Lost Trail Powder Mountain, the family-friendly affordable ski hill south of Darby, has provided downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, tubing and frosty wintertime fun for 80 years.
In 1938, when the highway was completed over Gibbons Pass, the U.S. Forest Service cut and cleared timber for ski slopes.
Initially, a rope tow was installed and cost 50 cents per day per skier.
From 1941 to 1947 skiing was halted after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
A platter pull was added, then another rope tow.
Clare Conroy was the first ski patroller and ski patrol trainer. He encouraged a ski school and established the Lions Club Ski Bus in 1954.
In fact, Lost Trail Ski Patroller Jim Whitlock began skiing the area in 1959 and was helping with the ski bus in 1966 when he was tapped to help with the Ski Patrol because he was a Red Cross First Aid Instructor.
He joined and stayed.
“It’s part of me,” Whitlock said Wednesday. “I’m very devoted to the patrol and the area.”
He no longer patrols the mountain but still skis two or three times a week.
“I’m only 84 so I’ve got a ways to go,” he said. “There are 90-year-olds skiing up there.”
There were eight Lost Trail special use permit holders before William “Bill” Grasser teamed up with a friend to buy Lost Trail Powder Mountain in 1967.
In 1973, Grasser bought out his partner and built a log ski lodge with kitchen, dining area, ski rental shop and indoor plumbing. He installed the first chair lift.
Chair two was added in 1980 and the expansion to Saddle Mountain opened officially in 2002.
Grasser passed away In July of 2015 and his children, Scott and Judy, now manage the ski resort.
Scott Grasser said he has been at Lost Trail Powder Mountain since 1994 and worked into the family business.
“It’s been in our blood,” Scott Grasser said, Tuesday. “We love this time of year. Everyone is up here to have a great time, there are big smiles on people’s faces. Today the sun is out and it’s a beautiful place to be. You’re above the valley floor which can sometimes get socked in and there’s a lot of energy.”
Judy Grasser said she values the customers she views as friends and family.
“We have met lots of terrific people throughout the years and this is truly a ‘Lost Trail Family’ up here,” she said.
Lost Trail brings people from all over. They come from the Salmon Valley in Idaho, Wisdom, the Bitterroot and Missoula to enjoy the five double chairlifts, three rope tows and 50 plus marked trails on 1,800 acres across two mountains.
Maintenance is kept up for customer satisfaction.
“Our flag chair, lift four, we just repowered with all new electronics, all new motor, everything is new and running smooth,” Scott Grasser said. “That chair was built in 2001 and 2002. We are always keeping up with safety programs, trying to keep things more streamlined for the public and keeping the equipment running seamlessly which is what our clients want.”
LTPM has added a new Prinoth Snowcat, which comfortably seats nine people inside its glass cab and a snow grooming machine.
“It helps keep our surface on the snow good,” he said. “Skiers call it corduroy, it keeps everything nice and flat and safe for the public.”
The skiing public has loved the ski hill that fit their budget and way of life. They brought younger generations for lessons, ski team participation and specialty events like the Skiesta and Pond Skim, Ski Patrol Steak Fry, Freeride, Girls on Shred, Demo Days, Special Olympics, racing and new this year, Gourmet Dinners at the Yurt.
A big part of Lost Trail Powder Mountain is the Lost Trail Ski Patrol that has 62 volunteers, all registered with the National Ski Patrol, who provide quality first aid and transportation of injured skiers.
Eric Lilienthal, director of the Lost Trail Ski Patrol, has been part of the organization for 12 years.
“The really cool thing about the ski patrol is that it is predominately a volunteer organization,” Lilienthal said. “So, we have members of the community that come up and participate with everybody and provide first aid resources to whoever comes off the hill that gets injured that’s also from their town or from Salmon to Missoula.”
The ski patrol members learn the latest National Ski Patrol-directed first aid techniques, to provide first responder experience and professionalism.
Lilienthal said teamwork is the main reason to be involved in ski patrol.
“Everybody works together, I enjoy the camaraderie, plus you get to go skiing all the time,” he said. “A really neat thing is that most of our patrol has five-day-a-week jobs and volunteer their weekends. There is a real desire to do it, it’s a commitment. I’m paid, but the majority of the people up here are volunteers.”
Additional volunteers are welcome, just visit the website and complete the application and paper work.
“It does take a while to get on the patrol,” he said. “There is a bunch of education requirements, like first aid, so it takes a little bit. It is a commitment but well worth it.”
The Lost Trail Ski Patrol has annual fundraisers. Their annual Lost Trail Steak Fry is set for Feb. 9.
“The steak fry allows us to buy first aid supplies and training for all the people that participate,” Lilienthal said. “It also contributes to our dues which reduces the cost for everyone.”
He said every ski patrol member participates in making the steak fry dinner which makes it fun.
“I don’t get to grill the steaks, I haven’t been here long enough,” Lilienthan said. “That’s for the guys that have been here 30 to 40 years. I make the salad dressing, everybody has their role.”
Other Ski Patrol fundraisers include a ski swap, the Lake Como Triathlon and pint nights at local breweries. This year upcoming pint nights, where Lost Trail Ski Patrol will receive 50 cents of every beer sold, are set for Bertram’s Brewery in Salmon on Feb. 6 and Bitter Root Brewing in Hamilton on Feb 7.
Upcoming events for Lost Trail Powder Mountain include a Gourmet Valentine’s Dinner at the Yurt, the Cold Smoke Freeride March 16 and 17 and the Skiesta, April 6.
The Freeride event dates were changed due to safety.
“We are going to give Mother Nature a little more time to produce some snow,” Scott Grasser said. “We want to make sure the snow conditions are just perfect for the athletes that will partake in that event.”