New Terrain, Upgraded Chairlifts Highlight Spokane-Area Openings

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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.

 

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Four States In West Gear Up Kids-Ski-Free Programs

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Taking the whole family to ski and ride in the West can be a pricey undertaking, so a number of states have "kids passport programs" that allow schoolchildren from any state to get free passes.

Each program limits the number of free days and has a one-time processing fee. All have blackout periods. They require a pre-application, and some require kids to show proof of age and school, so check websites listed here for specifics.

The digital Colorado Kids Ski Pass is accepted at 20 of the state's mountains, including all four Aspen mountains, Winter Park, Copper Mountain and Steamboat. For $59 fee and completion of online application, school kids in grades 3-6 get four days at each participating resort.

The five Colorado resorts owned by Vail Resorts (plus Park City in Utah) aren't including in this program, but they have their own Epic Schoolkids Pass. However, the deadline for application is Oct. 9.

In Utah, SkiUtah issues its passport for those in grades 4 through 6. For $49, youngsters can ski and ride three days at all 15 mountains in Utah, including Woodward Park City (lift ticket only). The passport must be purchased online, including current photo. Then, show it plus proof of name and date of birth at ticket window to get a lift ticket. (Park City has specific locations for redemption.)

Ski Idaho has gone all in for kids' passports. Seventeen of the state's mountains welcome 5th graders for three free days and 6th graders for two during this season. Online applications at $18 processing fee gets a printed or smart phone passport. With parent or guardian present, kids merely show the passport to get a free lift ticket.

And in Washington, the Fifth Grade Passport costs $20 and gets youngsters onto five of the state's mountains for three days free. Apply online and get an e-mail passport to show at the ticket window of Loup Loup, Mt. Spokane, Lookout Pass, Silver Mountain and 49 Degrees North.

Most mountains in the West give free tickets for the very young -- six years old or younger -- but a few ramp it up. A Power Kids Pass from Southwest regional Power Pass can be picked up at any of eight resorts in the Southwest (and now, Willamette Pass in Oregon) for free skiing all season.

And California's June Mountain also lets kids 12 and under ski and ride for free. Parents need to show up at the ticket window with the child.

 

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West's Resorts Begin To Fire Up Snow Guns For Opening Day

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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.

A pair of Utah mountains -- Brian Head and Park City Mountain -- hope to be the first in the Beehive State with openings on Nov. 18.

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.

 

 

 

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Strap In For High-Wire Thrills On Ziplines in the West

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At least a dozen ski and snowboard resorts in six states in the West have strung ziplines at or near the mountain to augment their offerings during the summer months.

In New Mexico, Angel Fire put its zipline network at the summit, with broad views of Sangre de Cristo Range. Guide-required for four-zip tour with six people max. Tours run every hour until 1 p.m, Friday-Monday.

Neighbor Red Riverloads two-seat Pioneer Flyer for backwards pull up to 600 feet elevation. A short pause for viewing, and then pairs are released for 35-mph free-ride back down. A shorter zip ride is incorporated into Hidden Treasure Aerial Park.

A couple of Colorado mountain resorts have ziplines at the mountain. Vail's on-mountain Epic Discovery Park incorporates a kids-only zipline -- about 10 feet in the air -- among its adventure package.

Purgatory has strung a pair of short, parallel ziplines that load on a condo deck and run over the base village center. Not long, the Plunge runs on weekends and can reach 35 mph.

Utah is home to one of the world's highest and longest ziplines, at Sundance Mountain Resort. Tucked up above Provo, the Sundance Zip has four spans with side-by-side cables that total two miles in length. And, you drop 2,100 vertical feet with control of speeds up to 65 mph -- with mid-air stops, too.

Above Salt Lake City, zipliners climb a 50-foot tower at the base of Snowbirdand reach 30 mph on side-by-side cables, landing on the deck of the tramway building. The ride is 1,000 feet long on a 15% grade.

Over in Idaho, Zip Tamarackruns four tours a day for a max of eight people, which lasts four hours. Each tour hooks onto eight ziplines with two suspension bridges interspersed -- plus a total of 1.5 miles of downhill hiking between platforms.

In California, Heavenly Mountainhas several ziplines on the hill. The rock-star zip is Blue Streak, one of the longest at 3,300 feet with a 525-foot vertical drop. Speeds reach 50 mph. The nearby Heavenly Flyer also reaches 50 mph as it skims the tree tops on an 80-second ride. And, an introductory ride can be had on the Red Flyer, which goes 100 feet at 15 feet above the ground.

And at Mt. Hood SkiBowl in Oregon, the resort has set up an aerial park the in air above the base area that includes an 800-foot long zipline. It's open Thursday to Sunday.

Many other resorts in the West sit near independent zipline operations, like Ski Cooper, Palisades Tahoe and Big Bear.

 

 

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South Idaho's Mountain Resorts Bring On Summer

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A summer road trip in the Rockies should include time in southern Idaho, where a half-dozen ski and snowboard mountains flip to summer.

There's no shortage of strenuous biking and hiking, relaxing strolls through the wildflowers, music performances and more around the base areas of South Idaho's mountain resorts -- from Idaho Falls to McCall to Boise.

Bogus Basin continues its summer renaissance. It's home to Idaho's only mountain coaster, with 4,330 feet of twists and turns at up to 25mph. The Boise home hill's Basin Gravity Park debuts a one-mile beginner X-C trail, an extension of the Around the Mountain route, and a technical downhiller.

Tamarack takes advantage of its lakeside location by building a watercraft fleet over the last couple of summers. This summer, new jet skies and surf boats joins with paddleboards, kayaks and pontoon boats on Lake Cascade. On the hill, the 27-mile MTB park expands with a couple of intermediate flow trails, and a summit loop.

Kelly Canyon has begun lift-served MTB action to deliver riders to an 18-mile network of trails, plus a 4-mile special loop that will be a training ground for interscholastic riders. New at Kelly, just outside of Idaho Falls, will be UTV side-by-side rentals.

Brundage has built a 20-year reputation of solid hiking and biking trails on the mountain near McCall. The mountain added six new trails for this summer, including a dramatic uphiller into Lakeview Bowl. A scenic chairlift ride unveils a 360-degree view of Payette National Forest and environs.

As usual, Sun Valley offers up a plethora of summer activities and events for summer visitors. Downhill MTBers can ride the gondola to the ridge atop Bald Mountain while, down below, the resort links with a 30-mile cruiser system of paved, non-vehicle riding. Events highlight with performances on the famous ice rink at the resort above McCall.

Neither Soldier Mountain, Pomerelle nor Pebble Creek spin chairlifts during the summer. So at Soldier outside Boise and Pomerelle near Twin Falls, uphill MTBers take the lead to climb the mountain on their own. Just south of Pocatello, Pebble Creek will be open for special events and private affairs only.

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Indy Pass Unveils Spring Sale For 2022/23 Season

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The first salvo in the U.S. multi-mountain season pass competition comes from Indy Pass: A spring sale that includes a Switch Pass with a small discount for skiers and riders who have a 2021-2022 Epic, Ikon, or Mountain Collective pass.

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5 Ski Resorts That Has Something for Everyone – Even Non-Skiers

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There’s something to be said about the magical feeling you get when you look outside and everything is coated in fluffy white snow. To the people who live in ski resort towns, it’s just another wintery day, but to those who come from warmer climates, it’s a winter wonderland! 

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Variety Is Spice Of Idaho's Indy Pass Resorts

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All of Idaho's five Indy Pass destinations are a bit out of the way, but that's a good thing for short lines, long views, and uncrowded trails.

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Several Midwest Ski Areas Celebrate Milestones This Season

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No less than nine Heartland ski areas are celebrating significant milestones this year. All have been in business at least 60 years and one started 85 years ago, according to the National Ski Areas Association.

 

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Bring The Kids And Save Some Bucks This Season

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A burgeoning trend in the ski and snowboard industry is for resorts and states all across the country to expand ski-free programs for youngsters and teens in hopes they stick with the sport -- and also save families a bit on ski vacations.

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Brundage Mountain Maps Out 10 Years of Resort Upgrades

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Brundage Mountain Resort is excited to share early details of a cohesive new plan for future improvements at the independently owned McCall, Idaho ski resort.

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Summer Winds Down With Traditional Oktoberfest, Brew Fest Events

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At many ski and snowboard resorts, October comes in September -- in the form of the lederhosen, dirndl, clogs, knee socks, and, of course, beer.

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11 Idaho Resorts Offer Mountain Biking

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It’s summer, but that doesn’t mean heading to the ski hill is out of the question. Eleven of Idaho’s ski areas offer lift-served mountain biking and North Idaho’s resorts offer plenty of options.

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Soldier Mountain Bike Park Rises From The Ashes

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Soldier Mountain opened its new mountain bike park this past Friday, after a raging wildfire last summer prevented the park’s 2020 grand opening. 

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Idaho's Schweitzer Joins IKON Pass For 2021-22 Season

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Beginning with the 2021/22 ski season, Schweitzer will become a partner on the Ikon Pass, joining 44 other iconic destinations including Crystal Mountain, RED Mountain, Snowbird, Alta, Revelstoke, Big Sky, and Mt. Bachelor among others. Schweitzer is proud to be the first Idaho destination to join the Ikon Pass community.

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Locals' Hills In Northern Rockies Plan Upgrades For Next Season

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After closing for this season, a group of smaller ski and snowboard hills along the northern tier of the U.S. Rockies will work toward making improvements that range from new lifts to base area upgrades to snowmaking.

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SnoCast: March Goes Out Like a Lamb

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March came in like a lamb, and so it seems will go out the same way. A few shots of snow, plus mild temperatures will have you looking forward to soft and spring-like turns into April. Here’s what’s on tap in this week’s SnoCast.  

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SnoCast: Feet Of New Snow Will Close Out February

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A month in which several feet of snow hit several locations of the U.S. and Canada will finish with another burst of 30”+ of fresh powder.

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Tamarack Expansion Plans Emerge From Long Journey

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What various ownerships over the last three decades envisioned may finally see the light of day as Tamarack Resort has filed plans with the Forest Service to reinvigorate the Idaho ski and snowboard mountain.

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Indy Pass Road Trip: Idaho

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With two Idaho resorts just added to Indy Pass -- Soldier Mountain and Pomerelle -- it makes sense to hit the road for a circumnavigation of the Gem State's off-the-beaten-track, unpretentious mountains that honor the Indy Pass.

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