Less than a mile off exit 49 on Interstate 90 is North America’s longest gondola, which tirelessly delivers cabins of eight to one of the area’s most accessible resorts—Silver Mountain. The upcoming ski season marks 20 years of business for Silver, and 20 years of faithful service from its essential gondola.
“Be prepared for some good values and a lot of fun this year,” said John Williams, marketing director at Silver. “We’ll have new anniversary specials each month, and there will be anniversary parties, events and discount days.”
The mountain will also offer $9 lift tickets Jan. 7 for Jackass Days, a celebration of the area’s pre-Silver heritage. And what a heritage it is:
More than 40 years ago the slopes of Kellogg’s Wardner Peak exchanged the abrasive sounds of mining for the gentler sounds of swooshing skis. The primitive ski area was dubbed Jackass Ski Bowl, a tribute to prospector and city namesake Noah Kellogg’s legendary wandering donkey.
The small ski mountain had 22 years of colorful history; including foreclosure, reorganization, and a name change, before the City of Kellogg in 1989 installed its famous single-cabin gondola. With easier access to terrain and improved facilities overall, the area reopened in 1990 as Silver Mountain.
Today Silver offers skiers and snowboarders nearly 1,600 rideable acres, five chairlifts, and 73 named runs to carve. The resort has two peaks and 2,200 vertical—from the bottom of Chair 4 to the top of Kellogg Peak—and 70 percent of Silver’s terrain is intermediate or advanced.
“Silver offers access to a ski mountain without a mountain drive,” said Williams. “And we’re the only place in the west that you can ski and surf in the same day without using your automobile.”
Williams is referring to Silver Rapids, a 42,000 square foot indoor water park that opened in 2008 and features a continuous wave that can be surfed. Access to the water park is limited to hotel guests for the majority of the ski season, though season pass holders get four passes valid from April 4 to May 15, 2011. And perhaps this year those dates will fall in the middle of the ski season—depending on La Niña.
Williams is hopeful that forecasters are right about La Niña predictions for heavy snowfall. The National Weather Service says La Niña winters often bring cooler temperatures and above normal snowfall. So far, Silver’s snowfall is ahead of this time last year—a hopeful sign for area riders.
Silver’s 20th anniversary specials will be updated on their web site throughout the season, and lodging packages that combine water park access, snow tubing, and ski tickets are already available.
Another new item this year will be a cable for the gondola, which is routinely replaced as part of normal maintenance.
So where does one acquire a 6.2 mile long cable?
Silver’s is coming from Switzerland. The 125,000 pound cable was shipped through the Panama Canal to Tacoma before being trucked to east to Kellogg. Changing of the gondola cable is expected to take about two weeks.