In the era of Climate Change, how do you book a ski vacation with the confidence that there will actually be some snow on the slopes when you get there? In Sun Valley and Park City, they make snow, so you’re pretty safe there. But those resorts are well, elegant… and expensive. What if you just want good snow and the walk-in fireplace in the lodge is not one of your priorities?
In Idaho, there are two such ski resorts that would make a great long weekend or a medium week of skiing fun for the whole family. And they are about ten miles away from each other, so you can hit both without changing accommodations.
The first is Lookout Pass, in North Idaho, on the border of Montana. Average snowfall is 400 inches/year, but this year was crappy – around 250. I was told by the marketing director that the snow was “just OK.” For the rest of us, “just OK,” means heroic snow. And even in late March, it snowed 11 inches the night before we got there. The snow was dry, light and truly incredible.
Lookout Pass is a small, family-friendly mountain with three double chairs, a triple and four terrain parks. It’s old-school, known for its powder and affordable lessons. My kids took a lesson with Cathy who reinforced the “downhill hands” portion of skiing. Thanks, Cathy. We’re still working on that.
The second half of your trip would be at Silver Mountain Resort, just ten miles down the road in Kellogg, Idaho. Silver Mountain is a larger resort with more vertical and an emphasis on grooming, more triple chairs – and a gondola. The 20 minute gondola takes you from the town of Kellogg to the ski mountain – like you’re going to another world.
Again, the snow was incredible in late March. Big, wide-open bowls, a terrain park and truly spectacular views.
One of the greatest parts of skiing in Idaho in general is that there is hardly anyone here. There are NEVER crowds. Sure, most ski resorts make you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere, but in North Idaho, you truly are.
And in this part of Idaho in particular, the snow is dry, light and the fog is infrequent. The locals are spoiled! They know it, too. Many of them asked me not to write this post – they like skiing under the radar.
Silver Mountain is a mere one hour, 15 minute drive from the Spokane airport. If you’re already in the Pacific Northwest and are looking for a new place to ski, Lookout Pass and Silver Mountain are a great bet: dependable snow, affordable prices and no crowds.
Where to stay? We opted for a vacation home in Kellogg instead of staying at the Morning Star Lodge at Silver Mountain (where we stayed last time and had a great visit). If you’re traveling with your children, it’s much more comfortable for us all not to be in the same room. At this
house, we could spread out and read or watch TV or take a hot tub – nice and hot, 104. Sure, there’s no room service, but we all don’t have to go to sleep at the same time either. It was a three minute drive from the Gondola at Silver Mountain. And the house was large enough that we could have had another family of 4 stay with us. That’s the way to go.
One other thing to think about in favor of a vacation home or at least lodging with a kitchen: we were not so psyched about the restaurants in the area. Since we brought with us a carload of food from our newly opened Trader Joe’s in Boise, Idaho, we could have the option of staying at home to eat. Remember, it’s Idaho, not Italy. BYOF. You’ll be glad you did.
Elizabeth Rodgers is an avid traveler, award-winning filmmaker and Los Angeles native who lives in Boise, Idaho. She is also someone who never thought in a million years that she would live in a place like Boise… and she loves it.
Please note: lift tickets were provided by both resorts. Ski lessons were provided by Lookout Pass. The vacation home was also provided for our use.