7 Best Idaho Ski Resorts for Beginners

by Simon Knott | Updated: October 27th, 2022 |  Best Ski Resorts

Planning your next winter vacation? Struggling to pick a resort where you know everyone will be looked after and have fun, regardless of their age or ski ability?

The phrase ‘best-kept secret in North America’ just keeps on cropping up during Idaho reviews. Idaho has a lot going for it if you’re looking for value for money for your beginner ski trip.

idaho winter skiing

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Our Top Picks

7. Brundage Mountain

Brundage Mountain resort is located in the Payette National Forest in west-central Idaho. The location is remote, but the closest town of McCall offers plenty of hotels and B&Bs, as well as condo rentals. Some of the lodging lines are on the shores of nearby Payette Lake. A free shuttle bus runs between McCall and Brundage Mountain.

What’s the Skiing Like?

The resort extends to 1920 acres and has 70 named trails, 21% of which are classed as beginner, and two terrain parks, Bear Park, and Jammer Park. There are additionally three popular scenic trails including, Temptation, Dropline, and Kickback, which all boast superb snow. Brundage Mountain regularly receives an annual snowfall of 300+ in (25 ft). Brundage Mountain is known for having a friendly and laid-back vibe.

There are three different ski areas on the resort, Frontside, Lakeview, and Hidden Valley, the last of which has mostly more difficult black trails. Beartopia Zone is a dedicated kid’s park, which has plenty of animal-themed, easy runs and is located just behind the main lodge.


Learning to Ski

Near to the main lodge at the base, the beginner park has several easy greens for beginners to practice their snowplows. Once confident there it’s easy to move on to Bear Chair, which ascends halfway up the mountain before being able to choose from a selection of greens that all run back down to the Lodge.

Ski lessons are hosted by instructors who are certified to the highest national standards. Private one-to-one lessons are available to concentrate on specific areas of learning or group lessons in small numbers are a more economical way to learn.

What We Love About Brundage Mountain

  • The combination of heavy snowfall, forest, and nearby lakeside make wonderful views
  • Reasonable prices for mountain amenities and lodging
  • Good quality instructors help beginners to learn faster
  • Friendly staff

Brundage Mountain Stats

Summit Elevation:7803 ft / 2378.35 metres
Skiable terrain: 1920 acres

6. Lookout Pass

Stradling the Idaho and Montana State line Lookout Pass ski resort is luckily situated to gain from regular, heavy accumulations of powder. 400 in or 33 ft (10 m) in a season is not unusual but still spectacular, nonetheless.

Lookout Pass is about an hour and a half east of Spokane by road and the same distance from Missoula. Spokane has an airport with international connections to the US and beyond.

What’s the Skiing Like?

The resort is currently partway through the Eagle expansion program, which will see the acreage increase from the current 542 the upgraded 1023 acres. When finished this will create 38 trails over varied terrain.

The resort is divided into three terrain areas including the Idaho area, the Montana area, and the Northside, each of which has an individual identity. For beginners, the Idaho area is the simplest to start with. At the base a nursery slope, logically called Success Slope, allows skiers to find their confidence and get to grips with a rope tow.

From there, beginners can take the Peak One Quad chairlift to the mountain summit and then descend on two green runs, Huckleberry Ridge, which leads on to Grub Steak and back to the Lodge at the base. Staff on the chairlifts are used to dealing with beginners, so when you arrive at the chair let them know and they will slow the chair and guide you through getting on.


Learning to Ski

Lookout Pass offers a deal for beginners, which includes three lessons, three lift tickets, and three equipment rental vouchers. Alternatively, private and group lessons are available to purchase.

Off the Slopes

Wallace and Kellogg are two local towns, which are situated west of Lookout Pass. Both towns have several reasonable hotels and condo rentals, which are linked on the resort website.

What We Love About Lookout Pass

  • The resort has a plentiful snow
  • The ski and snowboard lessons are designed for complete beginners
  • The resort is in the process of upgrading, so the amenities will improve

Lookout Pass Stats

Summit Elevation:6250 ft / 1905 metres
Skiable terrain: 560 acres

5. Soldier Mountain

ski resort 2

Owned for a time by actor, Bruce Willis, Soldier Mountain maintains its image as a friendly ski destination. The location is remote among the Soldier Mountains of Sawtooth National Forest in south-central Idaho.

What’s the Skiing Like?

It may only have two ski lifts but Soldier Mountain is a compact ski area, where beginners can start in the small novice park with a magic carpet before moving on to higher runs. Soldier Mountain has a good variety of greens, blues, and blacks spanning down from Soldier Peak at 7177 ft (2187 m).

The trails are well designed so beginners can move on to higher runs, right to the summit, and still descend on either green runs or blue. Some of these easier runs are among the forest, but the trails are wide and consequently less intimidating.

Learning to Ski

Ski and snowboard lessons are provided by PSIA and AASI certified instructors and are aimed at complete beginners or more advanced students. Individual lessons can be booked or more competitively priced group lessons, where the group contains between 3 to 7 skiers.

A more intensive Soldier Mountain Boot Camp extends over three days and is designed to boost skiers’ and snowboarders’ confidence and improve their technique and general safety awareness on the mountain.


Off the Slopes

Local lodging in a couple of inns is unpretentious and reasonably priced, while a selection of self-catering rentals offers more independence.

Why We Love Soldier Mountain

  • It’s a friendly well priced resort
  • There are plenty of easy runs for beginners right to the summit
  • The resort is in a remote location

Soldier Mountain Stats

Summit Elevation:7200 ft / 2194.56 metres
Skiable terrain: 1142 acres

4. Tamarack Resort


Opening for its first season in 2004, Tamarack Resort has extended with numerous updates to the resort accommodation and mountain facilities.

Located 90 miles north of Boise and its international airport, Tamarack covers 3500 acres in Idaho’s Peyer River Mountains region and has stunning, far-reaching views across to Lake Cascade.

What’s the Skiing Like?

The 2800-feet vertical fall is accessed by six lifts and offers 50 runs for skiers and snowboarders on the mountain, as well as Nordic and snowshoeing trails lower down. Individual to Tamarack resort, Tamarack Forest offers some great trails through the treeline.

Unusually these pines are deciduous, so that snowfall is free to build up on the forest trail rather than settling on the branches. This makes for much more enjoyable skiing through the trees.

For beginners, there are a handful of runs close to Tamarack village at the base. These greens are serviced by a small chairlift, a Poma lift, and a magic carpet, which are all a useful part of the learning experience.

Beginners with growing confidence can move on to the Tamarack Express chairlift, which will take them halfway up the mountain and then onto the green Waltz run, which comes back down to the village through the trees. Blues on the other side of the Tamarack Express allow beginners to extend their skills gradually without too many shocks.


Learning to Ski

Tamarack offers plenty of private lessons, which range in ability from beginner to carving through powder among the trees. The lessons are available on the hour beginning at 9 AM with just the instructor for personal tuition.

Off the Slopes

There is plenty of accommodation near the trails in Tamarack resort. Some lodging deals include free lift tickets for kids during the week as well. The quality is high and the Lodge at Osprey Meadows includes rooms, studios, and well-equipped condos with free access to a number of amenities.

The nearby town of Donnelly is a good alternative, and it has several budget hotels and inns. Tamarack resort may not have the gloss of a high-status resort but the staff more than make up for this with their reputation for friendliness. The location has great views of the mountains and nearby Lake Clarence makes Tamarack a great setting for a ski vacation

What We Love About Tamarack Resort

  • For an Idaho resort, Tamarack Resort punches above its weight
  • Although naturally busier at the weekend lift lines and crowded slopes are rare
  • The design of the beginner ski terrain allows for gradual progression
  • Deciduous conifers make for great tree skiing

Tamarack Resort Stats

Summit Elevation:7700 ft / 2346.96 metres
Skiable terrain: 1100 acres

3. Bogus Basin

Photo by Bureau of Reclamation licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Going back more than 80 years Bogus Basin, Idaho is still often ranked as the most friendly resort in the State. Only 17 miles from Boise it is kept busy with the local inhabitants, as well as visitors from further afield. The resort location is remote, bordering the edge of the Boise National Forest but the eight airlines serving Boise airport provide easy access for many more skiers.

What’s the Skiing Like?

The resort is a non-profit recreation area and the focus is on affordability and fun rather than commercial gain. Extending over 2600 acres, Bogus Basin is divided into the backside terrain, which is shaded and consequently quieter. However, it still offers plenty of open, groomed runs, trailing through the forest.

The front side of the mountain is usually busier, especially the beginner section. Being so close to the larger town of Boise there are some lift lines at times, although lift equipment is upgraded when practical to improve access. The resort has 82 trails, 10 lifts and 10% of the slopes are suitable for beginner skiers.

There are some easy greens close to the base of the resort to start off on and then with growing confidence skiers can progress up to some wide-ranging glades, on the green, and blue runs above the resort base. Skiers often find the trail map initially seems small but spending more time on the mountainside you start to experience the full 2600 acres.


Learning to Ski

The instructors at Bogus Basin offer private, semiprivate, and group lessons for all abilities. It is recommended that reservations are made at least seven days prior to your arrival. The cost of the lift ticket and equipment rental is not included in the lesson price.

Bogus Basin has activities beyond skiing including snow tubing and Nordic skiing.

Off the Slopes

Condos are available for rental on the mountain or nearby Boise offers a good choice of the budget through to luxury lodging.

What We Love About Bogus Basin, Idaho

  • Generally uncrowded especially during the week
  • Access to green and blue runs over quite varied terrain
  • A cheap ski destination with cheap lift tickets and cheap lodging in Boise
  • Plenty of terrains to explore

Bogus Basin Stats

Summit Elevation:7582 ft / 2311 metres
Skiable terrain: 2600 acres

2. Schweitzer Mountain Resort

Settled in the Selkirk Mountains in northern Idaho, Schweitzer Ski Resort has easy road connections, while international flights to nearby Spokane increase the draw of the resort. Schweitzer Ski Resort has been in commercial operation since 1963 and it remains family orientated and unpretentious, with a friendly attitude from the service staff.

Ski magazine reviews have quoted it to be: ‘the best-kept secret in North America’. Extending over an incredible 2900 acres it’s easy to imagine the resort offers great variety, accessed by 10 lifts, one of which is a more recent high-speed six-seater.

Average annual snowfall of 300 in (7.6 m) ensures good coverage and a longer season, although occasionally nature doesn’t play the game and that’s where the 100 acres of snowmaking lower down the mountain save the day.

What’s the Skiing Like?

For beginners, who want a bit of peace and quiet to practice their skills Schweitzer really delivers where the lack of crowds is noticeable by the quiet and lack of lift lines. 10% of runs are classed as green terrain, initially, that may not sound like a lot but when it’s 10% of 2900 acres there should be something for everyone.

Learning to Ski

The beginner area in the resort is located at the base of the runs, well away from the intimidation of more experienced skiers. The Musical Chairs lift and a magic carpet return beginners to the base village, where they can choose their green run. These slopes are gentle and wide open with trees on either side.

Adult and child lessons are available at Schweitzer Mountain Resort on a private or group basis. The private lessons are completely personalized, which shortens the learning curve and allows the instructor to focus on specific areas of improvement.


Off the Slopes

There is some resort lodging, which is ski-in ski-out but you do pay a premium for it. The nearby town of Sandpoint is a good, lively alternative on the edge of Lake Pend Oreille

What We Love About Schweitzer Mountain Resort

  • Schweitzer Mountain resort is still uncrowded, especially during the week
  • Compared to similar resorts Schweitzer Idaho prices are relatively cheaper
  • There may be fewer beginner runs but beginner lift tickets are cheap
  • There are spectacular views from the resort across to Lake Pend Oreille

Schweitzer Mountain Resort Stats

Summit Elevation:6400 ft / 1950.72 metres
Skiable terrain: 2054 acres

1. Bald Mountain - Sun Valley


Owned by a gold-mining company Sun Valley resort is a nugget in its own right. It draws a varied crowd including Hollywood celebs drawn to roughing it in style. Its wild-west history still filters through creating a real sense of individuality. Retirees also tend to gravitate to the laid-back Sun Valley atmosphere and easily make it their home.

What’s the Skiing Like?

There are two mountains at Sun Valley, Bald Mountain, or “Baldy”, as it’s known to regulars, has plenty of green and blue runs. Nearby Dollar Mountain is an open, protected beginners’ area that has plenty of scopes to give beginners the practice they need. Dollar Mountain also has a terrain and tubing park.

With 3,400 ft (1036 m) of vertical fall and over 2,400 acres of varied terrain, Sun Valley has something for everyone. There are 13 lifts, 65 runs, a full-size terrain park, and best of all no lift lines! Sun Valley typically receives 220 in (5.6 m) of snow per season and snowmaking covers an extensive 645 acres.

The beginner area of Dollar Mountain is just a short walk from the base village of Sun Valley. Beginner families will enjoy that all the beginner amenities are in the same area. The ski school has a great reputation and is conveniently located at the base of Dollar Mountain.

Higher up the runs are pretty much all green and blue, while the terrain is open and easy to negotiate. There are several terrain parks, which can sometimes draw in the crowds but luckily these tend to be lower down, so you can stay high if it’s crowded.

When you have cut your teeth on Dollar Mountain for a few days it’s straightforward to transfer over to the runs on Bald Mountain. You can get a real taste of the elevation beyond the 9000 ft summit, even as a beginner. Starting out from the summit choose the green, Bowl Lane, then Broadway Face, and then a choice of greens right to the base.


Learning to Ski

Whatever your level of skiing Sun Valley’s instructors will be able to focus on your weak points and encourage you to develop the best technique. This can be with a private one-to-one lesson, a private family lesson, or in a small group.

Off the Slopes

There is no ski-in ski-out lodging around the resort, so most skiers head to nearby Ketchum on the shuttle for its variety of simple hotels and upmarket lodges.

What We Love About Bald Mountain, Sun Valley

  • With its consistent, groomed slopes Sun Valley resort is an ideal beginner family destination
  • Compared to other large US ski resorts Sun Valley never gets crowded
  • Sun Valley, Idaho has a charming and genteel vibe
  • There are plenty of activities beyond the slopes

Bald Mountain, Sun Valley Stats

Summit Elevation:9150 ft / 2789 metres
Skiable terrain: 2054 acres

Why Choose Idaho for Skiing

The numerous ski resorts in Idaho have everything a beginner will need to have a great ski and snowboard session. From licensed daycare services that care for young children, trails that cater to all degrees of skill, ski and snowboard schools, and other activities to keep both the parents and the children engaged throughout the day. Round it out with a tasty dinner and sleep the fatigue away comfortably before rising up on a new day, energized and eager for a new adventure with the whole family.

See also: 7 Best Idaho Ski Resorts for Families

How Did We Order This List?

To help rank our top selection of ski resorts for this list we compared the following ranking factors:

👨‍👩‍👦 Ranking Factor📈 Power to affect Rank
Amount of Beginner Trails (Mi) 4x
Amount of Skiing Area (Mi) 3x
Cost of two adult tickets + child ticket1x
How many magic carpet lifts1x

We gave each factor its own weighting depending on how important we feel it is for family fun across all ages. For example, a resort with more beginner trails is higher ranked than a resort with a lower-priced family ticket - with all else being equal. That's because while cost is a factor, it's not a primary one.

We may also use our editorial judgment to remove or add resorts that we believe should make the list. When taking all of this into account, gives us our awesome list above. We hope it was helpful in planning your next family ski vacation.

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Best Ski Resorts for Families In Idaho

See also: Best Ski Resorts for Beginners in the USA