Lookout Pass is a historic ski area straddling the Idaho-Montana border home to a handful of creaky chairlifts and a whole lot of snow. Though relatively small, the area offers three faces of skiing and a mix of gentle first-timers' runs, wide open cruisers, and fun tree and steep shots. Mostly what you'll notice, however, is the snow -- by the time you exit Interstate 90 (that's right -- the ski area is just yards from the freeway) the snow will likely be piled higher than your car's windows, and a lot of that snow hangs around long into the spring and summer. Base depths -- not cumulative snow, but how much snow is actually on the ground -- regularly exceed 10 feet. The ski area has a fun and cheap cafeteria and offers great packages for beginners. It also sells one-ride tickets for trips into the backcountry. This is another ski area with big expansion plans which are in the process of approval -- the new skiing would be largely on the Montana side of the mountain and dramatically expand the terrain. If you are coming up from Montana, note that the area operates on Pacific time -- one hour later that Mountain time.
What’s this? A bike trail through the mountains that is all down hill, with tunnels and rickety bridges and a magical bus at the end to take you home? It sounds too good to be true, but it’s actually very real and indeed is fun as it sounds. The Route of the Hiawatha is a converted rails-to-trails path that starts in Montana, goes through a pitch-black tunnel, and pops out in Idaho, only to run through a series of tunnels and wooden trestles on its gentle downhill path. Along the way are rest areas and interpretive signs, most of which are about the train that used the trail and which once ran across the nation. The trail is open from May through September and requires a ticket. Tickets, bike rentals, and a shuttle ticket can all be had in the lodge at Lookout Pass Ski Area, just off Interstate 90 on the Montana-Idaho line – plan on $19 for a weekend ticket and shuttle. And if you don’t have your own headlamp or bike light, you can rent those too – an absolute necessity, as the longest tunnel, the Taft, stretches 1.6 miles and is completely dark (and cool).