All Systems Go for Mt. Spokane’s Backside Expansion

Mt. Spokane will debut 279 acres of new terrain and a new lift next winter.  The top bullwheel will spin above this spot in a few short months.

Four American ski resorts will launch major terrain expansions next winter and I got to check out one of them this weekend in Washington State.  New west facing trails at Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park will be serviced by a new Skytrac triple chair topping out at 5,850′.  The nonprofit that runs the resort initially planned to use Bridger Bowl’s retired Alpine lift but wisely axed that plan last winter and solicited bids for a brand new machine.  At this area once owned by Riblet Tramway Company itself, the last new lift was a double chair that opened back in 1977.  Mt. Spokane’s Chair 1 dates even further to 1956, making it the oldest operating chairlift in the country.  With five Riblet doubles still spinning, a modern galvanized triple is sure to stand out along with the new runs.

A growing demand for skiing has led to many new lifts at competing resorts in the Selkirk Mountains during the 14 years it took for Mt. Spokane’s expansion to be approved.  In the nearby Idaho panhandle, Schweitzer Mountain Resort plans to build two new lifts on its backside next summer, Lookout Pass is eyeing another two and so is 49 Degrees North in northeast Washington.  Just across the Canadian border, Spokane favorite Red Mountain hopes to complete the Topping Creek T-Bar this fall.

The upper portion of the expansion seen from US 395.

Back at Mt. Spokane, Skytrac has arrived and lift work will begin in earnest August 1st.  That is one year to the day since the Washington State Supreme Court upheld approval of the expansion in a 5-2 vote.  Crews commenced cutting the four new trails the very next day and the northernmost one is now ready for its new lift.  Many rebar cages for towers are already on the hill and all 17 steel towers have arrived from Salt Lake.  Chair 6 will be the largest new Skytrac this year in a roster that also includes lifts in California, Utah, North Dakota and Labrador, Canada.

The $4.1 million backside project is being financed through a $1.7 million loan from Washington Trust Bank.  The resort may receive an additional loan from the United States Department of Agriculture and will raise the rest through private donations and operating revenues.  The 279 new acres will open as soon as snow permits and I have a feeling Chair 6 may not be the last Skytrac at Mt. Spokane.


9 thoughts on “All Systems Go for Mt. Spokane’s Backside Expansion

  1. Ryan July 17, 2018 / 12:54 am

    I thought the Single chair at Mad River Glenn was the oldest operating Lift in the country?


    • Doppelmayr FTW July 17, 2018 / 7:01 am

      I think it means oldest without major refurbishment. The oldest lift in the world techinically still operates, but almost all of it has been upgraded in some way.


    • Vintage Chairlifts January 8, 2020 / 1:39 pm

      I’m pretty sure the Mt. Eyak chairlift in Alaska is the oldest in North America. Their website says it was built in 1939.


      • powderforever45 January 8, 2020 / 8:03 pm

        That lift was relocated though. So it still is old but it is not in its original operating location.


  2. Carson July 17, 2018 / 12:58 pm

    So did they scrap the riblet they were going to put up


    • V3 July 17, 2018 / 1:28 pm

      Some of it is most likely going to be scrapped ,but they are using much of the old lift to maintain their other Riblet lifts.


  3. Aiden Green December 10, 2018 / 7:24 am

    I’m so excited! Me and my friends will have a new place to do some adventures. Spokane you are the best.


  4. dhowe January 30, 2019 / 2:06 pm

    I skied this lift a couple of weeks ago. The new terrain pod has potential but it’s not ready for prime time. I observed thick branches and stumps sticking out of the snow in the middle of the runs yet they had enough snow. They’ll need to double down on the brush clearance next summer. It was not a safe situation.


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