What’s Coming For Montana’s Local Ski Areas

Lookout+Pass+Ski+Area+on+their+sunny+first+opening+weekend+of+the+year.+Photo+courtesy+of+Ila+Bell

Lookout Pass Ski Area on their sunny first opening weekend of the year. Photo courtesy of Ila Bell

Ila Bell, Reporter

As winter makes its way into the Northwest, anticipation for ski season and winter sports grows with a snowier year than usual and lots of new runs to look forward to. Some of Montana’s favorite ski hills are beginning to start their seasons and open the lifts as Missoula valley and surrounding areas get inches of snowfall. 

Discovery Ski Resort, just outside of Phillipsburg, has started their season with opening weekends and holidays only.

Along with Discovery, Lost Trail, Lookout Pass, the Great Divide, and Snowbowl are all open as well. A Missoula favorite, Snowbowl, had their opening weekend on Dec. 9, bringing in crowds to ski the first day. 

Snowbowl is adding a new triple chair lift to their area. The new chair will span from the bottom of the area and connect to the top of the snow park chair at the top of TV mountain. Snowbowl has conducted the load test that determines the safety of the chair and allows them to move forward, and the new chair will be open to the public in the near future.

Once Snowbowl’s new chair opens, the area will be expanded to a new part of the mountain that had little access before. The Snowpark chair will likely be more accessible and useful once the new chair connects to the top of the same area. 

Lookout Pass Ski Area is also adding two new lifts to their mountain. The new hill, “Eagle Peak” is expanding the area by 500 acres and 16 new runs. The new lifts are located behind the current areas towards the Idaho side of the mountain. With the load test already passed, the new chair has already had its opening day and is running. Matt Sawyer, director of marketing at Lookout Pass, said the opening day was very successful for how early the season started (Nov. 11). Even through light cover, Sawyer said, “After the first two weekends we got hammered with a 46” blizzard.” 

Lookout Pass’ Eagle Peak Area had its opening day on Dec. 17, allowing guests to enter the new area. “This is huge being 100% open prior to the start of the Christmas holiday period which for us runs Dec. 19th thru Jan. 2nd,” said Sawyer. This new expansion grows Lookout Pass by double and Sawyer said, “It’s a game changer for us.”

Lookout Pass is giving skiers access to deals throughout the early season to get skiers out on the mountain. One of them being a promotion that allows guests to get a $35 dollar ticket Monday through Thursday if they have a ski pass to an area anywhere in the country. 

Lost Trail has already begun their season as one of the first hills to typically get snow. While they are not open during the week, they open Thursday and Friday and throughout the weekend. 

This ski season is projected to be a big one in the Northwest with large snowfall. There is a 80% chance of La Nina hitting the Northern Hemisphere this winter according to NOAA, which consequently, will be bringing more harsh conditions but also more snow in the mountains. All of Montana’s big mountains are gearing up for this season after a late winter last year. With many new lifts and areas opening, Montana skiers have a lot to look forward to for the upcoming season.