Idaho is Home to 13 of the Greatest Winter Playgrounds in America
The days are getting shorter. The temperatures are getting colder. Snow is already falling at some of Idaho’s mountain resorts. Winter adventures are right around the corner!
With another change in seasons on the way, the USA Today is on a mission to find the best of the best when it comes to winter fun like snow tubing, skiing, snowboarding and relaxing around the slopes. The newspaper just opened a new set of “10 Best” reader polls to choose the top contenders in these categories.
Since Idaho is home to America’s first destination resort, we just had to sneak a peek at the nominees to see if any of the Gem State’s winter playgrounds had a shot at these prestigious titles. Idaho should be beaming with pride. We put at least one nominee in every single winter category!
Best Ski Resort
Sun Valley Resort
While Sun Valley may not be America's first ski area, it's considered the country's first destination ski resort. According to Visit Sun Valley, Union Pacific Railroad's chairman, Averell Harriman hired Count Felix Schaffgotsch of Austria to help find the perfect location for America's next great ski resort. Schaffgotsch toured many places in the Rocky Mountains, but ultimately told Harriman "Among the many attractive spots I have visited, this combines the more delightful features of any place I have seen in the United States, Switzerland, or Austria for a winter ski resort" after visiting Ketchum.
It was a win, win situation for ski enthusiasts and the railroad, which originally owned Sun Valley Resort. Ketchum had once been a booming mining town, but once the mining operations slowed down, most of Ketchum's population decided to leave too. Once the resort opened in 1936, there was a renewed interest in train trips to the area. Union Pacific was also responsible for engineering and installing the world's first chair lifts at Sun Valley. While most people drive to Sun Valley nowadays, it’s still a bucket list destination for skiers 86 years after it opened.
Best Ski Town
We all know that Ketchum is on this list for its proximity to Sun Valley resort, but it’s near a bunch of fun off-mountain activities like hot springs, Zenergy Health Club and Spa and Dark Sky Reserve. Plus, they were named one of America’s “7 Best Kept Secret Food Destinations.”
Best Place for Snow Tubing
The team at Bogus Basin can’t wait for this season to start. They’re coming off a record-setting 80th season. Thanks to snow-making operations and late-season snowfall, they had the longest season ever. They opened on November 19 and closed on May 6. This winter will be even more special for them if their tubing hill takes home this honor! The 800-foot-long tubing run has a conveyor lift that takes you back up to the top. It’s a great value too. During the season a 90-minute session costs just $24.
Silver Mountain Resort
Bogus faces some serious competition from Silver Mountain. The tubing hill in Kellogg is longer at 900 feet. What’s cool about their tubing hill is that you get to enjoy 20-25 minute long scenic gondola ride up to the tubing hill. Like some of the other hills, they also have a moving carpet to get you back to the top of the tubing run. Unlike those other carpet rides, this one is covered. During the season, tickets start at $27 for adults.
Best Place for Snowboarding
Bald Mountain Ski Area
Bald Mountain Ski Area found itself on this year’s list of nominees because it’s small. USA Today’s description prides the snowboarding destination in Pierce for being the perfect place to perfect new skills and make memories with friends. They have 140 acres of boardable terrain.
Best Cross Country Ski Resort
As Boise residents, we think this is pretty rad that Bogus actually replaced Sun Valley in this category. Sun Valley, after all, was home to one of the last qualifying races before the 2022 Beijing Olympics. At Bogus, you’ll find over 37 kilometers of trails for Nordic skiing.
Best Ski Restaurant
The Roundhouse at Sun Valley Resort
The Roundhouse at Sun Valley has been around almost as long as the resort itself. According to the resort’s website, the restaurant opened three years later in 1939. Your tummy may drag you there for truffle fries or a burger after a long day on the slopes, but you really stay for the views! Sip on a glass of wine while you overlook the slopes. The Roundhouse is perched at an elevation of 7,700 feet and is accessible by taking the Roundhouse Express gondola.
The Reserve at Tamarack
It’s wild to see just how much Tamarack has changed since new ownership took over in 2018! The unfinished Tyvek-wrapped buildings are long gone. The village there is thriving and Ther Reserve Bar and Restaurant is at the center of it all. Stop in for dinner and enjoy one of their incredible steaks, burgers, scallops, trout or salmon. You can also wrap up the weekend with Sunday brunch! That menu includes a brunch burner, chicken & waffles, benedicts and more.
Best Apres Ski Bar
Apples Bar & Grill, Ketchum
If there’s a Sun Valley-based hometown hero in the Winter Olympics, you can pretty much count on a viewing party happening at Apple’s. They’ve been a staple in the Wood River Valley since 1988 and the decor really shows off the area’s ski culture and history.
Best Ski Hotel
Best Western Plus Kentwood Lodge
Last year, Idaho only had one candidate in this category. This year, we dominate it! The first one is the Best Western Plus Kentwood Lodge in Ketchum. Many of their rooms offer a beautiful view of Dollar Mountain, fireplaces, balconies, in-room jacuzzi tubs and kitchenettes. They also have an indoor pool and spa area with large windows that allow you to take in the snowfall outside while you splash.
Knob Hill Inn
Do you love when hotels leave you bathrobes and slippers to get cozy in after a day on the slopes? Knob Hill Inn in Sun Valley does this. They also treat you to trail mix, an all-day coffee station and chocolates when you check out. They know you’re likely staying there while you’re in town to ski in Sun Valley and Ketchum so they offer heated ski storage and boot storage. If you want to take a dip after you’ve returned for the day, they have a heated indoor pool and hot tub.
Morning Star Lodge at Silver Mountain Resort
Personally, we think that Silver Mountain is one of the coolest ski areas in the state. That might be because it’s also home to Silver Rapids, a HUGE indoor water park. Their lodge is outfitted with cozy fireplaces, a fitness center, rooftop and terrace-level hot tubs and places to store your skis/snowboards. The best part? If you stay in the lodge, you get to go to the water park for free!
Sun Valley Lodge
Does this one really need an introduction? Built in 1936, Sun Valley is one of the most picturesque ski hotels in the world. It has a huge spa, fitness center, yoga studio and a year-round, outdoor pool. Is there anything more romantic than soaking while the snow falls around you? We think not!
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