Northern Rockies/Alberta Salt Lake to Spokane Ski Road Trip in March: tips & advice wanted

New2

Getting off the lift
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Spokane
I'm going to be driving & skiing from Salt Lake City (leave the morning of Friday, March 20) to Spokane (need to work the morning of Monday, March 23). I'll have my Indy Pass, but no other multi-mountain passes. I'd like to check out some new spots, but also looking to keep spending relatively low. I'd generally like to drive for 2 hours or less in the morning, and 5 hours or less in the evening. To the extent possible, I'll be powder-dodging, since I'm driving a little sedan and my powder skiing skills/enjoyment are low--fast groomers are my favorite, but I enjoy exploring around, even if conditions aren't my ideal. And I'd like to have at least two general routes planned in case weather's looking better along one than the other. I'd love any recommendations, suggestions, advice, etc. for the drive, lodging, skiing, restaurants, etc. No need for nightlife this trip.

Day 1, Friday, March 20. Check out of the hotel in Salt Lake City. Ski ideas...
  • Beaver Mountain: free on my Indy Pass, and I've never been in the winter. Looks fun, and I know the views are great in the summer, at least. A little out-of-the-way unless I'm heading to Wyoming next.
  • Powder Mountain: less out-of-the-way, and one of my favorites. I haven't been since they opened Lefty's and Mary's, so that's the size of another whole ski area I could explore. My current car hasn't been on that PowMow road, and I'm leery of burning my brakes right at the start of a weekend road trip through remote mountains.
  • Snowbasin: my old home mountain, and I'd love to see the re-done Mt. Ogden Road and Wildcat Quad. But day tickets are expensive.
  • Cherry Peak, Pomerelle, Kelly Canyon, Pebble Creek? They all look like they might be fun, but seems like an already-paid-for Indy Pass day at Beaver Mountain likely beats paying to try one of these this trip.
  • Ruled out: Nordic Valley (I've already explored it, and I've got better choices); Backtracking to SLC/Park City areas (I've tried most of them, and I'll have further opportunities in the SLC area, so focusing on the road trip this time).
East Route, Day 2, Saturday, March 21. Ski ideas...
  • Lost Trail Powder Mountain: free on my Indy Pass, never been.
  • Sun Valley, Jackson Hole: both are pretty out-of-the-way and expensive for day tickets. I skied a half day at Sun Valley, never skied Jackson--I'm sure I could have fun for a week at each, easy. And I'm inclined to leave them for when I have more time and maybe an Epic/Ikon/MCP in the future.
  • Pine Creek, Snow King, Grand Targhee, Kelly Canyon? All sound fun. Are crowds or March weather a turnoff from any of them?
  • Discovery: looks like fun, but looks like I need to pick either Lost Trail or Discovery--and Lost Trail is on my already-paid-for Indy Pass.
East Route, Day 3, Sunday, March 22. Ski ideas...
  • Lost Trail Powder Mountain: free on my Indy Pass, never been. Is it worth doing 2 days (Saturday and Sunday) here, or should I pay for somewhere else?
  • Montana Snow Bowl: never been, looks fun
West Route, Day 2, Saturday, March 21. Ski ideas...
  • Brundage: free on my Indy pass, never been.
  • Tamarack: looks fun, and I'm guessing the views are great.
  • Bogus Basin: looks pretty cool, but I worry that Saturday might be swamped with locals.
  • Magic Mountain: seems like maybe it wouldn't live up to the other choices, but I'm willing to be convinced otherwise.
West Route, Day 3, Sunday, March 22. Ski ideas...
  • Brundage: free on my Indy pass, never been. Is it worth doing 2 days (Saturday and Sunday) here, or should I pay for somewhere else?
  • Snowhaven, Cottonwood Butte, Little Ski Hill, Bald Mountain? I've never been on a t-bar, so I suppose I better try one earlier in the season to make sure I can stand it. I know these are all somewhat weather-dependent, too... but are any of them good enough even in great weather to pay for, instead of taking that already-paid-for Sunday at Brundage?
 

David Chaus

Epic & Ikon because I’m indecisive. Or am I?
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Stanwood, WA
Of the resorts I have skied, Beaver and Brundage are the ones I would pick (other than Grand Targhee, Snowbasin and Powder Mountain, and since you’ve bought the Indy Pass, why not use it?). Beaver is fun, and has some good tree skiing especially on the Marge’s Triple side.

Brundage could easily be worth 2 days, I went there for 4 days and enjoyed every minute. Keep in mind they have an express quad on a lift that has 1700 vertical, so you can get a lot of runs in. Nice long groomers, great tree skiing in Hidden Valley/NW Passage area, and a gladed area Meadow Bowl, plus some fun lines (Dobber’s Dream I think) on the Lakeview chair side. Actually, trees are skiable between every named run. McCall is a cool place to stay for a couple of days.

All the others you mentioned for West route are kind of small. Tamarack could be a possibility, but it’s not on the Indy Pass, and I’ve never been there so I can’t tell you if it’s much different than Brundage. Tamarack has more total vertical, but lower base elevation, and not as much overall acreage.

For the East route, I really want to try Lost Trail and Discovery. I believe Lost Trail gets more snow, whereas Discovery has more steep terrain. Since Lost Trail is on your Indy Pass, if you do the East route do at least one day there, then decide whether you want to try somewhere else, but it looks like enough to keep someone busy for 2 days.
 
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David Chaus

Epic & Ikon because I’m indecisive. Or am I?
Skier
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2,355
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Stanwood, WA
This is from an article I wrote in 2018 about independent resorts.

Moving farther south in Idaho, I should mention Brundage. It showed up as a Top 10 Ski mag resort a couple years back in the “family-friendly” category. I’d actually put it in Top 10 for “best chances of actually skiing untracked powder.” Brundage is not a large ski resort, more of a locals area with maybe 1,500 acres, but it has an express quad that serves most of the terrain, with consistent pitches for 1,800 ft of vertical, and it is uncrowded, unpretentious, and un-icy. Brundage has a higher base elevation than many Idaho resorts, and it markets itself as having the best snow in Idaho. Hard to argue; the snow lasts a long time after a storm and preserves well. Nearby McCall is a year-round recreation playground, but it is not a major population center, so there is minimal competition for powder. On weekends you might get skiers from Boise, which is 2.5 hours away, but midweek you have most of the mountain to yourself. I have had entire runs to myself, top to bottom, on perfect groomer days and powder days. There are glades in between every named run that are worth exploring for stashes.


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Bad Bob

old n' slow
Skier
If the snow and weather are good Pebble Creek is a sleeper go if there is light and a good snow base.

Magic is really little Pomerelle is a lot more fun. Soldier Mountain got left off your list and it is worthy of consideration. All 3 of these areas are really cheap; skied them all on senior day ticket, they ranged from $13 to $25 for walk up weekend
Ticket. Soldier could actually work well on the road to Boise.

Personally would not make the call for East or West routes till on the way all based on the weather patterns.
 

Jim Kenney

Travel Correspondent
Team Gathermeister
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Location
VA
What about Silver Mtn? Isn't that on Indy Pass and close to Spokane on I90?
 

aubergine

Booting up
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70
If you're worried about your car on the PowMow access road, can't you just park at the bottom of it and take their shuttle bus for $5 or something. That might make some sense, and let you safely have a beer after the ski day.... I agree that road is nuts.

Sounds like a great trip. We've done SLC to Sun Valley, and Spokane to FCA before too. Nice fun drives but if it gets windy, a big slab sided SUV with a box on top is yawing all over the road....
 
Thread Starter
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New2

Getting off the lift
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418
Location
Spokane
Thanks for the tips! I'm definitely not locking into anything until the very last minute when I can get a relatively good forecast :)
@Bad Bob Soldier Mountain's added to the list of possibilities--I was thinking it was farther out of the way than it is. Between Soldier and Pomerelle, which do you prefer?
@David Chaus Brundage looks awfully fun! And thanks for reminding me of that great article you did on indy resorts!
@Jim Kenney Good thinking--I'm definitely going to be using my Silver Mountain and 49 Degrees North days for day trips this year. And if weather is closing in, finishing out the road trip at Silver might just happen--but I'd prefer to try out some of the spots that are out of reach of a casual day trip so long as I'm road tripping.
@aubergine I know the UTA ski bus goes up and back from the park & ride, but its hours are scary--departs 1:30, 3:35, and 5:15... so if I'm running late or it's packed, I've got a long wait. Does PowMow run its own shuttle, too?
 

Bad Bob

old n' slow
Skier
Are you based in N ID E WA? My home is Spokane and run my pass at 49° North. Catch 49 on a Friday if you can, they have been closed Wednesdays and Thursdays the past several years; Powder Friday can be very good.

Pomerelle vs Soldier Mountain? :huh: Choose by conditions. If all things are equal think I would choose Soldier Mountain for a very different reason. It has the potential to be one of the largest vertical resorts in North America with the right owner who has a big enough budget; it would allow you to say 'I skied it when'. And it ain't bad now! I started a thread about it last winter, think it was titled 'For sale, slightly used ski area'.

Took this pic off the upper lift on a Sunday AFTERNOON at Soldier. No hiking envolved.
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wyowindrunner

Getting off the lift
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340
Kelly Canyon can be a lot of fun under the right conditions. Late March may not see them. Low altitude. Discovery's backside has some very good bump runs. Havent been for 8-10 years but memory says it was a good time. Has some runs back there with signs saying if you can't or don't know how to self arrest do not ski here. Lost Trail Powder Mountain is a lot of fun and has some tough stuff, but not for the local kids I was watching. March snow will be iffy though. Seems like this is a ways away from anywhere to stay too. Think Salmon, ID. is the closest?
Personally would not make the call for East or West routes till on the way all based on the weather patterns.

Bad Bob nails it here- the lower altitude stuff is really dependent on this.
 

Itinerant skier

Getting on the lift
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Posts
153
I'm looking to do a similar Indy Pass trip in February. I like your itinerary and driving limits. For PowMow, park/stay in Ogden and ride the UTA bus. I love PowMow, but am looking forward to trying Beaver.

Kelly Canyon has fun terrain but has no bar and no real food service. Heat lamp pizza slices and fries were all there was when I was there, so plan to dine elsewhere.
 

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