Growing up in the Midwest, we would drive three hours one way to get to a ribbon of snow. While the runs only lasted maybe a minute, it was exhilarating. Connecting turns on the icy slopes made my heart leap for joy. In between those short runs, a slow brutally cold chairlift awaited. On it, we’d joke around and talk about trivial things like a math test or some girl we liked. Over the years, my skiing friends began to fade away from the sport. But, a few of us caught the “bug” of chasing storms. Traveling far and wide, we searched for the perfect snow and larger mountains to ride. It wasn’t until I stepped onto the slopes at Kelly Canyon Ski Area that I realized I had lost something along the way. I’d lost the purist love of turning no matter what the conditions.
Largest Night Skiing In Idaho
After a few days at Pebble Creek, we pointed our truck towards Idaho Falls and Kelly Canyon resort. Just like the rest of our Idaho trip, we made sure to arrive with an open mind and empty stomach. The plan? To explore Idaho Falls the next day and then head up to the resort in the evening. Why? Because Kelly’s hallmark is their night skiing. Nearly two-thirds of its terrain is lit up. The idea of sliding under the lights was invigorating. It had been many years since I got the chance to do it.
Getting “Bit” at Snakebite Restaurant
Pulling into town late after a long day exploring the backcountry at “The Rock”, the lights in the quaint downtown of Idaho Falls twinkled in the darkness. It felt welcoming and a perfect base camp for the next few days. Hopping out of the truck, we meandered our way to the restaurant named Snakebite.
Why Is It Called Snakebite?
This place was definitely on our radar since we started planning the trip. Award-winning and serving local fare, it was right up our alley! As we sat down, we looked over the menu. “How come there’s no snake on the list? Why is the place called that?” Steve, our server, smiled and responded with “It’s a fun play on words. Since we’re located next to the Snake River and you can grab a “bite” to eat, why not combine them?” And Voila! The name Snakebite was born.
What To Eat At Snakebite… Everything
Looking over the choices, we settled on two of the most popular dishes – the Grand Teton Burger and the fish tacos. This place has the BIGGEST selection of local “Wydaho” beers we’d seen anywhere. So, we picked up the funkiest named one of course – the Wooly Booger Wheat. The medium rare burger was legit. Juicy, tender and flavorful. The meat was so well seasoned, you could just eat the meat by itself it was so amazing! We found out later that the meat was from a local butcher shop called Doug’s Wholesale Meats. No wonder why it was so good!
What The Heck Is Fry Sauce?
On the side of the burger, we got an order of fries with some fry sauce. For those outside of Utah or Idaho, it’s usually a condiment with one-part ketchup and two-parts mayo. Snakebite has the BEST we’ve ever had anywhere. Of course, they had to bring it to another level and make their own. It’s truly a “secret” sauce.
The Star Of Snakebite… The Fish Tacos!
Hands down… the star of the main courses was their fish tacos. Words cannot describe how good they are! Let’s just say they’re heaven on earth. First, the tortillas were crispy, but yet soft. It was mind-boggling! Along with the tenderest of fishes, the fresh veggies inside each shell added a bit of a crunch with each bite. Garnished with their homemade sauce, it was dee-licious!
Insider’s Tip: They only take cash to help keep prices down as much as they can.
I’m not a cake guy, but from the server’s urging, we left a bit room for their ONLY dessert – the chocolate cake. It literally turned my world upside down on what a cake should taste like. The density was more like a brownie but with a robust flavor of a cake with the perfect chocolatiness. It’s like nothing you’ve ever had in your life. It was yet another episode in the Idaho Treasure Hunt.
Smitty’s Pancakes – A Picture Of A Bygone Era
The next morning, we had some time to explore the town and see what Idaho Falls was all about. Always in love with diners, we decided to check out one of the oldest in town – Smitty’s. Originally a chain across Washington/Canada, most of them were bought out by Perkins. The original owners decided not to sell this Smitty’s and keep it in the family. The place is like a time capsule from a bygone era. The décor is impeccably well-kept and a sign of pride. Even the waiters wear bow ties.
Pancakes So Good You Don’t Need Syrup
Of course, with a place having pancakes in its name, you KNOW we had to order some. As we dug in, our taste buds leaped in pure joy. A slightly sweet taste in flavor, they were dense yet fluffy concoctions. As you chewed, they turned creamy… like pure silk in your mouth. They were so good, you didn’t want to ruin them by drowning them in syrup. A light bulb went off in our heads… that’s why they’re called pan-CAKES!
Sweet n’ Sour Breakfast Style
Not a pancake lover? Well, you might want to try their sourdough waffle. It starts normal but finishes with a sourdough bread funkiness. If you pour a little bit of syrup on top of it, it combines to become the ultimate sweet n’ sour dish. Don’t be scared… it’s well worth the try.
Exploring Downtown Idaho Falls
After breakfast, we decided to explore the area. We found quite a few gems around town. The LaVanilla Bean Café is a busy European-style haven filled with people talking about the topics of the day. For those looking for a quick bite for breakfast or brunch, pick up one of their Breakfast Paninis. Made with their fresh homemade French bread, it’ll have you reminiscing of your time in Europe. Feeling a bit thirsty? Then head over to Idaho Falls Brewing. They serve up affordable award-winning brews that are well worth the visit. While Reed’s Dairy is a bit outside of town, it’s well worth the pilgrimage. A dairy farm that has its own storefront? You bet! Order up one of their grilled cheese sandwiches. They’re so fresh you’ll want to order another one to go. And DON’T forget to buy a scoop (or two) of ice cream. YUM!
Idaho Mountain Trading – The Local’s REI
Always looking for the inside scoop, we stepped into the local’s outdoor shop called Idaho Mountain Trading. Located in a large building, it has the feeling of an REI but not corporate. Each corner of this massive store is filled with every type of adult outdoor toy you could think of. Things like skis, snowboards, cycling, camping, climbing and even mountain biking fill every square inch. This place has it all AND a knowledgeable staff that will hook you up.
Where To Backcountry Around Idaho Falls
The crew at Idaho Mountain Trading also gave us the scoop on what’s going on around the area. Kelly Canyon is their weekday spot to hit after work for some shredding. But, most of them head out of town every chance they get to hit up either Grand Targhee, Jackson Hole or even Big Sky Resort since all of them are between 1.5 to 3 hours from town. The perfect distance for a long day trip. For those looking for some quick laid-back touring adventures, it’s all about hitting up a defunct resort called Taylor Mountain or the side country around Kelly Canyon.
Up Next: Night Skiing At Kelly Canyon
Glad to get all this info, we said our goodbyes and headed out to Kelly Canyon. Pointing the wheels down US Highway 26, we quickly zoomed out of town. The sun was disappearing onto the horizon, and in the near distance, we could see some medium sized mountains in front of us. Making a left, we quickly darted out over to Heise Road. As the road meandered its way next to the famed Snake River, we look across the expanse and admire the views in front of us. Beautiful! As the darkness crept in, we could see a glow emanating over the peaks. With one more turn, Kelly Canyon appeared!
Falling In Love With Skiing Again
Throwing on our gear, we headed out on the slopes. A little hesitant, we strapped in and dropped into our first run. With minimal snowfall, the conditions were a bit “sporty” making me feel a little negative. Stopping for a moment to take it all in, the silence was suddenly broken with laughter echoing through the trees. Out of nowhere, we were surrounded by dozens of children zipping by us joyfully yelling from the top of their lungs. A huge grin came onto my face. A flash of memories flooded back to me on how much I enjoyed skiing when I first started.
When Life Gives You Lemons…
Here I was frustrated with something I couldn’t control – the weather. These kids didn’t care. It was all about the fun of turning and hanging out. Looking over to Jaime, I could immediately tell she felt the same way. Might as well make lemons out of lemonade, right? As I made my first turn, I yelled out a “WAAA—HOOO!!!!” as if it was a deep powder day. With big smiles on our faces, we continued to lap the mountain until our legs couldn’t take it anymore. Sure, there are mountains that get more snow and have steeper terrain, but Kelly Canyon has something other large resorts don’t have. She (Kelly, that is) helped me fall in love with the “Art of turning” again.
Idaho… The Ultimate Winter Destination
Descending from Kelly Canyon, our minds darted back to some of the things we’d seen on this trip. The largest waterfall west of the Mississippi. Jaw dropping backcountry powder turns at Pomerelle. Glamping in a yurt with only a handful of people within hundreds of miles of us. Two dollar beers at Pebble Creek. The list just goes on and on. And then an idea suddenly came to us… “What you love in Idaho, stays in Idaho.” No matter how hard you try to recreate the experience, it’s just not the same anywhere else. From the food to the adventures, Idaho is unlike anywhere else in the country. Aw shucks! It just means we have to come back.