Early season snow means Lookout Pass could have their lifts running as early as November 9th. Typically, Montana ski areas aim to open on Thanksgiving weekend. Eight to 12 inches of snow currently sits on the trails at the ski area straddling the Montana-Idaho state line. In order to operate safely, the base snowpack needs to be 14 to 20 inches thick.

Lookout Pass maintenance crews were busy preparing the slopes for what could be one of their earliest opening dates. Snowcats trundled up and down the runs, packing down the snow and smoothing out any moguls. Packing down the powder is important. If it's not, much of the snow can melt away during the afternoons when the temperature rises above freezing. The packed powder freezes overnight and becomes a solid sheet; creating a solid base for each run. Without a solid base riders can sink through the powder all the way to the rock and dirt below.

A solid base is already on the mountain after several days of snow. More snow is in the forecast for Thursday and Friday. Lookout Pass marketing director Christopher Barrett is hoping for another foot or so. If they can receive that much snow before Saturday, he speculates they will officially open for business two weeks ahead of their target date.