DAYTON -- Skiiers and snowboarders eager for a sample of winter thrills managed to fill about half the Ski Bluewood parking lot on opening day Wednesday.Carrie Chicken can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 522-5289.
Slightly thawed compact snow covered the parking lot, reducing the stride of a reporter in street shoes to mincing baby-steps, but no one else seemed daunted by the snow in the lot or on the slopes.
"It was all right -- a little chunky, but it worked out," said snowboarder John Boone as he and his sons J.D. and Sneaker packed away the remnants of their lunch and prepared to go home.
The Boones live in Walla Walla. With season passes, the hourlong drive to the ski lodge means they can get in a morning of skiing, then return to Walla Walla for something else.
"Snowboard in the morning and golf in the afternoon. You can't do that everywhere," Boone observed.
Also finishing up his parking lot lunch was Nathan Cox of Walla Walla, who is a die-hard boarder. Now an employee of Merchants, he spent several seasons working at Mount Baker.
Cox and his companions were ready to head back to the slopes after lunch. Cox is an instructor at Bluewood, and had come up to check in, he said.
It was a good day, Cox said. "I can't complain, because the sun is out."
Cox's praise of the sun was echoed by Nancy Goodell, who along with her husband, Stan, own the ski area.
"The weather's beautiful. We're so lucky," she said.
Goodell was in Nancy's Treewell, a retail shop in a small room on the mid-level of the lodge, where knit hats, gloves, helmets and other merchandise to outfit skiers lined the walls.
The Goodells have operated Bluewood since 1983, and about half of those 26 years the ski area has opened by Thanksgiving, she said.
The first few snows came and went, but three storms brought the snow level up to 30 inches at the base and 45 inches on top, including a night-long storm that left behind 16 inches. It snowed so hard the Goodells couldn't see the ski lodge from their house, about a half-block away.
"I kept getting up in the night to see if it was still snowing," Nancy said.
Dave Bailey of Dayton was browsing in the shop. He skis 20 to 30 times a year. "I ski hard half the day and go home and do something else," he said.
Three teenagers from Dayton sat at a table overlooking the parking lot. All attend Dayton High School, and they were glad school was dismissed Tuesday for the Thanksgiving Holiday.
Amy Schlenz was pleased with the pre-Thanksgiving opening. "That hasn't happened in a few years," she said. As a Bluewood employee, Amy skis for free, and earns money working in the rental shop.
Keisha Phillips said her family tries to ski every weekend. She has been skiing since she was young, she said.
Kyla Ihle also hopes to ski every weekend. Her father Paul Ihle said he likes to ski, snowboard, cross-country ski, ice skate and snowshoe.
Paul Ihle wasn't going back on the hill Wednesday afternoon, as he was nursing a throbbing thumb, acquired in a collision with his son.
Ihle admitted he was the instigator of this particular crash.
Although it was their first day, the three girls weren't worried about sore muscles. They just finished soccer season, so they agreed they are in shape.
Kyla had some advice for a successful day.
"Just try to get some rest beforehand," she said.
If you go
Ski Bluewood is located about 20 miles south of Dayton at the end of the North Touchet Road. The ski area is open Wednesday through Sunday during the regular season, and daily from Dec. 21 through Jan. 3, except Christmas Day, when the ski area is closed.
Wednesday is Pepsi Two-for-One Day. Present six empty cans, or six bottle caps from Pepsi products when buying an adult lift ticket and receive a free lift ticket of equal or lesser value. (Not valid Dec. 24 or Dec. 31).
Information about snow and weather conditions, lift tickets, rental and lesson prices is available at www.bluewood.com.