With 18 ski areas—more than both Montana and Utah, its ski-star neighbors—Idaho is a low-key ski mecca. Nowhere is this more evident than here in the Panhandle.
Between three- and four-hundred inches annual inches of snow stack up to a reliable snowpack, and with a refreshing lack of crowds, skiers and snowboarders can easily squeeze in an extra untracked lap.
And with three of the state’s best ski areas—Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Silver Mountain Resort and Lookout Pass Ski Area—within an hour’s drive of Coeur d’Alene, visiting skiers and snowboarders can easily plan a memorable ski day to the resorts of the Idaho Panhandle.
From Coeur d’Alene, it’s only thirty minutes to Kellogg and Silver Mountain Resort, in the heart of Idaho’s Silver Valley. Once the largest silver-producing region in the world, the Silver Valley remains an active mining community; the day’s silver prices are still listed on business signs around the valley. And Silver Mountain Resort reflects that blue-collar mentality with old-school skiing and personality.
North America’s longest gondola transports skiers from the valley floor to 1600 acres of terrain and 2200 feet of vertical on Kellogg Peak. On a powder day, make a bee-line for the double-black North Face Glades, where wind-deposited snow stacks up in the steep trees. Time your visit for a mid-week powder dump and, once the locals have snuck in their pre-work powder laps, you’ll have the place to yourself.
Another twenty minutes east, straddling the Idaho/Montana border, Lookout Pass Ski Area may look small—only 540 acres—but punches above its weight class, thanks to its big snowpack. It’s not unusual for Lookout to get a foot of snow when nearby ski areas get skunked, thanks to its location in the relatively wet Bitterroot Range. And with an in-progress expansion that will double the ski area’s acreage, Lookout will surely prove the maxim that more is better.
Just over an hour north of Coeur d’Alene, Schweitzer Mountain Resort sprawls across 2900 acres and two massive bowls—the largest ski area in Idaho and Washington combined.
Situated in the granite spires of the Selkirk Range and overlooking both Lake Pend O’Reille, the country’s fifth-deepest lake, and the burgeoning arts community of Sandpoint, Schweitzer has been billed “the Vail of the West”. But that designation extends only to the powder and the amenities, not the price tag.
From the village, take the high-speed Great Escape Quad to the summit and drop off into the big country of the Outback Bowl; the wide-open Australia and the tight, tree-nicking steeps of Pucci’s Chute are local favorites. With this much terrain, and so few crowds, here, as it its Panhandle neighbors, Schweitzer is not shy about sharing its powder stash.
Photo credit: Aaron Theisen