Silver Mountain, Idaho
Silver Mountain is one of the 3 major Inland Pacific Northwest resorts on our list. It’s only 70 miles from Spokane, Washington and it’s all freeway to Kellogg where a very long gondola whisks you up to the resort. The convenience factor can’t be beat. This review is based on one visit during average mid-winter conditions.
|Real Vertical ?
|2,150′, Rank: 61
|1,600 Acres, Rank: 53
|Annual Snowfall ?
|340″ claimed / 353″ actual, Rank: 26
|Lift Pods ?
|5, Rank: 59
|Distinct Trails ?
|73, Rank: 57
|Number of visits
Silver Mountain Review
We visited Silver Mountain during a 9 resort tour through Utah, Montana, Idaho, and western Washington. Once you pass over the continental divide in western Montana, the inland maritime climate comes into play and rain is a possibility even high up in the mountains, so we had to be a little lucky to catch better snow conditions. We did OK but off-piste was still slightly rain crusted so not perfect.
A small village has been constructed down in Kellogg around the gondola base. There is really not much going on there for us but the waterpark is certainly going to appeal to families with kids. There is a huge flat parking lot so weekend crowds can be handled and walking to the gondola is easy. I could see how weekend crowds will stack up at the gondola though, since that is the only way up to the skiing. It might be possible to ski down to the town a few times a year via the gondola line gate during exceptionally good conditions, but that’s going to be rare and the bottom of that run is very far away from the loading station so it’s not lappable. Kellogg is far below the normal snowline at only 2,300 ft.
Gondola and mid-mountain lodge
The gondola drops you off 3,350 feet higher about halfway up the ski terrain. The main lodge is there with the only food service on the mountain on weekdays. The trail map shows another food location over at the midway of Chair 4 but that wasn’t open when we were there. Lunch was at the main cafeteria there and was decent but nothing special. Even mid-week in January the lodge was mostly families with kids. It’s very much a family resort.
We started on Chair 2 and skied just about everything in that zone. This is only about 1,100 vertical of skiing, but it’s the highest part of the mountain and the snow is consistent with a lot of grooming. This is an old triple and could really use a lift upgrade. In fact that’s true of chairs 2 and 3 as well. All of the lifts except chair 2 were installed more than 30 years ago when the old Jackass ski area was expanded and became Silver Mountain. Chair 2 was the original Jackass lift installed in 1967.
Chair 1 (the only quad strangely) faces due south and wasn’t skiable when we were there due to refrozen conditions. They hadn’t groomed anything on that chair other than the main run everyone uses to get from the top of the gondola down to Chair 2.
Upper mountain terrain and Chair 3
From the top of Chair 2, you can access some great terrain on the upper mountain that feeds down to Chair 3 like “Rendezvous”, “The North Face Glades”, and “Sunset”. From the top of 2 down to the bottom of 3 is a long interesting run and makes for a big-resort feel. Chair 3 doesn’t look like much on the trail map, but it’s actually a great zone with some steeper groomers even though it’s only about 800′ of vertical. It’s just enough vertical to be interesting and lappable.
Chair 4 is a very interesting lift that feels like 2 completely different ski areas. The upper part above the midway loading area has far better snow and is much less steep. The trees are even different. Once you ski down below the midway loading station it gets steep, dark, and icy. We skied both of the main runs on the lower part “Jackass” and “Lower Centennial”. Most people won’t even ski anything other than “Lower Centennial” because those other runs are quite steep for single-black rated terrain. This is where the snow quality issues pop up because that low elevation zone gets rain and wet snow and can be very icy. We were used to it skiing in Tahoe so no big deal.
Upper Chair 2 has some really great varied terrain and a lot of grooming. Here we noticed the trail ratings are somewhat underrated at times. For example, “The Ridge” is marked as intermediate but we ran into a family that was walking down carrying their skis. The younger kid was in tears and was loudly complaining that they were tricked into skiing it by the trail rating which should have been black diamond.
Wardner Peak is hike-to terrain accessed from the top of Chair 2. I took the Wardner Peak Traverse rather than making the significant hike to the top of the peak. This is an advanced traverse being very narrow with some side stepping at times. The end of the traverse leads to some really incredible terrain in “The Meadows” and “Silver Basin”. Even with a slight zipper crust the mostly untracked old powder was fun. This terrain is really what makes Silver Mountain the full package of fun.
Getting out at the bottom is interesting because you ski down the old Jackass access road and then into the bottom of Chair 2 using the “Shaft” run which is a bit steep, bumpy, and icy.
- Very convenient access
- Unique mix of terrain that you won’t find elsewhere
- Above average snowfall
- Gondola is a bottleneck at the beginning and end of the day
- Lower runs suffer from snow quality issues
- Rain is a possibility
- Aging lift network needs an upgrade
The bottom line
Silver Mountain has an undeniable draw for its very interesting terrain and easy access. Although it’s not really a destination resort, for people living in the area it’s second only to Schweitzer and is a great choice for a less crowded and really fun option. If you are in the area it’s definitely worth a visit.