More people are skiing and snowboarding than ever before. The Rocky Mountains has the largest winter sports participation in the US and crowding has become a norm in the industry. This means shivering in lift lines instead of ripping down the mountain to average 20-plus runs in a day. Now, that’s the dream– more time on the mountain, less time in the car, less crowds, and easier on the budget. When you ski in the Northwest Rockies, you benefit in all areas. The four least crowded ski resorts near Spokane, Washington, include Lookout Pass, Silver Mountain, Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park, and 49° North. In this blog, we’ll unpack what makes each mountain unique.
LOOKOUT PASS SKI & RECREATION AREA
Home to One of the Most Historic Ski Lodges in the Northwest
Lookout Pass was the first ski area in Idaho to operate every winter since 1935 and has a reputation for legendary powder, earliest openings, and longest season in the region. With an average snowfall of over 400" of light, fluffy, powdery snow, winters at Lookout Pass provide an affordable paradise.
Lookout’s historic base lodge is the 2nd oldest ski lodge in the northwest. The cedar interior offers delightful warmth reminiscent of vintage lodges of the 1940s with a laid-back, “Hometown Hill” theme. Lookout Pass straddles the Idaho/Montana state line, which means you can ski in two states and two time zones on the same run!
Located just 200 yards off I-90 at Exit 0 on the ID-MT line, getting to Lookout is easy. Even with wintry road conditions, it’s one of the easiest drives because of how well-maintained I-90 is due to its importance to interstate commerce.
This winter, Lookout opened a massive expansion, nearly doubling the area in size. The Eagle Peak expansion adds a second quad chairlift almost a mile in length and increases vertical to a respectable 1,650 feet. The expansion adds 15 new trails, 500 more acres, and is 500 feet higher than the previous summit. Increased elevation means colder temperatures and high-quality powder. New powder averages will be significantly more than 400 inches of light dry powder snow each winter. The new terrain is an excellent combination of wide blue and black diamond trails, according to Matt Sawyer, Director of Marketing at Lookout Pass. Expect spectacular views when you ski Lookout Pass. Guests are raving about this ski resort near Spokane, WA.
Lookout Pass is host to several family-friendly events every year. Learn more about Lookout Pass events here: www.SkiLookout.com/Events.
Who doesn’t love a good deal? Grab a friend and go ski during the week to save big! Lookout offers two lift tickets for just $75 every Thursday until the end of the season. In addition, season pass holders from any other mountain can experience Lookout for just $35 when they show their valid Season Pass Monday thru Thursday, excluding holiday periods. Find more deals at www.SkiLookout.com/Deals.
New to skiing? Lookout Pass offers group and private lessons taught by Professional Ski Instructors of America and the American Association of Snowboard Instructors (PSIA-AASI instructors) for a modest fee. Reservations for lessons are suggested. The mountain also offers a Free Ski School Program for youth 6 to 17 on 8 Saturdays. www.SkiLookout.com/Lessons.
Home to America’s Longest Single-Stage Gondola
Silver Mountain is the ultimate family vacation with an expansive easily accessible parking lot and no lift lines. Silver Mountain has seven chairlifts, including America’s longest single-stage gondola. Park right off I-90 at the base of the gondola and enjoy a scenic 20-minute ride from town to the top of the mountain.
Silver offers a variety of terrain for all ages and abilities. If you’re a beginner, Silver is home to one of the best learning runs. This run is serviced by a covered magic carpet lift to protect you from the elements and keep you on the slopes longer.
The mountain offers an extensive array of intermediate-groomed runs that are perfectly manicured every morning. For those experienced powder hounds, Silver has a huge variety of advanced runs to satisfy the need for speed. For the best tree skiing in the region, Silver has you covered. The mountain is constantly thinning new-growth trees during the summer to provide the best experience for tree skiers. With 340” of snow annually and the lack of crowds, powder at Silver Mountain can last for up to a week after a big snowstorm. Silver Mountain boasts 78 total trails with 20% for beginners, 40% for intermediate skiers and 40% for advanced riders.
In addition to the great skiing and snowboarding, Silver Mountain offers so much more for a family vacation. The snow tubing hill, located at the top of the mountain, offers 640’ for high adrenaline fun. Tickets include the scenic gondola ride and access to the covered magic carpet for quick laps. Silver Mountain also offers lodging right at the base of the gondola, with a variety of room types to fit all sizes of families.
The best part about booking a stay with Silver Mountain is this: every stay comes with free access to Silver Rapids Indoor Waterpark for every guest in the room. Silver Rapids is always a balmy 84 degrees, which makes it the perfect spot to warm up after a day on the mountain. There are attractions for all ages, including five water slides, a lazy river, a FlowRider surf simulator, hot tubs, and an expansive kid's play area. The largest indoor waterpark in Idaho, Silver Rapids is open year-round. Enjoy dining options onsite or explore coffee, food, craft beer, and dessert options within walking or driving distance in Kellogg and neighboring Wallace.
Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park
Pure Stoke, Just Outside Spokane City Limits
There is always something special about driving to Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park. Just outside the city limits, located within Mt. Spokane State Park, and at the summit of Spokane’s namesake mountain, you’ll find a unique ski and snowboard experience that might even take you back to your childhood. As the region’s only nonprofit mountain, you’ll find a welcoming and dedicated mountain community of skiers and snowboarders that warmly welcomes locals and visitors alike.
Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park boasts an expansive 52 runs, 7 lifts, an epic terrain park, and a robust ski school. Weekends are popular, but with over 1,700 acres, you will have no problem finding wide-open groomed runs to cruise or plentiful glades, offering plenty of powder. On weekdays, you’ll never find a lift line. Weekday skiing is prime for enjoying the solitude and beauty of a natural and authentic state park environment.
With two primary lodges, there are multiple food and beverage options, including a lively bar scene, and multiple outdoor decks to enjoy those bluebird days. On weekends, you can visit the mountain’s, iconic structure, the Vista House, where you can enjoy a craft brew and enjoy memorable views from what locals fondly refer to as the “top of the world.Whether you’re a first-time skier or hoping to brush up on your skills, Mt. Spokane’s ski school programs offer a wide variety of group and private ski and board lessons throughout the season.
The Mt. Spokane Terrain Park, with a dedicated design team, is notable and gaining a reputation as a sought-after destination amongst park enthusiasts. The park’s jumps and features are ever-changing and host a variety of events and competitions throughout the season—drawing competitors from across the PNW.
After the sun sets, Mt. Spokane lights up the mountain for night skiing. In addition to seven-day-a-week operations through most of the season, you can also shred under the stars most Wednesdays through Saturdays. Night skiing, from 3 pm–6 pm, is easy on the wallet for only $36 for a six-hour lift ticket.
Combining an extensive operating calendar, with local craft beer, frequent live music and events, a fun-loving community, and the beauty of the mountain, Mt. Spokane always makes for a memorable destination, day or night. A wide variety of lodging and hotels are located a short drive away within the city of Spokane. Mt. Spokane operates from December through early April. View the operating calendar.
49° North Mountain Resort
The Hidden Giant of the Northwest
You might expect to find a little mom-and-pop ski area in the mountains above the small town of Chewelah, just north of Spokane, but you’d be wrong. Tucked into the serene Colville National Forest is one of the country's largest ski and snowboard resorts, 49° North.
It was 1936 when the first lift began operating on Chewelah Peak just a few miles east of the community of Chewelah. A history just shy of 100 years of skiing and snowboarding tradition, the resort’s story had humble beginnings with a simple rope tow put together by the area ski club. While the mountain has seen plenty of change and growth over the years, the focus on family and community remains rooted in its DNA. When you ski or ride 49, you’ll find yourself surrounded by an incredible passion for winter activity and a culture ingrained in sharing a love for the mountains, with friends, family, and visitors alike.
Today, the resort boasts 7 lifts serving two summits and three basins, with 86 runs covering 2,325 skiable acres that descend 1,851 vertical feet. 49° North is home to Washington state’s longest high-speed chairlift, the Northern Spirit Express. The state's newest, most powerful chairlift transports visitors from the historic Calispel Creek Lodge, just over 1 mile to the summit of Chewelah Peak, and the most terrain in Eastern Washington, in under 7 minutes.
With a family-friendly mix of terrain across all three basins, the resort holds appeal for everyone, from first-timers to experts. The mountain’s learning area and Gold Fever conveyor lift is perfect for those new to the sport. Beginners will love the Payday lift as it’s set away from the hustle and bustle of more advanced terrain, creating a quiet, comfortable area to explore and grow. A particular favorite in this area that visitors shouldn’t miss is Gold Chute, a gentle trail winding through a magical forest filled with fun characters.
The terrain on tap for intermediate to advanced skiers and riders is both diverse and plentiful. 49° North is well known for its long, consistent pitches, incredible snow quality, and incredible grooming. The resort’s slopes are mostly north-facing, creating excellent conditions and long-lasting snow. The new high-speed quad lift provides access to all three of the ski area’s beautiful basins, each featuring it’s own unique and equally stunning views. The cherry on top of this tasty dish is the world-class glade skiing and riding found throughout each of the basins.
When you arrive at the mountain, you’ll be met with ample parking and friendly staff members greeting you, making the experience much like your hometown ski area. RV parking is also available for those who want to extend their time on the mountain.
You’ll find a rental shop offering some of the best gear available for newer participants and some of the top high-performance skis and boards for those looking to try the latest and greatest. Their Snowsports School Instructors are caring, knowledgeable, and focused on creating the best experience possible. Mountain Hosts are available to provide tours or point guests to the terrain that best fits their heart’s desire. When you’re ready to take a break or refuel savory food and delicious drinks await in the Quickturn Café and Boomtown Bar.