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Ski resorts envision dessert after feast

by HANNAH NEFF/Staff Writer
| November 18, 2021 1:08 AM

Those itching to swoop down the mountain can prepare for anticipated openings of Lookout Pass, Silver Mountain and Schweitzer ski resorts the day after Thanksgiving.

Matt Sawyer, marketing and sales manager for Lookout Pass Ski Resort, located off of Interstate 90, said they’re looking to open up Nov. 26 — or earlier if weather permits.

“It all depends on whether it’s snowing up here," Sawyer said. “The current weather forecast is in favor of a good season for the Pacific Northwest.”

Sawyer said they had only between 1 and 2 inches of snow Tuesday morning but were expecting between 2 and 5 inches by evening, and more this weekend.

About 20 to 24 inches of snow is needed to build up a base and get the front of the mountain open, Sawyer said, which is what the resort expects to have by the end of next week.

“That's certainly realistic if we have some weather come in,” Sawyer said. “We've gotten big dumps in the past like that.”

Sawyer said if they get enough snow, they’ll open more of the mountain, but they want to make sure they don’t open with too little on the ground. That would give skiers a bad experience.

Often, Sawyer said, the ski season opens by the second week of November. However, the late start isn’t hurting the resort, as most start skiing around Christmas.

Sawyer said that while last year was really busy because people had freer schedules with the pandemic, they don’t anticipate being quite as busy this season, as families and kids are back in school and sports. However, they still expect a solid season.

As far as masking and social distancing, Sawyer said they’ll be following whatever state and Panhandle Health District requirements are in place. Currently, masks are not required, only requested for indoor facilities.

Schweitzer Mountain Resort in Sandpoint will return to no masks outdoors although there may be other requirements indoors during peak times and holidays, marketing manager Dig Chrismer said.

“We're going to fill chairlifts to max capacity. There's no ghost lanes to space people out,” Chrismer said. “We feel that outside, people are pretty safe.”

Weather permitting, Chrismer said they plan to open the early season for pass holders with a very limited terrain.

“Thanks to the cold temps, we’ve been able to make snow the last two nights,” Chrismer said Wednesday. “It's a step in the right direction."

Lift ticket sales won’t start until mid-December at the latest, depending on weather, as the snow allows for more runs to open and people to spread out over the mountain, Chrismer said.

“We have a pretty big pass holder group so we just want to make sure that they have access without issue,” Chrismer said.

The mountain has a trace to a couple inches of snow in different areas depending on where they have been able use the snow machines. Chrismer said the amount of snow needed ranges in areas with flat spots and those with obstacles.

“It's pretty subjective because typically we like to be able to cover obstacles and make sure that it's a safer experience for everybody out there,” Chrismer said. “So if the weather stays cold and we can make enough snow to open safely, that's what we want to try and do.”

Gus Colburn, marketing manager for Silver Mountain Resort in Kellogg, said they’re looking forward to a lot of snowfall within the next two weeks. That would make their Nov. 26 opening date realistic.

Mid-day Tuesday, Colburn said they were looking at about 2 inches of snow on the mountain and more coming down.

Colburn said the amount of snow they get will determine how much of the terrain will be open and whether there’s enough room to open lift sales or just open access to pass holders.

“If we only have one run open, then we obviously want to keep that just for our pass holders so it doesn't get too crowded,” Colburn said. “We just want to make sure that everyone has enough space to do their thing.”

As of now, there are no mask requirements and the resort will continue to follow PHD guidelines for safety protocols, Colburn said.

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This photo taken in late October shows the New Eagle Peak terrain at Lookout Pass Ski Resort off of Interstate 90. The resort is expected to open Nov. 26, weather permitting. Photo courtesy of Matt Sawyer

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This photo of Wardner Peak at Silver Mountain Resort was taken after the Nov. 7 snowfall. The mountain had about 3 inches of snow Wednesday with more expected on the weekend, and is planned to open on Nov. 26, weather permitting. Photo courtesy of Gus Colburn