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The Soul of Skiing is Alive in Idaho: A Guide to All 19 Idaho Ski Areas

“The way skiing used to be” is the way things still are in the Gem State. Looking to visit Idaho? Add one of its nineteen ski areas to your list.

Southwest, Bogus BasinSouthwest, Bogus Basin; (photo/Aaron Theisen)
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Skiing has always had a love affair with the past, whether it’s “you should have seen it yesterday” or “you should have been here ten years ago.” Like a ’60s-era retro ski sign come to life, Idaho feels like a throwback to the bygone days — ticket prices included.

You’re still apt to see skiers in jeans and lodges warmed by wood stoves — and yes, great Northern Rockies snow that will satisfy even the pickiest powderhounds.

Idaho also outranks its ski-mecca neighbors (Wyoming, Montana, and Utah) in the total number of ski areas. Below is a region-by-region guide to Gem State powder.

Northern and Panhandle Region

In North Idaho’s panhandle, the skinny strip of forest and fjord-like lakes wedged between Washington, Montana, and southern British Columbia, the glade skiing is rich.

Panhandle, Silver Mountain Resort
Panhandle, Silver Mountain Resort; (photo/Aaron Theisen)

Straddling the Idaho-Montana state line is Lookout Pass Ski Area. This ski area’s relatively small footprint (1,100 acres) belies its big snowpack; the mountain averages more than 400 inches of snow a year. The best run to harvest snow? The open, northeast-facing Lucky Friday Glades, which stash powder and are easy to lap. This season’s addition of the Eagle Peak quad effectively doubled the ski area’s tenure, including a wealth of wide-open glades that previously required climbing skins to access.

Lookout also straddles two time zones (Pacific and Mountain). So, make sure to adjust your watch accordingly to get the first chair.

  • Total lifts: 5
  • Total runs: 52
  • Best for: Kids learning to ski, anyone else learning to ski trees

Twenty minutes west of Lookout, North America’s longest gondola transports skiers from the valley floor to 1,600 acres of terrain and 2,200 feet of vertical at Silver Mountain Resort. Our recommendation? On a powder day, make a dash for the double-black North Face Glades, where wind-deposited snow stacks up in the steep trees. Time your visit for a mid-week powder dump, and once the locals have snuck in their pre-work laps, you’ll have the place to yourself.

  • Total lifts: 7 (including one gondola and magic carpet)
  • Total runs: 73
  • Best for: Gluttons for glade skiing and snowboarding
Skiing Schweitzer Mountain
Skiing Schweitzer Mountain; (photo/Aaron Theisen)

Overlooking Lake Pend Oreille, the country’s fifth-deepest lake, and the town of Sandpoint, Schweitzer sprawls across 2,900 acres and two massive bowls. It’s the largest ski area in Idaho and Washington combined. From the village, take the high-speed Great Escape Quad to the summit and drop off into the big country of the Outback Bowl. You can enjoy the wide-open Australia and Lakeside Chutes or the tight, tree-nicking steeps of Pucci’s Chute — both local favorites.

  • Total lifts: 10 (including magic carpet)
  • Total runs: 92
  • Best for: Families, and fans of big subalpine terrain
Powder at Lost Trail Ski Area
Powder at Lost Trail Ski Area; (photo/Aaron Theisen)

True to its name, Lost Trail Ski Area is a bit of an outlier.

Sitting on the Idaho-Montana border, both states make a claim to this family-owned ski area, and for good reason. With 1,800 acres and 1,800 feet of vert along a long north-south ridge, skiers and boarders can work their way far afield for steep trees and bowls. But there’s no need to travel far for the goods: connoisseurs of cliffs and chutes can find them under almost any chair.

  • Total lifts: 5, plus 3 rope tows
  • Total runs: 25
  • Best for: Lovers of low-key vibes and high-angle trees

Camas Prairie Region

Skiers and patrol on the T-bar at Bald Mountain
Skiers and patrol on the T-bar at Bald Mountain; (photo/Aaron Theisen)

The Camas Prairie in north-central Idaho, a vast plateau bounded by the Clearwater, Snake, and Salmon Rivers, is an unlikely region for skiing. But the three tiny ski hills here epitomize the soul of skiing perhaps more than any others.

There’s “off the beaten path” — and then there’s Bald Mountain. At the end of a 4WD-required forest road outside the one-block community of Pierce (population ~500), Bald Mountain is a time warp.

Lift tickets are still around twenty bucks, and coffee is a dollar. Grandparents’ and kids’ gloves warm next to a wood stove while timbermen in suspenders grip the tow rope with leather work gloves. Why go? Bald Mountain receives about 100 inches of snow a year. But hit it on a powder day, and you’ll feel like you’re skiing a Norman Rockwell painting.

  • Total lifts: 1 rope tow, 1 T-bar
  • Total runs: 21
  • Best for: People looking for a small-hill community
A child learning to ski at Snowhaven
A child learning to ski at Snowhaven; (photo/Aaron Theisen)

Just outside Grangeville, Snowhaven is small: 40 acres of terrain serviced by a single T-bar. It’s the kind of place where parents can drop their kids off and feel safe with their free-range skiing. The city owns the hill and runs it as a self-sustaining venture — no small feat in the ski industry, and even more impressive considering lift tickets hover around $20.

  • Total lifts: 1 T-bar (and a second T-bar for tubing)
  • Total runs: 9
  • Best for: Free-range kids and the parents who ski with them
Snow falling at Cottonwood Butte Ski Area
Snow falling at Cottonwood Butte Ski Area; (photo/Aaron Theisen)

Looking for Cottonwood Butte Ski Area? Pass the convent and keep going a short distance when you see the penitentiary. If it seems like an unlikely spot for a ski area, it is. With Hells Canyon immediately to the west, Cottonwood Butte receives only about four feet of snow in a good year. The ski hill is only open on weekends, and sometimes not at all if the snow doesn’t fall.

But the volunteers who run the hill make both beginners and black-diamond skiers feel at home. They might offer a free wax or lesson, and they will learn your name by the end of the day.

  • Total lifts: 2 T-bars
  • Total runs: 6
  • Best for: Connoisseurs of quirky ski hills

Southwest Region

Idaho’s state capitol, Boise, anchors southwest Idaho, and this growing outdoors city has no shortage of skiing options.

A skier at Bogus Basin
A skier at Bogus Basin; (photo/Aaron Theisen)

Boise’s backyard ski hill, Bogus Basin, is the largest non-profit recreation area in the country. And at 2,600 acres, the third-largest ski area in the state. On a powder day, head to Chair 3 for the glades bounded by War Eagle and Paradise. Nothing too steep, just pure powdery bliss.

If Bogus is Boise’s backyard, the mountain town of McCall, on the shore of Payette Lake, is its weekend getaway with a trio of beloved ski areas.

  • Total lifts: 10
  • Total runs: 82
  • Best for: Fans of big terrain with a small-town feel

Brundage boasts Idaho’s best snow, a bold claim backed by the dry powder of relatively arid west-central Idaho. It’s nearly 2,000 acres — and that’s not including the 420 acres of unpatrolled lift-served backcountry that’s a short traverse from the top of the Bluebird Express quad. Brundage allows skiers to spread out in wide-open meadows and whitebark pine glades, whether on the wide, whoop-de-do groomers of Alpine and Main Street or the protected powder of aptly named Lakeview Bowl.

  • Total lifts: 6
  • Total runs: 67
  • Best for: Bluebird powder days
A park jump at Little Ski Hill in southwest Idaho
A park jump at Little Ski Hill in southwest Idaho; (photo/Aaron Theisen)

Despite being a choice destination for Boise’s weekend warriors, Tamarack Ski Resort’s aspen glades and alpine bowls never feel crowded.

In any case, untracked lines are always easy to find with a short hike north or south from the 7,700-foot top of the Summit Express quad. It’s 2,800 feet of thigh-burning vertical back to the base area, but the vistas of Lake Cascade will give you excuses to stop, even as the glades of Reasons to Quit will give you reasons to keep going. The cornice drops of Me First and After You that drop into steep snowy bowls are also worth some action.

Maybe the best thing Tamarack has going for it right now? Show a valid season pass from any other Idaho ski area and get a free ticket to ride (or ski) here.

  • Total lifts: 7
  • Total runs: 50
  • Best for: Fans of long runs and short lift lines

If you’re traveling to southern Idaho, save some ski legs for an evening at the Little Ski Hill between Brundage and McCall. On weekday afternoons, the line for the single T-bar at this community-operated hill swells to Sun Valley proportions, courtesy of the school buses shuttling after-school ski lessons. At merely 50 acres, it’s aptly named and the third-oldest ski area in Idaho. Six winter Olympians grew up on the slopes of this non-profit hill — surely one of the highest ratios of ski pedigree to ski acreage in America.

  • Total lifts: 1 T-bar
  • Total runs: 4
  • Best for: Ski-history buffs, night skiers

The Sawtooths Region

The open slopes and park-like pine groves of the sweet, sunny Sawtooths are home to one of the country’s iconic ski resorts.

Considered America’s first destination ski resort, Sun Valley has attracted celebrities and ski bums ever since Ernest Hemingway first made it famous. Two areas, Bald Mountain and Dollar Mountain, collectively comprise Sun Valley.

Bald Mountain is the main draw, boasting a breathtaking, quad-burning 3,400 feet of vert across almost 2,400 acres of skiable terrain on everything from cruisy groomers to the steep bowls of Seattle Ridge and the perfectly-graded Frenchman Glades. And it’s all capped by the postcard scene of the serrated peaks of the Sawtooths.

  • Total lifts: 18
  • Total runs: 121
  • Best for: Connoisseurs of groomers, glades, and glamour
Some t-bar terrain at the Rotarun Ski Area at dusk
Some t-bar terrain at the Rotarun Ski Area at dusk; (photo/Aaron Theisen)

Nearby, in Hailey, Rotarun Ski Area is the antithesis of the glamour of Sun Valley. With just shy of 500 feet of vert, Rotarun offers night skiing on Wednesdays and Fridays, with parents lined up on lawn chairs barbecuing near the rope tow. But it’s the community programs that make Rotarun shine. Ones like Rota-Rippers, a locals-supported tuition-free ski program for marginalized youth, have opened up skiing to a new generation of shredders.

  • Total lifts: 1 T-bar
  • Total runs: 8
  • Best for: Future shredders
A 2-seater lift at Soldier Mountain Ski Area
A 2-seater lift at Soldier Mountain Ski Area; (photo/Aaron Theisen)

About an hour south of Sun Valley, Soldier Mountain Ski Area guards the southernmost reaches of the Sawtooths. Soldier may be a small size but boasts plenty of terrain. Thanks to its open character, everywhere you can see, you can ski. Pop off chair 2 (keep your speed up) and onto the groomed cat track to the small knoll of Mill Point, and drop into The Glades. Need more terrain? Soldier Mountain offers cat skiing and the opportunity to rent the whole mountain.

The locals-favorite mountain closes at end of March, and will cap off the season with a pond skim in celebration.

  • Total lifts: 3
  • Total runs: 25
  • Best for: Kids and cat-skiing enthusiasts

Teton Valley Region

Just across the Idaho-Wyoming border from Jackson Hole Resort, the Teton Valley has retained its small ski-town charm while offering big-mountain skiing and amenities.

An epic view of Grand Targhee Resort
An epic view of Grand Targhee Resort; (photo/Aaron Theisen)

The centerpiece of Teton Valley skiing is Grand Targhee Resort. Averaging more than 500 inches of snow annually, the ‘Ghee consistently ranks among the snowiest ski resorts in the U.S. Located just inside Wyoming but only accessible from Idaho, Grand Targhee exemplifies the region locally known as “Wydaho.”

From the mellow aspen glades of Shoshone to the mandatory airs on the hike-to terrain of Mary’s Nipple, Grand Targhee offers big-resort terrain. And the new Colter high-speed lift accesses terrain previously only available to cat skiers. Before you head out, find a spot on the ski area boundary for a photo op of Grand Teton and the pinnacles that make up its namesake National Park.

  • Total lifts: 5
  • Total runs: 97
  • Best for: Groups looking for resort amenities
Riding the chairlift at Kelly Canyon
Riding the chairlift at Kelly Canyon; (photo/Aaron Theisen)

A short distance outside Idaho Falls, Kelly Canyon receives just over 80 inches of annual snowfall. Grassy glades over its near-640 acres make the most of that total. Ski here on a midweek powder day, when chair 4 isn’t running, and take the short hike to the Powder Bowl terrain for low-angle, protected powder, where you’re guaranteed face shots.

Stay for night skiing, too, where it seems like most of the youth of Idaho Falls hang out.

  • Total lifts: 5
  • Total runs: 51
  • Best for: Fans of skiing past sundown

Southeast Region

The otherwise arid Snake River plain of southeast Idaho hides a trio of small ski areas high in its peaks.

An hour outside Twin Falls, Magic Mountain Ski Area might be named for the agricultural might of the nearby Magic Valley, but there’s something bewitching about the skiing here. The owners teach lessons and flip burgers; the volunteer patrollers shuttle local kids to and from the mountain.

At 120 acres, serviced by one chairlift and a magic carpet, it’s a minuscule mountain, perfect for learning. The reason it makes our list? There’s terrain for experts, too, including a huck-able band of knobs in the Rock Cliffs.

  • Total lifts: 1, plus 1 T-bar
  • Total runs: 24
  • Best for: Ski cynics who need their faith in the magic of skiing restored

One of the oldest ski areas in the western U.S., Pomerelle claims it’s got “the deepest snow in Idaho.” It gets up to 500 inches of snow a year, and the wind-deposited stashes in the groves of Punch Bowl can feel like double that. At 500 acres, Pomerelle is locally beloved as a family-friendly mountain. Skiers itching for steeper terrain can try skiing in the cirques of 9,000-foot Mount Harrison directly to the West.

  • Total lifts: 3
  • Total runs: 24
  • Best for: Families looking to learn in a low-key environment
A skier enjoying turns at Pebble Creek
A skier enjoying turns at Pebble Creek; (photo/Aaron Theisen)

Outside Pocatello, Idaho, Pebble Creek boasts 2,200 vertical feet of sustained fall line, with barely a cat track or flat to break it up. Advanced skiers can experience top-to-bottom glade runs on Rattlesnake or the steep trees off the Southbound Traverse. Although it receives only about half the snowfall of its nearest neighbor, stretches of deep powder days are not uncommon at Pebble Creek.

The crowd-free Pebble Creek is, like many of Idaho’s hometown hills, a reminder of the way skiing used to be. But, if the school buses here and at many smaller hills are any indication, they are skiing’s future, too.

  • Total lifts: 3
  • Total runs: 51
  • Best for: Schoolkids and lovers of sustained steeps
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