Lookout Pass Ski Area has begun preliminary work on a $20 million expansion plan submitted to the U.S. Forest Service. The resort's fall season pass sale and ski swap are happening concurrently with launching into preparations for the expansion approval process.

Resort officials submitted the expansion plan to the U.S. Forest Service last spring with the aim of increasing the ski area terrain by four times its current acreage and adding an additional base area within the next two decades. The plan proposes adding eight new chairlifts encompassing two more peaks and 2,000 more acres of terrain. That's a big expansion to bite off, and additions will be made incrementally starting with two new lifts.

Officials have been meeting this fall with different forest user groups-snowmobilers, cross-country skiers, and mountaineers-to show them the plans in preparation to enter the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA0 process next spring. "The expansion was designed to not interfere with other users," CEO Phil Edholm told OnTheSnow.

The expansion will be scheduled in phases with each part approved by the Forest Service. The phase that resort officials and the Forest Service will address first will add two lifts to access 15 runs on Second Peak with one lift on the Montana side and the other on the Idaho side. The new terrain will have 1,500 feet of vertical.

Later parts of the plan will seek to add tubing, cross-country trails, ziplines, a mountain coaster, six more lifts, and a new base lodge on Third Peak on the Montana side. "We knew Lookout Pass was a diamond in the rough," said Edholm. "It has all the right ingredients to be a first class resort. It has consistent snow and sits right on I-90."

Meanwhile, skiers and riders have until Oct. 31 to buy season passes on sale. Adult passes cost $229 while senior, teen, and junior passes cost $139-149. Special rates are available for families, college students, and military personnel.

The annual winter ski swap takes place Nov. 6 at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds. Proceeds provide first aid supplies and equipment the National Ski Patrol volunteers.

More information. Or call 208-744-1301, ext. 14.