With an annual snowfall of 500”, Pomerelle is known for being Idaho’s snowfall leader and usually one of its first ski resorts to open. I experienced Pomerelle’s famous deep powder on a past trip -one that inspired me to coin and use the name POW’daho for the rest of that Idaho tour. This time, however, there was no new snow. But still, Pomerelle had the deepest snow pack in Idaho: snow depth was (and currently is) 100″ at their base area (8,000 ft elevation) and 112″ at the top (about 9,000 ft elevation).
We pulled into their small lot at 9am on a Saturday and still got front row parking. Needless to say, there were no lift lines. Despite being Idaho’s snowfall leader, Pomerelle remains surprisingly uncrowded. The lack of crowds enables Pomerelle to groom their runs in the morning. That Saturday was no different. Grooming was underway as we got on the lift so we decided to follow and be guided around the mountain by the groomer. It’s easy to see why Pomerelle caters specifically to families and those learning to ski or board. Their soft, expertly groomed runs are easy to navigate and well designed along steady but gentle fall lines. We skied all of them and found consistently perfect corduroy run after run. That made for a super fun day even though our original plan to explore the backcountry was thwarted by very high winds. Speaking of the backcountry, theirs is easily accessible via a short ski and hike along the top ridge. We’ve heard a lot about their easy to get to backcountry terrain so plan to return for that another time.
Pomerelle not only serves up perfect corduroy but also perfect burgers. Their signature double cheese burger is the Shack Attack and it’s killer. The stacked, marinated burger (big enough for 2) goes for $8. According to our team, it is “the best burger ever, EVER”. To date (I kid you not), the team is still raving about their burgers. Be sure to add Pomerelle to your list of affordable family ski resorts. Pomerelle is open 9am-4pm daily and offers night skiing until 9pm on Tuesday through Saturday. If you’re visiting the resort this weekend, stay for the Hot Iron Night Rail Jam starting at 6pm on Saturday, March 5, 2016.
Located within the Sawtooth National Forest in Albion, Pomerelle is located off I-84 via Idaho 77, Declo/Albion Exit #216. We found convenient lodging 28 miles away in Burley, off I-84, at the Best Western Plus Burley Inn & Convention Center (nice stay – see our review on TripAdvisor). The closest airports are 75 miles away in Twin Falls and 90 miles in Pocatello.
Below is the 2015 White Pass Ski Area Winter Carnival edit of our weekend from on 2/28/15 and 3/1/15. We all had a blast at last year’s event, charging the perfect corduroy and “boot top” cold pow we found in their bc, BOTH days. Due to the incredible lack of snow on our home pass (Snoqualmie), it was no wonder to have run into so many Alpental skiers, getting a fix too. That isn’t what surprised me though, it was how many of the Snoqualmie Pass locs had never skied White Pass, well this is what ever single person had mentioned (in some way or another), “This place rocks! The people are so friendly and down to earth, and the “earth” they have to ski in and out of bounds is LEGIT!” If you haven’t been to White Pass yet, you owe it to yourselves to put it on the hit list, then I’m sure you will be itching to go back (just like I am, right now). Speaking of inching to go back, I wanted to mention this upcoming weekend is this year’s Winter Carnival at White Pass, so click HERE for all of the details.
*Also, as mentioned before, the White Pass Village Inn has great loft rooms with kitchens to make for a cheap trip with the crew. However, as we found out, coming in from the Eastside on Hwy 12, all the grocery stores on the way, don’t open until 7AM, so stock up prior.
Returning from the sidecountry, photo credit / Jeff Rich
After a day at Pebble Creek Ski Area, we couldn’t help but wonder how its steep terrain ranked. So, we sifted through U.S. ski resorts’ own published data while asking ourselves: Which U.S. ski resorts have the highest “percentage” of lift served advanced terrain while also offering beginner and intermediate runs? What we found validated our impressions: of the resorts that break out their terrain’s difficulty by percentage, Pebble Creek is one of the nation’s leaders alongside bigger name resorts. Upon closer examination of the data, what surprised us was: Pebble Creek is the nation’s #1 ski resort when it comes to having the highest percentage of advanced terrain with over 2,000 lift served vertical feet. Pebble Creek rates 53% of its lift served, 2,200 ft vertical feet terrain as being advanced. We realize that steepness is relative and this data doesn’t rule out steeper runs elsewhere. However, our experience and this finding puts Pebble Creek tops on our list for being not only Idaho’s best keep secret but also amongst the country’s best kept steepests.
Located on Mount Bonneville (Portneuf Range’s highest mountain), Pebble Creek’s slogan is “If you can ski here, you can ski anywhere” – something many must say that about their mountain. We say it about our Alpental which has 41% advanced/expert lift served terrain on 2,280 vertical feet. In fact, we found ourselves comparing Pebble Creek quite a lot to our home mountain and we all agreed that this area known as “the Rock” truly rocks. It wasn’t just the rocky and cliff zones that far exceeded our expectations but also the groomers. Seemingly taller than it is broad, some of Pebble Creek’s steeply, sustained pitched groomers are narrower than usual and that moved the dial many notches on the difficulty scale. High speed and steep skiers alike would love the G forces on the well groomed runs. The pitch is similarly sustained in the well spaced glades where our team found some of the best tree skiing all week. We noticed a high number of little rippers skiing without parental units – they conjured up images of how local skier/phenom and Matchstick Productions’ rising star, Sander Hadley, must have got his start and went on to out ski us all.
Pebble Creek has a small community atmosphere (+ thumbs up for being a very diverse one given the international students coming from the nearby college). Everyone was friendly, inviting and attentive – from the owners, management on down. We had Stefan Berkel of ski patrol show our crew the uncrowded frontside. Then, the TanSnowman of Panda Poles showed us the even less crowded side country which we seemed to have to ourselves the entire day. Then some local rippers, took us through the terrain park. We ended up having such a good time on the frontside and side country that we never ventured beyond. We relished the thought of having to return to explore the backcountry – yes, another trip is a must. Our team – TNT, Sting, Jason Hummel, Jeff Rich, Adam Roberts, Carl Simpson – loved this place.
Owned by a group of local investors, Pebble Creek management prides itself on being laser focused on its customers and building long term loyalty. Lift tickets are an affordable $43 adults, $29 for children 6-12 & seniors 66+, $3 for 5 & under. For newbies, Pebble Creek offers one of the lowest, if not the lowest priced $35 1st timer package that includes group lessons, lift and rental -which is valid during *Christmas week* (unheard of!) and every weekend through Mar. 6th. The beginner area is very conveniently accessed just steps from the parking lot and serviced by the Aspen double chair that unloads at the lodge. Pebble Creek also offers several other money saving ski and ride deals such as (see photos for full list):
Mondays: 2 for 1 day
Tuesdays: business card $25 day
Wednesdays: men’s $25 day
Thursdays: Ladies’ $25 day
Fridays: College ID $25 day
Starting Mar. 16th: ski free from 3-5pm on the Aspen beginner lift or $10 all mountain Wed.-Sun.
There was even a Scout Merit Badge Program this past Feb. 15th for $25 which included the clinic and lift ticket.
Pebble Creek Ski Area is located in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest atop Mt. Bonneville in the Portneuf Range, off i-15 in Inkom, ID, just 29 minutes drive south of Pocatello. The drive is 2.5hrs from Salt Lake City, 3hrs from Grand Targhee or 3.5hrs from Boise. It’s open 7 days a week, 9:30am-4pm through Feb. 28th, then Wednesdays-Sundays until closing. Starting Mar. 16th, the lifts run from 10am-5pm. Beginner night skiing from 4-9:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays through Mar. 5th. Pebble Creek doesn’t have resort lodging but there are many options in nearby Lava Hot Springs and Pocatello. We stayed in Lava Hot Springs about 34 minutes away at the Riverside Hot Springs Inn, an historic landmark (and living museum) – in a 2 room apartment style room with a full kitchen, next door to one that President Roosevelt once occupied. The Inn has its own private mineral hot springs pools (3 large jacuzzi size pools in separate rooms) which we took full advantage of. Afterwards, our team enjoyed the company of locals at the Portneuf Grille & Lounge’s bar. We arrived too late to try the food but locals raved about it and Chef Alonzo Thomas who kept the bar open well past closing for us.
Those who made it out to Snoqualmie Pass this week were treated to spectacular views that, for me, had a so “snow calming” effect. Temps reached 60 or close to it. Signs that spring is around the corner were all around us: soft corn snow, wide open backcountry and Alpentalics making the mad dash for the last Chair 2 ride to join the pre-apres ski crowds soaking up the sun and Alpental summit vistas. We spotted skin tracks up Red Mountain confirming that bigger backcountry touring days are upon us. In fact, the 19+ mile Mountaineers Patrol Race is underway today. This is a backcountry ski race tradition that began at Snoqualmie Pass in 1930.
The 19+ mile course, which covers 4500 feet of elevation gain/loss, begins at Snoqualmie Pass’ Summit West Base Lodge, goes along the crest of the Cascades and finishes at Meany Lodge near Stampede Pass. According to the Mountaineers, the total time to complete the course usually runs between 5 and 10 hours. This 3-member team race requires that all three team members start, race and finish together. There are 20 teams of 3 are racing today — Good luck to all racers!
After spending a few weeks touring ski resorts out in the Rockies, we started to wonder if skiing at home will ever be the same. Well, the last couple of days have been gorgeous up at the Summit at Snoqualmie. Both the snow conditions and the endless views at Alpental were at their best to welcome us home. We must admit that after looking at the Rockies for weeks and getting caught up in their grandeur, we began to lose sight of how incredibly vast and beautiful our own Washington Cascade mountains are. As this week’s photos from Alpental into the backcountry show, the Lemah Mountains, Chikamin Peak, Mt. Thomson, etc. are a sight to behold. We are Alpentalics after all and we are proud to call this zone our home. See you out on the snow.
We kicked off our 2016 Idaho ski tour with a detour to Grand Targhee Resort. We say “detour” because the resort is actually located in Alta, WY but the only way to get there is through the town of Driggs, ID. The drive is an hour and a half West of Jackson, WY but it feels a lot shorter. The road from Jackson follows part of the Teton Scenic Byway in ID so as you can imagine, it is filled with stunning views to pass the time. The resort’s location, directly west of Grand Teton National Park, serves up what we think is the most head on, lift-served summit vistas of the Grand Teton, Middle Teton and South Teton’s rocky peaks. That and the resort’s uncrowded skiing and quality light, dry snow make Grand Targhee Resort well worth the trip.
Grand Targhee stays open longer than other Wyoming resorts. This year, it is scheduled to run lifts daily through April 17 and then for a bonus weekend April 22-24 (conditions permitting) so there’s still plenty of time to visit this season. Jackson Hole and Snow King close after April 3rd and Mar. 27th, respectively. It seems that no matter when we visit, Grand Targhee’s 2,602 acres and 2270 ft vertical drop always ski big. With more than 500 inches of light dry snow in an average year, it also gets deep. In fact, Grand Targhee was ranked No. 2 for Best Snow by Ski Magazine this year. The 91″ snow base was the deepest of all the resorts we visited so far on our road trip. Unlike most resorts with comparably big terrain, Grand Targhee remains remarkably uncrowded with no lift lines. We missed the last storm by nearly a week and, yet, plenty of light powder still remained. Amongst the 3 mountains comprising the resort, our steeps seeking team (TNT, Jason Hummel, Jeff Rich, Adam Roberts, Carl & Tara Simpson) found their favorite terrain (seen in below video) off Peaked Mountain (lift served to 9,830 ft but hiked further), Mary’s Nipple (hike in bounds to 9.,920 ft) and in their backcountry.
They were content to lap those zones all day (and had no trouble working off their Wyoming-style Grand Burritos breakfasts -which, by the way, were huge and delicious -try one at Snorkels Coffee House & Bistro located steps across from the ticket office). The upcoming Grand Targhee Junior Freeskiing Open for the top 12-17 skiers from across the western US will be held on the same steeps and cliffy runs off the north side of Peaked Mountain on Mar. 17-20, 2016. For those who prefer riding up, Grand Targhee boasts the only cat skiing operation in all of Wyoming, with a dedicated 602 acres that appeared to be suitable for intermediates and advanced alike.
There’s a lot to like about Grand Targhee. It is a special place and people are taking notice. It ranked No. 7 out of the Top 10 Best Ski Resorts in USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice travel contest (Feb. 16, 2016), No. 9 on the list of the Top 10 Best Ski Resorts in USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice and No. 7 for Best Value by Ski Magazine. It also holds the No. 7 spot for Not-To-Miss Ski Town Music Festivals by Skiing Magazine and No. 4 for Best Places to Ski in March by ZRankings.
Grand Targhee is an easy day trip from Jackson but we recommend overnighting to enjoy all the activities and events this mountain has to offer -ie, we didn’t have time to cat ski nor explore the fat bike demos even though they were right at the base at Teton Mountain Outfitters. The resort has four slopeside lodges (free wifi and boot dryer in rooms): Teewinot Lodge (where we stayed), Targhee Lodge, Sioux Lodge and the Tower. The resort parking lot accommodates overnight RV camping for $20/nt plus taxes, fees (permits are sold at the lodging check in front desk). At the resort, only AT&T cell service works at the base (the rest of our team on Verizon got service on the summit). There is also lodging in nearby Driggs or a bit further in Victor, ID. Shuttles run regularly between Victor, Driggs and Grand Targhee ($2/ride or free for Resort lodging guests, takes approx. 30min.). There is also an $8/ride Start Bus route between Driggs and Jackson with stop in Victor that takes about 1:07 hrs. From Idaho Falls, it’s an easy 82 miles.
No other U.S. ski resort destination caters to the refined, high end crowd like Aspen, CO. With 5 star hotels, private jets, celebrities, designer stores, award winning dining, beautiful people and nightlife, Aspen sounded to our team like it might be more exciting off mountain, than on. From town, the team stared up at the impeccably groomed runs. They thought about a leisurely ski day and looked forward to having plenty of energy to rally for Aspen’s big nightlife. But hold that thought because we were about to meet up with 2x World Extreme Skiing Champion and Aspen resident, Chris Davenport and ski “his” Mountain (known to locals as Ajax).
Exiting the gondola towards the Sun Deck Lodge (at an elevation of 11, 212 ft), there’s a display about Chris. Entitled “Skiing Colorado’s Fourteeners“, it’s a tribute to Chris becoming the first to ski all 54 of CO’s 14,000 ft peaks in less than a year. His book “Ski the 14ers” details the 363 day mission. In addition to pioneering big lines, he’s also a World Champion skier. Chris undoubtedly knows every steep line on Ajax. Chris also knows where to find the stashes. We were surprised to find so much untracked in bounds. After all, three days had already passed since early February’s winter storm Kayla. Granted, it dumped more than 3 feet in 3 days during the biggest storm since winter 2007-08, but we had expected 675 acres would be tracked out by now – especially, given how the high speed chairs and gondola made getting to them virtually effortless. This is perhaps the most efficiently designed steep, long mountain: 3,267 ft sustained vert. And without a doubt, it is the most well maintained – grooming and coverage is perfect.
It’s no wonder Aspen is home to such ski icons as Chris, and his friends Ted and Christy Mahon and is host venue for World Cup alpine ski racing, X Games (on nearby Buttermilk) and so much more. Speaking of Chris, Ted and Christy – this illustrious trio was recently nominated for National Geographic’s 2016 Adventurers of the Year award for becoming the first to complete successful ski descents of Colorado’s hundred tallest peaks in 2015 – an objective that was hatched while crushing our Pacific NW Ring of Fire volcanoes (15 of them in 14 days!). So skiing Aspen (and managing to keep up) with Chris is an exceptionally special experience. We thank you Chris for showing us Ajax’s best kept steepests – among them (and our team’s favorites): the gated Cone Dumps, Bingo Glades and Traynor runs. Watch the video and head for these same zones if you’re looking for the most challenging terrain on Ajax. You’ll come to understand why our stoke about Aspen was off the charts…and that’s without venturing into Ajax’s vast side or backcountry –nor experiencing their nightlife. Be sure to follow Chris on Facebook.
Tips: (1) if you’re looking to demo skis, treat yourself to some Kastle skis (Chris Davenport’s go to line of skis) at Hamilton Sports (middle of the block across from the Aspen Gondola), (2) avoid the morning traffic by staying in the town of Aspen or taking the very frequent buses which bypass stop & go traffic in their own dedicated bus lane, (3) we stayed at the new Element Hotel in Basalt (thumbs way up!) across from Whole Foods, with the VelociRFTA bus rapid transit (BRT) “Willits” stop half a block out front (these express, wifi-enabled buses run every 10 min. weekdays, every 15min. weekends – it’s 38min. (22 mile) $5 one way [or $3.50 if prepaid at the machine] to Aspen’s Ruby Park Transit Center, 2 blocks from the gondola) or Buttermilk, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands (for Snowmass or Highlands, change buses at the Brush Creek stop or the stop after Buttermilk & cross the street), (4) if you’re driving a camper RV, park free at the Buttermilk ski area’s main lot or Tiehack lift lot, (5) plan to spend at least 3 days – there’s so much to do and see.
This weekend, Feb. 13-14, Alpental will host Vertfest 2016, the festival celebrating backcountry skiing and riding. On Saturday, over a dozen companies will be on hand to offer free demos of backcountry skis, split boards, alpine touring bindings and more. Saturday is also the day to participate in half or full day steep skiing, alpine touring, split boarding, avalanche awareness and ski photography clinics. Return on Sunday for more free demos and the Vertfest uphill race. There is something for everyone interested in backcountry skiing/riding, ski touring or mountaineering. See you at Vertfest.
Wanted to share this one from Josh Langdon out of Flagstaff, AZ, skiing his home stomping grounds of Arizona Snowbowl! If you didn’t know there was skiing to be had in Arizona, be sure to check out Josh’s “Season Edit 2016 Part 1″ for a little pre-Super Bowl stoke.