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Ski areas to open in time for the holidays

Skiers and snowboarders pack the lift during opening day at Lookout Pass Ski and Recreation Area on Friday. (Kathy Plonka)
Skiers and snowboarders pack the lift during opening day at Lookout Pass Ski and Recreation Area on Friday. (Kathy Plonka)

Lines were 10 deep at the ticket window and every chair was full as Lookout Pass opened for skiing and snowboarding Friday morning, maintaining its tradition of being first among the Inland Northwest’s five resorts to launch the season.

“I’m here to get my shred on,” said Tanner Puyleart, 22, a snowboarder who came up from Coeur d’Alene with three friends, all North Idaho College students.

“This is one of the best first days I’ve seen in a long time, and I’ve been snowboarding 16 years,” said his friend Jeff Elder, 26.

Today, two other Inland Northwest ski areas will join Lookout in opening part of their terrain – Schweitzer Mountain Resort in Sandpoint and 49 Degrees North in Chewelah. Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park and Silver Mountain Resort in Kellogg plan to open Friday. That means all the resorts will be open to take in holiday-season revenue.

The earliest opening Phil Edholm, owner of Lookout, remembers was about 10 years ago – on Nov. 6. Bill Jennings, Lookout’s spokesman, said Friday morning that the mountain had 34 inches of snow on the summit and 18 inches at the base.

“The conditions are amazing and it’s just puking right now,” Jennings said.

Happy, red-cheeked skiers and snowboarders in the lift line reported surprising coverage for the first day. Lookout announced its opening Monday after 21 inches of snow fell last weekend at the resort, on the Montana-Idaho border. Another 10 inches fell Wednesday night, Lookout reported.

“Opening day powder, you can’t beat that,” said Geri Lincoln, of Haugan, Mont., as she joined Arney Wick, of Post Falls, in the lift line. “It’s fantastic.”

“Steep and deep,” Wick said.

In its earliest opening in 25 years, Schweitzer will open two lifts today, thanks both to early snowfall and its snowmaking system, completed in 2009. “It’s looking more and more amazing every day,” said Sean Briggs, a Schweitzer spokesman.

Mt. Spokane will open for “White Friday” on the day after Thanksgiving, said Brad McQuarrie, the general manager.

He said the last 20 inches of snow that fell is so light it required grooming to prevent skis and snowboards from diving straight down to bare spots and hitting rocks.

“It’s looking sweet for this time of year,” McQuarrie said. “It’s light powder and sitting over a nice, wet heavy base. We couldn’t ask for better.”