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New Times at Tamarack

Tamarack legal limbo continues, but the skiing is still great

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If you haven't been up there yet, you might still be wondering what the deal is with the re-opened Tamarack. We took the two-hour trip north for a nice little day of powder and concluded that the "new" resort is better than ever. Tamarack seems to have transitioned into more of a locals' haunt, an identity that both homeowners and Valley County residents have embraced.

As we passed through the roundabouts at Tamarack's entrance, we still sensed a little feeling of incompleteness: Many construction projects are still unfinished, and the majority of resort operations remain in large commercial tents. That aside, the general aesthetic of the resort is much the same as in years past.

Jumping on the Tamarack Express lift, an odd nostalgia set in that made us wonder what we were in for. After all, the resort is being run with roughly 30 percent of the personnel and budget that it ran on before.

Apart from fewer people--which meant no lift lines--and the closure of the Buttercup and Wildwood lifts, very little has changed. The lift operators are still polite and engaging, and the design and separation of the mountain still offers many terrain options--from dropping the cornice, to tree skiing, to wide open groomers.

We made several quick runs off the summit lift before hiking south for a little backcountry excursion. I haven't skied powder that light in Idaho in many moons--it was comparable to Utah's Wasatch front, thanks to generous early season dumpings from La Nina.

Tamarack's hub--the Canoe Grill and surrounding Sports Dome and Seven Devils Pub--was bustling with activity. The food was good, and there were plenty of opportunities to grab a beer between runs.

All said and done, the new Tamarack appears to be right on track, whereas the previous iteration had a bit of a pretentious feel to it. This more modest and socially comfortable version provides a great alternative to Bogus Basin or Brundage, especially with the good conditions and a fraction of the crowd.

"Powder Thursdays" began Jan. 6 at Tamarack. Rough translation: With the resort closed Monday through Wednesday, it's possible to get first tracks on Thursday mornings after three full days of untouched snow accumulation, if mother nature has been cooperative.

According to Tim Flaherty, executive director of the Tamarack Municipal Association, "This is where the real skiers are coming to ski."

Tamarack isn't just for the upper crust anymore. We average bearcats were perfectly happy making turns at this more modest operation.

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