Western Snow Sports: Idaho Ski Areas

Making Tracks in Idaho

By Peter Schroeder

Sun Valley’s Gretchen Fraser was the first American to win an Olympic gold medal in skiing when she took home both gold (slalom) and silver (combined) medals at the 1948 Winter Games at St. Moritz, Switzerland.

Since then, Idaho has produced 37 more winter-sports Olympians and numerous world-class skiers and boarders, including nine who competed at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. The large majority of these athletes continue to live in Idaho, mostly around Sun Valley.

So why does Idaho turn out and retain so many great skiers? Credit it to geography.

Unlike Montana, Utah, Colorado, or any other state where mountains cover about half the state, Idaho’s peaks stretch the full length and width of its borders.

With more than 80 ranges, Idaho is the craggiest state in the lower 48. The state’s 17 ski areas therefore offer easy access to all residents, virtually all of whom grow up skiing or boarding. That’s why locals like to claim that Idaho is the “Soul of Skiing.”

Bogus Basin has replaced the Superior double lift with a new $5 million high-speed detachable quad capable of moving twice as many people twice as fast on this section of the mountain.

After new owners acquired Brundage three years ago, an aggressive build-out began with plans to create an entire new village. During this time, the ski area has added two new lifts, a mid-mountain dining yurt and four runs on 160 acres of new terrain. This season Brundage is remodeling the second floor of its main lodge to add 50 percent more seating in Smoky’s Pub and is launching a new menu. Grooming on the slopes will be further improved with the addition of two new snow cats.

Last summer the U.S. Forest Service accepted the first phase of a long-range plan to expand Lookout Pass, which straddles the northern Idaho/Montana. Encompassing 2,000 acres, the new terrain will include two additional peaks southwest of the existing ski area.

In addition, Lookout plans to build a new 20,000-square-foot base lodge on what is currently the back side of the ski area and install two additional double chairs. With the only program of its kind in the country, the ski school offers free lessons to kids age 6 –17 throughout the season.

Last summer, crews at Schweitzer Mountain Resort gladed areas of thick trees, increasing the acreage for tree skiing in the Terrain Garden and expanded Starfish Park and the Stomping Grounds Terrain Park.

Selkirk Powder Company offers cat-skiing adventures on the backside of Schweitzer Mountain. Hermit’s Hollow Tubing Center, open on weekends, lets kids teach adults how to be kids again. Schweitzer has 32 kilometers of cross-country trails groomed for skating and/or classic skiing along with a network of trails for those who prefer snowshoeing. Stella is Idaho’s only high-speed 6-passenger chairlift.

Top: Skiers enjoy the downhill zigs and zags at Lookout Pass. Photo courtesy of Lookout Pass. Above: Downhill pow at Silver Mountain. Photo courtesy of Silver Mountain

Silver Mountain’s base village, located directly off I-90, connects to the mountain with a 20-minute ride on the longest gondola in North America. Check out Chair 3, where new terrain has been cleared for glade skiing. After you’ve had your fill of riding and sliding on the mountain, check out the tubing park. Alternatively, you can continue to perfect your surfing and sliding techniques down in the village at the Silver Rapids Indoor Waterpark.

Perfect Pitch! That’s how Sun Valley describes its consistent 3,400-foot vertical drop from its 9,150 foot peak down to the 5,750 foot base. No flats, no plateaus — all downhill on a variety of slopes.

When the Roundhouse Gondola was added last season in celebration of Sun Valley’s 75th anniversary, the resort finally added the one high-end amenity it had been missing. Visitors can now ride in enclosed comfort from the River Run base 2,000 vertical feet up the flanks of Bald Mountain to the newly renovated, mid-mountain Roundhouse Restaurant in just eight minutes.

New this season is the third terrain park on Dollar Mountain. The Super-Pipe on Bald’s Warm Springs side is also getting a makeover.

Idaho Resorts

Ski Idaho – www.skiidaho.us

Idaho Tourism – www.visitidaho.org/winter

InIdaho.com – www.inidaho.com

Bogus Basin – www.bogusbasin.com

Brundage – www.brundage.com

Grand Targhee – www.grandtarghee.com

Kelly Canyon – www.skikelly.com

Lookout Pass – www.skilookout.com

Pebble Creek – www.pebblecreekskiarea.com

Pomerelle – www.pomerelle-mtn.com

Schweitzer – www.schweitzer.com

Silver Mountain – www.silvermt.com

Soldier Mountain – www.soldiermountain.com

Sun Valley – www.sunvalley.com

Check out the winter resorts in these other western states/provinces:

>> Washington Resorts

>> Oregon Resorts

>> Montana Resorts

>> British Columbia Resorts

>> Alberta Resorts

>> The Rest of the West’s Best

>> Click here to see our Winter Lodging Directory