Come next northern ski season, you’ll know where you’ll find us; the old-school mountains of Idaho schussing our way down hidden gems you haven’t heard of, until now.
Idaho has the cowboy history of our Wild West dreams – the incredible stories of those who struck gold and found their fortunes among some of the best mountains and best snow of North America. Hundreds of years later the state boasts many independent, family-owned resorts with charming, rugged histories, incredible terrain and no lift lines to be seen.
Check out five of our favourites but shh, don’t tell too many. When borders open up once more, we’ll be wanting those powder turns all to ourselves.
Silver Mountain – family fun
Despite being named Silver Mountain, this resort gets a gold medal for its offerings for families. From lift-served snow tubing, Nordic skiing and snowshoeing to the large indoor water park of Silver Rapids, it’s the perfect place to bunker down in accommodation with little ones.
And we haven’t even made it to the skiing and snowboarding yet. Two mountains offering 73 trails, 1600 acres of terrain to explore over 2200 feet of vertical. Plus over 7.5 metres of snowfall each season, along with a 5km gondola up to the entire hub of winter good times.
The resort’s history goes all the way back to 1885, featuring a gold prospector named Noah Kellogg and his donkey, Bill. It was Bill who found Idaho’s largest mining operation, lived to the age of 21 and was known as “the $12,000,000 burro.”
That mining operation then became a ski area, originally named The Jackass Ski Bowl, in honour of Bill. No word of a lie.
Then over the years, it became Silver Mountain.
Schweitzer Mountain Resort – lake views for days
Fun fact; Schweitzer Mountain Resort is named after a Swiss hermit who sheltered in the foothills of the Selkirk Mountains and became infamous for his eccentric ways. The resort opened in 1963 and has been living its best, least unpretentious life ever since. It was actually once voted ‘best kept secret in North America’ by Ski Magazine, so you know exactly why it’s on this list.
Despite being a big resort (2900 acres, 92 runs, nine lifts) with big snowfalls (7.5 metres every season) it also happens to have the kind of feeling that you’ve stumbled upon somewhere truly magic; there are very few lift lines, plenty of hidden powder stashes, and locals that are well and truly stoked to be there.
There are two glorious, open bowls to explore, and plenty of tree runs for those who love them – the resort is famous for them. Plus views of three states all the way to Canada.
By night, take the moonlight hike through the forest to enjoy an incredible sunset and see the mountain sparkle under the stars. Not bad, not bad.
Bogus Basin – community favourite
Bogus Basin first opened in 1942, and is so old-school and authentic that they’re one of the only non-profit recreation areas in the US.
100% of the profits go straight back into equipment and facilities, and they’ve been relying on community support for 77 years. That makes for the kind of mountain that’s truly there for the love of the sport; and the locals are so friendly that you may end up being invited around for dinner after spending time with them on the chairlift.
There are plenty of stories around the history of Bogus Basin and how it got its name. A lot of them go all the way back to the 1800s, and are all about the fool’s gold and cheeky swindlers of the wild, wild west. The ski area initially started off with a rope tow before installing its first chairlift in 1961; since then, it has grown to offer 2600 acres of ski terrain, 1800 feet of vertical and almost seven metres of snowfall every year.
When you’re not on the slopes, you might like to test out Idaho’s only mountain coaster at Bogus. 4,330 feet long, it’s high-speed fun through the winter wonderland; or you can try winter tubing, nordic skiing and snowshoeing.
Sun Valley – USA’s original ski resort
If we’re speaking about old-school, Sun Valley is the first to mention. It was the USA’s first destination ski resort, and they say it’s where ‘skiing learned to ski’, with the world’s first chairlift going in at one of their two ski areas, Dollar Mountain. Since then, everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Bruce Willis has graced the slopes here.
Sun Valley was founded in 1936 after a search for the best possible ski resort location. It’s since been named the top resort in the West by Ski Magazine and offers 121 runs, 18 lifts and an average of 220 inches of snowfall every season.
But don’t worry about the popularity of the place. There are still plenty of lifts free of line-ups, plenty of inexpensive restaurants, and plenty of sunshine days to fill your cup with bluebird perfection. In fact, they say the sun shines there for 80 per cent of the year.
Plus heli skiing, two ice rinks, a bowling alley, over 40 kilometres of Nordic Trails, movie theaters, sleigh rides, a world class spa, outdoor heated pools, excellent shopping, art galleries, western bars for cowboys, piano bars, need we go on…?
Grand Targhee – so good they fight over it
Theoretically Grand Targhee sits on Wyoming land, but the only way in is via Idaho, so the two states fight it out and in this case, Idaho wins and claims it as their own.
There’s powder and there’s POWDER – 13 metres of the white stuff lands in Grand Targhee every year, and it consistently comes in as one of the top US resorts for the quality and quantity of the snowfall. The snow here has less than 5% water content, making it so light and fluffy that you’ll be hard-pressed to make a snowman to commemorate the occasion.
The team on the mountain are so confident in their snow conditions, you can return your day lift ticket with two or less runs to their Activity Centre and they’ll swap it over for another day. And that’s not all, folks; they also offer up one of the lowest ratios of skiers to powder acres in the country, ensuring you’ll have better access to the freshies.
For those looking to tick cat skiing off the bucket list, this is the perfect spot to do it. For about AU$620, you’ll get to spend all day long exploring over 600 acres and 2400 feet of terrain only available to cat skiers on Peaked Mountain.
The mountain happens to have a pretty cool history, too. The community came together to create somewhere that would boost the local economy, and the mountain has been family owned and operated since the 1960s. It’s named after the head chief of the Bannock tribe from the area, Chief Targhee, to honour him and his contribution to the development of the mountains.