More Ways to Find Family Fun on the Mountain This Winter

Skiing and snowboarding aren’t always for everyone in every family, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun together up on the mountain. Even skiing families sometimes enjoy a change of pace that involves other wintertime activities. From snowshoeing and snow tubing to splashing and playing at Silver Mountain’s indoor water park, there is always an adventure waiting for you at one of our area ski resorts.

Splash and Play at Silver Rapids Indoor Waterpark

My kids like both waterslides and alpine skiing. At Silver Mountain Resort in Kellogg, Idaho, they can enjoy both on the same day. As overnight guests in Morning Star Lodge, each person gets unlimited daily access to Silver Rapids Indoor Waterpark – Idaho’s largest indoor waterpark. The resort’s “Splash and Stay” packages offer two different stay accommodations: a deluxe studio that sleeps up to four people, or a one-bedroom condominium with full kitchen and dining and living areas, including a fireplace. Even if you only stay one night, you get two days at the waterpark – with waterpark admission during your entire day of check-out. If you visit during the fall, when not enjoying Silver Rapids’ humid, 84-degree indoor temperature, you can mix-and-match the waterpark with outdoor activities – from riding the mountain gondola to access high-country hiking trails or biking the nearby flat and easy Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes.

Once ski season begins, the waterpark provides happy alternatives for families with non-skiing members or for those children – and sometimes adults – who aren’t able to, or don’t care to, spend a full day on the slopes. A family can divide and conquer all that Silver Mountain Resort has to offer. Moreover, if the weather or snow conditions aren’t inspiring enough to ski, don’t feel guilty about trading-in your skis for swimsuits. Silver Rapids will still get your hearts pumping while experiencing thrills together. My son and daughter couldn’t get enough of the two perfectly kid-sized waterslides at the Water Mine at Minor’s Island. And the Moose Sluice family raft ride was exciting for all of us as we swooshed together down the dark tunnel. My kids and I also spent a lot of time in the North Fork Lazy River and Warm Spring (cooler than a standard hot tub) while my husband learned to surf on the Flow Rider Surf Wave.

Lounging on the lazy river at Silver Mountain Resort. Photo: Amy Silbernagel McCaffree.

Lounging on the lazy river at Silver Mountain Resort. Photo: Amy Silbernagel McCaffree.

The layout is compact yet not complex or crowded feeling, and aquatic footwear is a good idea to save your soles from aching after walking to and from the different waterpark attractions. And although we were indoors, the large clear roof provided enough natural light to make it seem as if we were outside, without having to use sunscreen (although technically, one could get a sunburn). Don’t worry about bringing towels – they’re provided at the waterpark. But dry shoes and warm clothes to change into before you leave are a good idea, because it’s a short walk outside between the waterpark and Morning Star Lodge. Instead of heading back to our condo to eat lunch, we ate casual, kid-friendly food from The Lunch Bucket at Silver Rapids, while sitting at tables overlooking the lazy river and within arm’s length of the Flow Rider. Dinner options in the Gondola Village include the full-service Noah’s Canteen restaurant and the casual, limited-seating Wildcat Pizza joint that offers condo delivery service – which is a great idea when your kids are exhausted and just want to hang out in their jammies. If you do venture outdoors again, fireplaces provide a warm gathering place, and the resort sells small kits to make s’mores.

During fall, the water park is open to Morning Star Lodge guests on Fridays from 1-8 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., and Sundays from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., and, starting this winter (late November), the waterpark will be open for resort guests daily. Visit Silvermt.com for pricing and more information. //(Amy Silbernagel McCaffree)

Photo: Amy Silbernagel McCaffree.

Photo: Amy Silbernagel McCaffree.

Snow Tubing: Sliding Down the Mountain

Sliding down a slope on a tube is a winter sport that the whole family can enjoy. Several regional resorts offer tubing that includes a tube, groomed tubing lanes and a rope tow back up to the top after each run. Why not try them all this winter?

The Mt. Spokane Tubing Hill near the parking lot and the main lodge at the ski area features several lanes of tubing with a fun rope tow that hauls sliders back up to the top for another lap. All children under 42″ tall are always free with a paid adult. The Tubing Hill is open weekends and holidays. 90-minute sessions are $15. Mt. Spokane season pass holders can tube anytime for $5. Call 509-238-2220 x0 for more info.

The snow tubing hill at Bear Creek Lodge at Mt. Spokane is a whopping 90 feet high and nearly 800 feet long, making it the largest in the Inland Northwest. A rope tow pulls guests back to the launch point, and the hill is lit up for night time operations. Advance reservations are suggested, particularly during Christmas break and holiday weekends. Tickets are $15 plus tax per person for a 1.5 hour session (ages 3 and under are $10). Children under 42 inches tall, as well as 3-year-olds and younger, must ride with a paid adult. For more info on hours and reservation requirements, visit Bearcreeklodgewa.com.

There’s no hiking back to the top thanks to Silver Mountain Resort’s moving carpet that effortlessly whisks riders and their tubes back up for another run. Four lanes of snow tubing provide plenty of room to slide. Silver’s snow tube park is open most weekends and holidays at 9 a.m. Tickets include the gondola ride and snow tube rental ($20 for adults, kids ages 4-17 $18). More info: Silvermt.com.

Enjoy two lanes of sliding that stretch over 100 yards down to the rope tow at Schweitzer Mountain Resort. Day sessions ($15) last 1.5 hours and night sessions last 2.5 hours. All tubers must be at least 42″ tall to ride (6 and under $10). ​Schweitzer also offers night tubing with marshmallow roasting. Reservations are highly recommended. Call 208.255.3081 for more info.

Snowshoeing: Winter Fun for the Whole Family

With snowshoes on your feet, your family can explore the beautiful winter wonderland around area ski resorts without worrying about sinking in to your knees. On packed-down snowmobile and cross-country ski trails (be sure to always stay out of groomed Nordic ski tracks), snowshoeing is relatively easy and fun for kids. Deeper, untracked or unconsolidated snow, however, can be more challenging. If you don’t own snowshoes and trekking poles, no problem. Most ski resorts rent them, and you can also pick up rentals ahead of time in town at Mountain Gear, REI and Tri-State Outfitters. For a full guide to snowshoeing in North Idaho, check out this article online at Out There Monthly: Outtheremonthly.com/north-idaho-snowshoeing-guide-find-your-freedom-in-the-hills-this-winter.

49 Degrees North has a Cross Country and Snowshoe Center located adjacent to the alpine ski area. There is a warm and cozy yurt located at the trailhead and miles of groomed Nordic ski trails and ungroomed snowshoe trails that roll off into the forest. Trail passes are required. More info: Ski49n.com.

Lookout Pass offers snowshoe rentals and plenty of beautiful, groomed and ungroomed routes for families to explore. There are many places near Lookout Pass that can pose significant avalanche risk, so it’s best to stay away from steep slopes and known avalanche areas, like the St. Regis Basin. The groomed railroad grade for snowmobilers and cross-country skiers that heads out of the ski area parking lot is one great option, and the hill on the other side of I-90 from the resort can also be a fun place for families to explore. Inquire about avalanche risks and ask for other safe recommendations at the ski area.

Snowshoeing at Mt. Spokane State Park is generally permitted on any trail with adequate snow cover except for the groomed Nordic ski trails and within the alpine ski area. There are miles of trails and routes through beautiful forest and to high points with excellent views to explore. Visit Mountspokane.org for more info.

Silver Valley is home to terrific Nordic skiing and snowshoe trails. At Silver Mountain Resort, from the top of the gondola, you can enjoy a 3-mile snowshoe trail and finish back at the lodge. Snowshoe rentals are available for $10. Check in with Silver’s ski patrol before you start and let them know when you have returned. More info: Silvermt.com/Winter/Nordic-Skiing.

While you can head out snowshoeing on your own on one of many snowshoe trails around the mountain, Schweitzer Mountain Resort also offers hosted snowshoe adventures. Depending upon the conditions, tours may wander through Hermit’s Hollow old growth forests, along the Schweitzer Ridge, or to picnic point for a moonlit hike. Prices for guided tours range from $25-$30 and include gear. A trail pass for self-guided snowshoeing is $15. More info: 208.255.3081.