The ski areas of the Idaho Panhandle all possess their own character and champions: Silver Mountain Resort, with steep glades and deep Silver Valley snow; laid-back Lookout Pass Ski Area on the Idaho/Montana border, with its bountiful Bitterroots powder and backcountry access; and the expansive alpine bowls and long ridges of Schweitzer Mountain Resort’s nearly three thousand acres of terrain.
But if you’re new to the area, or if you’re a long-time pass-holding partisan to a particular mountain, it can be difficult to maximize your ski time at a new ski area. So, below is a handy primer to each of the area’s must-ski runs.
SILVER MOUNTAIN – NORTH FACE GLADES
There are few better freshies bragging rights than Silver’s steep gladed double black. Immediately off the top of Chair 2, two entrances deposit skiers in steep, deep meadows that transition into ever tighter trees; the middle section requires good line selection to avoid getting “jailed out” in thickets of young timber. Hunt around—or beg a local to show you—for the steep chute shots hidden on far skier’s right of the run. The run exits onto Lower Centennial for a final roller-coastering run to Chair 3. North Face Glades tends to collect wind-deposited snow; after a big storm, this is the place to be.
Runner up: Steep, powder-packed Shaft makes an excellent finale to a top-to-bottom run of Chair 4.
LOOKOUT PASS – LUCKY FRIDAY GLADES
Of the tree runs listed here, Lucky Friday’s moderate-angle, northeast-facing glades offer the most open lines. It’s a good run for skiers looking to dip a toe into tree skiing, with lines that touch on the thrill of skiing near trees without having to ski through them. Like Silver’s North Face Glades, Lucky Friday Glades hoard powder; thanks to the wider, more open terrain, it’s also a little easier to find untouched stashes. Off Chair 1, Lucky Friday offers quick-lap tree skiing; it’s the one glade run where a skier can easily do double-digit runs in one day.
Runner-up: Directly under Chair 4, Sundance gradually ups the ante into a steep, rolling run with plenty of tree-ski play in the margins. The heavily moguled lower section is the place you’re most likely to get cat-called if you cartwheel.
SCHWEITZER – PUCCI’S CHUTE
Unique among North Idaho ski areas, Schweitzer boasts steep alpine bowls rather than rolling forested terrain. And while the Outback Bowl, on the resort’s backside, offers terrain as wide-open as its namesake, skiers will find the best runs in the trees. Pucci’s Chute immediately throws skiers into high-angle timber, where tight-radius hop turns are a must. As the terrain opens up, rock drops provide ample air-time opportunities.
Runner-up: Australia provides the same high-angle skiing as Pucci’s Chute but without the trees. A series of rollovers provides either a speed-check or an air opportunity depending on your ski style.