A quartet of Inland Northwest ski and snowboard mountains within a couple of hours' drive from Spokane have new offerings as the 2022-2023 season gets underway.
The Lookout Pass trail map got longer this summer with the Eagle Pass expansion on the western edge of the mountain. New is nearly 500 more acres with the new Eagle Pass fixed-grip quad, reachable by a leisurely green run off the resort's main summit. Terrain includes mostly blue runs, plus a long lift-line black and a few other expert pitches.
Straddling the both the Idaho-Montana border and the Mountain and Pacific time zones, the expansion nearly doubles the ski and snowboard area's size to 1,023 acres, and it raises the mountain's vertical-foot drop to 1,650. Also this summer, crews regraded the Success beginner area and tweaked the base lodge, rentals and parking. Its season pass links with eight Western resorts, including Bluewood and Mission Ridge in Washington state.
Staying up north, Schweitzer expansive Outback Bowl got an upgrade with the Stella high-speed adding more chairs to reduce the ride time to acres of glades and blue groomers. The chairlift anchors the skier's right portion of the large basin on Schweitzer's back side.
Down below, the children's center got an upgrade, and a new spa has gone in next to the base Selkirk Lodge. Schweitzer honors the Ikon Pass for seven free days.
At 49 Degrees North (named for its latitude), the big news came last season with the opening of the mountain's first high-speed quad chair. The base-to-summit Northern Spirit takes skiers and riders to the high ground in seven minutes, clearing out base area clogs and improving access to the wide variety of trails off the 5,774-foot Mt. Chewelah summit.
Along with the Sunrise Basin and Angel Peak expansions in the recent years, 49 Degrees North has jumped from 1,500 to more than 2,300 acres. Its season pass reciprocates with Bluewood, Mission Ridge, Loup Loup and White Pass in the state.
Northern Idaho's Silver Mountain has opened more powder-stash terrain this season by pushing the ski boundaries off Chair 2 . Named South of the Border, it adds about 20 acres of glades and powder meadows -- plus a new trail back to the base of the lift.
On the other side of the mountain at the Chair 4 mid-station, Silver has opened up a new Jackass Snack Shack to commemorate the resort's first name, Jackass Ski Bowl. The resort is now a member of the Powder Alliance. And, Silver is the only mountain in the West that connects to town (Kellogg, Idaho) via a gondola.
With opening dates on the horizon, crews at many resorts in the West have been testing snow guns -- and looking longingly to the skies -- in hopes of putting down a base of snow in October.
Most ski and snowboard resorts have announced their anticipated opening days, although persistent warm weather in some regions may have something to say about that. A frequent check of resort websites is recommended.
However, hints of winter whiff the air and the high-country leaves are turning, so it's time to haul skis and snowboards out of storage and get them ready for the season.
The informal race to be the first to open in the nation falls upon the highest-elevation mountains along the spine of the Colorado Rockies. Traditionally, it's been Arapahoe Basin, Keystone and Loveland that vie for the title, but Wolf Creek surreptitiously snuck in last season by firing up its chairlifts on Oct. 16.
This year -- if official dates are to be believed -- Keystone will lead the pack by opening on Oct. 21, followed by Arapahoe Basin on Oct. 22, and Loveland and Wolf Creek on Oct. 29.
In California, 7,700-foot-high Boreal on Donner Pass is optimistic to begin on Oct. 28, while Mammoth Mountain plans to be in second place with an Nov. 11 opening. Tahoe's Heavenly has penciled in Nov. 18 for its first chairs.
Despite having middle-of-the-pack summit elevation, Lookout Pass (5,650 feet) on the border of Idaho and Montana has pushed its first day all the way up to Nov. 6 -- a full two weeks ahead of its previous earliest opening. Schweitzer, Sun Valley and Tamarack all plan to follow later in the month.
Skiers and riders in Washington will have to wait until December for Stevens Pass (Dec. 2) and 49 Degrees North (Dec. 3), while Oregonians will have to bide their time until Mt. Hood Meadows and Timberline (Dec. 11). Mt. Bachelor expects to follow close behind on Dec. 12.
In New Mexico, Sipapu has had a lock on first-to-open in recent seasons. For 2022-2023, the family resort tucked into the Sangre de Cristos has tabbed Nov. 18 to begin spinning its lifts.
What is this winter going to look like? Based on what we’ve read and seen down south (Australia & New Zealand), it isn’t going to be candy canes and gum drops.
With season pass sale price deadlines fast approaching, skiers across the country are googling multi-resort season pass benefits, building pass comparison matrixes in Excel, and crunching day and dollar amounts to see which pass makes the most sense for the coming ski season: the Epic Pass, Ikon Pass, or Mountain Collective.
The first snow storms of the 2018-2019 season have coursed across the Pacific Northwest, and a number of resorts are gearing up for November openings.