Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” While researching for our Local Freshies® annual road trip, we wanted an amazing destination that you don’t normally hear about. A place that is different. Somewhere untouched and pure. There are great mega-resorts all over North America like Lake Tahoe, Utah, Whistler, and Colorado. But in our digging, we found one particular region that had eluded us. When people talk about Idaho in winter, you usually think of Sun Valley, but what about the rest of the state? What else exists for skiing and fun in Idaho? That might be why these ski resorts have now become some of our favorite ski areas in the state of Idaho.
There’s More To Idaho Than Just Potatoes
Idaho produces more potatoes and trout than any other state. It is named the “gem state” thanks to its mining history of over 72 different types of precious & semi-precious stones. But its biggest treasure is neither of those. Simply put – it is Idaho’s true spirit of adventure. From access to the largest, roadless wilderness in the U.S. (outside of Alaska) to the biggest elk herds in the country, you’ll experience nature in the largest scale you’ve ever seen!
What About Skiing/Snowboarding?
Amongst the conifers and mountain peaks surrounded by wilderness, there are over 18 different resorts you can visit. In our two-week journey, there was no way to ride all of them. Instead, we focused on resorts alongside their unique ski towns to experience the local culture at its fullest. Our sights narrowed in on two particular regions:
Wallace – History and Hollywood
The first leg of our trip was spent in the historic town of Wallace. Many ski towns attempt to keep their history intact, but Wallace embraces it. Prostitution may no longer exist there, but you can still look back at its colorful past of bordellos and the mining industry to really get a feel of just how wild this part of the world once was. Wallace is also where the 1997 film Dante’s Peak was shot using actual citizens as extras. During the week, we explored the town, soaked up the history and met with the locals. And guess what? We fell in love with it! Of course our road trip wouldn’t be complete without some powder and insider tips, so we checked out two of the snowiest resorts in Idaho.
Lookout Pass Ski & Recreation Area
Lookout has a reputation for legendary powder, earliest openings, and the longest season in the region. They are the lucky recipients of light, high-grade Northern Rockies snow, averaging 400″ annually. Located on the mountain pass with the same name, Lookout Pass is considered the border of the historic Silver Valley. And for those looking for some low angle pow, the backcountry zone near Lookout Pass provided some of the easiest earn your turns access out there. It’s truly a hidden “gem” for Northern Idaho skiing.
Silver Mountain Resort
In 1989, the town of Kellogg closed the road to Silver Mountain due to dangerous winter conditions. That definitely sounds bad for skiing. The silver lining to the story is they installed one of the world’s longest gondolas, stretching over 3 miles and rising nearly 3,400′ to get you safely to the base of Silver Mountain resort. That combined with the open boundary policy and steep glades of the Ponderosa Pines makes this a must-hit on our journey.
McCall – The Last Great Place
Up next, we headed south towards McCall. A town of only 2,925, this quiet village has access to two major ski resorts, amazing cuisine, and a ton of Idaho adventure. It also claims to receive some of the highest snowfall levels in the state. From snowmobiling to the Burgdorf Hot Springs and even snowshoeing to a yurt for five star dining in the wilderness in between our skiing/snowboarding of course, our time there was priceless.
Compared to other resorts that will be left unnamed, Brundage is still family owned. Its soul is intact and pumping furiously. With the addition of two new lifts in 2007, it has expanded its acreage to over 1,500 acres with a vertical drop of 1,800′. It also has lift-served backcountry access. When you combine Brundage’s family heritage, with its inbounds and backcountry reach, you need to experience it yourself to really appreciate it.
Located 20 miles from McCall, this resort opened for the 2004/05 season and is the first four-season resort to be built in the U.S. in over 22 years. Tamarack resort receives 300″ annually and also has impressive access to lift-served backcountry. Besides the views of the largely untouched Payette River Mountain range, this ski resort provided the eight best turns of the season. With the Wildwood lift being installed this summer, accessing another 200 acres of terrain, the secret is only going to last for so long. Make a trip now before it’s too late.