With fall now well under way, it's time to scratch that snow itch and have a look at what the ski/snowboard season might offer Idahoans this year.
According to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center, the United States is in for another La Nina snow year, albeit one milder than we saw in 2010. What does that mean? Basically, we'll see slightly above-average precipitation and cooler temps throughout the state this winter. The one-two punch will be much weaker than last year's foreboding freeze, with many models predicting a mostly normal snow year in Idaho. The Pacific Northwest, Montana and Utah should see the brunt of La Nina, but Idaho still stands to enjoy good to excellent snow conditions in the mountains.
According to the NWS: "Across the contiguous United States, temperature and precipitation impacts associated with La Nina are expected to remain relatively weak during the remainder of the Northern Hemisphere early fall, and to strengthen during the late fall and winter."
As one of those people who is already lusting after the sweet spots that make skiing Idaho's mountains a cut above, I'm encouraged by this year's snow projections. Below are my favorite insider suggestions for how and where to get the most out of your skiing experience this winter. Whether you are looking for a secluded backcountry experience, the best hot toddy in the Northwest, or a steep and tumbly moguls run, you can find virtually anything you want in Idaho. Obviously, I cannot reveal any of my secret stashes, but the following is a good collection of what makes Idaho one of the best places to recreate anywhere on Earth.
Hidden Valley at Brundage
Nestled on the northern fringe of Brundage Mountain, Hidden Valley has become a go-to for those looking to huck their meat. The tree skiing on this part of the resort is excellent, and numerous cliff drops make it a favorite for those with good knees and backs. Make sure you have a decent insurance policy before venturing this way.
Historically Pomerelle is the first resort to open in southern Idaho without the aid of snow-making equipment. There isn't much to this little resort, but it is a great place to get your legs back while other resorts are waiting on mother nature.
Pine Creek Chair at Bogus Basin
After a long day at the office, Bogus offers something you can't get many other places: night skiing. While the Pine Creek chair usually closes down earlier in the evening, you can typically make it up the hill just in time to make a few runs before dark. There is a wonderful span of trees between Upper Nugget and Lightning that advanced skiers can have some fun with.
Warm Springs at Sun Valley
For the amenity buffs, Warm Springs is arguably the best skiing experience anywhere. The lodge has excellent food, there are tons of condos for rent within a block, the Warm Springs lift is the best place to bomb out big sweeping runs (watch out for ski patrol), and you cannot beat the scene at Apples Bar and Grill on Picabo Street (the actual street) after a day of making turns. If you want to switch things up, the historic Roundhouse Lodge on the River Run side of Sun Valley is an excellent place to grab a beverage and take in some views between runs.
The Cornice and Spine at Tamarack
Depending on the snowpack and the wind load, the cornice at the summit of Tamarack has become the place where locals test their mettle--for all of a half-second. Just off the Summit lift, a natural cornice forms that ranges from a few feet to 20-plus feet. The terrain doesn't lend itself to a speedy approach, but the landing is nice and steep in most places. Opposing the cornice is a rolling spine with a sweet powder field at the top. After a day at the top of Tamarack, you'll be ready for beers at the Canoe Grill or dinner at Seven Devils.
Terrain park at Bogus Basin
Following Tamarack's initial demise a few years ago, many folks were left wondering who would pick up the slack and build another legendary terrain park. While not nearly as epic as Tamarack's pro-style world cup half pipe with a 22-foot coping, adjacent to Bogus Basin's legendary man-made rails and booters, the park has been solid year after year. And that's due, in part, to a large number of after-school thrill junkies in the Boise area.
Valley and Boise counties backcountry
With yurts aplenty in Boise County and tons of vertical to boot, Boiseans can get into some very fun and rewarding lines less than an hour from home. The Mores Creek area is noteworthy, as are many spots in the Stanley area. If you don't have proper avalanche training, check out Payette Powder Guides in McCall. They can pop your backcountry cherry on a variety of terrain and skill levels.