If you’re looking to hone your backcounty wintertime travel skills, while simultaneously sculpting your calf muscles, the aptly named Training Grounds at Lookout Pass is a good bet.
The low-angle slopes right off I-90 make it a good option even on riskier avalanche days. Skiers gain about 1,000 feet of elevation in a mile or so. The views of the surrounding Bitterroot Mountains and nearby drainages are well worth the effort.
Of course, this doesn’t mean it’s a consequence-free day. Although the slope largely remains below 30 degrees, there are short pockets of steeper terrain. Pay attention to terrain traps and topography, carry a beacon, probe and shovel and know how to use them.
It’s a great place to practice beacon burials and safe travel habits.
From Spokane, it’s a 1 1/2-hour drive on I-90. The area is in the Lolo National Forest, right on the border with the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.
On one recent Saturday, the snow was a tad heavy, but still fun skiing. This is a popular area and can get tracked out. But with frequent snowstorms and enough terrain, it’s possible to find untouched lines even several days after a dump of snow.
Be aware and share the space with others. If you’re looking for an untouched wilderness experience, this isn’t the trip for you. The area is also used by snowmobilers and snow bikers.
Parking may be an issue. The pullout can become crowded, especially with snow berms taking up what limited space there is.
Another nice option is to take a few laps at the Training Grounds and head to the Lookout Pass Ski Area to ski in-bounds for a full-value day.
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