Lookout Pass expansion headlines area ski resort plans for upcoming season

The 2021-2022 winter ski season has delivered a fair amount of snow to local ski areas, enough to keep some open until mid-April. As skiers pack up their gear for the season, there’s a lot to look forward to for the season ahead.

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

“It’s a mix of good middle ground and double black diamond,” said Matt Sawyer, chief marketing officer.

The extension 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 to look at all this big ground behind us,” he said. “It’s all in Montana, the current expansion.”

The owners had to enter into a lease with the US Forest Service, which owns the land. The expansion was officially approved by the Forest Service in 2017 and the new tracks were cut last year. With no chairlift installed, the new trails at Eagle Peak were not accessible to traditional skiing, but the ski area purchased a 12-seater snowcat which it used to ferry experienced skiers to the top of the mountain to so they can ski.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip and an opportunity for people interested in seeing the new ground,” 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.

“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 for being family-friendly, but the new terrain will give the ski area something for skiers of all skill levels, Sawyer said.

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

The 49 Degrees North ski area near Chewelah has seen a similar expansion this season and plans to tweak and expand the new runs slightly for the coming season, marketing manager Garrett Shadwick said. A new high-speed quadruple lift has replaced the old Bonanza lift, cutting travel time to the summit from 25 minutes to 7 minutes, Shadwick said.

“It was really great to see all of our guests enjoying the rapid climb to the top of Chewelah,” he said.

These new tracks will be cleaned and slightly enlarged this summer, Shadwick said.

“We mostly clean it up and make sure it looks like we want it to,” he said.

This summer, the Bonanza chairlift will be dismantled. Individual chairs, called porters, will be available for people willing to buy a bit of history. Information on purchasing a Bonanza baby carrier is available online at https://www.ski49n.com/mountain-news/details/bonanza-carrier-info.

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

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

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

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

Schweitzer Mountain, near Sandpoint, has had a busy season and is preparing for another busy season next year, said marketing manager Dig Chrismer. Plans are underway to reduce congestion, however.

“We recognize that parking has become an even bigger issue for our customers 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” which starts at Pinch Flat. The other two trails, which do not yet have a name, are intermediate. One crosses the lower part of the South Bowl and the other passes under the Basin Express.

Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park is offering summer day camps for the first time this year. Options include a mountain bike skills camp for ages 9-16 July 28-30 and a mountain adventure day camp for ages 6-11 August 4-6 and August 11-13 . Prices are $225 and $179, respectively. To 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.

About Richard Chandler

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