Skiing or snowboarding with your children anywhere other than the bunny hill is an adventure in itself. A big mountain of new terrain awaits you on those intermediate runs and eventually black diamond ones. A great, and sometimes frustrating, aspect of skiing is that it requires continuous learning, with new challenges for every new run, every snowfall, every new mountain. Skiing can be as hard or as easy as you want it to be, depending on the day and your mood.
While all the regional ski mountains have unique offerings to meet the needs of families and varied ski levels and abilities, if you are searching for a unique adventure, head to Lookout Pass for a two-state mountain experience – where you can ski in both Idaho and Montana. This is what my family did last season, as we brainstormed ways to add new challenges and excitement to our children’s ski experiences.
Lookout Pass is one of only a few ski areas in the United States that’s situated on a state border. Only 90 miles from Spokane and with no two-lane, switchback mountain road to travel, the drive is relatively quick and easy – just take the last exit (#0) off I-90, 12 miles east of Wallace, Idaho, before the Montana border. The parking lot is only 200 yards from the interstate, and from there it is a short, easy walk to the lodge, which is great for young children still learning how to responsibly carry their own equipment.
The official ski mountain history begins in 1936 when the Idaho Ski Club was founded and its members installed a rope tow. Four years later, the club started a free ski school, which still operates today at Lookout Pass. The base lodge, built in 1941 when the U.S. Forest Service commissioned the Civilian Conservation Corps for the job, is the second oldest in the Northwest, behind Mt. Hood’s Timberline Lodge in Oregon, according to the Lookout Pass website. The lodge’s cedar wood interior provides a cozy, family-friendly gathering place for eating lunch, drinking hot cocoa, and playing card games as you wait for other family members to finish their runs for the day. Lodge expansions in 2005 added a 6,000-square-foot, three-story addition to provide more seating with slope-side mountain views, a pub, and an outdoor deck.
It wasn’t until 1980 that Lookout’s first chairlift was installed; the Montana side didn’t get its chairlift until 2003. While the historic lodge is small enough to easily meet up with friends and family, the mountain has 540 acres of skiable terrain spread across three sides, designated as the Idaho, Montana, and north sides. The summit is where the three major chairlifts converge. Today, 70 percent of all the runs are designated as either intermediate or beginner level, which means lots of family-friendly terrain. My children were excited that we could switch back and forth between Idaho and Montana throughout the day. Our favorite runs were Rainbow Ridge and Cloud 9, both intermediate ones on the Montana side.
With a summit elevation of 5,650 feet and an annual average snowfall of 400 inches, Lookout Pass is known for having deep powder dumps. And its 34 named ski runs and three snowboard terrain parks provide something for every family member to enjoy. Lookout Pass also hosts family-friendly events throughout the season, which includes, for 2017, a Winter Carnival in January, Super Bowl Snow Field Goal Contest in February, and Crazy Costume Day and Scavenger Hunt in March, according to Jason Bergman, Lookout’s Director of Marketing and Sales.
Skiing at Lookout Pass is a fun way to explore a mountain – children can feel like they’re close to the top of the world, even if it’s only the Northwest Rockies. //