Idaho ski resorts improvements.
BOISE, Idaho — All signs point to a promising 2021-2022 ski season in Idaho. SKI Magazine just named Sun Valley the top ski resort in North America for the second year in a row. Schweitzer will open a new slopeside hotel next month. Kelly Canyon is replacing one of its double chairlifts with a new triple that climbs 600 feet higher, improving access to terrain you had to bootpack to before. And another ski area, Rotarun, is joining the Idaho Ski Areas Association.
Near Boise, Bogus Basin spent more than $6 million on 52 capital projects this summer, bringing the total investments in improvements over the past five years to $30 million. This year the nonprofit ski area has doubled its snowmaking capacity, increased uphill capacity by 30 percent on its Superior and Morning Star lifts by adding more chairs, and increased lighting for its night operations.
Bogus Basin also bought three new Tier-4 PistenBully snowcats for grooming different types of terrain, including a Nordic cat for the ski area’s extensive cross-country trail system, a park cat for sculpting terrain parks, and the resort’s second winch cat for grooming its steeper terrain. Dining options continue to grow, too, with a new food truck and expanded outdoor seating at the bottom of the Pine Creek Chairlift. Plus, Bogus Basin added 200 more parking spots and installed live cameras in each lot so guests can assess parking availability before making the 16-mile drive from Boise.
Brundage Mountain near McCall has memorialized longtime owner and president Judd DeBoer, who passed away in 2020, by renaming one of his favorite runs, Lower Slobovia, as Judd’s Gem. The resort also added a PistenBully 400 snowcat to its grooming fleet. Rated Tier 4 for its low emissions, the new snowcat boasts an AlpenFlexTiller that lays tight, velvety corduroy. It added a PistenBully 100 with a passenger cabin, too — the fourth such vehicle in its backcountry fleet. Plus, ongoing brush-cutting efforts this summer will improve early season conditions and ease access to favorite powder lines.
Getting to the mountain will be easier, too. In partnership with Mountain Community Transit and the City of McCall, the resort has transformed the Brundage Express shuttle into the Bluebird Express Blue Line. The new Ford Aerolite shuttle accommodates up to 35 passengers and will provide free shuttle service to Brundage Mountain daily during winter break, Fridays-Mondays from early January through early March, and Saturdays-Sundays mid to late March.
Brundage was just nominated for USA Today's 10Best Readers' Choice travel awards for the second year in a row. It is among 20 nominees vying for a Top 10 spot in the 2021 contest and took second place last year.
Four miles over the Wyoming border in “Wydaho,” Grand Targhee — which affiliates with Ski Idaho because the only way to get to it is through Driggs, Idaho — spent $20 million on capital improvements this summer. Enhancements include a new parking lot that increases capacity by 30 percent, new employee housing units, two new Prinoth Tier-4 Bison X groomers, and a new state-of-the-art, environmentally conscious mountain operations and maintenance facility.
Construction on The Ghee’s new Peaked lift began this summer with the chair slated to open for the 2022-2023 season. Meanwhile, the resort will offer snowcat skiing in this area for the last time this winter.
Kelly Canyon in Eastern Idaho is replacing one of its double chairlifts, Chair 4, with a new Skytrac fixed-grip triple lift. The new lift — the resort’s first since the 1970s — ascends 600 vertical feet beyond the old one, allowing guests to easily reach terrain that was once only accessible by bootpacking.
The resort has cleared a great deal of trees to open up more skiable acres on the mountain and replaced the Bunny Hill rope tow with a magic carpet lift. In addition, Kelly Canyon bought a brand-new Latitude 90 snowmaking machine it might also use during summers to stage rail jams, plus it added fiber optic Internet for improved guest WiFi connections.
Up in North Idaho near the historic town of Wallace and straddling the Idaho-Montana border, Lookout Pass Ski & Recreation Area has upgraded its Chair 2 double, transforming it to a fixed-grip triple chair. Moreover, the resort is opening its Eagle Peak expansion this winter via snowcat trips that offer 1,650 feet of vertical and 14 trails of powder access. The new terrain will be lift-served next winter (2022-2023), with the Eagle Peak expansion nearly doubling the size of the resort to 1,023 skiable acres.
Renowned for its glade skiing, Lost Trail Ski Area on the Idaho-Montana border conducted extensive tree trimming and cleanup along existing trails this summer. The resort also renovated its downstairs bathrooms and is deploying new technology to simplify lift ticket purchases.
Pomerelle in Southern Idaho near Albion has deployed new RFID technology that will streamline the on-mountain experience. Guests can load their RFID cards from any Web browser or mobile device and purchase lift tickets, rent gear ahead of time, and purchase food vouchers.
The resort conducted extensive brush clearing this summer to enhance glade skiing and riding on the east side of the Triple 88 lift, with improved off-trail access near the runs Instructor, Stampede, and Steer. Additionally, Pomerelle will make on-trail skiing and riding even better with the acquisition of a new PistenBully snowcat.
In an effort to accommodate guests during peak times, Pomerelle created a new parking lot over the summer that is located a half-mile up the road to Lake Cleveland and is considered a ski-in, ski-out access point.
Rotarun, a community ski area near Hailey, joined the Idaho Ski Areas Association in October as the group’s 19th member. Established in 1948, Rotarun has eight named runs and a vertical drop of 441 feet served by a Doppelmayr platter surface lift. It also sports a terrain park and offers night skiing.
Dubbed “the little mountain with the big heart,” Rotarun is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, operated by paid staff and volunteers, that offers affordable youth snowsport programming and public skiing. Its Rota-Rippers community-supported, tuition-free, learn-to-ski-and-snowboard program enriches the lives of underrepresented, financially underprivileged, and at-risk youth throughout the area.
Idaho’s northernmost ski resort, Schweitzer, near Sandpoint, anticipates its new boutique, 31-room Humbird Hotel will open in mid-December. Humbird will offer ski-in, ski-out access and a 50-seat Bavarian-inspired restaurant and bar called Crow’s Bench.
Schweitzer is also boosting uphill capacity on Stella, Idaho’s only six-person chairlift, by 600 riders per hour by adding 14 new chairs to its inventory. And it has added a new on-mountain food and beverage option at the Chair 5 Saddle between the top of Stella and Down the Hatch.
The resort improved Internet connectivity by installing fiber optic cable around the mountain. Schweitzer’s new direct-to-lift ticketing system allows guests to purchase tickets online, pick them up at a kiosk, and go directly to the chairlift. And it added 150 more parking spaces.
Silver Mountain Resort, in the historic North Idaho mining town of Kellogg, installed a cover on its new magic carpet to shield beginners and snow tubers from the wind on the ride back to the top of the bunny and tubing hills. It also added a winched mulcher, which will allow it to open more terrain earlier in the season and enhance glading between trees.
In addition, the resort purchased and installed a beacon park that allows guests to test their avalanche beacons before venturing out of Silver Mountain’s many backcountry gates.
The new owners of Soldier Mountain in Southern Idaho near Fairfield have been investing a great deal over the last year. The resort upgraded the snowcat for its backcountry operations and purchased a new PistenBulley groomer for the frontside, plus staff conducted extensive brush clearing and tree trimming to expand skiable terrain. Meanwhile, new RFID technology will provide faster, direct access to lifts. Guests can load their RFID cards from any Web browser or mobile device and buy lift tickets, rent gear ahead of time, and purchase food vouchers.
For the second consecutive year, SKI Magazine named Sun Valley the top ski resort in North America in its 2021/22 Annual Ski Resort Awards and Reader’s Poll. Sun Valley ranked No. 1 in Grooming, Lifts, Service, Dining, Lodging, Family, Local Flavor, and Overall Satisfaction.
In partnership with the National Forest Foundation, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and members of the local community, Sun Valley Co. initiated the Bald Mountain Stewardship Project to improve forest health, reduce fuels and associated fire risk, and preserve the recreational experience on and around Bald Mountain, home of Sun Valley Ski Resort. As a result, the resort will open up new terrain for glade skiing this season that has previously been inaccessible due to the amount of standing dead and downed trees.
Additional improvements Sun Valley guests will enjoy this winter include a new servery at the River Run Lodge that will assist with guest flow. Local foodie favorite Konditorei has been added to River Run, so guests can enjoy fresh coffee and pastries at both River Run and Warm Springs this season, as well as the Wok and Bowl station that will feature Asian cuisine. The resort will continue to have bag storage this year at River Run, as well as an Apres Bar outside the lodge, so guests can remain in the fresh air après ski.
Tamarack Resort near Donnelly in Southwest Idaho has invested more than $40 million over the last three years. On-mountain upgrades since last winter include enhanced snowmaking capabilities on lower-elevation terrain, an expanded grooming fleet featuring two new Prinoth groomers, and an Axess ticketing system that allows guests to pick up passes at kiosks throughout the resort and use RFID gates at base-area lifts for quicker uphill access.
Growth of the destination resort’s alpine village continues with the addition of Tamarack Outfitters, a new skier services shop housing ticket sales and ski and snowboard rentals, repairs, and retail, as well as the Jon Reveal Ski & Sports School. Bumps & Brews beer bar, a new tenant in Tamarack’s Rendezvous Food Hall, complements The Village’s full spectrum of food and beverage options. And the Spa at Tamarack located in the Lodge at Osprey Meadows has reopened.
Tamarack has also expanded parking, adding 200 spaces, and system-wide fiber-optic upgrades have improved WiFi connectivity across the resort.
The remaining Ski Idaho members — Bald Mountain (in Pierce), Cottonwood Butte, the Little Ski Hill, Magic Mountain, Pebble Creek, and Snowhaven — have not announced any major upgrades for the 2021-2022 ski season beyond usual maintenance and upkeep.
Sun Valley, America’s first destination ski resort and the birthplace of the chairlift, turns 85 on Dec. 21 while Brundage Mountain celebrates its 60th birthday on Nov. 23.
Sun Valley is partnering with the Epic Pass again, plus it offers a Sun & Snow Pass with Snowbasin in Huntsville, Utah, that allows passholders to ski up to three days at each resort. Schweitzer has joined the IKON Pass partnership. Six Ski Idaho members — Brundage Mountain, Lost Trail, Pomerelle, Silver Mountain, Soldier Mountain, and Tamarack — are partners in the Indy Pass. Grand Targhee is a member of the Mountain Collective. And Bogus Basin and Silver Mountain are partners in the Powder Alliance.
La Niña is back
Idaho and the Northwest should expect a cold, wet winter with heavy mountain snow because of a La Niña weather pattern that’s developing in the Pacific Ocean thousands of miles away.
Adapting to COVID-19
All Ski Idaho resorts adopted the National Ski Areas Association’s “Ski Well, Be Well” program last winter, and Ski Idaho president and Bogus Basin GM Brad Wilson anticipates member ski areas will remain vigilant. He said ski areas in Idaho and beyond continue to develop innovative contactless technologies that enable a touch-free experience.
“Last year’s health mitigation strategies related to COVID-19 served us well last winter,” Wilson said. “There is definitely renewed interest in outdoor recreation throughout the state, and the support and cooperation from guests helped Idaho’s ski areas successfully navigate the season’s challenges.”
This season Wilson recommends skiers and snowboarders check online for the most up-to-date information about Ski Idaho resorts they plan to visit this season. He said skiidaho.us has links to all the resorts’ websites.
About Ski Idaho
Founded in 1982, the Idaho Ski Areas Association, a.k.a. Ski Idaho, is a nonprofit association funded in part by the Idaho Travel Council via the state’s 2 percent lodging tax paid by travelers and collected by hotel, motel, and private campground owners. Boasting 28,000 vertical feet of terrain spanning more than 20,000 acres, Idaho is the birthplace of lift-assisted skiing, home to America’s first destination ski resort, and often considered the soul of skiing. Its 19 family friendly Alpine ski areas offer trails and backcountry for skiers and snowboarders of all ages and skill levels, breathtaking views, hundreds of inches of fresh powder, and short lift lines. Many Ski Idaho resorts open for the summer season, as well, to serve up lift-served mountain biking, scenic chairlift rides, hiking and trail running, disc golf, and more. Visit skiidaho.us for more details.