Lookout Pass has tripled in size the past decade. But Phil Edholm, president and CEO of the ski area on the Idaho-Montana border 90 minutes east of Spokane, isn’t stopping there.
When Edholm and his partners bought Lookout Pass in 1999 the ski area had one double chair. The previous owners developed a master plan that Edholm fine-tuned and executed to create the Lookout we know today. Now it’s time to grow some more.
“Before we bought the area I met with the Forest Service and told them we would like to expand further,” Edholm said. “At the time they suggested we follow through with the existing master plan and go from there.”
Edholm submitted a new master development plan last spring. The plan is in the prescreening process required by the National Environmental Protection Act. The Forest Service is coordinating discussions with other users of the terrain around Lookout so all parties are aware of what Edholm has in mind.
“I’ve spent a lot of time designing our expansion to minimize impact on other users,” Edholm said. “We paid a lot of attention to where snowmobilers, mountaineers and backcountry skiers like to go. We want to make sure we don’t infringe on their enjoyment with our proposal.”
Edholm’s vision for Lookout Pass includes a new base area and six more lifts. It would ultimately expand lift-served terrain to about 2,600 acres. The concept includes a new 20,000 square-foot base lodge and a tubing hill. The existing lodge will remain open. The timeline is spread out over 20 years. Edholm figures it could cost about $20 million in 2010 dollars.
“Our plan takes the 30,000-foot view because we can’t keep coming back to the Forest Service every couple of years with a new idea,” he said.
When you stand on the summit of Lookout Pass, look southwest. You will see two 6,200-foot peaks that frame the gateway to the St. Regis basin. The peaks aren’t named, but for planning purposes Edholm calls the peak on the right “second peak” and the peak on the left “third peak.” The ski area is “first peak.”
“Right now we’re going to concentrate on phase one. That includes two double chairs off second peak, which straddles the Idaho-Montana border,” Edholm said. “We’re trying to take advantage of as many north aspects as possible. There’s potential 1,600- to 1,700-foot vertical drops with a variety of intermediate to advanced terrain. Some of the out-of-bounds areas from there are going to be outrageous. There will be beautiful ridge lines with outstanding views that sweep into the base area.”
The new lodge will be at the base of peak three in a level area covering about 30 acres. To get there, you will pull off 1-90 at the same exit you do now. Instead of taking a right into the existing parking lot, you will take a left and go down old Highway 10 – the route over Lookout Pass before the interstate was built. About a mile down the road the new base area will take shape.
If Edholm’s plan goes smoothly, phase one could become a reality in a few years.
New runs on second peak could be cut in the summer of 2012. Two lifts could be installed the next summer. By the 2013-14 season, Lookout Pass could be 500 acres larger.