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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Eagle, Idaho
    Posts
    99

    Beyond Soldier Mountain (Idaho)

    Soldier Mountain is a cool little ski area in south central Idaho. It is about 2 hours drive from Boise, but most people coming from the Treasure Valley drive right past it on their way to Sun Valley. Most people know of it as the ski area that Bruce Willis owned for a few years. Current owners are, Matt and Diane McFerran. They run a very friendly, family oriented little ski operation. The crowd is local and fun loving.
    However, what draws me here to this little gem are the high peaks that rise from the prairie and frame the skyline to the west and north of the ski area. While the ski area tops out at 7,200 feet, this series of 5 peaks, interconnected by a high serrated ridgeline are in the 9-10K range. The 5 primary peaks in this mini-range carry the names of Peak 1, Peak 2, Peak 3, Smoky Dome (high point) and North Smoky Dome, the northernmost peak.
    On two consecutive Saturday's in March, my partner Derrek and I climbed and skied North Smoky Dome, Peak 2 and Peak 3 in the range. (We actually got Peak 2 twice on the second Saturday when we did Peak 3). The following is a combined trip report for those two Saturday sessions:

    Saturday, March 16th.
    Objective - North Smoky Dome
    Stats - summit ~9975 feet, 4200 vertical ascent/descent, 13 miles roundtrip, 8 hours car-to-car.
    The approach to this peak is long and not your traditional skin track. The first 3-4 miles are basically on a forest service road that has unending "whoop-de-dos" from the local sled crowd. On the way in, it was frozen and on the way out, it was a terrifying, mushy roller coaster ride. As we climbed some of the lower elevation treed terrain, once we left the sled track, we were in a foot of powder, still almost pristine from the February storms! For the most part, the sledheads congregated to the north and east of the prime ski terrain, but we did occasionally find a stray track and were able to use it for our skin track, (until they turned and headed straight up, or down).
    We both had been scouting this peak out for several years between us, and we each had two failed attempts to gain the summit. Our target was the main NE Chute direct from the summit. In low snow years, or late season, this can be a pretty gnarly descent, but on this day it was deep, wide open and wind-buffed powder. As a bonus, the day stayed cool, and the tree skiing down lower offered up some of that untracked February powder!

    Early morning views of NSD. The true summit is lookers left, which is where we were headed.
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    I thought this was kind of a cool looking little group of trees as we approached tree line. The views to the NE from here contain many of the Sawtooth peaks.
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    This shot is from the same position as the one above, just more of an easterly view.
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    Here are some of the chutes on North Smoky Dome. We talked about how it would be cool to just set up camp in the basin below the peak and hit these all in one trip. Next year???
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    Transitioning to bootpack...
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    On the bootpack. The last 800+ feet of vertical was sans skins. If you had ski crampons, and were really committed to the switchbacks, probably could have skinned to the top.
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    Summit photos... (with the obligatory "Splatski"/group slelfie).
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    this one is of Smoky Dome's north face. Looks sweet, but it would be a big day getting in and back out of there!
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    A look back at our tracks, and the exit shot from the upper mountain
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    Saturday, March 23rd.
    Objective - Peak 3 via Peak 2
    Stats - summit Peak 2 9500, summit Peak 3 9625, 6250 vertical ascent/descent, 11+ miles roundtrip, 9 1/2 hours car-to-car.
    Fortunately, the logical approach and exit for this trek is right up through the ski area. We met Matt, the owner, as we headed out just at 7am. He was running the groomer that morning - which I imagine he does quite often. Not sure if Soldier Mountain has an uphill policy, but if they do, he didn't mention it as we headed out.
    Once we hit the top of the ski area, the rest of the way to the summit was just a series of long undulating sub-ridges as we made our way to the main summit ridge. It is an easy skin up to the top of Peak 2. We did a quick transition and then skied down to the saddle between "2" and "3", transitioned to "boot mode", and then made fairly quick work of the ridge up to the summit of Peak 3.
    This was our primary objective of the day, namely to hit the central chute on this peak. This descent proved to be more complex and challenging than North Smoky Dome was. Prior to doing both of them, I had thought that Peak 3 wasn't as steep as North Smoky, but the central chute route was steeper, and it included some choke points and route choices as we made our way down. This descent gave us 1300 feet of fun skiing/riding.
    At this point, Derrek felt we should climb back out to the summit, (or near the summit), of Peak 2, descend the main face and then make our way back down to the top of the ski area. At first I was hesitant, (because I wasn't sure my 60 year-old legs were up to a steep skin track and boot pack to get there), but then when I thought about the alternate of bushwhacking and riding the sled track from hell that awaited us down the canyon, I decided to go for climbing and more "real" skiing. Apparently I picked up a strong second wind and even lead out on some of the skin track, as well as a majority of the bootpack, (in the 40 degree range and boot top to knee deep powder/wind buff). We aimed just east of the summit, and topped out at 9450 on the summit ridge. By this time, it was later in the afternoon, and the snow ranged from rock hard up high to mush down below, but no bushwhacking and we finished in the resort, just ahead of the final patroller sweeps for the day.

    Nearing the top of the ski area with an almost full moon to light the way.
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    Skinning up the ridge to Peak 2.
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    Views of Peak 3, (where we are headed), and Smoky Dome. We'll save it for another day.
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    Booting up the ridge to Peak 3.
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    Peak 3 summit selfie
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    Our Peak 3 descent is the blue line in the photo. This peak has several cool options, so we need to get back there.
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    In case anyone doubts the power of avalanches!
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    Selfie on the bootpack
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    Heading back up for a second descent of Peak 2 and cruising down thru the ski area to finish up at the lodge.
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    Here is a short video featuring the descents of the 3 peaks. Most of the footage is on North Smoky Dome and Peak 3.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    Location
    No longer Alexandria, VA
    Posts
    1,059
    Looks like a fun weekend on a road not often traveled!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    pdx
    Posts
    11,370
    nice, thx for posting!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    Location
    NH
    Posts
    697
    Fantastic. May DM you for more beta. Thanks for posting.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    In the shadow of the wasatch
    Posts
    2,555
    Good stuff looks like a fun zone.
    Does soldier offer a single lift ride up?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Eagle, Idaho
    Posts
    99
    I've heard from reliable sources that they do, but I wasn't able to validate it on their website. I was gonna ask the owner, but they spaced it and didn't get it done. The biggest negative for the lift assist this time of year is that they don't start spinning until 10AM, even on weekends. A later start like that probably would be fine in mid-winter.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Posts
    11,422
    Great report.

    A friend was doing snow studies there what I thought was a short while ago, in retrospect it was in about 1994, time flies.

    He raved about the terrain and said the only down side was that if can get wind affected.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Paper St. Soap Co.
    Posts
    2,255
    Cool, thanks for the TR. As the destination resorts I like get more ikonic, I have been starting to make a list of little areas that offer good family skiing plus access to touring or fun terrain for me. Close lodging would also be nice, but maybe rent an rv or something.

    Was looking around there website, they do sell 1 time ticket and have an up hill route on the trailmap. Also a magic carpet for the kids!

    Couldn't find a closing date. Anyone know if they typically have nice corn skiing in the spring?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Behind the Potato Curtain
    Posts
    3,354
    Nice work, the snowpack is fat this year over there!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    50 miles E of Paradise
    Posts
    8,198
    Great TR.
    Check Out Ullr's Mobile Avalanche Safety Tools for iOS and Android
    www.ullrlabs.com

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2018
    Posts
    18
    Drove by those too many times. Way to handle it.

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