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Slow winter start delaying opening of area ski resorts

Schweitzer Mountain opened Friday, the only area resort to do so after a slow start to winter.

And even Schweitzer had to use human-made snow to jump-start the season.

“Let’s just hope for more natural snow soon so we can add more lifts and terrain to the mix,” spokeswoman Dig Chrismer said in an email.

As of now, Midway to Basin Express will be open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily.

Still, there is plenty for skiers and boarders alike to look forward to this winter, once the snow comes.

Schweitzer has opened two new lifts and cleared additional terrain in the Outback, Chrismer said.

Farther east, Lookout Pass replaced Chair 1 with a new and faster quad lift, director of marketing Matthew Sawyer said. The lift has been installed and is ready to go.

When the resort opens is, obviously, snow dependent. As of Tuesday, it had 3 inches on the summit and about 1 inch at the base.

“We are ready and just waiting for Old Man Winter to deliver the white stuff in bulk,” Sawyer said.

The resort on the Idaho-Montana border has already received more than 36 inches of snow, but most of that melted.

The Silver Valley’s eponymous Silver Mountain also doesn’t have a set opening day, marketing director Gus Colburn said. The resort is offering scenic rides on its gondola and lifts and hopes to open its sledding hill soon.

Once the snow does fly, skiers and boarders will see some changes. The resort has gladed the trees between the runs Moonshine and Bootlegger, cleared out more of the Northwest Glades and gladed lower Pay Master.

“So, the tree skiing will get even better,” he said.

The resort has also opened a new retail shop located at the base of the gondola. The Silver Mountain Sports Shop sells skis, goggles, jackets and more. Guests can try on boots down low to get the proper sizing before renting them up top, he said.

“It should make the (rental) process in the morning way easier,” he said.

Closer to Spokane, Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park finished up clearing new runs on the mountain’s north side, said Brad McQuarrie, the resort’s general manager. There are now six new runs on the north side of the mountain. Last year most people only skied on two of them, he said.

“We are excited about that,” he said.

The new learning center is also complete and there is WIFI throughout the mountain, he said. They’re also offering night tubing on Friday and Saturdays.

Most exciting, especially for younger skiers and boarders, is the resumption of a bus service. Starting Dec. 28, there will be round-trip bus service from either the Yokes-Argonne Village at 7 a.m. or the Yokes-Mead at 7:30 a.m. Buses will arrive at the ski hill around 8:30 a.m. and depart back to Spokane at 3:50 p.m. Rides cost $20 plus tax. Tickets must be purchased online.

49 Degrees North, which is owned by an affiliate company of Silver Mountain, has not opened yet. According to a voicemail recording, the mountain is working to make snow.

Meanwhile, some backcountry skiers have found turns already in the Idaho Selkirks and farther, Landon Crecelius reports. Crecelius runs backcountryskifriends.com, a website dedicated to all things backcountry skiing in the area.

“A couple of groups have been up above Priest Lake skiing Mt. Roothann, and then I’ve seen another few trip reports from folks skiing Kootenay Pass and Whitewater backcountry,” he said in an email.

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