Overview of Lookout Pass, Idaho
Written by Greg and Heather Burke
Lookout Pass is a relaxed ski mountain that gets a load of snow in northern Idaho, on the Montana border. Just 90 minutes from Spokane or Missoula - equidistance both ways on I-90, Lookout Pass has a high base elevation in a snowy mountain pass at 4,500'. Lookout is just 22 miles to Silver Mountain skiing in Kellogg Idaho. Lookout Pass's distinction of skiing in two states Idaho and Montana adds to the fun. Lookout Pass proclaims more snow other Idaho ski resort, 400", and we concur, so does the US Forest Service and NOAA. We found Lookout's snow to be softer and fluffier (in a side by side Idaho ski snow taste test).
Lookout is a special spot – no slopeside lodging, so you park real close to the lifts and $40 tickets are a real deal. The liftees and locals at Lookout are so friendly, they might be calling you by name by midday if you make enough runs to earn their recognition. Lookout is humble, has been since 1936 – which is old for a western ski area – Sun Valley vintage. Idaho Ski Club started Lookout with a rope tow powered by an abandoned car’s engine found on the old Yellowstone Highway, now I-90. The Idaho Ski Club sold the ski area in 1992 to a local group to become Lookout Pass Ski Area. Today, classic center-pole Riblet double chair lifts climb methodically up the three sided mountain, spreading out the few skiers and contributing to the mellow mountain vibe here.
Lookout’s Front face is the Idaho side – with beautifully groomed trails like Gold, Silver, and Copper, a centerpiece Borderline Terrain Park and some playful glades. Skiing off Lookout’s back side you are on the Montana side skiing long well-pitched runs like Keystone and Cloud 9. You don’t need to change your watch from Pacific to Mountain time as you cross state lines. Lookout’s Northside, back in Idaho, added in 2007, offers expert terrain with well protected natural snow on steeper runs like Purgatory and Hercules and beautiful views down toward the Coeur d’Alene River Valley.
Lookout is rustic but really fun - reminding me of Homewood at Lake Tahoe, Grand Targhee in Wyoming and Saddleback in Maine. Lookout’s 1941 base lodge is homey too, the 2nd oldest lodge in the Pacific Northwest built by the CCC, following Timberline Lodge in Oregon. Have a local brew in the upstairs Loft Pub, surrounded by ski memorabilia and lore, and a view of Lookout’s slopes.
Lookout Pass has big plans, having received 2011 U.S. Forest Service approval for a long-range plan to expand 2,000 acres on two 6,200’ peaks with two double chairs and 1,400’ vertical at Eagle Peak that straddles the Idaho/Montana border.
We recommend a day skiing Lookout Pass, as well as Silver Mountain and Schweitzer in Idaho plus Whitefish Montana on a Pacific Northwest Idaho Montana ski trip.