GoSpokaneMagazine

snow covered trees on Silver Mountain

Local Ski Resorts


Spokane is a great area to live if you enjoy spending time outdoors and the winter is no exception. Skiing and snowboarding are a couple of the more popular winter sports around here. There are 5 ski resorts within a hundred miles of Spokane. I have personally been to each of them numerous times and each has its advantages over the others.

It's all about the snow. These 5 resorts are on 4 different mountain ranges. Weather systems aren't fair. What I'm trying to say is that one or two mountains may get dumped on and the others get very little. Next week another storm will come along and be generous somewhere else. I have had outstanding days of skiing at each one of these mountains. I have had not so good days at each of them too.

If you are used to skiing in most other parts of the country, you are going to be pleasantly surprised. The snow is great and the lift lines are short. I enjoy going on ski vacations to other areas but I am always glad to come back home to appreciate what we have here.


Mt Spokane

Mt Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park is 34 miles from downtown Spokane and it only takes 57 minutes to get there. Just think; you could be skiing in an hour. There is some curvy winter mountain road driving to get up to the resort.

Mt Spokane is open Wednesday through Sunday during the regular season and seven days a week over the Christmas holiday. They are also a great option for night skiing. First off, it is close enough to Spokane that you can go there after work and get in some good turns. It is open for night skiing almost every day that it is open for day skiing except Sundays.

Mt Spokane has 5 chairlift serving 1,425 skiable acres. Mt Spokane has the most to offer the intermediate skier with well over half of its runs being intermediate runs. There are still plenty of runs for the beginner and the advanced skiers to have a great time too.

Mt Spokane is open for day skiing Wednesday through Saturday during the regular season and seven days a week over the Christmas holiday. Because Mt Spokane is so convenient and it is one of the smaller resorts, there tends to be more congestion. They also have a tubing park for the non-skiers who want to have fun in the snow.

Mt Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park is located in Mt Spokane State Park which has a variety of winter and summer recreation. Additionally, in the winter there are Nordic ski trails and snowmobile trails. The summer offers mountain biking, hiking, camping and horseback riding.

Mt Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park is a non-profit organization and they would like to expand to add another chairlift and open more terrain. They have overcome all but the very last of obstacles needed to accomplish this. A lot of people in the Spokane area enjoy Mt Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park and the expansion would help solve the congestion issues.


49° North

A little further drive than Mount Spokane is 49° North. At 58 miles north of Spokane, it will take you an hour and 16 minutes to get there from downtown. The drive up the mountain is on a nice wide well maintained road and if conditions are good, you can make good time.

49° North is open Friday through Tuesday during the regular season and seven days a week over the Christmas holiday. They offer night skiing a handful of times each season when they open up the mountain at a greatly reduced rate when you bring food for the canned food drive. This helps to supply the local food bank and also gives families an affordable opportunity to ski.

49° North is one of the larger resorts with 2 mountain peaks, 3 bowl areas and 2,325 acres of skiable terrain. They have 6 chairlifts to service all this terrain.

49° North is divided pretty evenly between beginner, intermediate and advanced terrain though there is not a lot in the way of truly steep stuff. Having patrolled 49° North for 5 years I am a little biased but I think it has the best glade skiing in the area and they also tend to get pretty good snow.

The resort is privately owned and is located on a combination of private and forest service land. They added a 6th chairlift a few years ago which opens up Angel peak and there are plans for a mid-mountain lodge. They are continuing to develop the resort with condominiums and home sites. The option of staying on the mountain will definitely bring 49° North to the next level.


Silver Mountain

Silver Mountain Ski Resort is a 78 miles drive east of Spokane into Idaho. It is all freeway driving on I90 and takes less than an hour and a half. You get off the freeway in Kellogg, drive a couple blocks and park in the parking lot; no mountain driving. Then you get into a car on the world's longest gondola and take the 20 minute ride up to the mountain house lodge.

Silver Mountain is open seven days a week during the regular season. Early season opens with limited days of operation. They start the seven day a week schedule with the Christmas holidays and continue it into early April. Late season will continue with a Saturday only schedule as long as snow permits and visitor count remains good. They call this extended season "Silver Saturdays".

With only 1,600 acres Silver Mountain feels like a lot bigger mountain. There are 73 runs, two peaks three bowls and 5 chairlifts to serve them. 20% beginner runs give new skiers and boarders ample area to get a feel for their sport but their options really open up when they step up to the next level. With 2,200 vertical feet and 40% of the terrain being designated as advanced or expert, Silver Mountain has some steeper terrain and has a lot to offer the more advanced skiers and boarders. Currently I patrol Silver Mountain and consider it my home mountain.

In addition to skiing and boarding there is a tubing park up on the mountain. The tubers and beginners share a "magic carpet" to get back up the hill. There is also a snowshoe trail and snow shoes for rent in the rental shop.

At the base of the gondola where you park your car you will find the gondola village. Here there are shops, restaurants, and condominiums that you can rent for a few nights or if you like, you can buy one. There is also a giant indoor water park for year round family entertainment. With the water park, mountain biking, and the 70 mile long Coeur d'Alene Trail paved bike path, Silver Mountain is a true year round resort.


Schweitzer

Schweitzer is 85 miles north of Spokane by Sandpoint Idaho overlooking beautiful Pend Oreille Lake. It will take you the better part of two hours to get there from Spokane with last part of the drive being on a curvy mountain road.

Schweitzer Mountain runs seven days a week through the entire regular season. It is common for the mountain to have limited days of operation and limited terrain in the early season. Schweitzer offers night skiing during all days of operation over the Christmas holiday as well as Fridays and Saturdays during the rest of the season.

Schweitzer is the largest of the area resorts with 92 runs on 2,900 acres of skiable terrain with 2,440 vertical feet. The mountain features three peaks and two large bowls. The back bowl has its own ski lodge. The terrain is distributed fairly evenly between skier abilities. It favors the advanced and expert skier but still has plenty of runs for the beginners and intermediates.

Schweitzer Mountain Resort is more expensive than the other local resorts but it is the closest thing that the area has to a destination resort. It has a mountain village where you can eat, shop and stay right there on the mountain. Additionally there are a number of options for vacation properties that you can buy.

In addition to the largest "in bounds" skiing of the local areas, Schweitzer partners with the Selkirk Powder Company to provide thousands of acres of back country skiing. In the summer, Schweitzer Mountain Resort offers mountain biking and hosts some festivals.


Lookout Pass

Lookout Pass is 94 miles east of Spokane on the Montana Idaho border. Just 14 miles past Silver Mountain, it will take you a little over an hour and a half to drive there from Spokane. It is all freeway driving with the base lodge being only a couple hundred yards off of I90.

Lookout Pass has limited operation in the early season until the Christmas holiday at which time they start seven day a week operation. After the holiday operations they go to six days a week; closing on Tuesdays. The last part of the season has Lookout open 5 days; Thursday through Monday.

With 34 runs, 540 skiable acres, 1,150 vertical feet, and 4 double chairlifts to service it, Lookout Pass is the smallest of the area resorts. Lookout has a nice balance of terrain with plenty of skiing for the beginner and intermediate skiers yet offering quite a bit of challenging terrain for the advanced skiers. Lookout Pass markets itself as the best family ski area around and with its more modestly priced lift tickets and free ski school, it truly is.

As I mentioned before, the weather systems in the area are fickle and do not distribute the snow evenly from storm to storm. Well Lookout Pass always seems to get their share of the snow. They will often be the first mountain to open and get more snow than the other mountains. If you are looking for a family friendly modestly priced mountain with a lot of snow and a long season, you need to consider Lookout.


written by:


Wardner Peak Idaho