Sun Valley may get most of the shine, but Idaho offers more to skiers than just this high-class resort: 18 ski areas, more than each of its ski-mecca neighbors Utah and Montana. And North Idaho’s panhandle, the skinny spot squeezed between Washington, Montana and southern British Columbia, boasts some of the best in Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Silver Mountain Resort and Lookout Pass Ski Area.
It’s the way skiing used to be. Here, Nascar jackets often outnumber Nano Puffs in the lift line, and both first-timers and old-timers feel welcome. The old-school vibes extend to the ticket prices too. In an era when it seems ski resorts have squeezed out the average Joe, the average adult full-day ticket price comes in at less than $62 at the Panhandle ski areas.
But the skiing should satisfy even the most serious powderhound. Between three- and four-hundred inches annual inches of snow comprise a snowpack that’s neither maritime nor Intercontinental but the best of both—moderately light and fluffy but with good structure and stability underneath.
With reliable snowpack and reasonable ticket prices, skiers can easily plan a successful road trip to the resorts of the Idaho Panhandle.
Begin at Lookout Pass Ski Area on the Idaho/Montana border. The ski area’s small footprint—only 540 acres—belies its big snowpack; it’s not unusual for Lookout to get a foot of snow when nearby ski areas get skunked, thanks to its location in the relatively wet Bitterroot Range.
The best run to harvest snow? The open, northeast-facing Lucky Friday Glades, which stash powder and are easy to lap.
The backside of the ski provides access to the Stevens Peak backcountry, one of the region’s most revered touring zones, some of which will be subsumed by a planned expansion which will double the ski area’s acreage.
Lookout straddles, in addition to two states, two time zones (Pacific and Mountain); make sure to adjust your watch accordingly to get first chair.
(Essential Gear: The Salomon S-Lab SHIFT MNC Binding is a game-changing binding, combining the light weight of pin tech bindings for touring and the stability of an downhill binding—as at home skinning to the steep powder stashes of Stevens Peak as railing last-lap afternoon chop under Chair 1.)
From Lookout, head west twenty minutes to Kellogg, in the heart of Idaho’s Silver Valley. Once the largest silver-producing region in the world, the Silver Valley remains an active mining community; the day’s silver prices are still listed on business signs around the valley. And Silver Mountain Resort reflects that blue-collar mentality with old-school skiing and vibes.