Boise, ID – Idaho is home to 18 ski areas offering everything from world-class resorts with beautifully groomed runs and glades of feather-light powder for all skiing and boarding abilities, to small community ski areas for sliding on a budget. Collectively with more than 28,000 leg-burning vertical feet, 20,000 skiable acres and a wide array of Nordic trails, terrain parks, cat ski operations, heli-ski opportunities and tubing hills, Idaho has become a hub for skiers and boarders seeking blue skies, fresh powder and few crowds.
Here’s a look at what’s new at Idaho’s ski areas and resorts for the 2015-2016 ski season.
Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Sandpoint
Schweitzer Mountain Resort has been busy this past summer working on improving the overall guest experience through various projects and capital investments in equipment and infrastructure.
In July, Schweitzer began construction of a new summit lodge. The 13,000-square foot, three-story summit lodge will offer a lofty venue for on-mountain dining and relaxation with a full service restaurant and bar, cafeteria, lodging accommodations, space for group functions and a new home for ski patrol dispatch. The new lodge should be finished in time for the 2016-17 ski season.
Also on the mountain, Schweitzer’s trail crew completed brush cutting in the Outback Bowl with work being done on G3, Lakeside Chutes run-out, lower Snow Ghost, and Quicksilver. For fresh corduroy and cross-country track setting, the resort purchased an additional Prinoth BR350 grooming machine and a Nordic trail snow groomer for use this winter.
The resort has also replaced the entire fleet of adult Alpine rental equipment with brand new Rossignol Experience skis. Schweitzer has also announced that skiers and riders over the age of 80 are eligible for free lift tickets this winter season. With the purchase of a Schweitzer season pass, guests receive three free days at 13 other western resorts through the Powder Alliance.
Schweitzer’s Snowsports School has developed two additions to its list of ski and snowboard lessons options this winter. A new Winter Break Ski Camp will be offered during Dec. 21-24, 2105 and/or Dec. 28-31, 2015. The camp is geared for 5-12 year-olds who will participate in a four-day ski camp running from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. The price for the camp is $175 per session (not including lift passes) and upgrades to Schweitzer’s Mtn Xplorers and Funatics programs are possible. The Snowsports School will also be offering a four-week apprentice instructor’s program for skiers and riders 13-17 years old this winter, including shadow days with the instructor team. Participants will get an unlimited junior season pass as part of the program.
Finally, this summer,Schweitzer invested over $80,000 for upgrades to its Internet supply infrastructure. The resort switched from copper to fiber optic lines and installed new antennas that dramatically increase bandwidth resort-wide with 20 times more capacity than what was previously available to guests. Furthermore, the system offers the flexibility to add more bandwidth as demand grows.
Silver Mountain, Kellogg
Silver Mountain offers two mountains, 76 runs and 1,600 acres of terrain, 2,200 vertical feet and more than 300 inches of snowfall on average annually.
This season, guests will have even more time to enjoy all Silver has to offer. Daily operations at Silver Mountain will move to seven days a week planned for December 17, 2015 through April 4, 2016, adding a potential 26 days or skiing and riding on the mountain this season. Silver will operate Fridays through Sundays beginning November 27, 2015. The resort has added new snowmaking capabilities this year, allowing for an earlier opening should Mother Nature choose not to cooperate fully.
Silver’s mountain team completed extensive brush cutting to enhance the early season riding experience and provide more terrain with less snow. The progression terrain park was expanded to help introduce young and adventuresome riders to the joy of rails and air time while the rental shop added new skis, snowboards and boots to the fleet. The tubing hill is also increasing its hours of operation, adding an extra session during the weekends for snow tubers to enjoy.
Guests will experience added value and convenience with new pass products including the young adult pass (ages 18-23) and family pass (two adults and up to three youth). As always, a season pass also includes four visits to Silver Rapids Indoor Water Park. For those new to the sport, terrain based teaching techniques continue to be added to the ski school, making it easier to learn how to ski or board. When the day on the slopes is done, Mogul’s Lounge, a favorite après ski destination will welcome guests with a fresh new look following a remodel this summer.
Lookout Pass, Wallace/Mullan
With so much snowfall at Lookout, Powder Wednesdays will continue this year– the mountain will be open six days a week, Wednesday through Monday during the months of January and February. Boarderline Terrain Park is back this season, along with Rolling Thunder and Huckleberry Jam parks, giving jibbers plenty of space to practice their moves.
A high level of instruction continues at Lookout for skiers and riders of all ages and abilities. Programs include the Senior Workshop on Mondays, Downhill Divas for women only on Fridays and Next Level for intermediate and advanced skiers on Sundays. Individual and group lessons are offered every day the mountain is open. Lookout’s “Learn to Ski (or Ride) in Three” program graduates will receive special discounts on ski and snowboard equipment at Tri-State Outfitters.
Phase 1 of Lookout’s long-range expansion plan has been accepted by the U.S. Forest Service. The first phase includes the addition of two chairlifts on Eagle Peak, a mountain to the immediate west of the existing ski area, with a potential to add up to 700 acres and 14 new ski runs, plus gladed areas with a 1,400′ vertical drop. Additional planning and environmental studies are currently underway.
Sun Valley Resort, Sun Valley
With the 2015-16 ski season kicking off Sun Valley’s 80th Anniversary Year, the resort is experiencing a renaissance. In June the resort re-opened the iconic Sun Valley Lodge, complete with expanded guest rooms and luxurious bathrooms; debuted the new Spa at Sun Valley, a 20,000 square foot spa and wellness facility; and reinvented several dining establishments. This will be the first winter season that guests can experience the new property.
This will also be the first full winter season for holders of the Mountain Collective pass to enjoy Sun Valley. Added in March, Sun Valley is one of only three U.S. resorts to join the Collective in 2015-16 (the other two are Stowe, Vt. and Taos, N.M.), offering pass holders access to a total of 11 ski destinations.
Sun Valley Resort will open for the 2015-16 winter season on November 26, offering 2,054 skiable acres and 3,400 continuous vertical feet on Bald Mountain—including 50 new gladed acres over the last two years resulting from a partnership with the Ketchum Ranger District.
With enhanced air service, getting to Sun Valley is easier than ever. Direct flights from five major cities—Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Denver, Seattle and Los Angeles—serve Sun Valley’s Friedman Memorial Airport this winter and represent a 13 percent increase in capacity from the 2014-15 winter season.
Brundage Mountain, McCall
Beginners can ski for free at Brundage Mountain Resort all winter long. Brundage will offer free lift tickets on its beginner chairlift all season to encourage new people to try the sport. Visitors of any age can pick up a free Easy Street lift ticket at the ticket office any day of the 2015-16 winter season.
The Easy Street area will have more to offer than ever this year. Crews have cleared brush and trimmed back a large tree island to create a natural half-pipe experience in the “Big Easy” Terrain Garden. Re-grading on the lower part of the run will make it easier to ski or ride from side runs to the bottom of the lift and will nearly double the size of the Easy Street terrain. As always, kids age six and under get free all-mountain lift tickets, so families can introduce their children to winter snow sports at Brundage without breaking the bank.
Over the summer, Brundage Mountain crews completed a half-million dollar lodge expansion designed to provide a more convenient experience for winter visitors. The “lower plaza” added a 5,000 square foot, tiered paver patio area at the entrance to the lodge with a new propane fire pit as the centerpiece. Visitors will be able to ski up to the fire pit’s lower side on a groomed snow surface during the winter months. The finished plaza is an ideal location for outdoor weddings, concerts and events year-round.
The lower plaza was the final piece of a multi-year expansion that added 1,450 square feet of indoor space for ticketing, guest services, rental and retail facilities as well as 1,750 square feet of outdoor deck space adjacent to Smoky’s Bar & Grill. The resort also reshaped and graded the terrain around the Centennial parking lot, adding 100 new parking spaces and allowing for easier access for more guests during peak holiday periods.
Tamarack Resort, Donnelly
The staff at Tamarack Resort has been busy, working to make the skier experience more accessible and enjoyable. Tamarack Resort unveiled its new $99 College Season Pass. For just $99, college students will have unlimited access to the mountain for the entire 2015-16 winter season, which means skiing seven days-a-week from mid-December through late March.
As an added perk, pass holders may take advantage of three “Bring a Friend Fridays” and bring a friend to the mountain for just $25 per ticket and also enjoy discounts on retail and equipment rentals. Full and part-time college students are eligible. After November 16, the price will increase to $299. Purchase the College Pass at tamarackidaho.com or by calling (208) 325.1030. A valid college identification is required at pick-up.
To ensure reliable conditions, resort has installed 1,840 feet of new snowmaking pipe and five hydrant locations on the Waltz ski trail, making its snowmaking arsenal even larger with a total of 14 snowmaking guns and a water pumping capacity of 1,150 gallons per minute. The Waltz ski trail is important terrain for skiers and snowboarders of all ability levels, as it is a major egress route from the top of the popular Tamarack Express chairlift. This snowmaking expansion will help ensure good snow coverage on the trail, even when Mother Nature doesn’t deliver natural snowfall, improving the skier experience for years to come.
Also new for 2015, Tamarack Resort is reopening its Wildwood trail system for skiers and riders as “hike-to” terrain. This series of trails in the most northern section of the resort’s boundary includes 100 acres of long-time skier favorite slopes.
Skiers will access this trail system by skiing to the top of Enigma trail, then hiking 5-minutes to the top of Wildwood. From there, guests can ski approximately halfway down the trails before being directed back to the resort’s main trail system with a short hike. Guests can then ski back to the established lift network via the Waltz ski trail.
Reopening the trails creates a new ski experience that is unique to Tamarack, making the resort a leader in the increasingly popular alpine touring segment of downhill skiing, where skiers use flexible equipment to hike and access non-lift-serviced terrain, then ski down.
The new Wildwood trail expansion augments existing out-of-bounds terrain at the south side of the resort, where skiers hike a short distance and are able to cover untracked powder with the ability to reconnect with lifts at the bottom of the hill. Unlike the out-of-bounds area, the new Wildwood terrain is within Tamarack’s permitted resort boundary and will be monitored by Tamarack’s professional ski patrol. The new terrain does not have snowmaking and will open when natural snow conditions allow.
Tamarack has also improved its expert terrain. The Tam trail crew sharpened their saws and cleared brush from favorite trails including Blaze, Pursuit, Staircase and Tango, improving access and extending runs to later in the season.
The resort is also using a new wireless technology this season that provides a customized ticketing option, while enabling skiers to bypass the ticket window in search of first tracks. New ticketing software and the creation of a product called the “Express Card,” once purchased, will allow guests to skip the lift ticket window and go directly to the chairlift. When the card is scanned at the chairlift, guests’ credit cards will be charged, which eliminates waiting in line to purchase a ticket.
The Express Card also fills a personalized niche those who aren’t considering a season pass or already have season passes elsewhere, allowing them to receive a discount revolving around three days of skiing at Tamarack. For the price of a day ticket, guests can purchase an Express Card, which gets them a day on the slopes. Guests can then return to the resort up to two more times and save $10 off the window rate for a day pass without the need to return to a ticket window. Skiers and riders who purchase their Express Card by December 11 can save an additional $10.
Little Ski Hill, McCall
The Little Ski Hill, celebrating its 10th season this year, offers night skiing, a terrain park and ski and snowboard lessons. Located two miles north of McCall, Idaho on highway 55, this small but action-packed facility is served by a T-bar providing 405 vertical feet of terrain and is the only lit ski and snowboard hill in the area. The Bear Basin Nordic facility has 30 kilometers of groomed cross-country ski trails, and thanks to funding from Idaho Parks and Recreation, they now have a new snow cat (2012 Pisten Bully pb100) to keep the trails in prime shape. Nordic ski lessons are offered through the ski area’s PSIA certified Nordic ski school at Bear Basin and Ponderosa State Park. The Little Ski Hill is open Tues-Sunday 3:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m on weeknights and until 9:30 p.m on Fridays. Skiers may enjoy the slopes from 12:00 p.m – 9:30 p.m. on Saturdays, and 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. Bear Basin Nordic Center is open seven days a week from dawn until dusk.
Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area, Boise
On the slopes, Bogus Basin has completed an aggressive brush cutting campaign that will open 20 new acres of mostly expert terrain for skiing and boarding off of the Superior and Pine Creek chairlifts and on mid-Paradise. The resort also purchased two SMI Super PoleCat Snowguns which will increase snowmaking capacity on the mountain in key areas including the tubing hill, beginner area, and Bogus Creek Trail.
Skiers and boarders won’t want to miss ULLRfest on January 23, 2016. Back after a four-year hiatus, this fun-filled winter festival honors the mythical Norse God of Snow, Ullr, who loved the cold so much that each winter he blanketed the earth with snow to protect it from harm. Activities include a king and queen coronation, family ski parade, “Find the ULLR” medallions and win prizes, “Ull-ympic Fun” slalom race, ski demos, snowboard raffle and complimentary hot cocoa and coffee.
This year Bogus will introduce the “Powder Pack”: five all-day Alpine Lift Tickets available for $220, which represents a 22 percent discount. The Powder Pack is only available November 27 – December 5, 2015.
Other improvements at Bogus Basin this year include a new snowboard boot fleet featuring Head Boa 550, new merchandise at the Black Diamond Sports store and new menus at the lodges.
Off the slopes, Bogus Basin is excited with the launch of its newly redesigned website – www.bogusbasin.org. The new site is responsive, allowing easy access from smart phones and tablets. Real-time mountain temperature and wind speed are now located right on the homepage, just a click away from full conditions and webcams, and weather forecasts will be automatically updated every 30 minutes. The drive to Bogus Basin has gotten easier, too, with new pavement and the installation of concrete barriers for a six-mile stretch.
Snowhaven Skiing and Snow Tube Hill, Grangeville
Located just seven miles from downtown Grangeville, Snowhaven overlooks the beautiful Camas Prairie, the Nez Perce National Forest, and the Gospel Hump Wilderness. The summit elevation is 5,600 feet with a vertical drop of 400 feet on east-facing slopes. Two ski lifts serve over 40 acres of snow-covered terrain, with slopes for beginner through advanced skiers, meticulously groomed runs and the challenge of powder hounding in the trees. Snowhaven’s location at the western edge of the mountain range promises frequent snowfalls and cold, dry powder. Families will enjoy the outstanding, uncrowded slopes, snow tube hill and nearby cross-country skiing.
Grand Targhee Resort, Teton Valley
OK…it’s technically in Wyoming, but you can only get there through Idaho. Grand Targhee Resort, a hidden paradise tucked in the western slope of the Tetons, is ready for another winter averaging 500 inches of light Teton powder. The high alpine barrier socks in storms, dumping endless supplies of snowfall across, 2,602 acres of glades, bowls, chutes, and groomed runs. Uncrowded lift lines, untracked runs, rustic slopeside accommodations, Western charm, and a big mountain feel come together for the dedicated skier or rider. During the summer there are miles of lift-accessed running and mountain biking trails, renowned music festivals and a variety of activities in a pristine high alpine environment.
Lodging is available slopeside and in Driggs, Idaho.
Bald Mountain, Pierce
This small, family friendly ski area located in Pierce welcomes skiers this season with an updated lodge, including a new wood stove, and a new rope tow. As part of the Pierce Winter Festival the first weekend in February, the mountain will host its second annual Vertical Challenge competition to see who can ride the most vertical in one day.
Soldier Mountain, Fairfield
Soldier Mountain Ski Area has 1,150 acres of variable alpine terrain including a terrain park, glades, bowls and tree skiing with a vertical drop of 1,425 feet and 36 runs. Soldier also operates the only cat skiing operation in South Central Idaho.
Soldier Mountain, however, is presently for sale, and the resort’s opening for the 2015-16 winter season is therefore tentative.
Pomerelle Mountain Resort, Albion
Pomerelle Resort welcomes guests with snowy slopes, affordable rates, smiles and service. Located just 25 miles off I-84 (Declo/Albion exit #216) then via Idaho 77, Pomerelle is a relaxed, fun-filled, personalized day resort nestled in the Sawtooth National Forest. With an average annual snowfall of 500 inches, it is usually one of the first Idaho ski resorts to open and you will enjoy virtually no lift lines during the season. Pomerelle offers 24 daily groomed ski runs plus gladed tree skiing and caters to family-oriented ski/boarding enjoyment.
Lost Trail Powder Mountain, Idaho-Montana Border
Lost Trail Powder Mountain sits atop the Continental Divide on Highway 93 where Montana and Idaho meet. With an average of over 300 inches of snowfall every year, these still undiscovered slopes await your visit. Open Thursday thru Sunday, with extended hours during holiday periods, this family owned-and-operated jewel offers a ski and snowboard experience from yesteryear.
Pebble Creek Ski Area, Inkom
Pebble Creek is a vertical playground that attracts skiers of all abilities. Located 20 minutes south of Pocatello in the Caribou Targhee National Forest, Pebble Creek boasts 2,200 vertical feet, 1,100 skiable acres, 54 runs, virtually non-existent lift lines and terrain for all levels from beginners to those demanding an honest challenge. Look for extra fun in Stash Park with natural features and two terrain parks with rails, boxes, jumps and bonks. Solitude can be found in exploring the glades. Terrain is considered 12% beginner, 35% intermediate and 53% advanced.
Cottonwood Butte, Cottonwood
The Cottonwood Butte Ski Area is located in the heart of the Camas Prairie where a pleasant atmosphere on the slopes, courteous management and friendly hospitality is the rule. The ski area four major groomed runs and several powder filled trails among the trees that are served by a 3,000 foot long t-bar. The 845-foot vertical drop challenges the intermediate, advanced and expert skiers and snowboarders. The bunny slope offers a gentle 30-foot vertical drop served by a rope tow.
Magic Mountain Resort, south of Hansen
This small ski area near the Twin Falls area features great snow, a four-lane tubing hill with a lift, a 700-foot. vertical drop, 11 runs, three lifts, a day lodge with a cafeteria, equipment rental and a lounge.
Kelly Canyon, Ririe
This eastern Idaho resort founded in 1957 features intermediate terrain, a ski school, equipment rentals, and four lifts serving 640 skiable acres. It provides the only night skiing in eastern Idaho. Terrain is described as 35% beginner, 45% intermediate and 20% advanced. Events are held on the mountain throughout the year. Night skiing is a hallmark at Kelly Canyon Ski Resort with the majority of the ski runs lit for skiing and boarding until 9:30 p.m.
A family does not need to live in Idaho to take advantage of the Ski Idaho Fifth and Sixth Grade Passport Program. With the passport, any fifth grader can ski or ride free three times and sixth graders can ski or ride free two times at participating ski areas. Families may learn more and submit passport applications at www.skiidaho.us/5th-grade-ski-