Lookout Pass Ski Area is everything you’re looking for in a small western ski area. Located in the Coeur d’Alene National Forest just off I-90 on the border of Idaho and Montana, it is a remote but relatively easy to get to place. From Spokane, Washington it is just an hour of easy interstate driving east.
There is no town, just the simple base area amenities (tickets, rentals and cafeteria/bar). Lift tickets are under $50. The ski area receives over 400 inches of snow a year. The snow comes early and stays late. It’s a powder oasis in the middle of nowhere. What more could you want?
Lookout Pass skis a lot bigger than its stats. There are 24 trails off four lifts serving 540 skiable acres on three faces of Runt Mountain. It is one of only three ski areas in the country where you can cross a state line on skis. (Can you name the others?)
The trailmap is very straightforward. The three major lifts all meet at the summit allowing for easy access to the whole mountain. There is no traversing or cat tracks here. The whole area is pretty much all fall line skiing. Sure, the lifts are very old school fixed doubles. No foot rests, no safety bars and hardly an arm rest. But the lifts get the job done easily, climbing up the 1,100 feet of vertical without too much delay.
Due to its location, Lookout Pass is a powder magnet. The day I skied it had already received almost 100 inches of snow for the year. The snow quality and coverage was amazing. It may have only been December, but it was already a mid-season kind of day. Also, Lookout Pass is not open every day of the week. They normally operate on Fridays through Mondays, which allows the snow to build up on the off days. For tree skiers, Lookout Pass is a paradise as there are plenty of secret powder stashes hidden in the woods to go around.
Unlike most small ski areas, Lookout Pass also has a fleet of snowcat groomers that they are more than willing to employ on the trails. Sure, everyone talks about how much they like to ski powder, but I have realized my East Coast-bred skiing skillset is much more suited to bombing down the groomers than chasing powder. Thus I had a field day carving up the amazing snow on the wonderfully groomed blue cruisers that abound on the trail map.
Lookout Pass is truly a gem. Opened in 1935 it has been a reliable skier hill from the beginning, providing all you need for an excellent day on the slopes. The location is beautiful, the slopes are a blast and the snow quality is amazing. What more could you want?