The alpine skiing and snowboarding scene here in the Inland NW continues to evolve as more snow sliders discover our little slice of snowy Shangri-La each season. And our local resorts continue to respond with new lifts, runs, glades, hotels, and other improvements to keep us all moving up and down the mountains in style.
Lookout Pass Ski & Recreation Area
Work continued on Phase 1 of Lookout’s long-term expansion plan over the summer, but the installation of a brand new SkyTrac quad chairlift on the frontside, replacing the two-seater Chair 1, steals the improvements show this season. “Our priority objective this year was getting the new quad up and running, which will about double the uphill capacity,” says Matt Sawyer, Lookout’s director of marketing. Sawyer says expansion project work on the two new lifts and several runs planned for Eagle Peak (which have already been approved by the Forest Service) will continue with possible completion in two years. But, Swayer notes, when exactly the first lift-assisted tracks off Eagle Peak will commence depends on project logistics and cashflow.
Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park
Summer brush cutting on areas of the 279 acres of new terrain on the backside, served by the new Northwood Chair (Chair 6), will mean better early-season riding on the 7 new runs that already prompted positive reviews from skiers and riders last season. A long-awaited return of bus service from Spokane to the mountain will also resume this year. Leave the driving to someone else and kick back in a 55-passenger shred wagon. Mt. Spokane is also kicking off a cool twist on night tubing Saturday nights from 4-8 p.m. December 28 through January. with KANtasy Tubing will feature tunes and a dazzling light display to enhance the traditional tubing experience. Those of us who spend part of powder days playing work theater will appreciate improved WiFi access in the lodges thanks to locally owned Ptera. And lastly, interior work on the latest new on-mountain development, the Mountain Sports School Learning Center, was completed over the Summer, further cementing Mt. Spokane’s reputation as a leader in investing in the future of alpine winter sports.
Schweitzer Mountain Resort
Say goodbye to the Snowghost double chair and hello to the two new chairlifts replacing service to the North Bowl this season. A Lietner Poma detachable quad chair, Cedar Park Express, will provide more access for intermediate skiers and riders in the resort’s back bowl. Concurrently, a complementing triple chair from Skytrac, the Colburn Triple, will allow advanced and expert skiers to reach the summit of the mountain and access the steeper terrain in Lakeside Chutes more quickly. Frequent Schweitzer riders can expect shorter lift lines, as well as an additional seven new named runs. With increased demand for on-mountain ski-in/ski-out lodging, Schweitzer is also moving forward with a new 30-unit boutique hotel in the village. The development will include a 50-seat restaurant and bar with an outdoor patio. The hotel is expected to open for reservations in the fall of 2020.
49 Degrees North Mountain Resort
The big news at 49 is the purchase of the resort’s assets by an owner-affiliate of Silver Mountain Resort and the birth of a killer combo ski pass option that means passholders can chase powder at both resorts. 49 will continue to operate independently, and, notes longtime general manager John Eminger, who will continue in his leadership role at the resort, “It has been an honor over the last two decades to be part of increasing the size of the ski area. We have grown from 905 acres to nearly 2,250 acres, created a Nordic trail system with 9 miles of trails, opened a new summit to lift assisted skiing, created over 35 new trails and glades in two basins, and added new lifts.” Management expects to increase passholder benefits, remodel the lodge, add a new conveyor carpet to the beginner area, upgrade lifts, and add new grooming equipment in the near future.
With 49 Degrees North now under new ownership by a Silver Mountain affiliate, passholders have the chance to purchase a combo pass or upgrade an existing pass and ski and ride at both resorts this season for a steal. No doubt this dual-resort partnership will mean more mountain improvements and perks for Silver fans in the years to come. In the meantime, Silver staff have been hacking away in the woods this past summer glading new areas like Paymaster, Bootlegger, and Moonshine. Silver is also expanding its beginner terrain park this year and opening a new sports shop in the village that will offer ski and board tuning and boot fitting.