There are few things that Willy Bartlett enjoys as much as stepping into a pair of skis and exploring the slopes in and around Silver Mountain. “I really love that there’s so much terrain out there,” says Bartlett. “There are so many different aspects with three different bowls, that on any given day, with a quick survey, you can figure out where the goods are and can always find good snow.”
Bartlett still remembers the first time he tried skiing. He was 12 years old, and in his words, “It was a disaster!” All his friends snowboarded, but he had decided that his initiation would be on skis. “I couldn’t get out of the bindings,” he recalls. “I was falling all over the place. It lasted about an hour, and then I went and got a snowboard – because it was way cooler.”
From that point, snowboarding became an integral part of his life growing up in Colville, Wash. Bartlett even opened a bike and snowboard shop in town. Then, in his early 20s, he took a road trip with some friends to mountain bike at Silver Mountain when the bike trails were still fairly new. He ended up moving to North Idaho the following summer and began working in Silver’s rental shop in the winter and as a bike mechanic and in the retail shop during the summer.
This move also pushed him to switch from boarding to skiing. “All my friends skied,” says Bartlett, “and were accessing a lot of the side country here. A friend put me on some powder skis and drove me up to Wardner Peak. It was a full switch without powder my first day out, which was a bit of a struggle. But it was super fun.” 12 years later, Wardner is still one of Bartlett’s favorite spots. “I love skiing storms,” says Bartlett. “And the few days after a storm, you can usually go in there and get fresh turns, if you look hard enough. Anytime we get fresh, I’ll hit North Face Glades for a run or two, and then try to get up Wardner and work my way through all the little pockets.”
Without a doubt, Bartlett enjoys the snow, the speed, all that typical adrenaline stuff that comes with skiing. But, in the end, his love of Silver is rooted in the people and the place. About six years ago, he bought a “dumpy little house” in Kellogg (which he is fixing up) and now walks to Silver, where he still works. “The local vibe is just awesome,” he says. “There are so many laidback local skiers who don’t care about new equipment or what kind of car you drive. They are just there to ski and enjoy the snow conditions in the company of other people who are out there for the same reasons.”
While you certainly couldn’t call the 30-something Bartlett a “crusty local type,” he certainly aims to be one someday. He is involved with local Chamber and truly believes in the future of his Kellogg and Silver Mountain community. “It’s a sweet place to live,” he says. “I honestly can’t see myself moving anytime soon.” //