The snow expected to blanket ski areas in the Inland Northwest during the latter part of this week has ski area managers excited for the impending season, as resorts prepare to open or expand access after a dry start to winter.
Schweitzer Mountain Resort was the first ski area in the region to open – with the help of several inches of artificial snow – the day after Thanksgiving. So far, only the Basin Express Quad lift has been operational, with service to the Midway run.
“I know a lot of people have mixed feelings about artificial snow, but it’s really been great for us,” Schweitzer spokesperson Dig Chrismer said. “I think a lot of people were pleasantly surprised when they took a lap on Midway.”
But with 11 to 21 inches of snow projected between Wednesday and tonight, on top of 2 inches that fell late Tuesday, Chrismer said the resort plans to open the Lakeview Triple lift today.
Even more lifts could be open depending on the conditions, and the Musical Chairs are expected to be open Friday, when the resort offers lift tickets for a $10 donation that will go to local charities. This season, Schweitzer will debut two new lifts and seven runs.
Chrismer said resort leaders are “very optimistic” about the ski season based on predictions from The Old Farmers Almanac for above-average snow beginning in mid-December.
“Hopefully, this is the start of that parade,” Chrismer said.
Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park has been gearing up to start its ski season on Friday. The mountain has around 2 feet of snow on its summit and general manager Brad McQuarrie hopes more precipitation will add coverage to the ski area’s base.
“We’re pretty confident we can get open,” McQuarrie said.
The National Weather Service forecast 4 to 8 inches of snow overnight Wednesday at the ski area and another 2 to 6 inches through tonight. The mountain also saw some snow Tuesday night.
Weather permitting, chair Nos. 2, 3 and 5 will be open Friday, and tickets will be offered at the midweek discounted price.
“I think it’s going to be a great ski season,” McQuarrie said. “The patterns throughout the rest of the year look good.”
The park also will show off its finished ski expansion area – all six runs will be open later in the season – and new learning center, McQuarrie said. The Saturday bus program will return starting Dec. 28.
“We’re really excited about having people up and seeing what improvements we’ve made over the summer,” McQuarrie said.
And the day after Mt. Spokane, Silver Mountain Resort is expected to open.
Because of the drier conditions so far this year – the mountain had about 5 inches of snow on the ground on Wednesday – the resort didn’t open for weekend hours at the end of November. But it is hitting its target date of Saturday for full-week operations.
Resort spokesperson Gus Colburn said the mountain could get up to 4 inches of snow overnight Wednesday and up to 20 inches through the end of the week. Chair Nos. 1 and 2, along with its carpet lift, will be operational, and the resort is selling discounted adult and kids tickets for $39 and $33.
“We’re just excited to have everybody come back out,” Colburn said.
Lookout Pass Ski Area announced it will also open by Saturday or as early as Friday, depending on snow conditions. The ski area received 2 inches of snow Tuesday night and was expected to get another 3 to 7 inches overnight Wednesday. National Weather Service forecasts predict another 11 to 21 inches today through Friday night.
The ski area will debut a new quad-chair main lift to the summit and sell a discounted lift ticket, spokesman Matt Sawyer said. The beginner triple chair and 13 trails also will be open. Sawyer said the price of the ticket will be announced on social media and determined by the conditions.
Sawyer said the ski area has been anxious to open while the conditions have been dry.
“Normally at this time of year, we’ve been open for a month,” he said. “We’ve been losing our minds. It’s hard to wait, especially when you’re passionate about it.”
49 Degrees North Mountain Resort announced it would operate two chair lifts and the Gold Fever Conveyor Lift on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The resort reported 4 inches of snow at its base and 14 inches at the summit on Wednesday morning.
The National Weather Service forecast 3 to 5 inches of snow at 49 Degrees North for Wednesday night and an additional 2 to 3 inches through tonight.
This story has been updated with an opening day announcement from 49 Degrees North.
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