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Idaho winter outdoor recreation guide: Where to ski, snowshoe, sled or find hot springs

If you're looking for a day trip or a weekend excursion, here's how you can make the most of winter in Idaho's beloved outdoors.
Credit: KTVB
Snow sculptures built by locals are one of the highlights of the McCall Winter Carnival.

BOISE, Idaho — Looking for some ideas on how to make a winter birthday special, how to kill boredom with outdoor sports, or escape to the snowy mountains for a romantic getaway? We've compiled a seasonal outdoor recreation guide that will keep you busy all winter long.   

Check out popular places to go sledding, tubing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling in Idaho. Snowbiking locations for adventurists and heli-skiing options for thrill seekers. Or if you prefer an easy afternoon family activity, we've included information about some local ice skating rinks.    

All locations and events are listed in order by distance from Boise. The first place to ski, relax in a hot spring, or snowshoe will be the closest location to do so from Boise and the last one will be the farthest from the valley. 

December 21 was the first day of winter and the beginning of a whole array of outdoor activities.

Sledding and Tubing

Bogus Basin 

A single 90-minute session is $15. The tubing hill offers an 800 foot slide down with a conveyor-lift back to the top. Check out the recreation area's calendar for a complete list of open days and times.  

Eagle Island State Park

Daytime tubing is $17 a ticket while twilight tubing is $13.50. Tickets must be purchased online 24 hours in advance. For a selection of tubing sessions check out their ticket portal

Steamboat Gulch sled hill

Popular Steamboat Gulch sled hill, located off of Idaho 21 near Idaho City, was closed for the season after visitors repeatedly damaged the area but now is set to open before Christmas. The hill will open for the first day Saturday, Dec. 21 from 11 a.m. to dark. The regular schedule will be released later. 

Credit: Idaho Department of Lands
Steamboat Gulch sled hill

Hermits Hollow tubing center 

Schweitzer Mountain Resort's tubing park has two lanes that stretch over 100 yards that can be enjoyed during the day or at night. Day sessions last 1.5 hours while night sessions last 2.5 hours. If you're looking for winter birthday ideas, the resort has a "fun birthday add on option."  

Looking for a place to go sleigh riding check out several options on the state tourism's official website.


Southwestern Idaho:

Bogus Basin 

Hikers can enjoy 20 miles of maintained trails that wind through the forest on the top of the mountain. For those who want to see the night sky while they trek through the snow, Bogus offers 4 miles of lit trails.  

Snowshoes can be rented at the Nordic Center, which can be found by driving past the main lodge parking area. However, pups aren't allowed on these trails. One option for pet friendly snowshoeing area's can be found in Idaho City.

Northern Idaho:

Schweitzer Mountain Resort 

Hiking lovers can join a snowshoe tour at Schweitzer Mountain Resort in Sandpoint. The group leaves every Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. from the Activity Center. While taking in the majestic views, hosts will point out geological features of the forest, wildlife tracks, and nearby mountain ranges. 

Visitors can also sign up to take a hosted moonlight hike. The walk through the snow covered forest grounds begins right before sunset and uses headlamps to illuminate the trail on the way back. In addition, the resort tour company promises a surprise event along the way and a cup of hot soup and bread at Gourmadie at the end. Prices for these hosted hikes begin at $25 and go up. 


Brundage Mountain 

Full-day and half-day tours from McCall take visitors to scenic locations such as Clow Point, Granite Lake, Brundage Reservoir, Goose Lake, or to Burgdorf Hot Springs. Half day tours start at $249 while snow mobile rentals start at $169 and go up. For a complete list of prices check out their website

Selkirk Powder

Join a snowmobile tour and ride through the forested mountains of Selkirk and Cabinet mountain ranges with view of Lake Pend Oreille. Selkirk Powder offers a group tour for riders of all skill levels in Sandpoint, Idaho. Adventurers can book online by picking between a 3-hour or 5-hour tour. Prices start at $169 for drivers and $95 for passengers. 


Looking for a new sport to try? Timbersled offers converter kits to turn your dirt bike into a snow bike for the winter season. Purchases can be made at several Boise, Nampa and Caldwell locations. 

Below Kim Fields explains how snowbiking works in an episode of Exploring Idaho:


Check out Ride McCall for trail maps and area camera's to plan your next snowbiking excursion. 

Schweitzer Mountain Resort

Snowbiking, a growing winter sport, can be done on the 32 kilometers of trail at Schweitzer Mountain Resort in Sandpoint. Snowbikers can bring their own bike or rent one at the resort for $15 for every hour and a half. Trails are open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the winter. For more information visit Schweitzer's website.

Ice skating outdoors

The Village at Meridian ice rink

Ice skate at The Village at Meridian Monday through Friday from 3 to 9 p.m., Saturday from noon to 9 p.m. or Sunday noon to 6 p.m. until Jan. 26. 

Indian Creek Plaza ice rink in Caldwell

Indian Creek Plaza Ice Skating Ribbon and Rink will be open until Feb. 29, 2020, for public outdoor skating. 

The ice rink will be open Monday  through Thursday, noon to 9 p.m. and Friday through Sunday, noon to 11 p.m. However, it's best to call beforehand to make sure weather conditions have not altered the operating hours and tickets. 

Those hours are subject to change and tickets sales may stop at any time due to weather or the ribbon reaching capacity (180 skaters). Ticket sales stop 1/2 hour before closing.  

Ice skating indoors

Idaho IceWorld in Boise

For an indoor ice skating experience Idaho IceWorld has been a longtime location frequented by many locals. To find a time for the whole family to go ice skating check out their calendar for public days and times. 

Relaxing in a hot spring

Public v.s. private

Idaho has several hot springs that are classified as either public or commercial. Public hot springs are typically free and might involve a short hike to reach them. Commercial hot springs are normally located on private land and require an access fee. 

These private hot springs sometimes also offer a range of accommodations and other services such as showers, cafes or massages. 

IdahoHotSprings.com offers a user friendly website where outdoor enthusiast can view a map of the hot springs all around Idaho, guides on hot springs near Boise and a list that separates public and private locations. 

Facebook video of last year's Serpent Fire performing at the The Springs in Idaho City on Valentine's Day:

Givens Hot Springs in Melba 

One of the closest hot springs to the Treasure Valley renovated their indoor pool earlier this month, according to Nadine Givens. The new renovations include a couple of upgrades to the pool, dressing rooms, and soaking tub rooms. 

Historically, Givens Hot Springs has been a place where Silver City minors and travelers along the Oregon Trail stopped to rejuvenate, according to Givens. The hot spring is open year around from noon to 9 p.m., 7 days a week. For more information about rates, classes, and accommodations check out their website

Skiing and snowboarding 

Resorts are listed in order by distance from Boise. Check out driving conditions before you travel at Idaho 511 Travel or KTVB's travel maps and traffic cameras. 

Bogus Basin

The mountain recreation area is just 16 miles from downtown Boise and about a 30 minute drive up in good weather conditions. Perfect for a day trip, Bogus has 10 lifts and 80 runs. In addition the recreation area has a mountain coaster for winter adventurists. For detailed pricing, check their website.

Tamarack Resort

Located in Donnelly, roughly 2 hours north of Boise, Tamarack Resort offers skiing and snowboarding for winter enthusiasts. Opening in 2004, Tamarack is one of Idaho's newest winter resorts. The area has been undergoing several improvements this year including new retail shops, restaurants and condos. 

Plan a trip to Tamarack by finding information about lodging, activities, and lessons on their main page. 

Brundage Mountain Resort 

A roughly 2.5 hour drive, or 116 miles, north of Boise, Brundage Mountain Resort is another option for those wanting to ski near the McCall area. Lift tickets for the Easy Rider Conveyor and Easy Street Triple Chair and Beartopia Family Fun Zone are free. 

Check Brundage's website for the latest snow fall updates.

Sun Valley Resort 

One of Idaho's most luxurious resorts regularly hosts Hollywood stars and Idaho families alike. The destination skiing resort is 154 miles and a little over 2 and a half hours away from Boise. 

Winter sports lovers can utilize the resort's two mountains, Bald Mountain and Dollar Mountain, for all their outdoor activities. Plan your trip to Sun Valley by looking at the trail maps

Magic Mountain Resort

Ski or snowboard in the Sawtooth National Forest just 161 miles and about 3 hours away from Boise at the Magic Mountain Resort in Kimberly, Idaho. The resort is located just outside of Twin Falls. Ski packages are $20 a day while snowboard packages are $25. For a list of complete gear prices check out Magic Mountain's rental rates.   

Grand Targhee Resort

This resort nestled in the Grand Teton Mountains receives over 500 inches of snow fall every year. Located 362 miles and 5.5 hours from Boise the Grand Targhee Resort offers townhomes and condos for rent as well as several shopping and dining options. 

Full-time college students can enjoy a deep discount on 2019/2020 winter season passes. Kids under 12 ski for free when parents book 3 or more nights of lodging and adult lift tickets. For more information about planning a trip to the Grand Targhee Resort check out their website.

Silver Mountain Resort

With 2 mountains, 1,600 acres of terrain and an indoor waterpark Silver Mountain Resort is a family friendly choice. The resort is located about 392 miles and 7.5 hours from Boise and about one hour from Spokane, Washington.

Schweitzer Mountain Resort

Schweitzer Mountain Resort, 434 miles from Boise and at least an 8.5 hour drive is the largest ski resort in Northern Idaho. Schweitzer boasts 2,900 acres of ski terrain. They offer several vacation packages, lessons, and rental options for outdoor enthusiasts. 

For more skiing and snowboarding areas check out Visit Idaho.

Heli skiing

Go off-trail skiing or snowboarding by taking a helicopter to a remote location in southern part of the Selkirk mountain range, where runs can range up to 2,200 feet. Selkirk Powder's heli skiing season runs from Jan. 18 to Mar. 31. A single seat comes costs $1,300 while a private charter can be booked for $9,125. 

Sun Valley Resort also offers Heli Skiing. A seat for half of a day during the holiday season can be purchased for $1,200 and during the non-holiday season for $1,000. Private charters start at $16,000 per day and can go up to $24,000 or more. For more information check out Sun Valley Heli Ski.

Special events

McCall Winter Carnival 

At the carnival, participants will be able to watch snow bike races, view snow sculptures, attend comedy shows and art auctions on Jan. 24 through Feb. 2. The theme is "It's a kids world!"

Avalanche rescue class

A 12-student avalanche rescue training class will be offered on Jan. 12 and Feb. 9 and runs at about $200 a participant. Students will meet at Schweitzer Mountain’s Lakeview Lodge in Sandpoint, Idaho and venture out for a day of focused instruction. 

Selkirk Powder says this class can be taken by anyone, new and experienced recreational back country travelers alike, as well as aspiring avalanche professionals. 

More Winter Activities

For a complete list of outdoor activities in Idaho visit the state's official travel guide website. 

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