Teaching Our Toddler to Ski at Lookout Pass

If you know my daughter, you know that she’s a firecracker (or perhaps more like a stick of dynamite). She knows what she likes, has no problem voicing her opinion, and she can smell weakness in full-grown men. She’ll even point to the finger that she has her daddy wrapped around (not even kidding). And on the other side of the coin, she’s incredibly smart, quick-learning, and super adventurous – traits that remind me of her mother, which is partially why I love them both so much.

And that’s what gave me the idea to teach our darling daughter to ski at the wee age of three. Would she mount a full-fledged meltdown on the chairlift loud enough to make bystanders think we kidnapped our own daughter? Possibly. Would the powdery snow fill up her britches if she wiped out? Most likely. Is there a chance this could be the beginning of a lifelong passion for skiing? Absolutely.

I had my sight set on Lookout Pass. Straddling the Idaho/Montana border just east of Mullan, this family-friendly ski and recreation area is home to 52 trails, a 1,650 ft. vertical drop, and 1,023 skiable acres. A huge chunk of this acreage (approx. 500) was recently added with the addition of the all-new expansion to Eagle Peak. Lookout Pass is also known for their abundance of light, fluffy powder they receive each year (400” annually). If you’re a numbers person, you can learn more about their stats here. I’m that guy who retook Math 108 in college, so numbers are my kryptonite… I’ll stick to words; they’re my metaphorical safe place.

To get our daughter pumped for the slopes, we watched YouTube videos of toddlers tearing it up. It only took a video or two for her to get amped about the idea. And she especially liked watching “That Mountain Life,” a YouTube channel with a father and daughter who ski regularly. She loved watching a kid her size carving through the trees, and I took a few notes on how the father helped her daughter on the slopes. It was also nice to watch something other than Gabby’s Dollhouse for 10 minutes.

Fast-forward two months later, and we’re sitting in the cabin-like rental shop at Lookout Pass. The super friendly staff asked that we fill out a waiver (which I handed to Trisha because she’s the more responsible adult), then came the process of sizing her boots and skis. A nice young lad paired Mya up with the cutest skis known to mankind; they were so tiny! They also helped her find appropriately-sized boots and a helmet.

The well-equipped Rental Shop offers skis, snowboards, boot, helmet, and pole rentals. They’re also chock-full of “demo” skis and boards for those looking to ride the latest models before buying their own. Side note – retro single-nosed snowboards are making a strong comeback! (They’ll pair well with a neon onesie.) If you’re interested in their reasonable rental rates, check ’em out here.

And, most importantly, we purchased an “Edgie Wedgie” from the well-stocked Rental Shop, a rubber bungee that attaches to the tip of each ski so the noses stay together. This is very important as you’ll soon find out!

With our gear in-hand, we donned our snow gear and suited up our little minion. Mya wore multiple layers, mini mittens, and an old pair of goggles that wrapped around the rented helmet. She looked like a human Build-A-Bear – completely stuffed and well-insulated. Reminiscent of the kid in A Christmas Story, I thought she’d have trouble moving her arms and legs. But alas, she could efficiently waddle from the base lodge to the bottom of the bunny hill chairlift, which is located on the frontside of Lookout.

Because Mya’s so young, the wifey and I chose to teach her how to ski ourselves. Lookout Pass, however, offers robust and affordable ski and snowboard lessons through their lessons program. They’re well-known for their “Learn to Ski or Ride in 3 Days” deal, which includes three lift tickets, three equipment rentals, and three instructor-led lessons. I’ve never received lessons from Lookout, but I noticed how patient and attentive their staff was to those they taught. If you’ve ever tried picking up skiing or snowboarding, you’ll know how frustrating (and painful) it can be, so it makes all the difference having a trained instructor who keeps the good vibes going while providing solid advice to newcomers.

Pro Tip: Lookout Pass suggests reaching out to reserve ski lesson spots in advance!

So, as snow fell quietly around us, the time came to board the bunny hill’s triple chairlift. Trisha was on skis (she ditched her poles to keep her hands free for Mya), and I was strapped to a snowboard. I realized almost instantly that being on a snowboard would make it harder to help Mya on skis. It was tough to push through the line with one leg while holding Mya’s mittened hand. We scooted up to the slow-moving chairlift and boarded with no issue. Our little daughter thought she was pretty cool stuff being on a big-kid chairlift.

We invested in a lightly-used training harness (complements of Shop ‘n’ Swap), which was strapped around Mya’s torso with Trisha holding the reins – handles? I don’t mean to make my daughter sound like a reindeer… The harness was also equipped with a handle on the back, which proved to be helpful on the first few runs. It gave Trisha the ability to ski side-by-side Mya, while holding her upright. This helped our little minion get a feel for riding on skis.

After she became more comfortable with this, our adventurous spider monkey agreed to head to the summit of Lookout Pass. What a little boss!

We loaded onto the frontside triple chair with no issue and took the opportunity to do some high-sky selfies on the way up. As I took photos with my girls, I was overjoyed and proud to be part of a family that tried new things together. It’s my secret goal to get my kids into skiing so it’s something we can do during the long, cold winter months in North Idaho.

The whole getting-off-the-chairlift can be a tad sketchy, but the helpful lift operators gladly slow down the chair as long as you give them a thumbs-down before you reach the unloading area. But Mya dismounted the chairlift like a champ with the help of her momma. We then spent the next 45 minutes(ish) going down their beginner run. Trisha continued to ride side-by-side with Mya during the steeper parts, but Mya cruised ahead with Trisha holding the leads on the CAT track. At one point, I heard Mya say, “I’m doing it!” And that just melted my heart.

We noticed that Mya had a tendency of leaning back, so we’d remind her to stand upright and bend her knees a bit. But, for the most part, she caught on wicked fast and got comfortable cruising straight on skis. I’m almost positive that I had more tantrums when I learned to ski and I was like 7. I’m not proud of it. Mya had a couple mini falls, but the new snow was forgiving and she popped right back up. And the Edgie Wedgie kept her ski tips together, so she only needed to pull her heels apart to the “pizza” position to slow herself down or bring her heels together into the “French fry” position if she had the need for speed!

After we made it down the longest run of my life (in terms of time, not distance), we shared a basket of fresh fries in the base lodge.

Built in 1941, this historic building is the second-oldest ski lodge in the northwest. Numerous sets of wooden skis with metal bindings and faded black and white photos hang from its cedar walls, reminding patrons of its long, rich history.

And, although ticket rates have gone up from the .50 cents they were in the 1950s, Lookout still offers reasonable rates to day passers and season pass holders. We were graciously given complementary day passes to review Lookout Pass, but I noticed how affordable the rates were at the ticket office. It’s nice not to have to re-mortgage your house to ski. On the contrary, they’ve found a way to make skiing and snowboarding feasible for a family of four (or more).

So, after warming up in the cozy cabin-like lodge, we asked our girl if she’d like to go back out and ski more. She promptly said, “No, I’m good.” We chuckled and decided to call it a day and end on a high note instead of braving the elements and pushing our luck. Plus, it was nap time. Nobody messes with nap time.

As with all of my destination and product reviews, I’d like to tally up our overall experience of Lookout Pass. Let’s see how they stack up!

Staff – 9/10

Beverage/Food – 8/10

Facilities – 7/10

Rental Process – 9/10

Affordability – 9/10

Skiable Terrain – 8/10

Family Friendly – 10/10

Total 8.5/10

I can confidently say that we’ll be back, and there’s a good chance that both our kids will learn how to ski here. And Trisha and I definitely want to make a solo trip up to explore the new Eagle Peak area. I’d bet my kids future allowance that that new area has some nice deep pockets of powder within nestled between the pines…

I’d like to give a special thanks to Matt Sawyer, Lookout’s director of marketing, for giving us a chance to come up and make some memories as a family while reviewing their ski area.

Have you taught a toddler to ski or snowboard?! Let us know if you have any tips or tricks in the comments below. Also be sure to subscribe to our blog so you receive the latest blog posts at the bottom of this page. And, if you’re interested in sporting some MTN Talk schwag, feel free to visit our Etsy Shop here. Thanks so much for reading!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s