With two Idaho resorts just added to Indy Pass -- Soldier Mountain and Pomerelle -- it makes sense to hit the road for a circumnavigation of the Gem State's off-the-beaten-track, unpretentious mountains that honor the Indy Pass.
The Indy Pass is good for two free days at each mountain, plus 25% off the daily rate for a third day. Focusing on independently owned mountains, the Indy Pass is accepted at 59 resorts across U.S. and Canada.
We start in the south at Soldier Mountain, two hours east of Boise. Two ridges converge at a 7,177-foot summit, with two chairs, 1,400 vertical drop over 1,400 acres. Split 50-50 black vs. blue-green. Snowcat tour gets to 10,000 ft. It's open Thursday-Sunday. Cheap tickets, $47 adult, $17 seniors. Lodging 10 miles away in Fairfield.
Head southeast for three hours to Pomerelle Mountain. A tidy 1,000-ft vertical over 500 acres offers novice-intermediate on either side of a small expert gully down the middle. A surprising variety of glade, bowl, and chute runs, and $48 adults and $25 seniors. Night skiing, and places to stay within 25 miles.
A half-day drive north gets you to Tamarack Resort. Tall and compact, it packs 2,800 vertical into 1,100 acres. Three mountain chairs and more than 80% runs of blue or black, with tons of open slope and glade runs off the 7,700-ft summit. Lodging and homes abound around the base -- including a neighborhood chair and Lake Cascade. Ownership seems to have stabilized.
Less than an hour up Rt. 55 is Brundage Mountain, with new ownership and promise. Dual-ridge layout with 1,900 vertical feet on 1,920 acres. About half rated more difficult, with a multitude of fall lines, ridges, and faces. Experts head to Hidden Valley steeps and trees. Unpatrolled backcountry with hiking or out-of-bounds snowcat tours. Overnight stays 16 miles away in McCall.
Our final stop is six hours north at Silver Mountain, half an hour east of Coeur d'Alene. An unheralded gem with 2,200 vertical on 1,650 acres spread under two peaks. Quirky layout as you park and take the gondola to the main lodge. Three-quarter of the runs are blue or black, all expert off 6,200-ft Wardner Peak. Reasonable prices ($64 weekend). Condos at the base, lodging in Kellogg.