Friday, January 24 was the start of McCall, Idaho annual Winter Carnival. This family centri event is bound to please all the snow hounds in your household with everything from gorgeous snow sculptures to fireworks, parade, dog sledding and mongrel racing. Of course there are all the snow events; downhill skiing, skating, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, and sledding. We go almost every year and I am always amazed by the local creativity and work that goes into the sculptures.
We go every year. I remember the kids finding the big piles of snow to crawl on better than the sculptures. Their dad is still delighted by snow. He likes to knock it off our cabin roof. He loves to chop wood and fill the wood stove to make our cabin really cozy. The Winter Carnival offers something for everyone, a place to make family memories of good times in snowy weather.
Late last night as the election results calcified, I received a text from a very good friend of mine in Wyoming reminding me that I had correctly called the election this summer. I told my disbelieving liberal friends in June that Trump had a very strong chance of winning. When FBI Director Comey announced 11 days ago that the Clinton email fiasco re-emerged, I knew in my heart that Hillary’s chances of winning were minimal.
What led me to have such a strong sense of Trump success even though I vote Democratic? First, Hillary never could shake, even among highly educated white women, the tinge of dishonesty or more correctly, covertness. Everyone says Hillary is a private person but I believe in transparency in government. Hillary began her national career at Bill’s side as First Lady leading the failed health care reform effort behind closed doors. I totally disagreed with her policy approach at the time though not the recommendations for a national health card. This sense that Hilary is not being completely candid has haunted her for years. I wanted to love her but I couldn’t. I respect her years of tenacious advocacy for women and children, her policy knowledge, her ability to be knocked down and get back up again but I never got chills when I thought about voting for her. I would love to live to see the first woman elected President of the United States. I would have been fine if that woman was Hillary but personally I was never captivated by her. Today, I could feel Hillary’s pain when she conceded. She has given it her all to lead this country on two different occasions and I think we all realize now that this is a dream that will elude her.
I am not sure Hillary could have done anything differently during this campaign. Her failure is one of charisma which I’m not sure one can learn. The Obamas both have it in spades. I cried with joy when Obama won the Presidency the first time. When he and his family walked on stage after winning, I felt the world had moved. I had goose bumps when Michelle Obama spoke at the 2016 Democrat Convention about how “When they go low, we go high!” Having watched The Apprentice for many years with my daughter when she was younger, I know that Donald Trump is capable of captivating an audience. In a world of social media, the personal image is political reality. Trump correctly assumed as the polls and pundits did not that the large crowds he was drawing would result in a swell of passionate, dedicated Trump voters. These folks were what I call shadow supporters, not readily available to traditional pollsters. Can you see a big think tank reaching out to someone who goes to a rally wrapped in fake green turf to show their “grass roots support.” My guess is Trump supporters got chills voting for him and cried when they saw the swing states predicted blue turning to bright red right before our eyes.
Winning a national election requires great outpourings of emotion (Of course, it can be argued Trump didn’t win the election since Clinton got more votes but given our electoral college approach, he put together the strategic states to run the board). In our electronic world, the charismatic individual whether we like their ideas or not has an advantage from the starting line. Trump is nothing if not charismatic; even his greatest detracters followed his every move providing tons of free publicity for him through tweets, late night comedy shows, news stories. I admit to some dark part of me daily checking what new strange tweet he had sent out. Silencing his tweeting near the end of the campaign and keeping Trump on message further strengthened my sense that he could win this thing. Throughout the campaign, he had been his own worst enemy. Once someone wrapped up his spontaneous outbursts and put him on an airplane crisscrossing rural America, Trump’s personal image solidified as a political outsider, pro-life business man who could build our economy, relished a fight, told it like it was and was focused on protectionism. HIs consistent mantra that America needed change struck a cord in America’s heartland. His other failings such as sexual predator, misogynist, inconsistent statements from day-to-day, no clear policy positions on many issues, and a protectionist approach based on racism never stuck. Hillary’s image on the other hand, as a policy wonk, part of the power elite establishment and probably dishonest to boot was with her from day one and stayed with her throughout the long arduous campaign, the dishonesty piece finally solidified for undecided voters with the Comey announcement of more emails for the FBI to check (so much smoke there must be fire).
The Republicans now control the Presidency, Congress, and with Trump’s nomination in January the Supreme Court. Our nation will no longer have divided government though we remain poltically and socially divided as a country.
It will be interesting to see what a Republican health care approach looks like. My bet is thousands of individuals will once again be thrown off insurance. But a step backward may be the only way to leap forward. I agree with Bernie Sanders that the only viable long-term health care solution for the U.S. is a national health care plan. Radical right regression may be what will unite progressives where nothing else has.
Democrats have every reason to be discouraged. They are without any recognizable leaders, they won the national vote, lost the election, failed to gain control of the Senate, lost the opportunity to transform the Supreme Court and will need to reorganize and re-energize. But as another friend of mine says, America made it through the Civil War and we will make it through this.
I was in McCall, Idaho last weekend when the Christmas Tree for the nation came into town. It was cut down at the little ski hill outside of McCall. There were crowds of people mulling around, an announcer shouting repeatedly the tree was coming, , the giant Idaho Potato came into sight, the McCall High School Band came by on a truck, a hundred or so disorganized children paraded by and then this big shining red semi-truck turned the corner dragging a gaily wrapped something which turned out to be the tree, covered for its journey East. I thought at that moment this is America at its best, small town America coming together and celebrating something as simple as a giant pine tree on the move across our great country.
My husband and I were probably the only two Democrats in the entire crowd given how the voting across Idaho went. Idaho Democrats lost five legislative races on Tuesday bringing the Republican Legislative Super Majority to 84%. Idaho is the redest state in the Union. I have a friend who chides me that Idaho Democrats can meet in a phone booth there are so few of us if we can find a phone booth anymore. I still hope to see a woman elected president (Preferably a Democrat though I open to any strong, thoughtful female leader) in my life time. But for now I am glad to be an American. I celebrate we can have a contentious, nasty, close election and get up the next morning knowing we will be free to walk out the door, talk about how crazy the voting was yesterday over a cup of coffee, express our opinions openly on Facebook or a blog and not worry about our safety.
Rollout those lazy, crazy days of summer…You’ll wish that summers could always be here (Nat King Cole, 1963)
2016 was my first summer of retirement. What a glorious time, I have had! Pete and I opened summer with a grand circle tour of the Wyoming and Colorado Rocky Mountains.
Jackson Hole biking
CSU Ram, Cam
Driving from Boise to Jackson Hole, the Teton’s highlight was biking at twilight along the Snake River. Then on to Buffalo, Wyoming to visit family and enjoy Wyoming’s wonderful summer weather where cool breezes keep the air moving and the need for air conditioning down. In Cheyenne, Wyoming where I grew up, I am still blessed with many long-term friendships. These friendships have remained strong over 20 years of living in different cities with annual visits home. All but one friend and my husband beat me to retirement. Some of my friends have had health struggles. One friend is recovering from a stroke, another a heart condition, another just getting over a knee replacement surgery. All have new grand children to report on. When I sit down with my Wyoming friends, it feels like yesterday when we left. Over the years and across the miles, our shared adventures and linking life lines have kept us together.
We finished our roadtrip with our annual visit to a Colorado Rockies game, a must for us and plans to meet Wyoming friends in Arizona next year to watch spring baseball. Our final stop before heading home was Golden, Colorado where Pete has family and the hops from Coors Brewery fills the air. Clear Creek runs through town, like the Boise River but much smaller. These rivers provide the focal point for both communities though their original historical roots are quite different. Golden was a mining town and Boise was the Lewis and Clark route, the Oregon Trail and home to Fort Boise. Our drive home took us across Utah, setting of glorious rock formations. Traveling in Utah always leaves me thinking about Mormon families pushing their hand carts across the vast landscape, a hardy group for sure.
The friendship/family tour was our only trip this summer. Boise (consistently ranked as one of the top outdoor cities) is a fabulous place to spend the summer and we also own a cabin in McCall, Idaho welcoming us over the long holidays including Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, a late July family vacation and most recently Labor Day. Labor Day trills the siren call of summer’s end. The air is starting to turn and Boise hosts the fabulous Boise Balloon Festival.
Our cabin in McCall is tiny (about 1200 square feet) but it has big arms, welcoming 5 co-ed college students (guests of my son) and Pete and I two weeks ago. Labor Day we hosted Kayla’s 17th birthday extravaganza with 4 of her friends. Kayla’s birthday is September 6th. We celebrate her birthday every Labor Day in McCall. In recent years, neighbors from Boise have bought a place too. We share or more accurately mooch dinners and boat rides from them. Our kids are together in college and they have a daughter from China who is a freshman in high school. The weather never cooperates with our beach and water plans. But somehow we manage to get out on the water. One Labor Day, we were wrapped in blankets on a boat. This year I actually got a brain freeze as I shot across Payette Lake on a jet ski.
Kayla’s 17th birthday
Girls being girls, McCall
Scott on pink flamingo jet ski
So what I have I learned from my first summer of retirement?
Family and friends matter more as one ages, make the time to cultivate and grow existing relationships.
Good health is a blessing and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Exercise regularly, eat right and make time for preventive health visits.
Be thankful for every day God has given me. Jump out bed and enjoy the day!
I have lived in Idaho almost 22 years, a third of my life. Idaho is the most Republican state in the nation.The state where a perfectly normal question is “Have you heard of the group Black lives Matter? Well, in Idaho Redneck Lives Matter.” In rural Idaho, PETA stands for “People eating tasty animals.” (Probably shot with a concealed weapon, all perfectly legal.)
In this staunchly Red environment, I have transformed into a strong Democrat. I drive a blue car with a novelty license plate that says BLUEGRL. I am proud to be a Blue girl (Democrat)in a Red State. I sometimes worry about the car getting keyed for advertising my political opinions.
I have a Republican friend who says Idaho Democrats could hold the state convention in a phone booth if we could find a phone booth anymore. Idaho Democrats running for statewide office get consistently about 30% of the vote if the individual candidate runs a good campaign. We haven’t had a Democrat elected statewide since our Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction, Marilyn Howard, retired in 2006. No other position has even been competitive in the 20 years I’ve lived here
The miracle of Bernie Sanders in Idaho is that thousands of people showed up for Democratic caucuses all over the state. In Boise, there are still Bernie yard signs up. Before the Democratic National Convention several hundred people marched in Boise in support of Bernie.While I still see Bernie stickers on cars and yards signs, I haven’t seen any Hilary stickers. I got an email last week that Hilary had hired an Idaho field organizer, a young woman, recent graduate of the University of Idaho. The email said Hillary could use some help in Idaho. NO KIDDING! Hillary and Idaho? Talk about an oxymoron! The fact Hillary has paid staff in Idaho shows the fundraising process of the Democratic Presidential campaign. Maybe Hillary has a field organization in Idaho to recruit Bernie fans. But the few I know wouldn’t vote for Trump. They may choose to not vote and thus the need for Hillary to have a grassroots organization.Paying to organize Idaho Democrats for a national election is like seeing how many people you can get in a Volkswagen. You can run around a lot, create frenetic energy, spend a great deal of time but in the end the number will be quite small.
In this environment, where there are no decent Democrats running for national office why do I remain a Democrat? Afterall, I will be voting for Republican Congressman Mike Simpson in my Congressional District. Congressman Simpson is a retired dentist who supported expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. He recently got Congress to pass the White Cloud Wilderness Bill, designating three areas in the Owyhee Mountains as wilderness. This legislation took years of work. In other words, Simpson is a good guy. Why bother with the Democratic label at all when I am clearly the minority?
I have wrestled with my Democratic values for some time. I am forced to when I am consistently in the minority. Saying my political alliegence aloud can lead to crazy arguments and loss of friendships.
I grew up a Republican in Wyoming. I can remember standing on the tamarack at the Cheyenne airport. My sister was dressed in white holding glittery gold poms poms along with other teenage girls. I tasted the bitter bile of jealousy as the wickedly cold wind made my eyes leak because I wasn’t old enough to be a Goldwater Girl and stand with the cheering girls. Goldwater went on to win only six states, Arizona (his home state) and five southern states. He even lost Wyoming and Idaho.
Early in my early professional career I worked for both Democratic and Republican Governors. I considered myself an independent, supporting the individual rather than the party.
I capitulated to dyed-in-the-wool, bright Blue Democrat as I saw the Idaho legislature become progressively conservative giving tax breaks to business, failing to appropriately fund our public schools, repeatedly defeating Medicaid Expansion. Last year in the legislature an emergency room physician testified that at least a 1000 low-income Idahoans die a year because of lack of health care. Our Republican Governor Butch Otter’s response was, ” Lots of people die every year.”
My husband and I give monthly to Idaho Democrats. I am volunteering to stuff envelopes for state legislative races. All of this money and energy with no expectation of it making a difference. The question is why bother?
I got the answer on Saturday at Payette Lake in McCall. I was sitting on the dock at Ponderosa State Park watching my daughter and her friend jet skiing across the lake. A woman with head covered, black leggings and a beautiful white lace top got on the back of a new jet ski behind her husband. I presume she was Muslim and the man was her husband. After bouncing across the water at full tilt, she came back to the dock sporting a huge smile. At that moment it became crystal clear to me why I am a Democrat. Jet skiing provided a great metaphor for living in our complex world. My Chinese daughter was out on the same water with the Muslin couple and behind me some black families who were speaking a language other than English, also in full dress, probably refugees, were playing on the beach and wading in the shallow water, laughing and splashing. All of us from very different backgrounds were sharing the lake linked by our human capacity for laughter and joy.
I am a Democrat because I believe all lives matter. Hurrah for Rednecks, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Muslims, Jews, Gays and everyone else! You all matter and American should be a big enough place that we can embrace and live with our differences.
Zipping from tree top to tree top, I felt like an eagle soaring high but going so fast I would never be able to spot prey. While in my fantasy I was an agile winged bird of prey, in reality I looked like a rotating chicken on a spit because I never could keep the line straight as directed and found myself twisting around. I could only take in the splendor of Cascade Lake and the mountains when standing on the wooden perches waiting my turn. There were 9 in our group but the tour can accommodate up to 10. The first zip, the tour guide, had to pry off my hands from what he described as the “clutch of death”.
For safety purposes, everyone is tethered onto the tree platforms in-between zips. The highest perch was 125 feet. The platforms are sky-high tree houses about 12 feet square with a tree rising through middle of the platform and serving as the structure. The tree is partially covered with padding to avoid out of control humanoids slamming into bark and surrounded by tethers to keep the tour group from accidently pitching over the side and becoming a causality of the exercise.
The correct position is a tucked canon ball with one hand on the zip tether for guidance and the other free floating for an airbrake if necessary. An air brake means you stick you your hand out and madly grab for air to slow yourself down in an awkward flapping maneuver. The demonstration of this technique looks like sky diving without a parachute. Fortunately, I was never going fast enough to try to stop myself. On the other hand, if you aren’t going fast enough to reach the landing you are to grab the safety cord so the tour guide can pull you in. The second zip, zipping in my own little zone, I didn’t hear the guide shouting at me to grab the safety line. I came to my senses just in time to avoid an incident of hanging out in the middle of line needing to be fetched in by guides. When this happens, you are called “fish on a line”. That gives you some idea of how ungainly a non-moving zipper can become, hanging in mid-air waiting to be rescued. My daughter was on a different trip where a younger member (not enough weight, certainly not my problem) had this happen. Apparently, it took considerable time to fetch the kid from mid rope back up to the platform.
Trying zip lining was on my bucket list partially because my balance problems have eliminated so many of my challenges I easily accomplished when I was younger. Since one is held up when zipping, I thought I could accomplish this adrenal pump even with my limitations. I did drag my husband, Pete, along. At first, he said he would take me to the site and drop me off to do it by myself. But after shrieking at him that this wouldn’t help me at all, he came along reluctantly. In a bind, I can count on him to hold my hand and pull me up or down areas I can’t accommodate on my own. It turned out there was another gracious guy on the trip who kept stopping to help me. His wife had stayed at home and the guides were top notch and helped everyone.
I would like to report that the next day given my excellent condition I jumped out of bed not feeling anything. Unfortunately, I am 65. The next day my body felt like I’d been flung around in a dryer. I had bruises on my thighs from the equipment and a cut on my leg from the suspension bridge. One cannot be an adventurer without being willing to take the pain with the adrenal pump. Would I do it again? Oh yes. My bucket list also includes is sailing over the rain forest in Costa Rico.
Do you have a hard time finding activities that young children, teenagers, parents, and grandparents can all enjoy together?McCall Winter Carnival is one of those rare events providing family fun for all age groups and the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors by escaping the constant demands of social media and screen time. All of this and it’s free!
As I write, the 51st Winter Carnival is in full swing. Kicking off Friday, January 29th with a children’s torch light parade and fireworks, the festival runs through February 7th , 2016 with a variety of activities all week. This year’s theme is Beyond Tomorrow, boasting 40 futuristic snow sculptures scattered all over town.
The necessary ingredients for a great winter celebration are snow (lots of it) and cold weather. This year McCall has had plenty of both. We own a place in McCall and we’ve had enough snow to knock down a tree in our front yard and require us to dig a path way for our dogs out to the backyard. I like to think the path out back as our own little interactive snow tunnel for dogs.
The kickoff event for the carnival is a children’s torch light parade to the shores of Payette Lake for a fireworks display.
This year it was so icy everyone joined the torch light parade to walk in the streets and avoid the slick sidewalks. There is an indescribable joy, marching in the crisp, cold dark with children waving light wands and parents wearing glowing multicolored necklaces on a cold night. Since it gets dark early this time of year, fireworks start at 7, still early enough for young children. For those who like to party, the fireworks provide fabulous festive start to a night on the town.
This year, the fireworks were shot from the shore of the lake. The viewers lined up along the snow banks just above the launching point. The dazzling bursts of color burst right over our heads. Some explosions were so close, I felt like it could reach out and touch them. My feet reverberated on the ground when the big boomers went off, sprinkling a few harmless ashes among us. The area near the lake was covered with a light dusting of smoke, like English fog. As my 16 year old daughter said, “The smaller the burst, the larger the boom.” Once the fireworks were over we headed home for board games around the table in front of a blazing wood stove. We have internet but no regular TV in our cabin. But since we tend to gather as a group, we have found cards and games to be a good social activity at least one night of the weekend.
The next morning my crowd of teenagers were up early to catch the first chair up Brundage Mountain. The ski hill tends to be empty during Winter Carnival because of all the activities in town. The kids’ ski report that afternoon was the “hill was uncrowded” and there was lots of new snow.
Meanwhile back in town, the crowds were huge for the annual Mardi Gras Parade. Replicating New Orleans, McCall’s pageant is resplendent with purple, green and gold beads for partiers, lively music and an array of local floats.
Parade viewers are lined up three or four deep in sloshing snow. I heard one mom tell her toddler not to get wet. With all the snow and slush, this order was like trying to stop a locomotive when the brakes go out. He promptly jumped in a puddle splashing water half way up his legs and on everyone standing near him. This total disobedience made me laugh out loud.
Snow and kids are a magical mixture, assuming the kids are dressed for the cold weather. In McCall this weekend, I saw kids of all sizes sliding down snow hills on butts, sleds or whatever other device would move. During Winter Carnival, McCall balloons from a sleepy mountain town of 3,000 to over 60,000 visitors so believe me there are lots of interesting people and activities all around you. One man fighting his way through the slush on the way to the car was overheard describing the crowds on his phone with, “I’m in the guts of this thing right now!” The downtown on the first Saturday of Winter Carnival is not for the faint heart. The pulsating energy of so many people is also part of the appeal of the festival.
Other events throughout the week are pancake breakfasts, gourmet dinners, bike races (motorcycles), Nordic racing, snowmobile fun run, theater, and continuous live music on an outdoor stage, hockey games in the town’s fabulous indoor rink, ice shows, beer garden, and food trucks.
There are also the McCall regular activities including skiing on a great hill, tubing at the Activity Barn, soaking at one of three hot springs, or just hanging out in front of a warm fire and watching it snow.
My favorite event because I’m an animal lover is the Monster Dog Pull. Sponsored by McPaws Animal Shelter, regular people showcase their every day dogs pulling appropriate weighted sleds on a short course.
Competition and sled size is determined by the size of the dog. While some dogs were born to run, others take the race as the opportunity to meet and greet all the by-standers along the way as if they were beauty queens in a parade, and other canines take on the role of victim and just sit down refusing to transform from pets to working dogs. You can see by their expressions these dogs think their owners who are calling them loudly, waving treats, and otherwise making a fool of themselves are just plain nuts. Maybe during Winter Carnival, similar to New Orleans, happiness and fun may make us all just a little nuts (in a good way).
If you didn’t get to McCall this weekend, don’t despair. There is still time to spend a day in McCall and see the snow sculptures which this year should stay in pretty good shape throughout the week. In warm winters, the snow sculptures melt right before viewers’ eyes.
If you are from out of state, consider putting the Carnival on your travel bucket list. If you are a couple with money, try out the Hotel McCall which is right in the thick of the action so you won’t have to use your car. The next closest high end choice is the Shore Lodge, great for couples and families but further from the action. The lodge does run regular shuttles throughout the event. For families with fewer resources and a weekend to spare, America’s Best Value Inn, while a little run down, has reasonable rates, a swimming pool, and breakfast each morning. The biggest draw is it’s within walking distance of everything. McCall has some great new hotels including the Holiday Inn and Best Western but they are on the outskirts of town and require you either take the shuttle, walk longer distances or fight the traffic. If you are coming to spend the week and get in some high quality skiing and relaxing, I would recommend you look into renting a cabin. McCall has gorgeous rentals at reasonable prices. Since McCall does sell out, don’t wait until the last minute to make your travel plans for next year. Under any circumstances, I would plan my trip to take advantage of the community shuttles or to stay within walking distance events. Hassling with traffic jams and no parking in a small town really detracts from the overall joy and carnival spirit.
This year the snow hounds are running Idaho’s ski slopes with gleeful abandon. The snow started early, late October. By Thanksgiving, Sun Valley, Idaho’s premier, internationally-known ski resort was open. With an average of 220 inches of snow and 3,400 vertical feet of mountain, Sun Valley deserves the kudos as one of the World’s great ski resorts. Sun Valley was recently ranked by National Geographic as one of the top 25 ski resorts in the world.
Sun Valley has a long and storied history, opening the first chairlift in 1936. Sun Valley has produced some of the nation’s best skiers and snowboarders, including a large share of Olympic team members and medalists. In honor of this history, Sun Valley has runs named after medalists such as Gretchen’s Gold (Gretchen Fraser, first American to win gold medal in skiing, 1948), Christin’s Silver (Christin Cooper, silver medal, 1984), and Picabo Street (Picabo Street, first American woman to win the World Cup and three Olympic medals, 1998).
The summit of Bald Mountain (Baldy), the main hill, rises a majestic 7,540 feet. The resort hosts 19 lifts transporting skiers to 80 runs, the longest providing 4 miles of terrain. Sun Valley attracts celebrities and the wealthy to its slopes.
The hill and base of Baldy are populated with 5 day lodges offering a relaxing mid-day break at the bottom or a quick stop off at the Round House at the top or at several other stops along the hill. The resort village is filled with condominiums for the well-off. The internationally known Sun Valley Resort (Lodge and Inn 4 miles from the main ski resort but a stone’s throw from a small hill called Dollar Mountain) offers outdoor skating, bowling, movies, spa treatments, sleigh rides, Nordic skiing, year-round outdoor swimming, an array of restaurants all within a small Nordic village. In and around, the western town of Ketchum, home of the resort, the uber wealthy live in multi-million dollar homes and ranches and dart in on their private jets regularly for long weekends.
Sun Valley reminds me of a wealthy, eccentric older uncle–fun to see occasionally, elitist by nature and difficult to keep up with because of the expense. The lift tickets for Sun Valley this year are adults, $115 ($125 over Christmas Holidays) and children, $65 ($75 Christmas). The lodging in Sun Valley echoes the bluster of Old Baldy. They are beautiful to see but expensive to utilize. The restaurants provide exquisite delights at equally astounding prices.
Because of the sometimes haughty and expensive nature of Sun Valley; many Boiseans drive 80 minutes north to ski in McCall, Idaho (Sun Valley’s cheaper, friendlier and smaller cousin). Located 8 miles from McCall, Brundage Mountain has no condos at its base. But it sports 46 trails, 2 terrain parks, 5 lifts and this year has 75 inches of snow at its summit (average snowfall over the winter 320 inches). The vertical drop at Brundage is only 1800 feet. So unlike Sun Valley where you can peer over a ridge and look straight down into Ketchum, Brundage terrain is more rolling. Make no mistake, many Idaho skiers know how to find challenging terrain at Brundage by hiking up parts of the mountain or skiing in the trees. With one run of 2 miles, Brundage offers wide expanses of skiing before hitting the tows again. Brundage ski tickets cost $62 for an adult, $37 for teens and $23 for children.
If you buy a mulit-day pass, a teenager can ski for 5 days for about $150. There are lots of families on the hill and in the single lodge on the mountain. Because Idaho’s population is small, many days, you will see people you know from Boise (Idaho’s largest city) on the lifts, in the tow lines or taking a break at the lodge. My daughter’s 30 second elevator speech to describe Brundage this year is “Waist Deep Powder with great food in the lodge!”
Brundage is a much better location for children to learn to ski than Sun Valley. Both of my children participated in the Brundage Bear ski program. We would drop them off in the morning, pick them up for lunch and then drop them off in the afternoon.
This left us free to ski the hill without little children in tow. Now ages 22 and 16, both of my kids are excellent skiers. On the other hand, when we went to Sun Valley, Bald Mountain is too difficult for young children. While a children’s ski program is offered, you drop your children off at Dollar Mountain and then ski Bald Mountain 4 miles away. We actually never utilized the full ski program at Sun Valley. Rather we chose the Kinder Care program where children were offered an hour of skiing with excellent day care. We weren’t comfortable with young children being in a full day ski program with such a large distance between Dollar Mountain for children and Bald Mountain for adults. Other parents may feel differently.
We own a cabin in McCall, as do many other folks from Boise, because the cost of real estate is relatively inexpensive. We bought the cabin to have a haven for family gatherings.
Like Brundage Mountain, the town of McCall focuses on being friendly and accessible with reasonably priced dining and family activities including an indoor ice skating rink, tubing hill and several natural hot springs located a few miles outside of town. The only movie theater is 30 minutes away on winter roads, so most folks utilize streaming or DVDs for media entertainment. Winter in McCall is a much more rustic experience than winter in Sun Valley. If you don’t own your own place, there is one resort, Shore Lodge, and an array of lodging of the Holiday Inn Express variety. With possibly one or two exceptions, the McCall restaurants while tasty are not gourmet and the prices reflect this.
In conclusion, both Sun Valley and Brundage are part of the Idaho ski hill family but they have very different personalities. If you are planning a skiing vacation in Idaho and have lots of money and you are expecting a five diamond experience or if you are an expert skier, go to Sun Valley. If you have a family, or many different levels of skiers in the group consider McCall. Both resorts are worthy of a visit but depending on your skiing ability and pocket book one may have more appeal than the other.