by Michael Bowen

Skiers and snowboarders can depend on Lookout Pass for a quality experience.

"We've been operating continuously since 1938," reports Lookout marketing director Phil Edholm. "Some say we're in a tie with Sun Valley as the oldest ski resort in Idaho. We're in a microclimate here near the crest of the Bitterroots, and we get more and drier and lighter snow than other ski areas in the region. That is what has made our business over the years. We're usually the first to open in the region, and we tend to get early and ample snow. You ask people about Lookout and they'll say that the snow quality is what sets us apart."

But they're not simply resting on their alpine laurels at Lookout. They've constructed five new runs - two of them advanced, three of them intermediate - giving the hill a total of 23 ski trails.

"We didn't start run-clearing and the lift construction until July 15," says Edholm. "Our new double lift allows us a capacity of 1,200 people per hour. And the double chair can be converted to a triple chair" serving 1,800 skiers per hour. This year's improvements are worth a half-million dollars.

Lookout's master development plan calls for $3 million in improvements over the next five years, including this year's chair lift and new runs, along with an expansion of the ski lodge next year. Between 2005 and 2008, the resort will add a third lift, four more runs, RV hookups, an expanded rental shop and a large guest services building.

So who's using all these new facilities? On a typical day, says Edholm, Lookout attracts about 400 skiers, though that increases to about 1,000 on a busy day: "We do about 30% of our business in those two weeks around Christmas.

"Our lift surveys show that 42% are boarders, up from 28% four years ago," Edholm explains. "Ten years ago, when snowboarding was just starting to catch on, there may have been a little tension" between established skiers and the new snowboarding kids on the block. "Whenever there's anything new, there can be a bit of resentment. But now there's a blending -- You get some guys saying, 'Hey, I've been snowboarding for 15 years, now I'll try skiing.' So there's a crossover there. And people are more accepting of it." After all, says Edholm, "It's just another form of snow-sliding."

If you think that despite all of Lookout's improvements and its cordial atmosphere, it's still a long drive out to the Idaho/Montana border, consider this. Lookout's adult season pass now costs $239. That figure has increased a total of $4 in the last four years.

At Lookout Pass, inflation has hit the facilities, not the finances.

Where: Wallace, Idaho

Phone: (208) 744-1301

Web Site:

Vertical Drop: 1,150 ft.

Average snowfall: 400 inches

Lifts: Two double, one rope tow

Hill info: 380 developed acres; 23 runs; 25% Beginner, 50% Intermediate; 25% Advanced

Hours: Open Thursdays-Mondays and holidays from 9 am-4 pm. Will operate seven days a week from Dec. 20-Jan. 5

Lift prices: Weekends and holidays: Adult (ages 19-61) $24; College student $22; seniors and juniors (ages 7-18) $16; children (age 6 and younger) free; rope tow $6; single ride $3. Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays: Adult $22; college student $20; juniors and seniors $15; children free; Boomers' Fridays (age 40 and older) $12

Major Events: "Club Vertical" Women's Skills Program, alternate Fridays, Dec. 5-April 2; Big Air Contest, Jan. 18; Special Olympics Winter Games, Feb. 1; Firemen's Challenge Cup, Feb. 8; Telemark Race Series, Feb. 21; Rider Cup, April 5

Publication date: 11/13/03

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About The Author

Michael Bowen

Michael Bowen is a former senior writer for The Inlander and a respected local theater critic. He also covers literature, jazz and classical music, and art, among other things.