Kellogg's Silver Mountain is a mere one-hour drive east from Spokane on Interstate 90. With a fine vertical drop (2,200 feet), a lovely mix of beginner, intermediate, advanced and expert runs and consistently voluminous annual snowfalls, this jewel of Idaho's Silver Valley is a perennial crowd-pleaser.
So what else is new? Well, crews are busy getting those runs ready for that first big snowfall (and the Nov. 27 opening day), while training instructors and putting the finishing touches on a number of improvements for the 2003-2004 season. Some of these upgrades will be noticeable, while others are more behind-the-scenes.
They started by sinking a half a million big ones into one of the resort's most impressive assets: the Silver Mountain gondola ride. It's the gondola that whisks skiers and snowboarders 3.1 miles and several thousand vertical feet up the side of the mountain (in just 20 minutes) to the resort's day lodge, the place where the action begins. (No slippery mountain roads to navigate means that Silver Mountain is one of the most easily accessible ski destinations in the region.) A state-of-the-art electronic control system and a fiber-optic cable run from the Base Lodge to the Mountain Haus have been installed to improve the gondola's already safe and smooth operation.
Also new this season are four runs (one double black diamond, two black diamond, one intermediate), a new beginner terrain park and a larger half-pipe.
"We've been awarded the Freestyle Junior Olympics this year, which is huge for us," says Silver Mountain Marketing Director Steven Lane. "So to accommodate our new freestyle focus, we're lengthening our half-pipe so it's more competition-grade, competition-quality."
And they're obsessed with grooming up here. So much, in fact, that they offer a grooming guarantee: If grooming conditions don't meet your expectations, Silver Mountain will provide you with a free day of skiing. (Bear in mind that you have to make a stink within one hour of your ticket purchase to take advantage).
Silver Mountain is all about providing the supporting services that make a day on the slopes hassle-free. Like a state-licensed day care facility. Like ski and snowboard lessons from certified instructors. Like two sports shops (one at the base and one on top) with all manner of gear for sale and rental. Like food. Yep, the grub-a-dub is everywhere up top (from quickie nums at the Jackass Snack Shack to full service dining at the Alpenrose) and at the mountain base lodge (the relatively new Terrible Edith's Pub & amp; Grill). As Lane says, it's all about the service.
"We go out of our way to make people feel like they're part of our little family here," he says. "I mean, you're treated like a star. You get on the gondola, you hand the guy your skis, you get off and they remove the skis for you and hand back them to you. It's like having your own personal valet."
Season passes (now that the Nov. 10 early bird deadline has passed) are $475 (adult), $329 (juniors and seniors), $349 (students) and $159 (for super seniors).
Where: Kellogg, Idaho
Phone: (800) 204-6428
Web site: www.silvermt.com
Vertical drop: 2,200 ft.
Average snowfall: 300 inches
Lifts: One quad, two triples, two doubles, 1 handle tow and one gondola