Hidden Gems: Idaho
To say Idaho’s “hidden gems” are uncrowded is a gross understatement—especially because you’d be hard-pressed to find lift lines at even Idaho’s best-known resorts, Sun Valley and Schweitzer.
Indeed, at the state’s smaller places, you’d feel downright lonely if you didn’t live by the credo, “No friends on a powder day.”
Anyone who’s ever been to this great state in any of its four glorious seasons knows the simple truth that everything here is underrated, mostly because its neighboring states all have one major national park that draws herds of RVs. Idaho boasts incredible fishing, biking, and, of course, skiing.
We’ll take you through our favorite hometown hills, from north to south, and let you decide which ones are worthy of a trip. (The correct answer, of course, is all of them.) It might be time to quit your job and tell your kids to feed themselves—and book a trip to Idaho today.
Silver Mountain sits on the Idaho panhandle just off I-90 in Kellogg, one hour east of Spokane. Originally named for the metal mining that put this town on the map, now Silver’s biggest boom comes in the form of 340 inches of light, fluffy powder. Silver has 2,200 vertical feet spread out across two connected peaks, and 1,600 skiable acres mostly blues and blacks for advanced and expert skiers (beginner terrain is a limited just a handful of runs). The most interesting thing about Silver is that it’s just the resort is based on the upper half of the peaks, and you have to take the gondola back down the base. Unless, that is, you have backcountry equipment and experience, in which case this place gets much, much bigger.
The Silver Mountain trail map by our favorite artist, James Niehues.
Just a half hour southeast of Silver sits Lookout Pass, which has bragging rights of the snowiest mountain in Idaho. The place gets 400 annual inches of the stuff, which stays fresh for days on account of no one being there to actually ski it. Lookout has runs on three faces—known as the Montana side, the North side, and the new Idaho side off Eagle Peak, an expansion that doubled Lookout’s terrain and just opened to the public in 2022-23. This place is known for its powdery glades, which spill down all three of the faces. Lookout has been operating continuously since 1935 and still has its original lodge, which is the second oldest in the Northwest. This place is also great for families: Lessons for kids aged 7-17 are free (yes, free), adult lift tickets start at $52, and deals abound, like two tickets for $75 on Thursdays. Your best bet for lodging is in the nearby town of Wallace.
Brundage is perched 20 minutes outside the cute little mountain town of McCall and boasts gorgeous views of Payette National Forest and Payette Lake. This place is an outdoor playground in both summer and winter, and Brundage is a local favorite known for its experts-only tree skiing in Hidden Valley and lift-served backcountry off Sargents Peak. (You can also hire a guided snowcat that accesses nearly 18,000 acres of powdery steeps.) It has an average snowfall of 320 inches, 1,920 skiable acres plus 420 skiable acres of lift-served backcountry, and a vertical drop of 1,921 feet. The backcountry zone is not patrolled or controlled, so be sure you have your gear and know how to use it.
Well, this looks like fun! Brundage Mountain, Idaho. Photo: skimag.com
Tamarack is about an hour and a half from Boise via car (and about the same distance as Brundage is from McCall), and it’s 2,800 vertical drop and 1,100 skiable acres offer a host of terrain variety for all levels. Green circles and blue squares are located mostly off of the Tamarack Express, while experts have the entire upper mountain off the Summit Express to themselves. The Wildwood Express, the resort’s newest lift, serves up advanced powdery trees and glades. And for those who want to venture out of bounds (with the proper safety equipment and knowledge, of course), Tamarack’s lifts access more than 5,000 acres of untracked terrain off the ridgeline. Tamarack also has big plans for expansions in the future, with a proposal for nine new lifts (including a top-to-bottom gondola) and an additional 2,100 acres of skiable terrain. The resort does have ski-in/ski-out lodging, or you could stay in one of the neighboring towns (we recommend quaint McCall, which you can use as your home base for Brundage, too).
Only 40 minutes from Boise, Bogus Basin can see a little more traffic on the weekends than most of these resorts. That said, “traffic” anywhere in Idaho is a slow day anywhere else. And if you can ski during the week, you’ll have the place all to yourself. A nonprofit ski area, Bogus Basin has a great local vibe and lift tickets are super affordable ($79 for adults). It has 1,800 vertical and 2,600 skiable acres, which comprise of awesome steeps and trees. Don’t miss lunch at the Smokehouse, with some of the state’s best BBQ from Snake River Farms and Double R Ranch.
Bogus Basin at sunset. Photo: northend.org
Just a short drive from Pocatello, Pebble Creek sits in the Portneuf Range. Though it isn’t huge—2,100 vertical and 1,100 skiable acres—this little hometown hill packs a punch. It’s rated as having 45% expert terrain, and it boasts backcountry access to The Glades, a high-expert zone with cliffs and chutes. Its motto is, “If you can ski Pebble Creek, you can ski anywhere.” That said, there are some nice greens and blues for the less-advanced set. Stay at the historic and luxurious Harkness Hotel in nearby McCammon (25 minutes away) for a taste of local history.
Article by Kimberly Beekman
Kimberly Beekman is the former editor-in-chief of the late, great Skiing Magazine (RIP), and a longtime editor of SKI Magazine before that. She currently uses the title of “freelancer” as a beard to ski powder all over the world. She lives in Steamboat, Colorado, with her wonderful daughter and terrible cat.