Lost Trail: Great Terrain, Fun for Families & Powder Thursdays

Sitting atop the Continental Divide, on Highway 93 where Montana and Idaho meet is Lost Trail Powder Mountain. The base lodge is located in Montana, but from there you can ski to Chair #2 where the loading area is located in Idaho. With 1800 vertical feet Lost Trail averages over 300 inches of snowfall every year. These still ‘undiscovered’ slopes are awaiting your visit. Bozeman Magazine staff headed there in the middle of December for as they put it at Lost Trail, “Some Condition Testing”. The following is some of what was encountered.

Sixteen inches of new, cream cheese style powder which had piled up over the last three days. You see, Lost Trail has a little secret called “Powder Thursdays.” Since Lost Trail is somewhat out of the way, and focused on the working class ski families surrounding them in Montana and Idaho, they are closed during the begining of each week. Monday through Wednesdays the lifts don’t run. This tradition has a bonus. Almost every Thursday there is some kind of fresh new snow to ski on, hence the term ‘Powder Thursdays.’ This is something most ski areas could not envision as a business plan, let alone afford to do. But at Lost Trail that’s how they roll, and it definately works for them. Check out this must see video with some Powder Thursday footage: www.losttrail.com/news-events/recent-news/

“Old School” Were the first words out of my mouth as we loaded onto Chair#1 in the Base Area. It wasn’t just the chair though. It was the atmosphere at Lost Trail Ski Area. The lodge is a charming old ski lodge with a great fireplace for warming your feet and an awesome ski cafeteria with several local beers on tap and truly affordable food. Family run for over sixty years and operating under a Special Use Permit by the Bitterroot National Forest on both the Bitteroot and Salmon National Forests, Lost Trail has maintained a uniqeuly local (MT/ID) charm which is appealing, but only if you want to feel welcome. Besides some lift expansion, not much seems to have changed here for quite some time. In the parking lot we see several people are camped out in RVs for the weekend we assume, but upon further checking into, the owners of Lost Trail confirm that some of them stay camped there for the season. This is clearly the type of place you go if you want to get away from the rest of the ski world and focus on the nostalgic side of our winter sport, and focus on powder.
The uncrowded Chair#1 took us up to 7800’ which is only a short way above the base area located at 7000’, but it still offered some steep skiing with great cliff shots on Femur Ridge, where everyone can easily see you hucking cliffs from the lodge and parking area. This is a great place to show off, if you would like. However on this morning, due to the powder conditions our group headed north to what the locals call Chair#4, or the Saddle Mountain Lift on the map. I must admit the ride up Chair#4 left something to be desired. It is an 18 minute, slow moving double chair. That’s pretty nostalgic. But it does come with a big payoff. The terrain is extraordinary. There is everything from remarkable tree skiing, to wide open intermediate bowls above the trees, to steep cliffs and chutes in the Double Black Diamond ‘Hollywood Bowl’. A great thing I found while skiing Chair#4 was how the locals seemed happy to show and tell where the good powder stashes were. They are proud of their Powder on Thursdays, and for good reasons. The snow was deep and there was great early season coverage below the new foot plus of powder.

After skiing several runs we traversed back to the Lodge where the fire was started, and warmed up for a while with a Blacksmith Brewing Pale Ale. For a snack everyone loved the chili cheese fries. You get a full plate for $2.50 and then the locals would top the fried, cheesy goodness with complimentary lettuce, tomatos and onions so we did too. It was like a taco salad on crack and not for the six dollars we were accustomed to. The pale ale was local (Stevensville MT), delicious and only $3.00 a pint. We quickly warmed back up and looked over the trail map and confirmed our route to ‘Idaho’ as the locals call it when you ski Chair#2. I must admit I had never skiied in Idaho so now I can say I have. That is pretty unique to cross a state line during the middle of a run.

All said and done, this weekend trip to Lost Trail was a great Montana getaway. There are several lodging options on their website: www.losttrail.com and plan on spending as much on gas to get there as do on skiing and food. Don’t put it off another year, go get some powder one Thursday this winter at Lost Trail.