Silver Mountain

North Idaho POWDER!

click to see more of Silver Mountain Silver Mountain Ski and Recreation Area is a 19 minute gondola ride away from Kellogg, located along I-90 in the middle of northern Idaho's Silver Valley. A dozen miles east on the Interstate is the historic town of Wallace, and another dozen miles takes you to Lookout Pass Ski Area on the Montana border, and several backcountry areas filled with alpine lakes for the cross-country skiing enthusiast.

Greg's 1998-99 ski season at Silver Mountain

(or what I got for my $199)

This table is presented for the benefit of my out-of-state friends who insist on throwing away money at overcrowded Vail and Lake Tahoe, when the best powder skiing in America is only a plane ride away in North Idaho's Silver Valley. By the way, "freshies" refers to powder runs with NO tracks on them. Much of the information is taken from the "grooming report" handed out at the gondola each morning. The crowd estimates were obtained from the gondola liftee upon returning to the base terminal. Remember that this area has 1500 acres to get lost in; less than 1000 people on the mountain means NO lift lines! Unfortunately, the area is closed on Monday & Tuesday, except during holidays. The upside is that Wednesdays are usually DEEP powder days!

The (ex)scientist in me made me count my runs during the day, but to keep the math easy, I count all runs equally. Thus, the 2.5 mile long (intermediate) Centennial trail, with its 1910 vertical foot drop, counts the same as the hike & ski Mt. Wardner (expert!) experience, which counts the same as shorter runs. By this reckoning, I skied 18 times and made 253 runs at a cost of $0.79/run between November 29, 1998 and May 1, 1999. How much money per run did it cost you to ski this season?

date temp (5am) wind (5am) weather inches of snow:
new / lodge / summit
crowd # of runs:
open / taken

22 10-25 mph snowing 5 / 48 / 62 700 24 / 17
"freshies," powder, packed powder, snow heavy at times

17 0-5
fog and sun 2 / 71 / 84 600 53 / 20
Powder, machine groomed powder, "FRESHIES" EVERYWHERE! (because of ~8 inches that fell undisturbed on Monday & Tuesday) -- one of my finest days ever!

Christmas 24 15-25
snowing all day 6 / 65 / 80 800 53 / 8
FRESHIES, Powder, machine groomed powder, then beer with friends

18 5-15
sun & light snow 0 / 81 / 99 900 53 / 12
fast firm base, loose granular snow, machine groomed -- left at noon, went to Lookout Pass for a few runs and beer

23 5-10
cloudy then heavy snow 4 / 83 / 100 1800 53 / 12
Powder, machine groomed powder -- started at "rope drop," to work at noon after North Face (expert!) workout

20 5-10
snowing, sun at times 15! / 102 / 122 2300 55 / 9
DEEP POWDER & machine groomed POWDER -- started at "gate drop," dead (after six deep powder falls) by noon

MLK Day,
28 5-10
snowing hard 7 / 102 / 125 1600 54 / 9
POWDER & machine groomed POWDER -- started at "rope drop," to work at noon, exhausted

7 0-5
SUN & light snow 3 / 120 / 132 2000 50+ / 15
26 inches fell Wed-Sat so POWDER, skier & machine groomed POWDER everywhere; beautiful day with ice crystals in sunshine, warmed to ~25; skied from rope drop to 2PM -- Mt. Wardner (expert traverse) four times

24 gusts to
20-35 mph
cloudy, snowing 8 / 111 / 141 850 54+ / 19
conditions changed for the better by rope drop, clear skies and calm winds prevailed for most of the day; powder, machine groomed powder and windblown snow made for "interesting" transitions and a good workout.

20 calm partly clear,
then snow
12 / 126 / 183 500 50+ / 12
A dozen runs by 1 PM left me exhausted as four were 1900 foot drops thru knee deep powder (3 acres of untracked powder per ski-boarder and NO lift lines: a typical Wednesday).

24 5-25
then sun!
10+ / 132 / 190 ~1000 in
11 hr day
50+ / 13
Raging inch/hr blizzard at rope drop, then "fast fog," followed by bright sun and blue sky at 1 PM. Knee to waist-deep powder on lower Chair 4's expert runs. Skied glades that I never saw during six previous seasons! This Mountain is the match for any place I've skied in California, Colorado, Utah, or Back East -- except in terms of lift lines. We don't have them.

18 0-5
mostly cloudy,
some fog,
light snow
6 / 150 / 224 ! only 477 50+ / 17
Today's half foot added to a foot of dry powder that fell in the previous two days, so everything was excellent. Did bottom of Lift 4 three times and North Face expert runs where trackless knee-deep POW was great... until I dropped onto a cat track unexpectedly and did a knees-to-chest compression that my 51 year old body protested. I didn't break my back, so I made another run, but called it a day by 2 PM.

17 calm
some clouds
12 / 141 / 218 ! over 400
by noon
50+ / 12
Made a dozen runs by 11:20 AM under perfect conditions. The only problem was deciding whether to ski through freshies made with 12 inches of cold dry powder or on one of the 27 nicely groomed courderoy runs. Saw a fellow come down a steep powder run with only the tail of his skies in the snow. For 300 feet, his back was parallel to the snow, then he came forward and took formal control. The other odd thing I saw was a lift line; it was only two chairs long, so the wait didn't last as long as the full tail wheelie. The FAST groomed runs reminded me of the feeling I always used to get when driving the Autobahn flat out (103 mph) under optimum conditions: totally alert, empowered and exhilarated!

40 calm
no clouds
none / 136 / 216 ! over 700
by 2PM
50+ / 12
Made a dozen runs at mid-day: bright sun, 53, and no wind. The snow was mushy, but the mood was light. Spring skiing at its best.

17 calm
mostly sunny 14 / 146 / 230 ! 580 50+ / 15
Powder and Courderoy everywhere! Perfect temperature, lighting and snow conditions made for a glorious day. Fifteen runs, including several DEEP powder adventures, in four hours... then the snow softened slightly and it was time to go to work. What a great place to live!

21 calm
light snow
3 / 137 / 226 ! 300 50+ / 7
Powder and machine groomed, but fog made for erie skiing, somewhere between spiritual and spooky. Easter sermon was "It's hard to know where you're going when your head is in the clouds," or in other words, "Sometimes in life, you can't tell if you are going fast, slow or standing still."
The Regular Season ended on Easter Sunday, April 4th. As a BONUS this year, Spring Break Days, April 9-11, were added. The Legendary SILVER SATURDAYS began on April 17 and continued as long as 1000 skiers visited and the snow held out! In 1997, the last Silver Saturday was May 17. This year, the last day was May 1. Spring skiing at Silver cannot be beat!

Saturday #2,
41 calm
and warm
0 / 118 / 218 ! 1800 50+ / 16
Classic Spring Conditions! All runs open! New snow in past week made for "wet freshies" (firm at 9 AM, soft by 11). Cloudless sky and $15 lift tickets made for morning lift lines, but it was OK because it means skiing next Saturday! Eleventh run took 2 hours because it involved CLIMBING 500 FEET UP TO THE TOP OF MT. WARDNER, skiing down the (1500 foot vertical) Meadows on untracked corn snow, followed by tree skiing in search of the elusive Assay Road cutback, followed by hiking back up to bottom of lift 4. Joyful workout! No lift lines in late afternoon because of excellent reggae/jazz/blues/rock band in front of Lodge.

Saturday #3,
40 calm
partly to
mostly cloudy
0 / 108 / 216 ! 875 44 / 28
Easy Spring Conditions! A few lower expert runs were closed, but skiing was excellent on the 9 to 18 foot residual base. However, the weather looked like rain, so we didn't get the required attendance and the season was declared over. Management said that "the snow isn't deep enough to last another week," but they have obviously never skied Back East. The talented band from last week played the afternoon away in the Lodge, but I was too busy making my personal season record to notice.

click to see more of Lookout Pass Note: I made a point of skiing at Lookout Pass Ski and Recreation Area an equal number of times this season, but did not keep any records. It is too laid back an area for logical summaries (and the runs are generally shorter). A favorite routine was a vigorous Silver Mountain workout in the morning, followed by Lookout Pass and beer in the afternoon. Life is GOOD! It is my opinion that Lookout Pass usually gets 25% more snow per storm than Silver Mountain, but then my reason for liking 60-YEAR-OLD Lookout Pass is the friendly family ambiance, not the terrific powder snow.
New this season was a forty acre addition called Buzzards Valley. This expert area compliments the original 300 acres of mostly intermediate terrain. It contains the worlds' most difficult terrain park open to both snowboarders and skiers; the scene of the exciting Lookout Pass Border-X Series. For me, however, the best part of this new area was finding all the secret glades.


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Greg Marsh, Ph.D.
Marsh Scientific Services

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last update on Saturday, January 20, 2007