Turner Mountain Ski Area Prepares for Opening Day

Lincoln County’s small but proud ski area is the best bet for socially distanced powder

By Micah Drew
Ski patrollers prepare to ride the lift at Turner Mountain on Feb. 5, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

As long as Mother Nature cooperates, Lincoln County’s one-chair ski resort is tentatively scheduled to open on Dec. 18.

The mountain needs less than eight inches of snow to open, according to Bruce Zwang, president of the Kootenai Winter Sports Board that operates the nonprofit ski area.

Located 22 miles north of Libby, Turner Mountain has a single double-chair lift and 2,100 feet of vertical. Ski Magazine has declared the mountain “the best lift-assisted powder skiing in the U.S.,” and a crowded day on the mountain boasts a mere 150 people.

The low density makes Turner an ideal setting for safe skiing during a pandemic.

“We’re positioned pretty well because we don’t get the big crowds,” Zwang said. “Most of the safety things are going to be pretty doable for us in terms of social distancing and cleaning.”

Like at most resorts, skiers and snowboarders will be required to wear face coverings in the lift lines, as well as in all buildings. The mountain has created a heated outdoor dining area and a takeout window at the lodge to make up for the limited indoor seating in order to follow the state’s COVID-19 health directives.

Over the summer, operations were completed to improve the snow experience this season, including a number of excavating projects to improve the mid-mountain area, as well as the runout from the Far North Run. Zwang also pointed to a sizable logging operation that removed a section of trees between the lift and Chan’s run that will significantly open up the groomed run.

“We don’t really know what to expect,” Zwang said. “But we’re just looking for good skiing this year.”

After opening, Turner Mountain will run daily until New Year’s Day, except for Christmas. Starting on Jan. 2, the mountain will return to its usual Friday to Sunday schedule.

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