Off The Beaten Track, Idaho's Mountains Have Something For Everyone

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The Rocky Mountains in Idaho spread uninterrupted north off the Snake River into the state's upper regions where a strong menu of skiing and riding awaits those who are willing to go an extra mile.  

Though not the highest in the Rockies -- treeline hovers around 7,000 feet -- this landscape is among the most persistent: Seemingly endless ranges, steep and remote, with many roadless sections. Rural townships nestle in tight quarters. Only 10% of municipalities in Idaho have five-digit populations, and the largest wilderness area in the Lower 48 -- 2.2 million-acre Frank Church River of No Return -- anchors the state's midsection.

This crinkled topography in the Gem State produces as diverse a collection of ski and snowboard mountains as anywhere in the West -- and some of the least familiar. Nearly two dozen dot the road-trip map from Boise to Coeur d'Alene, big and famous like Sun Valley, local treasures like Little Ski Hill -- and plenty in between.

After first dumping "concrete" on the Cascades, Pacific storms have plenty left for Idaho's northern tier resorts, like at Schweitzer that averages 400 inches a season. Snowstorms dry out a bit as they head across the high ground toward the Grand Tetons, dropping a lighter variety of powder as they go.

Idaho mountains can give skiers and 'boarders all they want, need and can handle. There are the "big boys" like Sun Valley, Soldier Mountain, and Schweitzer. Then an array of solid mid-sized mountains sprinkled about, such as Tamarack, Lost Trail, Pomerelle, and Lookout Pass.

Volunteer-operated Bogus Basin should be on the top of anyone's list for skiing and riding at the edge of town. Opened in 1942 by the famed Engen brothers, Bogus is 16 miles from Boise and has 1,790 vertical feet on a surprisingly large layout of 2,600 acres. As a non-profit operating on private and public leases, ticket prices stay reasonable and lights up five days a week for night skiing.

And, Idaho likely as many nook-and-cranny town bumps as any state in the West -- and each with their own quirks and foibles. For those of us who grew up lapping the town hill after school, this sample of oddball little hills should bring back plenty of memories.

  • Cottonwood Butte's main lift is a 3,000-foot-long T-bar.

  • Little Ski Hill is open 3:30-9:00 p.m. on weekdays.

  • Chipmunk Ski Area has the longest rope tow in America, 300 feet, and $5 tickets.

  • All of Rotarun Ski Area's 485 feet of vertical are treeless.

  • Snowhaven's T-bar was put up in 1972 -- and still running.

 

 

 

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Quartet Of Southern Idaho Resorts Aim At Skier-Comfort This Season

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Like many U.S. ski and snowboard resorts this season, a group of four Idaho resorts focused on nitty-gritty projects to make things more comfortable and safe for skiers and riders in 2022-2023.

At Boise's own Bogus Basin, lift crews added more chairs to Morningstar and Superior Express to help move more skiers and riders around the mountain. Two new trails on the upper mountain make back-to-front connection easier, and some greens got wider.

Night skiing terrain has expanded, putting Sunbeam and Superior runs under the lights. Down below, there are 50 more parking spots, and snowshoeing operation is gaining ground.

About two hours' north sits Tamarack. Rejuvenation continues since new owners took over in 2018. Focus this summer was on apres-ski: A new 5,000-square-foot restaurant and bar -- with mezzanine and outdoor seatings -- went in slopeside in the base village. Pay digitally and choose from a wall of 40 self-serve beer taps.

The Indy Pass works at Tamarack. On the 1,100-acre mountain, snowmaking continues to be amped up so that about a fifth of the terrain has snowguns. Tamarack's trail map leans toward the more difficult and difficult categories, with clearly 80% of the trail falling into one or the other rating.

Just up the road, Brundage Mountain ski patrol have moved into new digs this winter. A brand-new 2,800-square-foot space houses patrol and first aid facilities. A couple of new groomers are on the hill to smooth out the early-season surfaces. Brundage is also a members of the Indy Pass system.

Nostalgians will take the last rides on the 32-year-old Centennial fixed-grip triple, as plans call for a detachable high-speed chair to go in next season. Also in the near future at Brundage is a new base lodge to replace the original A-frame, and there will be hints of real estate development around the base of the heretofore day-trip resort.

In Idaho's southeast sector, venerable Sun Valley continues its march toward 90 years in business (2026) by opening up some new terrain in the Warm Springs portion of the 2,700-acre resort. Two gladed sections were cleared this summer to expand the mountain's western edge in preparation of two new chairlifts scheduled to go in for next season as part of an aggressive improvement plan.

Also, Sun Valley joined the Ikon Pass as a seven-day partner, and the Mountain Collective for its two days free and half-off any additional days. And, Sun Valley will reclaim some of its old racing roots by hosting the U.S. Alpine Championships in March.

 

 

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Strap In For High-Wire Thrills On Ziplines in the West

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At least a dozen ski and snowboard resorts in six states in the West have strung ziplines at or near the mountain to augment their offerings during the summer months.

In New Mexico, Angel Fire put its zipline network at the summit, with broad views of Sangre de Cristo Range. Guide-required for four-zip tour with six people max. Tours run every hour until 1 p.m, Friday-Monday.

Neighbor Red Riverloads two-seat Pioneer Flyer for backwards pull up to 600 feet elevation. A short pause for viewing, and then pairs are released for 35-mph free-ride back down. A shorter zip ride is incorporated into Hidden Treasure Aerial Park.

A couple of Colorado mountain resorts have ziplines at the mountain. Vail's on-mountain Epic Discovery Park incorporates a kids-only zipline -- about 10 feet in the air -- among its adventure package.

Purgatory has strung a pair of short, parallel ziplines that load on a condo deck and run over the base village center. Not long, the Plunge runs on weekends and can reach 35 mph.

Utah is home to one of the world's highest and longest ziplines, at Sundance Mountain Resort. Tucked up above Provo, the Sundance Zip has four spans with side-by-side cables that total two miles in length. And, you drop 2,100 vertical feet with control of speeds up to 65 mph -- with mid-air stops, too.

Above Salt Lake City, zipliners climb a 50-foot tower at the base of Snowbirdand reach 30 mph on side-by-side cables, landing on the deck of the tramway building. The ride is 1,000 feet long on a 15% grade.

Over in Idaho, Zip Tamarackruns four tours a day for a max of eight people, which lasts four hours. Each tour hooks onto eight ziplines with two suspension bridges interspersed -- plus a total of 1.5 miles of downhill hiking between platforms.

In California, Heavenly Mountainhas several ziplines on the hill. The rock-star zip is Blue Streak, one of the longest at 3,300 feet with a 525-foot vertical drop. Speeds reach 50 mph. The nearby Heavenly Flyer also reaches 50 mph as it skims the tree tops on an 80-second ride. And, an introductory ride can be had on the Red Flyer, which goes 100 feet at 15 feet above the ground.

And at Mt. Hood SkiBowl in Oregon, the resort has set up an aerial park the in air above the base area that includes an 800-foot long zipline. It's open Thursday to Sunday.

Many other resorts in the West sit near independent zipline operations, like Ski Cooper, Palisades Tahoe and Big Bear.

 

 

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South Idaho's Mountain Resorts Bring On Summer

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A summer road trip in the Rockies should include time in southern Idaho, where a half-dozen ski and snowboard mountains flip to summer.

There's no shortage of strenuous biking and hiking, relaxing strolls through the wildflowers, music performances and more around the base areas of South Idaho's mountain resorts -- from Idaho Falls to McCall to Boise.

Bogus Basin continues its summer renaissance. It's home to Idaho's only mountain coaster, with 4,330 feet of twists and turns at up to 25mph. The Boise home hill's Basin Gravity Park debuts a one-mile beginner X-C trail, an extension of the Around the Mountain route, and a technical downhiller.

Tamarack takes advantage of its lakeside location by building a watercraft fleet over the last couple of summers. This summer, new jet skies and surf boats joins with paddleboards, kayaks and pontoon boats on Lake Cascade. On the hill, the 27-mile MTB park expands with a couple of intermediate flow trails, and a summit loop.

Kelly Canyon has begun lift-served MTB action to deliver riders to an 18-mile network of trails, plus a 4-mile special loop that will be a training ground for interscholastic riders. New at Kelly, just outside of Idaho Falls, will be UTV side-by-side rentals.

Brundage has built a 20-year reputation of solid hiking and biking trails on the mountain near McCall. The mountain added six new trails for this summer, including a dramatic uphiller into Lakeview Bowl. A scenic chairlift ride unveils a 360-degree view of Payette National Forest and environs.

As usual, Sun Valley offers up a plethora of summer activities and events for summer visitors. Downhill MTBers can ride the gondola to the ridge atop Bald Mountain while, down below, the resort links with a 30-mile cruiser system of paved, non-vehicle riding. Events highlight with performances on the famous ice rink at the resort above McCall.

Neither Soldier Mountain, Pomerelle nor Pebble Creek spin chairlifts during the summer. So at Soldier outside Boise and Pomerelle near Twin Falls, uphill MTBers take the lead to climb the mountain on their own. Just south of Pocatello, Pebble Creek will be open for special events and private affairs only.

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Variety Is Spice Of Idaho's Indy Pass Resorts

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All of Idaho's five Indy Pass destinations are a bit out of the way, but that's a good thing for short lines, long views, and uncrowded trails.

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Western Season Passes For 2021-2022 Loaded With Extras

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The options keep on coming, as single-mountain season passes for next season have more add-ons than ever before to compete with the multi-resort mega-passes.

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Indy Pass Road Trip: Idaho

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With two Idaho resorts just added to Indy Pass -- Soldier Mountain and Pomerelle -- it makes sense to hit the road for a circumnavigation of the Gem State's off-the-beaten-track, unpretentious mountains that honor the Indy Pass.

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Idaho Resorts Open With A Modest Array Of New Features

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Ski and snowboard resorts throughout Idaho are opening for the season, albeit cautiously, and offseason improvements are muted but still significant.

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Idaho Resorts Unfurl Plans For Covid-19 Winter

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The standard Covid-19 precautions are in place for this ski and snowboard season in the Gem State. Regional and local conditions may change, prompting changes in restrictions, but here's a look at some of the resorts' plans.

 

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Flyin' High: Ziplines Open Up In The Rockies

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Skiers and snowboarders craving speed, views, and adventure -- and social distancing -- can find gratification this summer with ziplines right at the resorts in the Rockies.

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Ikon, Western Resorts Extend Preseason Pass Deals

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The effect of the coronavirus has rippled across the U.S., and the domestic ski and snowboard industry is no exception.

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SnoCountry SnoCast: An Extra Day Of Winter This Year

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Congratulations! You have received an extra day of winter this year. Take advantage of February 29th because it will be awesome in many areas.

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Plenty Of New At Idaho Ski And Snowboard Resorts

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As the 2019-2020 season opens in Idaho, skiers and snowboarders who venture into the northern tier of the Rockies will find lots of new lifts, terrain and facilities to explore.

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Get The Day Going: Tasty Bakeries Near Ski Resorts

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Few things fire up a day of skiing and riding more than fresh-baked goods and a hot cup of joe – and the high country full of spots to pick up a doughnut, croissant, scone or more.

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SnoCountry SnoShots: Pacific Northwest Getting The Goods

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Early on, above-freezing temps kept snowfall down in the Pacific Northwest. But lately, the temps have dropped and the depths have risen. Pacific storms have stayed north, pummeling the Cascades and intermountain region with snowfall measured in feet.

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New Owners At Tamarack, Sun Valley Lodge Remodels Highlight Idaho’s 2018-2019 Season

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Last season, portions of Idaho were among the few locales in the West that got normal snowfall, so hopes are high for an even better season in the Gem State.

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Skis And Boats: Waterfronts Near Western Mountain Resorts

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Summer vacationers often seek out lakefront property to cool off, and a number of ski and snowboard resorts across the West are blessed with a lake within spittin’ distance.

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Early Freshies Propel Northwest, Idaho To Put Upgrades On Display

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More pow' in the trees at Tamarack. (Tamarack Resort/Facebook)

Early season snow storms are tracking right over the Cascades and Northern Rockies, and many resorts have already opened – some with improvements made over the summer.

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Check Out Summer’s Solar Eclipse At Winter Resorts

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Mountaintop views of the total solar eclipse. (NASA)

On Aug. 21, the first solar eclipse to cross North America in 38 years will hit the Oregon coast about 9 a.m. PDT, then course over the mountains of Idaho and Wyoming before hitting the Midwest and finishing up across the North Carolina high country.

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Beat The Heat At Idaho’s Resorts This Summer

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A summer chairlift ride includes eye-popping views. (Schweitzer Mountain Resort/Facebook)

Idahoans and visitors alike escape the summer heat down below by heading into the mountains of the Gemstone state.

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