120315-mis-out-ski-roundup

Skiers negotiate a run at Lookout Pass Ski Area in 2014. The ski area, located at the top of Lookout Pass on Interstate 90, typically gets more than 300 inches of snowfall yearly.

TOM BAUER, Missoulian

MISSOULA — Expansion plans for Lookout Pass Ski Area have reached their final environmental review, according to officials at the Lolo and Idaho Panhandle national forests.

The project envisions two new chairlifts on Eagle Peak, immediately to the west of the existing ski area. That would open up about 700 acres for 14 new runs plus some glade areas with a 1,400-foot vertical drop. The ski area straddles the Montana-Idaho border, with one new lift line installed in each state.

The project was first proposed in 2009. After a draft EIS was released in March, the two national forests received 55 public comments pointing out errors or omissions, according to Idaho Panhandle Supervisor Mary Farnsworth. The final EIS was published on Dec. 13.

One challenge for the project was working around a section of the historic Mullan Road, which runs along St. Regis Pass in the expansion area. The Mullan Road was the first engineered passage through the northern Rocky Mountains, built by John Mullan’s military detachment between 1859 and 1862. Part of a new ski run may cross the roadway twice.

The project also involves new parking, access roads and guest services. Construction should begin after the end of ski season 2017.

The completed environmental impact statement and record of decision is available here: fs.usda.gov/project/?project=43757

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