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Ski areas plan upgrades, expansions

Skiers and snowboarders will find some new lifts and runs as well as some lodge improvements at the five Inland Northwest ski areas this winter.

Highlights include lift upgrades at the bunny hills at both Schweitzer Mountain Resort and Lookout Pass; a lodge expansion at Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park; a new lift and runs at 49 Degrees North Mountain Resort; and a new run at Silver Mountain Resort.

Schweitzer, near Sandpoint, is spending more than $1 million on capital improvements for the upcoming season. They include:

• The beginner lift, Musical Chairs, will have a new variable-speed drive and new chairs with outside bales for easier loading. The upload capacity will improve.

• The high-speed Great Escape Quad’s electrical system is being redesigned and replaced for a more efficient and reliable lift.

• Gourmandie, the specialty foods market featuring fine groceries, craft beers, cheese and wine, has doubled in size. Located in the White Pine Lodge, the larger storefront includes additional seating.

• In the village, Schweitzer’s Ski and Ride Center layout is being completely redesigned to improve equipment rentals and lesson reservations.

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Lookout Pass on the Idaho-Montana border is replacing its bunny hill rope tow with a triple chairlift. The $400,000 upgrade to the Success run will help beginning skiers and boarders learn how to get on and off a chairlift.

“It’s a very nice improvement for us,” President and CEO Phil Edholm said.

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Silver Mountain in Kellogg put in a new advanced run off of Chair 4, bringing the run total to 74.

The resort also expanded its locker room in the Mountain House Lodge so skiers can leave equipment at the top of mountain.

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Mt. Spokane’s main lodge will be about a third larger after a $320,000 expansion under way. The addition includes a deck that can be used for summer events as well.

“This will give us another 100 seats and quite a bit more elbow room,” General Manager Brad McQuarrie said.

The nonprofit ski area in Mount Spokane State Park also is putting in a new drive system for Chair 3, which may accommodate summer mountain-biking events.

A terrain expansion plan that will add a new lift and seven runs could begin this winter or next spring, McQuarrie said.

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At 49 Degrees North just outside Chewelah, a new double chairlift runs to the top of Angel Peak, at an elevation of nearly 5,300 feet. It opens up 300 acres of terrain with nine runs.

A new midmountain lodge had been planned for this season but now is scheduled to open in two years.

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