Ski Town Bars: Bar Hopping in Wallace, Idaho

I’m sitting in the Silver Corner Bar and Grill in downtown Wallace when a longtime local walks in. When I mention I’m writing a story about Wallace nightlife, he volunteers a, let’s say, colorful reminiscence of Wallace’s wild days. His anecdotes might not be suitable for a relatively family-friendly publication like “Out There Monthly,” but suffice to say the Oasis Bordello Museum two storefronts down might undersell the red-lit history of this small mining town.

Bars are to Wallace what frou-frou coffee shops are to Seattle: there’s one on every corner, and there’s no shortage of flannel or tattoos. The Metals Bar and Lounge is where the women dance on the tables and the world-famous dill-pickle pretzels flow as quickly as the Coors. The Day Rock boasts raucous karaoke. Wallace sits within 10 minutes of two of the region’s ski resorts, but parkas and ski pants are uncommon. This is still a mining town, where storefronts display the day’s silver prices.

I strike up a conversation with a woman who spent her first 38 years here, moved away and then came back. She notes, with some pride, that Wallace has resisted the ski-town gentrification of the Jacksons and Aspens, although a newcomer was planning to turn an old loft into five-star accommodations. (We decided, she says, that Wallace first needed some three-star accommodations before shooting for the stars.)

As fortunes in the mining industry flourish and fade, so do the bars that depend on the miners who depend on them. Wallace once boasted that it had nine bars in a four-block stretch of downtown (and probably a good deal more a half-century ago). Today the Lucky Horseshoe is shuttered; the Jameson Saloon is for sale. Microbreweries now pour local beers in decidedly more family-friendly settings. But it’s the old dive bars, permeated with smoke and stories and dimly lit for those miners who want to avoid stepping into the sunlight for a little bit longer, that document a way of life that’s rapidly disappearing elsewhere – even if most of it can’t be revealed here in print. //

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