Idaho: Paradise Found

Take a tour of the Gem State and all its powdery glory

The views from the top of Sun Valley
Idaho mountains looking down on Sun Valley. Getty Images

Idaho. It’s probably not the first place people think of when it comes to snowboarding...but it definitely should be. The Gem State is lined with idyllic mountain tops, endless lakes, rivers, trees and wildlife— it’s like being in a National Geographic tv show. Everywhere you look there is something beautiful, something surreal, your eyes constantly gaze attempting to revel in the moment.

Beyond its endless attractiveness, Idaho boasts 18 resorts all with their own features and niche.

Some are off the beaten path or more local, other's family-specific, but all have a distinct charm. The best part though? The lack of people. Pick a place, any place, on any given day and you’ll be pushed to find a lift line or crowded run. They simply don’t exist here. Just one of the many reasons Idaho is great.

The mountains in Idaho are spread from one end of the state to the other, with the snowfall averaging about 200 inches a year. And the snow is goooood. When the white stuff rolls in there are plenty of pow turns, tree runs and steeps to take advantage of.  

Out of everything rad about Idaho though, it’s the people that take the cake. Up to par with the Swiss and Canadians, Idahoans are pretty much the nicest and more sincere people you’ll ever encounter. Attitudes are fakeness is very rare. It’s almost weird how nice everyone is, but being genuine goes a long way and it makes visiting the state even that much more special.

Every hotel worker, restaurant server and even lift operator feels instantly like a friend. A smile and nice gesture goes a long way and Idahoans are the prime example of that.

One of the best ways to explore Idaho is by car. While weather during storms across the plains can get sketchy, it’s seriously simple (and gorgeous) to drive and take it all in.

By taking a road trip you can hit up several resorts in a short amount of time. Easily access many resorts right outside of Boise. There are endless daily flights out of BOI so wherever you're coming from, you can likely fly into there. A great spot for calling home base is this nice little hipster-ish boutique hotel called The Modern Hotel. It says a lot about a hotel if the locals come for happy hour, and the food and beverages rarely disappoint.

Taking a little time to explore the city and use it as a base isn’t a bad idea either. Don’t know where to start? Check out these four resorts that are perfect for a road trip and should definitely be on your bucket list.

Sun Valley

Iconic, authentic, charming—Sun Valley is more than just a place, it’s a destination. Probably the best known resort in Idaho, it truly lives up to its reputation as one of the most ideal places for a snowboard vacay. It has the awesome town lined with plenty of eateries, shops and bars, and two mountains depending on what type of terrain you like to ride.

For the all-mountain and big-mountain riders looking to clock vert, Bald Mountain is the place to be. Pristine and fast groomers coupled with open bowls, tree runs and a 3,400 vertical drop make Bald Mountain a challenging and exciting place to take some turns.

For a real leg burner, take the three mile run down from the top. The surrounding valley views aren’t too shabby either.

Dollar Mountain, right across the street, is the perfect place for beginners and park junkees. Dollar works with the infamous Snow Park Tech crew to build three terrain parks with plenty of features, including 76 rails, and even an Olympic-sized 22-foot superpipe.

Throughout its 80 years, Sun Valley has continued to keep up with the times, adding high-speed lifts and more terrain, five-star lodging and nightlife. While certain things have changed about the area, one thing is clear that hasn’t—it’s unique flair. There is literally something that just feels good about being there. The entire ambiance feels like a Hollywood movie about a perfect mountain town away from it all, and that may be why A-list stars have flocked here time and time again.

Ernest Hemingway, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Warren Buffet, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Justin Timberlake, Bruce Willis, Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks, Oprah, and not to mention plenty of U.S. presidents, have all basked in the Sun Valley glow. 

The recently renovated Sun Valley Lodge is a staple and must-see/stay, complete with memorabilia and black and white photos of icons who have walked through its doors. Keeping a classic yet rustic vibe, this lodge perfectly complements the beauty that lies outside. There’s also an amazing heated outdoor pool, lavish spa, ice rink and a bowling alley to mix things up.

You’ll love how happy and effervescent the locals are, many who have called Sun Valley home the majority of their lives. You can tell they appreciate it and want you to enjoy it too. Seeing this place packed with character and characters is an unforgettable experience.

sunvalley.com

Brundage Mountain

Directly north of Boise, approximately 115 miles, is the smaller yet powerful, Brundage, named the place to ride the “Best Snow in Idaho.” Perched at a higher elevation than other resorts, Brundage averages 320” of fluffy white stuff a year. Best of all the great local resort, that welcomes visitors with open arms. No “locals only” bad vibes here. With only five lifts, the place still never gets crowded—although there was a complaint once about a three-minute lift line during a holiday weekend.

There are plenty of acres to ride—around 1,500 of them, as well as an 1,800 foot vertical drop. There are lots of open trees and glades, endless pow fields when it snows, and fun cruisers everywhere you look. The thing about a smaller resort is it’s easier to learn your way around and find a fun zone. It isn’t as daunting as bigger resorts and lends a comfort aspect unlike other places. It’s also pretty difficult to get lost when there’s only five lifts. Somehow though, the terrain seems so vast and endless when you’re at the top. Hidden Valley is worth checking out, especially if the snow’s good.

Brundage even hosts snow cat day trips if you really want some terrain to yourself, right next to the resort.

While there is a day lodge with a great restaurant and place to chill, the best place to stay near Brundage is in the town of McCall, just a very short 20 minute drive away. The cute, historic town on the edge of Payette Lake is a great spot to situate for a few days. While it’s not the most hopping place for nightlife, there are plenty of places to wine and dine. One of those is Hotel McCall, that is not only a perfect spot to take in a meal with lake and mountain views, it’s also an ideal spot to rest your head. What’s also nice is everything you need is within walking distance. Just another stop on your Idaho tour.

brundage.com

Tamarack

Just south of McCall, about 20 miles, is Tamarack Resort. Tamarack is known as the first new ski resort to be opened in 23 years (since ‘81), but it’s also already went through the ringer. After opening, the area went bankrupt during the last crash, forcing the resort to close for some time. With some wrangling and lots of local support, Tamarack was re-opened in 2014. It’s still somewhat eerie there, due to the fact that there are so many homes, condos and hotel rooms that are vacant, but it also makes the place strangely fun and certainly unforgettable.

If you like privacy, but want to be slopeside, this is really the place to do it. If you’re staying on the resort, even during the “busy” season, it will feel like no one’s around. Tamarack is still undergoing growth, as there isn’t a formal lodge or restaurant even. There are currently really nice tents in place, housing a ticket booth and store front, as well as a place to dine (just one, really), that has the necessities: a full bar and good grub.

The mountain though, it has lots to offer, especially on powder days. While it’s a lower elevation resort, with a base at just under 5,000 feet, the snow still definitely falls and with less people on the slopes, stays prime longer. There’s 1,000 accessible acres, with super wide runs and easy hiking off the top, just come gear prepared. Perched at the base of Cascade Reservoir, Tamarack boasts views for days and is definitely worth checking out.

tamarackidaho.com

Bogus Basin

A hidden gem, that’s not so hidden, Bogus Basin is so close to Boise, yet feels like world’s removed. Less than 18 miles from Boise center, but about a 45 minute trek up quite a windy road, Bogus is a serious local’s paradise. Once you get to the base, you’ll be shocked at all of the terrain at your disposal, 2,600 acres to be exact.

Even being so close to Boise where it could be 55 and sunny, the resort averages between 200-250 inches of snow a year. The place really has everything any major resort would have: solid terrain parks, snow-making, groomers and all-mountain terrain including gullies, trees and open glades. The only thing it’s missing is a hotel and some restaurants, but who cares about that when the terrain is this good? Oh, and they have night-riding too. Which is super cool for kids still in school and stuff. 

Another thing that makes Bogus amazing is that it’s a non-profit resort. What this means is cheap lift tickets, and way less corporate-y rules. Give respect, get respect is the general vibe. It’s evident the people who ski and ride here are super passionate and care about their resort. Bogus is highly recommended.

bogusbasin.org

Sure your legs might get tired and the roads might get long, but your heart is sure to be fuller after visiting the true gem that is Idaho. Get out there and enjoy!

visitidaho.org