Just when we thought our Ski Idaho tour couldn’t get any better, a winter storm warning went into effect as we arrived to ski Brundage Mountain. Through the course of the weekend, the storm dropped 8″ of the lightest, blower pow that Brundage is known for. The snow started coming down even harder as the lifts were getting ready to close. Another up to 7″ is in the forecast so tomorrow should be amazing. Check out yesterday’s episode of Brundage’s BTV featuring our own TNT and Jerad Merbs as well as BTV’s Reese. Now, go get some of the best snow in Idaho.
Boise is lucky to have Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area. It almost went under in the 1950s. But J.R. Simplot, Idaho’s potato king (and inventor of the 1st commercial frozen french fries), purchased and sold it back to Bogus Basin Recreational Association for $1; thus, saving it from certain demise. Today, the resort continues under the ownership of that non-profit, charitable organization created by the Boise community. Our hats off to them. Bogus Basin is an impressive ski area.
With 2600 acres, Bogus Basin’s terrain makes it Idaho’s 2nd largest ski area. Its terrain is spread out over two connecting mountains, Shafer Butte topping out at 7590 ft (1800 ft vertical rise) and Deer Point at 7,070 ft – all serviced by 7 lifts. Its night skiing operation covering 165 acres is Idaho’s largest. If stats and ski trivia are your thing, also consider this: its proximity to Boise (just 16.5 miles drive) makes Bogus Basin one of the largest ski resorts LESS than 30 miles from a major city.
On the day we visited, it had snowed several inches. As we approached the J.R. Simplot Lodge, we couldn’t help but notice that the base area was teaming with Bogus Basin staff greeting visitors and asking if they could help. We traded remarks about how this was the most well staffed base area we had ever seen. Even as the parking lots filled up to capacity, there were no lift lines anywhere on the mountain. The design of the mountain does a superb job of spreading out the crowd in all directions. We encountered none and skied fresh powder all day. Our team, TNT, Adam Roberts, Jeff Rich, Carl Simpson and myself, followed the “spring plan” (pictured below). TNT and Adam ended up stuck on the more advanced terrain off Shafer Butte and the Superior and Pine Creek Express lifts. We say “stuck” because they got disoriented by the 360 degree skiing off the Superior Lift, had a Groundhog Day (the movie) experience and kept ending up at the same chair. They enjoyed every minute of it but finally had to ask how to get out. So be careful: the 360 degree portion of the resort can really throw people off and make Bogus Basin difficult to navigate. But by the same token, it makes the area ski even bigger than it is. To assist folks in finding their way, the posted maps include an overhead 360 degree version (just remember you’re looking at an “overhead” map!).
Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area is located north of Boise, ID, at the end of a 16 mile drive up the very windy Bogus Basin Road. The road drives directly into the J.R. Simplot Lodge base area and parking lot. This is the main base area with rental & retail shops, ticket office, daycare, food & beverage and ski school. There is a second, mid-mountain ski in/out parking lot and the Pioneer Lodge (and condos), two miles past the main base area on Pioneer Rd. We stayed at the remodeled Courtyard Marriott in Boise (some areas in the back are still undergoing work). Prime location: across the street from Whole Foods, across the river from U. Idaho, across the parking lot from the new Chick Fil-A and other restaurants and blocks from the historic downtown district and new shopping area. The rooms (and lobby) are all contemporary, spacious, bright and well equipped with ample outlets, flat screen TVs, work spaces, mini-fridge and free wifi. The free parking is outdoors at ground level so our RV had no trouble parking there.
It is worth mentioning that Bogus Basin played a role in making lift tickets more affordable for skiers and snowboarders nationwide. Story has it that back in the late 1990s, Bogus Basin was the first U.S. resort to drop its adult season pass price from $500 to $199 (a smart move that increased overall revenue). Their price cut set off an industry wide trend that resulted in lower prices and wider variety of pass deals. Bogus Basin has since raised its pass prices a bit but at $329 for adults until Mar. 30th (was $299 during the pass sale period which ended Feb. 21), they are still a great value and just a fraction of the cost of other areas with comparable terrain.
March kicked off this week with 30″ of new snow for Alpental. It was deep! And it stayed fresh and soft all day long. Here’s a teaser video to get you stoked to come up this weekend. Don’t forget that tomorrow, Saturday, March 5, 2016 is Alpental’s B.A.R.K. Backcountry Ball and spaghetti feed. It starts at 6pm and costs $6 ($3 children) for the all you can eat buffet. All proceeds go towards Alpental Volunteer Patrol and Alpental’s Backcountry Avalanche Rescue K9s.
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.