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America's Newest Ski Resort

Story by Lee Juillerat
Photos by Larry Turner

Tamarack is an American larch, a hardy tree with reddish brown bark and short deciduous needles and reddish brown bark. The bark of the tamarack, according to the scientific minded, is also a diuretic, laxative, tonic and alterative - or alternative medication that returns one to health - used in the treatment of obstructions of the liver, jaundice, rheumatism and some cutaneous, or skin, diseases.

Fittingly, the Tamarack Resort, a four-season resort 90 miles north of Boise, Idaho named after its forests of tamaracks. Many of the resort’s tamaracks are on Tamarack Mountain and are easily seen from the chairlifts. The trees are especially prominent in the fall, when their needles turn golden. While the Tamarack Resort might not fit all the scientific definitions, it’s a sure-fire cure for whatever ails you, the perfect tonic for downhill and cross country skiers.

Tamarack Silouette
Tamarack groomer

During a multi-day winter visit, friends and I stepped out of our Tamarack Village cabin and, depending on our inclination, walked only a few yards to the Rock Creek poma lift, which easily connects skiers and snowboarders with high speed lefts at Tamarack Village, or clicked in to cross country skis for out-the-front Nordic skiing. Tamarack, as I learned, proved the perfect restorative for ridding me of cabin fever and giving me a healthy attitude.

Tamarack cabin
Author relaxing

Part of Tamarack’s attraction is wonderfully varied terrain. I sluiced down runs that curled around trees and other natural obstacles and, other times, just let the skis fly while zipping down broad, smoothly groomed runs. A series of high-speed lifts serve an array of runs fitting for beginners to experts. The mountain’s 1,100 acres of skiable terrain is accessed by seven lifts, including a trio of high-speed quads. Skiers and snowboarders have plenty of choices on 39 trails for first-timers to experts. Toss in 265 acres of gladed tree skiing and the 450-foot long, 18-foot tall Hells Canyon SuperPipe and a pair of terrain parks, and Tamarack’s mix is enticing to riders and skiers. With mountain guides, I joined a group of skiers that zig-zagged a cross-section of runs.

Gorgeous Views
Destination... lodge!

From Tamarack Village, an elevation of 4,900 feet, the Tamarack Express zips skiers and snowboarders from the base to Packer Station, at 6,600 feet. A series of beginner and intermediate trails lead back to the village, but we usually headed up the Summit Express to Tamarack Summit, an elevation of 7,700 feet with easy access to black diamond runs like Upper and Lower Visit and the more creatively named Oo-la-la, Adrenaline, Me First and After You. For intermediates the choices include Serenity, Showtime and a run that we skied over and over because it was just so much fun, the aptly named Bliss.

Tamarack Rider
Tamarack Lodge terrace
Tamarack Lodge


Our mountain explorations included runs served by the lightly used Wildwood Express and two designed for beginners or intended to provide access from housing areas – the Buttercup Express and Discovery Chair.

Artificial snow maker
McCall snow sculpture

Tamarack isn’t just for downhill skiers and snowboarders. There’s 25 kilometers of machine-groomed trails designed to keep cross-country skiers happy while snowshoers can make tracks on 15 kilometers of designated trails. One afternoon, after a morning of downhilling, I preceded my pre-dinner hot tub soak by working up a sweat touring several miles of Nordic trails that in snow-free months is an award-winning Robert Trent Jones designed golf course. Happily, the trails explore a variety of terrain, from open meadows to lush forests. A series of spur routes made it easy to add on distance, or to find shortcuts back toward my starting point near The Lodge at Osprey Meadows.

The Lodge at Osprey Meadows
The Chappel at Arling

Off the trails and slopes, the lodge and other facilities at Tamarack are perfect for kicking back and relaxing. The lodge is a boutique hotel that was recently expanded to provide more lodging. The building includes great open spaces, a spa, fitness center, Nordic/golf center, underground heated parking and, most deliciously, Morels, a gourmet restaurant that features regional flavors. One night we met locals and visitors during a cheese and wine tasting in the spacious lodge lobby. Just yards away from the lodge are a trio of historic buildings – chapel, schoolhouse and grange - at the Arling Center used for conferences and group meetings. The center, lodge and cottages are easy walks from the shops, market, restaurants and pubs – including the Canoe Grill, Seven Devils and Hot Shots Espresso & Pastry bar - at Discovery Square. We quickly became repeat visitors at the Crane Creek Market with its flown-in seafood, choice meats, fresh produce, locally baked breads, deli foods and a boggling selection of regional wines and microbrews.

Tamarack cabins
Tamarack regular

Tamarack is the new kid on the block. It opened in December 2004, the nation’s first new all-season resort in two decades. Set in the hills just above Lake Cascade and the Payette River, it proved a quick-hit. Among the early visitors in the summer of 2005 was President George W. Bush, who mountain biked some of the trails used in winter by skiers and snowboarders. In the summer other sections of the mountain are transformed into a zipline course that flies over streams and through the woods. And when the 21-mile long Lake Cascade thaws, it’s popular for swimming, fishing, power boating, canoeing, water skiing, sailing, wakeboarding, sea kayaking and bird watching.

Tamarack Grange
Tamarack Lodge Sunrise


Despite some financial setbacks, Tamarack’s owners want to keep the resort growing. Plans envision a lodge atop the Tamarack Express, a European-style village in Discovery Square and other additions.

YT Nelson, Local Legend
The last run

Getting to Tamarack
Tamarack Resort is 90 miles north of Boise and west of the small town of Donnelly on the northwest shore of Lake Cascade. Year-around access is available on Highway 55, also known as the Payette River Scenic Byway, which often parallels whitewater sections of the Payette River. The Boise Airport offers direct flights from 19 regional and major U.S. cities, including such Northwest cities as Seattle, Spokane and Portland. From the Boise airport travelers can take a direct shuttle, fly the resort’s charter air service, fly an air taxi to McCall 17 miles north of Tamarack or rent vehicles. For information on Tamarack Resort call toll-free (877) 826-7376 or visit their website at www.tamarackidaho.com.

Skiers and snowboarders who go to Tamarack usually spend a day at Brundage Mountain Resort, a ski area outside nearby McCall. For information on Brundage call toll-free (800) 888-7544 or visit their website at www.brundage.com. McCall holds an annual winter festival that features ice sculptures and is a popular summer destination for water sports on Payette Lake and its easy access to the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area. For information on McCall call (800) 260-5130 or visit the McCall Chamber of Commerce website at www.mccallchamber.org.

About the authors
Lee Juillerat writes for the Klamath Falls Herald and News in Southern Oregon and is a freelance writer-photographer for several magazines, including Northwest Travel, Oregon Coast, Range and in-flight magazines for Horizon and Alaska Airlines. He can be contacted at lee337@cvc.net.

Larry Turner is a freelance photographer. His award-winning photography has appeared in numerous magazines, books, calendars and newspapers. Information on purchasing his photographs is available by emailing him at skiturn789@yahoo.com.

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