by HOLLY ENDERSBY
If you live or vacation in Idaho or Montana, you are in luck: you have wonderful ski resorts to choose from, and they all want seniors to visit them! In fact, there are so many that we have just a sampling to whet your appetite for some of the best skiing in the nation.
Schweitzer Mountain Resort
Starting in North Idaho, Schweitzer Mountain Resort is Idaho’s largest ski resort with 2,900 acres and 2,400 vertical feet. Two chairlifts offer night skiing as well with an average snowfall of 300 inches. The resort regularly offers lodging and lift ticket packages on their website, with a special pre-Christmas offering right now.
As part of the Powder Alliance, a season pass at Schweitzer gets you on the slopes at 15 other resorts, including Bogus Basin near Boise. With lodging on site, Schweitzer is a ski-in, ski-out resort, making it exceptionally convenient.
Best of all, the resort has an active Prime Timers group geared to retirees who like to ski and socialize. With several leaders on hand, newcomers can learn the mountain safely and at a leisurely pace.
“It’s a really fascinating group,” said John Rohyans, a retired attorney who now lives in Sandpoint during the winter and visits frequently in summer as well. “We average about 60 people a week, and it helped my wife and I get connected to other active people when we moved here.”
Prime Timer membership runs $25 a year, and it comes with benefits. The group negotiated a season pass for seniors 65 and older, skiing Sunday through Friday for $175.
“We all are active and like-minded and go hiking, kayaking, biking, and golfing when we can’t ski. We have so many close friends here because of Prime Timers,” explained Rohyans.
Schweitzer has 92 trails with plenty of open–bowl skiing, as well as three terrain parks. Ten percent of the runs are for beginners, 40 percent for intermediate folks, 35 percent for advanced skiers, and 15 percent for expert powder hounds. Thirty-two kilometers of Nordic trails are maintained daily.
Visit schweitzerprimetimers.org for additional information and great prices.
Brundage Mountain Resort
Down in central Idaho, a stop at Brundage Mountain Resort near McCall is a must for avid skiers. It offers 1,920 acres and a vertical drop of 1,921 feet. Brundage boasts great, widely groomed, evenly pitched runs, with 20 percent for novices, 50 percent for intermediates, and 30 percent for advanced skiers.
The mountain gets a good amount of powder, with lots of low–angle runs to try while still giving skiers that floating feeling. Many retirees join the 50-50 Club, where they get together weekly to hang out and learn to ski new terrain or enjoy tips from an instructor on how to better ski Brundage’s gorgeous powder.
The mountain management has brokered lodging and lift tickets with every motel in McCall. With senior daily lift tickets running $37—or between $28-$30 for multi-day tickets—Brundage can fit everyone’s budget.
The more adventuresome skiers head to Hidden Valley, which communications director April Whitney called “nature’s terrain park” with its ample logs and drops for freestyle freaks.
In addition, Brundage also offers backcountry skiing via snow cat, with guided trips through an additional 18,000 Forest Service acres. Lakeview Bowl area is known for its powder, and popular trails like Temptation, Dropline, and Kickback boast superb snow.
Closest to Idaho’s major population center, Bogus Basin is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. Only 16.5 miles from Boise, this resort typically runs from mid-November to mid-April.
Three high–speed quad chairs, one triple, three doubles, and three conveyor lifts transport 9,980 skiers per hour.
Bogus offers 2,600 acres for day skiing and 165 for night in addition to 37 kilometers of groomed Nordic trails. Runs are divided into 22 percent easy, 45 percent more difficult, and 33 percent most difficult.
With no lodging on site, the resort offers packages with virtually every motel or hotel in Boise.
Bogus Basin also has a Prime Timers group for individuals 55 and older. They begin meeting the first Wednesday after New Year’s and focus on having a fun, safe, weekly ski outing, according to Jim Carney, a regular member.
“We have eight leaders who help with our weekly outings,” he said. “Most of the folks are retired and typically ski two to three times a week. We have members in their 80s who still skill weekly.”
Carney stated that members enjoy a cup of coffee together before skiing and might get some food and drink after their day on the slopes. Interested mature skiers should visit the Bogus Basin website for more information on Prime Timers.
“Our members have a lot of grey hair, but it is such an interesting group,” he said. “With so many varied life experiences, we have great conversations.”
In Montana, it’s impossible not to seriously consider skiing at Big Sky. The resort includes Moonlight Basin, purchased in 2013, which makes it the largest downhill ski area in the US, a sprawling 5,800 acres across four mountains. Skiers certainly won’t get bored here.
In addition to great downhill skiing, Big Sky boasts superb Nordic skiing with 85 kilometers of groomed trails. It is one of the most highly rated Nordic skiing resorts in the nation.
Amenities are plentiful, with a Town Center that features a number of restaurants, from elegant to brew pub friendly, a movie theatre, art galleries, sporting goods stores, and an ice and hockey rink. The Bozeman Health Big Sky Medical Center opened there in 2015 as well.
The terrain is divided into 14 percent for beginners, 25 percent for intermediates, 42 percent for advanced, and 15 percent for experts. That translates into 2,300 acres of beginner and intermediate terrain featuring long, groomed runs.
Because of its size, skiers never feel crowded, and it’s not unusual to have 70 runs groomed a day.
Average snow accumulations are a whopping 400 inches. While Big Sky rarely gets huge dumps of snow, it repeatedly gets 3 to 5 inches throughout the week, keeping the snow fresh and consistent.
Big Sky has embarked on a 10–year, $150–million improvement plan, and the first example of this is the Powder Seeker lift with its 60 high–speed chairs with heated seats and blue–bubble covers, to help keep skiers warm while in transit. In addition, the resort will replace all the “Magic Carpet” conveyors this year.
The resort is an economic driver for the local economy and has brokered great ski–and–stay packages. Check out their website for current holiday nine- and five-day packages as well as other specials that appear throughout the winter. No matter what kind of skiing you enjoy, you’ll find it at Big Sky.
Whitefish Mountain Resort
If you’ve been to Glacier National Park, then you’ve been in the vicinity of Whitefish Mountain Resort. And this ski mecca has some awesome ski–and–stay packages.
For example, a Hibernation House hotel ski–and–stay is $89 per person, mid-week, double occupancy, Sunday through Thursday. This includes not only your lift tickets but lodging that features a daily hot breakfast and a relaxing, after–ski hot tub. The walk-up day rate for seniors 65-69 is $68 per day, or $62 per day for two or more days. If you’re 70 or older, you ski for free.
Whitefish also offers a learn–to–ski package for any age that covers two days of lift tickets, two days of rental equipment, and two half–day lessons for only $79. The resort also offers great ski–and–stay packages in condos: simply check their website, or call for updates on available options.
With 3,020 skiable acres, 105 marked trails, and plenty of bowl and tree skiing, you will never run out of places to explore. The resort has a 10-year average snow cover of 300 inches and boasts a longest run, Hellfire, of 3.3 miles.
Beginner runs comprise 12 percent of the mountain, intermediate 40 percent, advanced 42 percent, and expert runs top out at 6 percent.
Whitefish features five terrain parks as well, offering exciting freestyle opportunities for all levels of skiers. Night skiing on Chairs Two, Three and Six runs from 4:00-8:30 p.m. with special rates for skiers 70 or older. With awesome prices and packages, it’s almost mandatory you check out Whitefish Mountain Resort.