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Advice on Tamarack ... McCall, Idaho

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
I'm planning a trip around mid-Feb and one of our possibilities is just outside McCall, Idaho ... Tamarack (www.tamarackidaho.com). Another local resort is Brundage, which by comparison seems small, but I'd appreciate opinions on either Tamarack or Brundage.

Too, any suggestions on McCall or Donnelly, the lodging, restaurants and/or shopping. And from McCall, how long does is take to get to either place? We'd fly into Boise, so this should not be a problem as McCall is only about 90 miles from there.

post #2 of 9
Brundage or Bogus.....

I don't think Tamarack has even built half the lifts they have on their trailmap. It flat and has has bad exposure to the sun.
post #3 of 9
I believe Tamarack is in the process of putting in two chairs this summer and they will be up and running for this coming ski season. The Wildwood Express and the Whitewater Chair. The Whitewater is mainly for the owners in the Whitewater Estates area - for their ski-in and ski-out access. The runs that you can see from highway 55 that they are cutting this summer look steeper than the current runs at Tamarack.

I skied Tamarack twice last season and enjoyed the area.

From Boise it takes a little under two hours to get to Tamarack and a little over two hours to get to Brundage.

Bogus Basin Mountain Resort is just sixteen miles out of Boise and has seven lifts and 1,800 vertical. I would recommend checking them out. Night skiing every night until 10:00. Mid week isn't crowded at all. There are some condos at Bogus Basin.
post #4 of 9
Just to clarify, if you look at the trailmap:
You can see the only two lifts that were in operation last year were the Tamarack express and the Summit Express. The other lifts are slated for "future years", although I'm not sure which ones are going in this year.

I went to Brundage, Bogus and SV last year on a 3 day trip to Boise. I was on business, but conviced them to fly me out 3 days early to visit a friend who lives North of town. We bypasses Tamarack, so I have not actually skied there, but I'l give you my impressions of each area:

Bogus - The biggest area besides SV, but I liked it better then Sun Valley. Laid back and cheap. We closed out the season there the second weekend in March and the conditions stunk, but you could tell they had a wide vareity of terrain to offer when they actually get snow.

Brundage - Not my favorite as I kind of got the feeling most of the runs were very similar other then one section where you could hike out on a ridge extending north from the ski area. We found some nice corn in the that area, and it was the only soft snow we found all weekend - it was March during a really warm and dry year remember.

SV - I tried to ski most of the day, because I knew it was going to be my last day on skis for about 8 months, but the snow stunk. Met some fellow NCers, but the apparent lack of backcountry had me labeling this as a "I'm glad I skied SV so I can say I've been there, but I'll probably never go back" kind of day. They were also running a promotion where if you had a season pass to another resort they would give you $30 off you lift ticket. I grabed the wrong jacket when I left Raleigh, as I was officially on business, so I didn't have my Vail pass. I printed out my Vail account online before I left Boise though, hoping for the best, but they did not give me the discount. This was understandable, but they seemed really snobby about it.

Tamarack - Like I said, I didn't ski it, but it has low elevation, about 4900' or so is the base, and it looked really flat. Their main reason for building the ski area where they did was because they had land clains at the base and wanted to build a community there and needed a draw to get people to buy the houses. Driving up, you can see a few peaks that may be one more ridge behind Tamarack that look pretty impresive. That's where they should have built the ski area.

We did eat at a cool little barn type place for breakfast on the way to Brundage, but I cannot remember if it was in McCall or not, or the name of the place, but it will be pretty obvious when you drive to McCall on the right hand side of the road.

If you get a chance for an off day, or like some backcounty, take the 75-15 route around the Sawtooths through Ketchum, Stanley and Idaho City. It's an impressive mountain chain, and somewhere around there, Galena maybe there is a nice backcountry spot if you know what you're doing. You will enter a big canyon where the road climbs steeply to the pass and see the tracks coming down. Keep driving around the pass and just as the road turns sharply left there will be a pullout. The bootpack will be pretty obvious on the left hand side of the road.

BTW, do you work at Alpine???
post #5 of 9
I would suggest that you target McCall as your base. Donnelly is very small--a couple of hotels and restaurants is about all that is there. McCall offers a much wider choice of lodging, restaurants and other ammenities and is about 15 minutes from Brundage and probably 30 minutes from Tamarack.

On paper, Brundage may not look that impressive but it is one of those places that is a sleeper. Very dependable snow conditions, the best around here by far. The 1700' vertical isn't impressive for the west, but there's plenty of consistent pitch runs that let you get the most out of that vertical.

I skied Tamarack twice last winter. Bad snow year around here last year and that impacted my ability to really see what the place is about. Not enough snow to venture of the designated runs. I think there were only 3 top to bottom runs in service last year, with a few shorter connecting runs here and there. The mountain's pitch is quite variable--the runs consist of a lot of alternating steeper and then flatter pitches and the runs don't consistently follow the fall line. Sort of like roller coaster skiing is a manner of speaking. I found this terrain interesting for a while, but I really prefer more consistent pitch, fall-line skiing when I'm not able to venture off-trail.

A number of the new runs (and one new lift) that will be on-line this year are on a new section of the mountain. I'm looking forward to seeing whether this area has more of the skiing I like.

Hopefully we will have better snow this winter and I will have a chance to see everything that Tamarack has to offer.
post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 

Tamarack 2007

Hey, I'm just checking on my options for the ski season upcoming, and wanted to get some fresh feedback on this place. From last year's perspective, Tamarack seemed more about promise than reality ... but just wanted to resurrect this thread for more current observations on the place.

Is Tamarack still long on promise and short on delivery, or 1 year later, does it deserve more serious consideration? Let me know what you think.

post #7 of 9
I skied Tamarack once this year. It was a good snow year around here. I was there in early March and skied on 2" of new on a deep and solid base.

I'm still not crazy about the primary runs but I did like the new area (and lift) opened this year. That terrain has a more northernly exposure, preserving the snow better and also provides longer advanced runs. This new area is good enough that I will look forward to going back again. However, Brundage still gets my vote by a substantial margin as the best skiing in the area.
post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 

Tamarack ... what's it like now

One year later ... what has Tamarack grown or evolved into - how many lifts are viable, and what are the trails and off-piste slopes like?
post #9 of 9

Not impressed

I spent a midweek powder day there last December. I was excited to try it out, as I grew up in Idaho and there was a ton of fresh snow the day I made it up there from Boise. Pretty big disappointment

The first few turns off the top of the Summit lift were great, but then it flattened out for a long, boring runout the rest of the way down. I spent most of the day trying to find some sustained vertical that would make the heavy (for this part of Idaho) snow more enjoyable, but the whole mountain (other than the very top) seems pretty flat.

The Wildwood lift had a more consistent pitch, but the elevation is so low that the snow was pretty iffy. Could be better during a colder time of the season.

Surprisingly pretty setting, and I'm guessing the views of Cascade Reservoir are nice (it was socked in most of the day I was there), but its a fairly disappointing mountain if you're looking for real skiing. In the Boise area, Bogus Basin has much better terrain, and Brundage has far better snow. Sun Valley speaks for itself.

One caveat to the negative review: I've heard they have some pretty cool guided backcountry packages. I spent a fair amount of time standing at the top of the lift staring off into what looked like much more interesting terrain.

Oh, and as far as I know, the proposed lifts that were supposedly coming are still just dotted lines on a trail map, as far as I know...
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