Cottonwood Butte

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Cottonwood Butte
Cottonwood Butte is located in the US
Cottonwood Butte
Cottonwood Butte
Location in the U.S.
Location Idaho County, Idaho
 United States
Nearest city Cottonwood: 6 mi (10 km)
Coordinates 46°04′32″N 116°27′10″W / 46.0755°N 116.4528°W / 46.0755; -116.4528 (Cottonwood Butte)Coordinates: 46°04′32″N 116°27′10″W / 46.0755°N 116.4528°W / 46.0755; -116.4528 (Cottonwood Butte)
Vertical    845 ft (258 m)
Top elevation 5,730 ft (1,747 m)
5,566 ft (1,697 m) - lift
Base elevation 4,721 ft (1,439 m)
Skiable area 260 acres (1.1 km2)
Runs 7
Longest run 0.7 mi (1.1 km)
Lift system 1 T-bar
1 rope tow
Snowfall 45 in (110 cm)
Snowmaking no
Night skiing Fridays in January

Cottonwood Butte is a mountain and modest ski area in the western United States, located in north central Idaho, west of nearby Cottonwood. Its summit elevation is 5,730 feet (1,747 m) above sea level and is the highest point on the Camas Prairie, 2,100 feet (640 m) above Cottonwood.

Ski area[edit]

The ski lift unloads about 160 feet (50 m) below the summit at 5,566 feet (1,697 m), yielding a vertical drop of 845 feet (258 m). The slopes are on the northeast flank of the mountain, served by two surface lifts: a T-bar and a rope tow. The average snowfall is 45 inches (110 cm).

The ski area was established in 1967,[1][2] although skiing had previously taken place on the mountain with portable ski tows.[3]

The area operates from 10 am to 4 pm on weekends and holidays, and Friday nights (6-10 pm) in January.

Radar station[edit]

During the Cold War, the mountain was the site of Cottonwood Air Force Station, an early warning radar installation of the U.S. Air Force. The project was made public in 1955,[4][5] construction began in 1956[6] and it went operational in early 1959.[7] The radar tower was at the summit and the cantonment of the station was at 4,400 feet (1,340 m), about a mile (1.6 km) below the present base of the ski area on Radar Road. The 27-unit family housing area was built in the city of Cottonwood, on Butte Drive in the north end.[8] The radar was significantly upgraded with a new tower in 1962,[9] but the station was obsolete within three years and was deactivated.[10] The buildings of Cottonwood AFS became a Job Corps center in 1965, supervised by the U.S. Forest Service.[11]

Correctional facility[edit]

After nine years, the Job Corps center was transferred to the state of Idaho in 1974, and was converted to the minimum-security North Idaho Correctional Institution (NICI).[12][13]

The state department of lands built a fire lookout at the summit, which also supports various communications towers.[14]


  1. ^ "New ski area will include Empire's two longest runs". Lewiston Morning Tribune. November 22, 1967. p. 9. 
  2. ^ Huntington, Rebecca (January 30, 1997). "Big fun on the small hills". Lewiston Morning Tribune. p. 1C. 
  3. ^ "Cottonwood ski area to get portable tow". Lewiston Morning Tribune. December 10, 1957. p. 8. 
  4. ^ "Air Force to construct station near Lewiston". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Associated Press. June 11, 1955. p. 5. 
  5. ^ "Another radar layout slated". Spokesman-Review. September 27, 1955. p. 1. 
  6. ^ "Radar facility job begun at Geiger and Mica Peak". Spokane Daily Chronicle. January 27, 1956. p. b3. 
  7. ^ "Cottonwood radar unit is readied". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. November 30, 1958. p. 18. 
  8. ^ "October arrival planned for Cottonwood airmen". Spokesman-Review. July 11, 1957. p. 6. 
  9. ^ Moore, Clarence (March 25, 1962). "Cottonwood Butte monster to be clad in a cocoon". Lewiston Morning Tribune. p. 3, section 2. 
  10. ^ Lamoreux, Steve (May 17, 1965). "Memory of Cottonwood Butte will go with major to Thailand". Lewiston Morning Tribune. p. 8. 
  11. ^ "Job center approved". Spokesman-Review. March 11, 1965. p. 6. 
  12. ^ Roche, Kevin (November 15, 1974). "State signs lease on Job Corps site". Lewiston Morning Tribune. p. 16A. 
  13. ^ "North Idaho Correctional Institution". Idaho Department of Corrections. Retrieved November 21, 2011. 
  14. ^ Hedberg, Kathy (August 10, 1995). "Anyone for the road?". Lewiston Morning Tribune. p. 5A. 

External links[edit]