One of the oldest – and snowiest – ski areas in the Inland Northwest has been coming of age the last several years, yet retains plenty of the ambiance that’s made it a family favorite for four generations.
Since 1935, Lookout Pass Ski and Recreation Area has been whizzing skiers, and in the last few years, snowboarders, up its slopes just off Interstate 90 on the Idaho-Montana border.
It receives an average snowfall of 400 inches each season and often is the first to open and last to close.
One vestige of those early days is a rope tow. In its first years, if you didn’t want to trudge, that was the only way up. Now three double chairs do the heavy lifting, while the rope tow remains for beginners.
Another remainder of the area’s origins is the lodge, a handsome structure with cedar walls, a well-blackened fireplace, photos of skiers from the earliest days, and a wonderful collection of bygone stuff like leather boots, wooden skis and cable bindings.
Lookout is the second oldest ski lodge in the Northwest; only Mt. Hood’s Timberline Lodge predates it. A three-story 6,000-square-foot addition to the lodge that was completed in 2005 expanded the food service seating area, added a pub and grub lounge on the top floor plus locker rooms, rest rooms and a shop.
New this year is a large deck on the Summit Shack at the top of the mountain where you can soak up the sun while enjoying your lunch. Also new is an addition to the ski patrol/first aid building that’s “home” to some 90 patrol members.
If you haven’t skied or boarded at Lookout recently, the Timber Wolf chair was installed in 2003, serving five runs, including one 1.2 miles long. Two runs off Timber Wolf are rated expert and the others are intermediate.
The North Star chair started running in 2007, providing access to the north aspect of the mountain. It gives skiers and boarders six new runs, half expert and half intermediate. If you’re into tree skiing, this is your lift.
Boarders will find a terrain park with a 1,111-foot quarter-pipe which, Lookout claims, is the longest in the nation. And a rail park offers rails, boxes and other features.
One of the most popular offerings since 1940 has been its free ski school for kids from 6 to 17. This year it’s offered every Saturday from Jan. 9 though March 13. Registration is limited to the first 500. Kids supply their own skis or boards, or rental equipment is available.
Participants can board buses to Lookout in the Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake, Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene, Hayden, the Silver Valley and several Western Montana sites.
Lookout claims that the volunteers who run the program have taught some 40,000 youngsters how to ski and board in the last 50 years.
A Mini-Moose Club is also offered for youngsters from 3 to 6 so they can learn the rudiments of the winter sports (while giving parents a break).
Lookout’s Prime Timers Club was added last year, but deserves another mention. It’s a non-profit group of men and women 55 years of age and older who meet Mondays beginning in December to ski and socialize. Members meet in the lodge for coffee and Danishes in the morning then ski or board until 3 p.m., then gather again for refreshments. Run by volunteers, dues are $25 for a couple and $15 for singles. Funds purchase lunches, sodas, beer, wine and snacks. Membership benefits include discount lift tickets for other ski areas, and, at the mountain, 50-cent coffee and a 10 percent discount on food. Sign up for the club online.
A “Mountain Masters” program runs in conjunction with the Prime Timers Club. It’s designed to improve ski and boarding skills, strength and endurance.
There’s also the Downhill Divas, a special group just for women, Thursdays Jan. 7 through March 18. It includes professional instruction, tips in boot fitting and equipment, plus demo skis and boards.
The resort now offers an e-mail powder alert that provides daily reports on snow conditions, temperature, the weather, lift status and other information. Sign up online.
Lookout is open Thursday through Monday, but during Christmas vacation it stays open seven days. In January and February it will also be open on Wednesdays.
Scheduled events for the upcoming season include a winter carnival Jan. 17 featuring the “Pacific Northwest Wife Carrying Contest,” Bavarian Brews and Barbecue Jan. 30, a big air contest Feb. 6, the Schussboomer Crazy Costume Ski and Snowboard Races March 7, and a Hawaiian Luau Festival March 21.
The pre-season pass discount sale has ended, but regular season pass rates are $299 for adults, $30 for ages 6 and under, juniors (7-12) are $149, teens from 13 to 17 and seniors from 62 to 69 pay $169, super seniors (70-plus) are $149 and college students or military pay $259. E- tickets and family, mid-week and corporate passes are available.
Season pass holders receive half-day lift ticket rates at Montana ski areas, discounts at other Inland Northwest ski resorts and a 15 percent discount in Lookout’s retail store.
Tickets may be purchased online at www.skilookout.com, or at local ski shops. Information: 208-744-1301.