November 22, 2009 in Awayfinder destinations

Yee-Haw: Skiing Western Montana

Glacier Country Regional Tourism Commission
 
Pam Voth photo

Winter snowfall in Western Montana creates a festive backdrop for sleigh rides.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Each winter, the snow gods bless Western Montana ski hills (or play areas as we like to call them) with hundreds of inches of snow, creating a winter wonderland with plenty of fresh powder. While there are six area ski areas within a relatively short drive from Spokane—each offering their own spice and flavor—the following provide a glimpse into what downhill skiing and snowboarding are all about here.

LOOKOUT PASS: MONTANA/IDAHO BORDER

Directions from Spokane: Travel east on I-90 toward Idaho. From the Idaho/Washington border, it’s 73 miles to Lookout Pass. Lookout is located on I-90 at mile marker 0. Follow the Lookout Pass-marked signs to the parking lot—located 200 yards from the I-90 ramp.

A virtual playground for skiers and boarders, Lookout Pass has 540 skiable acres with 34 named runs, Lucky Friday Glades, freestyle terrain and new this year—the Last Chance Glades, offering 3 acres of additional terrain. One of the outstanding features of Lookout Pass is two terrain parks and accompanying huge banks, mounds, launches, rails and a 1,111-foot quarter pipe. Plus, you can ski in two different states at the same resort.

Operating every winter season since 1935, Lookout Pass is known for legendary powder, early openings and long seasons extending into the spring. It gets an average of 400 inches of snow.

Lookout Pass is typically open Thursday through Mondays and holidays, with extended operation days during Christmas break. Lookout is also open on Wednesdays in January and February.

Ticket Prices

Full day adult: $31 - $34

Full day junior/teen: $22 - $24

Six and under: Free

For complete pricing, visit www.skilookout.com.

Why We Like It

If it’s your birthday, you ski free. To redeem, bring a driver’s license or photo ID with proof of birth date.

Created especially for children three to six years old, the Mini-Moose Club program offers supervised snow play, basic skills development, activities and hot chocolate. Morning and afternoon sessions are available for $40 per session. For more info, email snowsports@skilookout.com.

Where To Stay

Located about 15 minutes east of Lookout Pass is the Black Diamond Guest Ranch & Resort. The property has four log cabins that sleep four to five people each, and all cabins feature fire rings, kitchenettes and bathrooms. For a group excursion, Black Diamond offers a bunkhouse that sleeps up to 14 people. www.blackdiamondguestranch.com

WHITEFISH MOUNTAIN RESORT: WHITEFISH, MONT.

From Spokane: (Located 253 miles from Spokane.) Travel east on I-90 through Idaho and Montana, taking MT-135 (Exit 33) at St. Regis. Travel on MT-135 about 22 miles. Turn left onto MT-200 and follow for about 8 miles. Turn right onto MT-28 and follow for about 46 miles. Turn left on US-93 and continue north about 50 miles until you reach Whitefish.

Located just north of Whitefish, Whitefish Mountain Resort boasts more than 3,000 acres, an average snowfall of 300-plus inches and full resort amenities. It is considered the premiere ski resort in Western Montana and was recently rated No. 19 overall ski resort in North America by SKI Magazine.

Just because it offers stellar skiing—with views of peaks in Glacier National Park from the summit—is no reason to be intimidated. This winter Whitefish Mountain Resort is helping beginner skiers with a $69 Learn-to-Ski/Ride program. For $60, adults and juniors get two days of beginner area lift tickets, two days of equipment rentals and two half-day lessons.

Ticket Prices

Full day adult: $56 - $61

Full day teen: $49 - $54

For complete pricing and ticket promotions, visit www.skiwhitefish.com.

Why We Like It

The resort has everything: skiing, snowboarding, rentals, lessons, daycare, on-mountain dining, on-mountain lodging and on-mountain shopping. Its December Frequent Skier lodging package includes lift tickets and lodging on the slope-side mountain village for $70 - $99/per person per day. The package includes a frequent skier card that grants users $40 adult tickets for the rest of the season.

This mountain community has lots to fill your evening needs, with local breweries, live music, galleries, shopping and live theater. A free SNOW Bus transports skiers and snowboarders from various locations in Whitefish up the mountain.

Where To Stay

The resort offers various on-mountain lodging for various budgets, including town homes and lodges. For a complete listing of lodgings, visit http://skiwhitefish.com/lodging.php.

Located about 15 minutes from the mountain, the community of Whitefish offers various options for lodging. We recommend Grouse Mountain Lodge (www.grousemountainlodge.com), Hidden Moose Lodge (www.hiddenmooselodge.com), The Lodge at Whitefish Lake (www.lodgeatwhitefishlake.com) and Garden Wall Inn (www.gardenwallinn.com). For more information on lodging near Whitefish, visit www.explorewhitefish.com.

TURNER MOUNTAIN: LIBBY, MONTANA

From Spokane: (Located about 160 miles from Spokane). Travel east on I-90. Take the US-94 exit (Exit 12) toward Sandpoint. Turn left on US-95 and travel through Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry before turning right on US-2. Follow US-2 to Libby.

Billed itself as “Steep, Deep and Cheap,” Turner Mountain is a ski area with attitude. Offering great snow and challenging terrain, it is also to “offer the best lift-assisted powder skiing in the U.S.” according to Ski Magazine. Turner was recently awarded “Friendliest Locals” in Skiing Magazine’s 2010 Resort Awards.

Turner Mountain is open Fridays through Sundays and holidays.

Ticket Prices

Full day adult: $30

Full day junior: $25

For complete pricing, visit www.skiturner.com.

Why We Like It

Turner Mountain is located in the northwest corner of Montana—an area that remains friendly and beautiful. On non-operational days, the mountain is available for rent.

Where To Stay

Located about 15 minutes south of Libby and surrounded by 2.3 million acres of the Kootenai National Forest is Moose Ridge Lodge Bed and Breakfast. Moose Ridge offers rooms inside a cozy log home or cabins that are available on a nightly or weekly basis. www.mooseridgemontana.com

ADDITIONAL SKI AREAS

Snowbowl: Missoula, Montana - www.montanasnowbowl.com

Blacktail Mountain Ski Area: Lakeside, Montana - www.blacktailmountain.com

Lost Trail Powder Mountain: Conner, Montana – www.losttrail.com

For more information on skiing, snowboarding or playing in Western Montana this winter, visit http://www.glaciermt.com/winter-fun.php.


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