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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Lookout Pass expansion headlines area ski resort plans for coming season

UPDATED: Fri., April 22, 2022

By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

The winter ski season provided a healthy amount of snow at local ski areas, enough that some could stay open through mid-April. As skiers put away their equipment for the season, there is plenty to look forward to next season.

One of the biggest improvements coming is the addition for a new quad lift at the Lookout Pass Ski & Recreation Area on the Idaho/Montana border, which will open up an additional 500 acres to skiing to effectively double the size of the ski area.

“It’s a mix of good intermediate and double black diamond terrain,” said Matt Sawyer, director of marketing.

The expansion has been a long time coming. It was first explored 20 years ago, Sawyer said. The current owners of the ski area, Lookout Associates LLC, purchased the mountain in 1999.

“The vision was, look at all this great terrain behind us,” he said. “It’s all in Montana, the current expansion.”

The owners had to come to a lease agreement with the U.S. Forest Service, which owns the land. The expansion was officially approved by the Forest Service in 2017, and the new runs were cut last year. With no chair lift installed, the new runs on Eagle Peak were not accessible for traditional skiing, but the ski area bought a 12-seat snowcat that they used to ferry experienced skiers to the top of the mountain so they could ski down.

“It was a unique trip and an opportunity for people who were interested in seeing the new terrain,” Sawyer said.

The new total vertical from the bottom of Chair 2 to the top of Chair 5, the new quad, will be 1,650 feet. The new Eagle Peak summit is 640 feet higher than the current peak.

“The snow is better up high,” Sawyer said.

The hope is that the quad lift and new terrain will attract new skiers and let people know it’s a “worthy” mountain to ski, Sawyer said. The hill has long had a reputation of being family friendly, but the new terrain will give the ski area something for skiers of all levels, Sawyer said.

“It adds a whole new dimension,” he said. “People are going to come out from all over to check out the new terrain,” he said.

The 49 Degrees North ski area near Chewelah underwent a similar expansion this season and plans to modify and expand the new runs slightly for the upcoming season, said Director of Marketing Garrett Shadwick. A new high-speed quad lift replaced the old Bonanza lift, cutting travel time to the top from 25 minutes to 7 minutes, Shadwick said.

“It was really great to see all our guests enjoy the quick ride up Chewelah peak,” he said.

Those new runs will be cleaned up and expanded slightly this summer, Shadwick said.

“We’re mostly cleaning it up and making sure it looks the way we want it to,” he said.

This summer the Bonanza chair lift will be dismantled. The individual chairs, called carriers, will be available for people who want a little history to purchase. Information about buying a Bonanza carrier is available online at https://www.ski49n.com/mountain-news/details/bonanza-carrier-info.

Next year the ski area will increase its daily operations time significantly. Usually, 49 Degrees is closed on Wednesdays and Thursday except between Christmas and the end of January, when it is open seven days a week. That seven day a week schedule will be in effect from Christmas until March 1 next season, Shadwick said.

“Hopefully it will allow different people on different schedules the chance to get up here and enjoy this awesome snow,” Shadwick said.

The resort will also begin construction on a 7,000-square-foot skier and rider services building this summer.

“We’re just really excited for a season with more space,” he said.

Schweitzer Mountain near Sandpoint had a busy season and is preparing for another busy season next year, said Marketing Manager Dig Chrismer.

Plans are in the works, however, to ease congestion.

“We recognize that parking has become an even larger issue for our guests and we are starting work on a new parking area which will provide approximately 1,500 spaces,” she said.

The mountain will be open for mountain biking and hiking this summer and there are three new trails to explore, Chrismer said. They include an expert trail called “Shenanigans” that starts off Pinch Flat. The other two trails, which have not yet been named, are intermediate. One goes through the lower part of the South Bowl and the other runs below the Basin Express.

The Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park is offering summer day camps for the first time this year. Mountain adventure day camps are slated for June 20-22 and August 1-3, respectively. Mountain bike skills camps are scheduled for June 27-30, July 11-14, July 18-21 and July 25-28. Visit https://www.mtspokane.com/summer-camp-at-mt-spokane to register or for more details.

Silver Mountain Resort plans to open its Silver Mountain Bike Park beginning Memorial Day weekend. And for the sixth year, the mountain will host the North America Enduro Cup on June 11 and 12.

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