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Idaho Skiing – Skiers Paradise With Endless Powder and Killer Vertical Drop

  • By Wolfe Ashcraft
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The Best Ski Mountains In Idaho — Chasing Powder And Big Vertical Drop

Ski mountains in Idaho have a lot to offer — more in fact, than most people realize. Every ski or snowboard enthusiast knows all ski mountains are not created equal. So many variables factor into what makes a ski resort great — massive vertical drop, major avg snowfall, bountiful named runs, plenty of lifts, endless acres of skiable terrain, and miles of backcountry, to name a few. As winter sports addicts turn to the internet to find resorts that fit the bill, they will be delighted to discover that Idaho is home to six such mountains.

With a variety of great skiing and snowboarding options, it shouldn’t be a surprise that more and more people are choosing to ski Idaho. But it is just that — a surprise for the growing number that each year experience the wonder of skiing Idaho’s mountains for the first time.

Top Idaho Skiing

The Makings Of An Excellent Ski Mountain

When picking a set of skis or a new snowboard, there are many things to consider. Certain characteristics like camber, stiffness, width, length, weight, and the quality of edges, determine whether the skis or board are a good purchase. Just like your gear, the best ski mountains possess features that help set them apart.

7 Key Features Of A Great Ski Resort

When choosing where in Idaho to hit some powder, there are seven important things to consider, and finding a ski resort that checks all the boxes is key for a good weekend in the mountains. In no particular order, here are some things to consider when judging the quality of a ski resort:

  • Vertical drop
  • Average snowfall and quality of snow
  • Number of named runs and acres of skiable terrain
  • Number of lifts and uphill capacity
  • Terrain parks
  • Backcountry options
  • Food options
  • Lodging options
Idaho Ski Resorts

Idaho Ski Resorts That Hit All The Marks

While Idaho is home to 16 ski resorts, there are six that excel in all the above categories:

  • Tamarack Resort – Donnelly, Idaho
  • Sun Valley Resort – Sun Valley, Idaho
  • Brundage Mountain Resort – McCall, Idaho
  • Bogus Basin – Boise Idaho
  • Silver Mountain Resort – Kellogg, Idaho
  • Schweitzer Mountain Resort – Sandpoint, Idaho

The Haves and Have Nots of Vertical Drop

When first starting out on sticks or a board, vertical drop isn’t terribly important. People should be more concerned about staying up right, out of tree wells, and avoiding yard sales. But as practice begins to pay off and skillset grows, resorts with significant vertical drop typically offer longer runs with more variety, which means more time on the mountain and less time in line. Also, big vertical is often found on resorts in taller mountain ranges, which usually means more snow.

Best Vertical Drops In Indaho

Snow, Snow, More Snow

Every skier and snowboarder knows the excitement of waking up to a snow report announcing 18 plus inches of fresh white. The more wintertime precipitation a mountain gets, the longer the season and the better the runs. But snow in large quantity is only part of the equation that equals big mountain magic. Powder is what really makes a resort sing — there are few experiences as enchanting as floating through pillow tops of white. Idaho’s big resorts get plenty of snowfall, and there is no shortage of fresh powder.

How Many Skiable Acres Did You Say?

Idaho ski resorts vary drastically in size — from 50 to 2900 acres of lift accessible terrain. Combine plenty of vertical, ample snow, and a thousand or more acres of runs, and you’re on your way to a good time. This is precisely what you’ll find at Idaho’s top ski resorts. Extensive acres of skiable terrain mean you’re less likely to rub elbows with your neighbors. And, the more space, the greater the number and variety of named runs. From beginner to expert, all of these resorts have something for every skill level.

Short Lift Lines in Idaho

More Time Skiing, Less Time Waiting

When you have a big mountain with thousands of acres, a host of runs, and plenty of vertical drop, it’s vital to have enough lifts to keep people moving. There is nothing as frustrating as waiting for a lift more than you get to ski or snowboard. But balance is key. If a ski resort can move more people per hour than the skiable terrain can comfortably accommodate, busy days result in people feeling like they are skiing over the top of each other. This also means finding areas that aren’t entirely tracked out is nearly impossible. Fortunately, each of Idaho’s larger resorts has plenty of lifts to keep skiers and snowboarders moving up the mountain and plenty of skiable acres so they can enjoy the host of named runs.

Fun Boxes And Jibs — Terrain Parks Are A Must

A must-have for any respectable resort is a terrain park or two. The added variety means those looking for a place to perfect quick grabs and grinds have a place to land (or crash) instead of crowding the slopes.

Family Ski Vacation

Skiing The Backcountry

For the more adventurous skier and snowboarder, lift access to backcountry terrain is enticing. If money is no object, one can always rent a cat or hop on a chopper for some untouched powder, but for the cost of a lift ticket, some of Idaho’s best ski resorts put you at the top of thousands of acres of perfect backcountry snow.

Food And Dining Options

Whether you need to fuel up at the beginning of the day, grab a quick bite between runs, or need to refill an empty tank after a full day on the mountain, Idaho’s top ski resorts offer plenty of options for food and drink. All have bar and grill style food, and a few of the destination resorts offer fine dining.

Cross Country Skiing

A Place To Rest Up So You Can Hit The Ski Slopes Again

The ideal skiing vacation requires a great ski mountain, good food, and a comfortable place to lay your head. Fortunately, each of Idaho’s top resorts have you covered. Some are close to nearby towns, which means you’ll have access to hotels and Airbnb’s or VRBO’s. Then there are the destination resorts that stand above the rest with multiple onsite lodging options for every budget.

How Do The Best Ski Resorts In Idaho Compare

Considering all a good ski mountain should offer, there are six ski resorts in Idaho that do a great job measuring up.

The 6 Best Idaho Ski Resorts Head-To-Head

Let’s look at the breakdown of each of Idaho’s big ski resorts beginning with the state’s four destination resorts.

Idaho Ski Resorts For Winter Vacations

Tamarack Resort

Sitting just outside of Donnelly, Idaho, Tamarack Resort is Idaho’s newest destination mountain resort. And it’s no wonder that this hidden gem is rapidly becoming a favorite winter destination for many. With year-round offerings, fantastic snow, great food options, and lodging for everyone, Tamarack is a must-visit for all the right reasons — heavy snowfall, plenty of vertical, and runs for every skill level.

Tamarack Resort Stats:

Summit Elevation7,777 feet
Base Elevation4,900 feet
Vertical Drop2,800 feet
Snowfall Avg300”
Lift Ticket Cost$75 for an adult day pass
Lift Accessible Terrain1,100 acres
Lift Accessible Backcountry5,000 acres
Named Runs50
Terrain Parks3
Number of Lifts7
Food Options3 restaurants and 1 grocery store
LodgingOnsite and in nearby towns
Destination ResortYes
Closest Major AirportBoise (BOI) – 2 h 9 min

Sun Valley Resort

Sun Valley Resort is home to incredible snow and big runs. While you pay nearly twice as much as other destination resorts, you get a lot for your money with huge vertical drop, the most runs in the state, and fantastic dining and lodging options.

Sun Valley Resort Stats:

Summit Elevation9,150 feet
Base Elevation5,750 feet
Vertical Drop3,400 feet
Snowfall Avg220”
Lift Ticket Cost$145 per adult day pass
Lift Accessible Terrain2,054 acres
Lift Accessible BackcountryMinimal – but extensive access with snow machines or helicopter
Named Runs121
Terrain Parks13
Number of Lifts18
Food Options5 restaurants
LodgingOnsite and in nearby towns
Destination ResortYes
Closest Major AirportBoise (BOI) – 2 h 46 min

Schweitzer Mountain Resort

Resting in the southeastern portion of the Selkirk Mountains, Schweitzer Mountain Resort resides in the northern Idaho panhandle. As one of Idaho’s three destination resorts, Schweitzer is a staple for many skiers and snowboarders. This family-friendly ski mountain has so much to offer — plenty of vertical, a host of dining options, and great snow, to name a few.

Schweitzer Mountain Resort Stats:

Summit Elevation6,400 feet
Base Elevation4,000 feet
Vertical Drop2400 feet
Snowfall Avg320”
Lift Ticket Cost$86 for an adult day pass
Lift Accessible Terrain2900 acres
Lift Accessible Backcountry3000 acres
Named Runs92
Terrain Parks3
Number of Lifts10
Food Options12 restaurants
LodgingOnsite and in nearby Sandpoint
Destination ResortYes
Closest Major AirportSpokane (GEG) – 1 h 50 min

Silver Mountain Resort

Located in Idaho’s panhandle, Kellogg, Idaho is home to Silver Mountain Resort — a destination resort ideal for families. With plenty of runs and skiable acres to explore, there is enough to keep skiers busy for days. Silver Mountain even has an indoor waterpark.

Silver Mountain Resort Stats:

Summit Elevation6,300 feet
Base Elevation4,100 feet
Vertical Drop2,200 feet
Snowfall Avg300”
Lift Ticket Cost$58 for an adult day pass
Lift Accessible Terrain1600 acres
Lift Accessible BackcountryMinimal
Named Runs73
Terrain Parks2
Number of Lifts7
Food Options2 restaurants
LodgingOnsite and in Kellogg
Destination ResortYes
Closest Major AirportSpokane (GEG) – 1 h 10 min

While they don’t qualify as destination resorts, the remaining two top Idaho ski mountains have plenty to keep ski and snowboard enthusiasts coming back for more.

Brundage Mountain Resort

Located in the mountains of central Idaho, Brundage Mountain Resort, just north of McCall, Idaho, is loaded with great runs and has an average snowfall of 300+ inches. While Brundage is not a destination resort, there are many lodging options in McCall, a 15-minute drive from the mountain.

Brundage Mountain Resort Stats:

Summit Elevation7,803 feet
Base Elevation5,882 feet
Vertical Drop1,921 feet
Snowfall Avg320”
Lift Ticket Cost$73 for an adult day pass
Lift Accessible Terrain1,920 acres
Lift Accessible Backcountry420 acres
Named Runs51
Terrain Parks2
Number of Lifts6
Food Options3 restaurants and 1 market
LodgingOffsite, 15-minute drive to McCall
Destination ResortNo
Closest Major AirportBoise (BOI) – 2 h 24 min

Bogus Basin

The largest of Idaho’s non-destination resorts, Bogus Basin, is a short 40-minute drive from downtown Boise, Idaho. While the snow’s quality is hit and miss, the variety of runs and ease of access from nearby towns make this a favorite for many.

Bogus Basin Stats:

Summit Elevation7,590 feet
Base Elevation5,790 feet
Vertical Drop1,800 feet
Snowfall Avg250”
Lift Ticket Cost$69 for an adult day pass
Lift Accessible Terrain2600 acres
Lift Accessible BackcountryMinimal
Named Runs82
Terrain Parks2
Number of Lifts10
Food Options3 restaurants
LodgingLimited onsite, 40-minute drive lodging in Boise
Destination ResortNo
Closest Major AirportBoise (BOI) – 54 min

Discover The Magic of Idaho Ski Resorts

Idaho is known for a lot more than potatoes. From north to south and east to west, the state is loaded with plenty of skiing options.

It should come as no surprise that we are partial to Tamarack, and we think you should be too. As a destination resort with reasonable rates, extensive onsite lodging options, and a run to lift ratio that keeps lines to a minimum, Tamarack is the first choice for many.

But all six of the resorts listed here offer skiers and snowboarders everything a big ski mountain should and deserve to be explored.