With the first flakes of the ski season already behind us, and plenty more likely to fall in the coming month, resorts around the greater Inland Northwest are gearing up for what should be another solid season of powder days and sunny groomers (with a few variable, overcast days to keep it real, of course). If you’re wondering what your favorite local mountain or destination B.C. powder stash has been up to over the past year, enjoy these dispatches from around the region.
49 Degrees North Mountain Resort (Chewelah, Wash.)
The crew up at 49 have been hard at work with their summer slope maintenance, including brush cutting that will make the 500 acres of new terrain they’ve added in the last five years more accessible earlier in the season. Hopefully for you that means fewer brush hits and more face shots for opening day. Still haven’t ridden the new terrain off of Angel Peak? Then you have plenty to catch up on. Other improvements range from a new high performance rental fleet, ongoing planning for the new remote lodge (construction to start in 2017), eight new terrain park features, and, a big deal for many of us who spend more time than we’d like to admit in the lodge or bar, 49’s new head chef Frank Marmo has completely revamped the food and beverage operation to rave reviews. Ski49n.com.
Lookout Pass Ski & Recreation Area (Wallace, Idaho)
Over the past decade or so, Lookout Pass, a place that undoubtedly has some of the region’s best snow and an exceptionally long season, has added two new lifts and hundreds of acres of new terrain. And over the next 20 years, they are planning a more dramatic expansion of lift-served terrain of up to 2,000 acres that could include as many as eight new lifts and a new base lodge. The first phase of the proposed expansion that could add two new lifts is currently moving through the Forest Service environmental analysis process. The expansion proposal process will likely take several years, and involve various stakeholders, including the backcountry skiers, snowshoers, and snowmobilers who already recreate in parts of the proposed expansion area. In the meantime, Lookout has added a new cat to enhance their grooming capacity, and they’ve done some aggressive brush cutting on the Rolling Thunder run to improve the riding conditions in the terrain park. New features are also being added to the park, including a new rail in collaboration with Pistole Boardshop in Spokane. Skilookout.com.
Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park (Spokane, Wash.)
Spokane’s hometown resort is primed for another season with improvements in the works and affordable pricing that, along with great conditions, keep bringing loyal skiers and riders back season after season. If you’ve been following the news, you know that Mt. Spokane’s plans for adding a new lift and runs off the west side of the mountain continue to move through the public process, with a decision expected from the Washington State Parks Commission in November. Stay tuned. Until then, the staff at Mt. Spokane have been busy busting out other improvements to Spokane’s closest ski hill, including getting existing runs in shape, making updates to both lodges, and adding a brand-new terrain park that will feature all-natural hits, jibs, and rails, making it the mountain’s third terrain park, adding to the existing mile-long park, and the Progression Park geared specifically for beginners. Mtspokane.com.
Schweitzer Mountain Resort (Sandpoint, Idaho)
For the coming season, Schweitzer added to its already exceptional grooming capacity with a new grooming machine, upgraded the snow making system on the lower mountain, and completed other infrastructure improvements around the resort. A popular program they launched last winter, called Kids/Parents Night Out, is back again, allowing parents to drop their kids off with professional staff (with a $25 deposit for each child) to go have some fun in the Village. If your receipt total at the end of the night is more than the deposit, you get the entire deposit back. Free and fun ski hill child care! Schweitzer has also welcomed a new chef for the Gourmandie specialty foods market who has revamped the inside space and created a whole new menu, serving up delicious food in an already popular venue. For ticket deals, the Lake Louise Plus Card is back again this season, offering 3 free days, discount lift tickets all season, and they are redeemable at Schweitzer and four other Canadian resorts (details online soon). You’ll also notice some new construction on the mountain this year, as the next phases of the MountainSide development come online with new on-mountain residences. Schweitzer.com.
Silver Mountain Resort (Kellogg, Idaho)
Silver has been hard at work getting the mountain spiffed up for opening day with various improvements that are sure to make anyone stepping off the gondola smile. Two new runs that they roughed in last year, Bootlegger and Shady Lady, have been cleaned up and widened. Both runs have already gained a following due to their length and challenging pitch. For those who are new to the mountain, a new Mountain Host program has been rolled out to offer up local mountain experts to help answer guests’ questions and show them around to get better acquainted to Silver’s vast terrain. Other improvements include expansion of the progression terrain park and a remodel of the rental shop to help speed up and improve the rental experience. Silver is also adding a First Tracks program on Saturdays that will get you access to fresh snow and the opportunity to lay down your own first tracks ahead of the crowds. And finally, this is a cool innovation: A new webcam with night vision aimed at a snow stake and temperature gauge will be installed on the top of Kellogg Peak. Silvermt.com.
RED Mountain Resort (Rossland, B.C.)
On the heels of a major 1,000 acre expansion to Grey Peak that included a new chairlift, RED Mountain Resort has another expansion in the works that will include nearly 200 acres on adjacent Mt. Kirkup, where a new cat skiing operation will act as a shuttle from Grey Mountain to the peak of Mt. Kirkup with seats sold for just $10 (with purchase of a lift ticket). The new snowcat-accessed terrain is sure to be a powder lover’s paradise, with intermediate to advanced runs delivering riders back to the new Grey Mountain Chair. If all the positive press RED’s been getting lately from throughout North America and around the world, lines like “Most Underrated Ski Resort” (“Skiing Magazine”) and “Number 1 Ski Town” (“Powder Magazine”) have you concerned that your secret powder stash is about to be spoiled, don’t fret, as lift lines continue to be nearly non-existent, with even more exceptional terrain to spread out the “crowds.” Redresort.com.
Whitewater Ski Resort (Nelson, B.C.)
Whitewater has always been renowned for its deep inbounds powder (40 feet of the white stuff on average) and spectacular terrain, and, for those with the lungs and the gear for it, the unlimited surrounding backcountry. New this season, WH2O is launching a Discover Whitewater Backcountryeducational program to meet the increased demands for backcountry access and educate participants on what skills and knowledge are necessary for exploring beyond the ski area boundaries. Also new this year, the resort will be offering fat bike rentals for riders to explore the five kilometers of new multi-use trails in the Nordic center. And if you’re looking to hitch a ride to Nelson for a ski vacation without having to drive, the existing shuttle service from the Spokane airport to Nelson and Rossland is expanding this winter with daily service (Kootenayshuttle.com/Spokane), so now you can pull off a car-free Kootenay ski vacation. Skiwhitewater.com. //