Silver Mountain Ski Resort

Silver Mountain Ski Resort has an interesting history. As its name suggests, Silver Mountain Idaho was once the home of a thriving silver, lead, zinc, and copper mine. In 1967 the Bunker Hill Mining Company opened a ski resort, the unfortunately named Jackass Mountain on its property. (Apocryphally, the original silver mine was discovered by a donkey.)

When mining operations ceased in the early 1980s the small ski area became the property of the nearby town of Kellogg (named after the donkey's owner). To promote tourism and recreation in the area, the town and state authorities invested heavily in Silver Mountain Idaho, changing the area's name to Silver Mountain Ski Resort and building an impressive eight-person gondola from the parking area off Interstate 90 to the slopes.

The 3.1-mile gondola—the longest of its kind in the world—is the only way into and out of Silver Mountain Ski Resort, so it can get crowded in the morning and at closing time. Arriving early for breakfast at the Mountain Haus lodge or getting off the slopes an hour early can help ease the rush. Once you arrive on the slopes of Silver Mountain Ski Area, the crowds are not a problem.

Two distinct mountains—Kellogg and Wardner—comprise Silver Mountain Ski Area. Experts will prefer the quieter Wardner Peak, made up of solely black-rated terrain. Take the Wardner Traverse from the top of Lift 4 to access some glorious views of the valley below and some prime tree-dotted chutes. The North Face glades between the two peaks have the best tree skiing on the mountain. On powder days Rendezvous is a great black diamond run on the Kellogg side.

Intermediates will find some glorious cruising runs on both mountains at Silver Mountain Ski Resort: Sunrise and Silver Belt on Kellogg and Centennial on Wardner. The Ridge is another good blue on Wardner, but it gets steep near the bottom. Intermediates may prefer to ski the blue runs to skiers' left of Lift 4 on Wardner and reload at the midway station.

Four chairlifts near the Mountain Haus base serve beginners terrain. Below the lodge, Ross Run is a gentle green favored by novices.

Silver Mountain Idaho is easily accessible off Interstate 90, about 85 miles east of Spokane WA (the nearest major airport). There is some good lodging in Kellogg — Baymont Inn and Silver Ridge Mountain Lodge are both close to the gondola — but people seeking more aprés ski activities may want to stay in Coeur d'Alene, 30 miles to the east.

Once a sleepy one-lift hill operated by a mining company for its employees recreation, Silver Mountain Ski Area is now a well-established destination resort, worth a trip from anywhere in the United States.

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