region where you can rent both skis and snowshoes for the day, weekend or week.
Lake Cruises If you’d prefer to skip the sweat and exercise but would still like to get out and enjoy the winter sights, there are still plenty of laid-back experiences for couples and families. The sheer size and depth of Lake Coeur d’Alene ensures that it never freezes over in the coldest of winters. The Coeur d’Alene Resort offers winter lake tours, and this is one of the best times to hop on board its fleet of comfortable sight-seeing boats. In December you can take a shorter two-hour cruise and watch migrating eagles feed on salmon at the lake’s northern end or an evening cruise that takes you on a Journey to the North Pole! Offering specialty and seasonal cruises throughout the year, you can also book a private charter cruise, available for that special occasion or event.
Back on land you can relax in the back of a horse-drawn sleigh at Western Pleasures Guest Ranch. The 2-mile loop through nature is sure to set your mind at ease. From Black Friday through Christmas Eve, you can also reserve a free horse-drawn carriage ride through downtown Spokane courtesy of Wheatland Bank.
Sometimes a simple change of scenery and an extra Monday or Friday off is all it takes to recharge the batteries. Even if it’s only an hour or two from home, finding a cabin, lodge or waterfront home rental can really help you unwind. While summer rentals fill up fast, winter is far less competitive, especially if your search area spans the entire region. A quick rental search and you’ll find large lakefront homes on Hayden, Pend Oreille and Lake Coeur d’Alene, to quaint cabins outside Davenport, Deer Park and the Silver Valley. A wood fire, hot drink and a few board games is sometimes all the vacation you really need.
Cooking Classes One thing we all crave during the cold and dark winter months is a warm meal and our favorite comfort foods. While each family has a staple of recipes, mixing things up with new dishes can liven up even a mundane midweek meal. Cooking classes done by professional chefs not only introduce you to new recipes but can help refine your skills in the kitchen and teach you proper cooking techniques.
The Kitchen Engine, located in downtown Spokane’s Flour Mill Building, is a favorite spot for serious home chefs. It’s also a place where cooks at any level can learn from some of the best in the region. A recent expansion will soon allow the store a chance at opening up even more classes. In Coeur d’Alene’s Riverstone development, The Culinary Stone has been a fixture since ground first broke. It has everything you need for your home kitchen, including a deli and specialty foods, and classes are held throughout the week in the store’s beautiful in-house demonstration kitchen. Wine classes are also held frequently, introducing you to different styles and food pairings for your next get-together. Many local chefs also offer virtual courses so you can follow along from your own kitchen.
Paint and Sip Finally, how about using this mostly indoor time of year to create and redecorate, all with pieces of your own doing. Sip ‘n Paint classes are a fun and non-intimidating way to give art a try, and even if your piece doesn’t come out just right, you still got a night out of the house and a beverage or two with a friend. The easy step-by-step instructions from professional painters will help you bring out the inner artist you didn’t know was in you. Creating your own pottery is another great way to freshen up your décor.
Places like Hands to Art in Coeur d’Alene, The Pottery Bug in Sandpoint, and The Clay Connection and Polka Dot Pottery in Spokane all offer courses for the entire family. Here you get to form and decorate your creation before it’s finished off in the kiln. Winter can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.
There is still so much to do in the Inland Northwest that staying home for months on end shouldn’t be an option. Our region is filled with award-winning breweries and tasting rooms, great coffee spots and restaurants. You can take in a hockey game or hit the slopes on a fresh powder day. Shopping can be found in all our communities, and these slower-paced days make for an ideal time to head out to our locally owned businesses and help give them a boost during the lean times of the year.
As you look forward to spring and the warmer days of summer, don’t let all the wonderful opportunities winter has to offer pass you by.