Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Best of Idaho Continued . . .

Lost Trail/Pebble Creek/Grand Targhee: Challenge yourself with a tour of big-time terrain

By Bill Jennings
A mountain-hopping tour through the biggest mountain ranges in Idaho is a just what you need. Traveling with my uncle Roy Jennings, I drove to Hamilton, Montana about an hour's drive the next morning from our first mountain.

Lost Trail Powder Mountain is a snow magnet just off U.S. Highway 93 at the summit of Lost Trail Pass on the Montana/Idaho border. We found over two feet of the lightest, driest snow I've ever skied.

On the advice of Lost Trail co-owner Judy Grasser, our first drop was Thunder on the lift line of Chair 2. It was a free fall full of face shots and a snorkel would have come in handy. Later we headed to the Saddle Mountain lift and dropped from the 8,200-foot summit into a week’s accumulation of powder in Hollywood Bowl.

Eventually we worked our way to a burn area off the north boundary. I understood why everyone told me not to miss this experience.

Our next destination was Grand Targhee, about 250 miles southeast on the western edge of Wyoming. We continued south on 93 to Salmon and took State Route 28 through the Lemhi Valley, a flat plain lined by jagged peaks up to 12,000 feet high on both sides.

At Rexburg we learned that all routes to Grand Targhee were closed due to heavy snow. I cancelled our condo reservation at Teton Creek about 8 miles from the ski area and hunkered down, dreaming of epic powder. Next morning the highways were still closed.

It was time to improvise. Our original plan was to ski Grand Targhee on Saturday and Pebble Creek on Sunday. We made a beeline to Pebble Creek, a ski area 25 miles southeast of Pocatello.

Pebble Creek rises to 8,500 feet above the desert 25 miles southeast of Pocatello. It’s a small mountain that skis big, with long runs and steep drops. Most of the trails are black/double black.

We were fortunate to meet Mike Wade, a railroad engineer from Pocatello. Mike is 62 and he’s been skiing Pebble Creek since he was 6.

I couldn’t imagine a better representative for Pebble Creek. He showed us the best the mountain had to offer, accompanied with a narrative of the mountain’s history from a personal point of view. We skied until our legs were rubber and wolfed down chili and the mountains famous homemade
French fries.

Pebble Creek is a family place with a strong sense of community. Manager Mary Reitman and her staff will go the extra mile to make sure you have everything you need to get the most out of your experience. And if you want a challenge on your way to Utah powder, pull off I-15 at the Inkom exit.

After a night soaking in the hot pools at Lava Hot Springs about 25 miles southeast of Pebble Creek, State Route 26 to Grand Targhee finally opened. We hit the road at 6 a.m. Sunday and were skiing by 9:45.

Grand Targhee is a ski area in a spectacular alpine setting that reaps a bounty of snow. On a clear day its backdrop is the Tetons. The 10,000-foot summit of Fred’s Mountain was fogged in. We skied bowls and glades on the north and south flanks, but avoided the cliffs on Peaked Mountain. After coming this far, I wanted to live to ski another day.

All we had left was spread out on the slopes of Targhee. We headed to the Trap Bar, drank beer and at the best hot wings I’ve ever had—triple black intensity—awesome heat and flavor. More beer cooled the flames as we grooved to the reggae sound of Two and a Half White Men.

Monday we drove eight-hours from Idaho Falls to the Silver Valley. Looking up at Silver Mountain we could see that it was snowing so we pulled off the interstate and geared up one more time.

I just can’t get enough, can you?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a great roadtrip that we have done many times, minus Pebble Creek. Highly recommended! Maybe add Pebble Creek the next time.