The next 5 hours will undoubtedly go down as the most pleasurable experience I have ever had on what is essentially a "one chair wonder."
Pebble Creek in actuality is a 3 chair operation. One chair services a Green beginners area, a mid mountain chair is used primarily for night skiing purposes, and the Skyline chair (a slow speed triple) cuts right up the center of the ski area and provides for most of the 2,200 vertical feet at PC.
"Massive lines" at the main Skyline Chair.
The Rockbottom Saloon. Thanks again for the Cold Snack bro!
Pebble Creek Ski Area. Inkom, Idaho
The snow covered trail map
Shay's interests are not in making a huge profit from the 68 year old ski area, but rather maintaining the fun atmosphere and quality skiing environment that locals have enjoyed for generations. All in all the tale at Pebble is pretty neat, a former local returning to invest in his community, and bringing his friends along for the ride. A childhood skiers dream fulfilled.
The story of Pebble Creek is also significant because it is a great reminder that sometimes the place you might overlook as "the town hill" might have some of the most amazing things to offer, more than can be seen on a trail map or a web page. Obviously the legendary powder day improved my experience here, but even without the fresh POW, this hidden gem of a ski area renewed my Winter Wanderlust and cemented my knowledge that the spirit of skiing and snowboarding is alive and well in small towns across the US, and it was my pleasure to be able to absorb a small part of it on this day.
While most of us hunt the steeps and deeps at the big name mega resorts that everyone has heard of, it is the places like Pebble Creek that exist for locals to cherish, and the occasional fortunate soul such as myself to find. So the next time you're on a ski/snowboarding roadie, maybe save a day to go check out a local hill, and you just may be pleasantly surprised. The friendly atmosphere, cheap ticket and small crowds can be a welcome change. It was for me.
Pebble Creek, ID. January 2017
Pebble Creek trail map
Looking down over the countryside of Inkom, ID. from Pebble Creek Ski Area.
Looking up "Easy Street" run from Skyline Chair.
So there I was, down and out. After suffering injury at the hands of the mighty Crested Butte, I did my best to carry on for 6 more days so as not to let down my travel companion who had flown all the way in to meet me, but as his leg of the journey came to an end, I found myself on my own again. Exhausted and injured, whether I liked it or not, it was time to call it quits and head home. The 25 resorts in 25 days mission would not be completed.
Problem is, I’m now in Bozeman Montana, more than a day's drive from home base in Tahoe. Being more than a day away presents me with the problem that although I have decided to cut my losses and end the trip early so as not to kill myself at Jackson Hole or Big Sky, there are still plenty of ski resorts between me and home. I can’t drive all that way and not stop to ski. So what to do? How do I limit my risk of further injury while still doing what I love to do?
The answer was Pebble Creek, Idaho. Looking at the trail map online, it seemed like a sleepy little town hill, with some decent vert and cheap day tickets. Little did I know, I would arrive there for what locals and ski area employees would tell me was one of the deepest powder days in almost a decade. 2 plus feet had fallen in the previous 30 hours, and I walked (skied) straight into it, setting aside all of my previous wisdom for hedging my bets and taking it easy.
After a couple of hours exploring on my own, it was time to numb the pain and get some local insight on this amazing place, so I went in search of the bar.. and almost didn't even find it! Nestled in the basement of Pebble Creek's lodge is the Rockbottom Saloon, which is quite possibly the most down home ski bar you will ever see. It feels like you're having a beer in your friend's garage.
As I ponied-up to the bar with a tall boy of Montucky, it was time to get the scoop on this place and the bartender was happy to oblige.
The story at Pebble Creek is pretty cool, and it goes a little something like this: In 2016, self made internet celebrity Shay Butler returned home to Idaho after a 5 year stint in Los Angeles where he had made it big, and purchased his hometown ski hill Pebble Creek which had been under the same ownership for about 30 years. Despite the long duration of previous ownership, the ski area had been for sale for several years and it seemed the timing was right for a change of hands.
THE LIFT LINE
Why my best day of 2017 came from the most unexpected place - Pebble Creek, ID
Upon navigating my way from nearby Pocatello to the country roads of Inkom, ID and up the curvy mountain road to the base of Pebble Creek Ski Area I was greeted by a snowy, uncrowded parking area and found a spot very near to the base lodge with ease. After gearing up and finding the ticket window, I was informed that it was "Guys Day" and that my lift ticket was discounted down to $25, much to my amazement.
My first instinct as a skier on a powder day (even though I'm supposed to be taking it easy) is to find the goods and find the steeps! Best way to do that at most ski areas is to get as far away from the chairlift as possible via a summit traverse, and Pebble Creek seems no exception to this rule.
The saying is (obviously coined by some gritty locals): "If you can ski Pebble Creek, you can ski anywhere in the world." By sizing up some of the honest black and double black runs to be found on either side of the summit chair, I found this saying to have truth in it's words and I quickly started to realize that this was not the gentle easy going groomer ski hill that I had been targeting for the final day of my trip.
Some would call me a fool for leaving Tahoe in the middle of one of the best snow years in recent history, but most people that know me well enough, know that my wanderlust is just as strong as my love for fresh snow. So I embarked on a mission more ambitious than any I have undertaken before in my skiing career: Ski 25 different resorts in 25 days!
Fast forward to day 13, and my exhaustingly ambitious trip became blighted by injury in the form of a severely bruised hip, and a dislocated shoulder resulting in a torn labrum. The trip seemed in jeopardy as the struggle between sensibility and willpower began.
Pebble Creek Ski Area by the numbers -
Base Elevation: 6,360ft
Lift Served Summit: 8,560ft
Skiable Acres: 1,100
Chairlifts: 3 triple chairs (slow speed)
Named runs: 54
Average annual snowfall: 250 inches
Average season: Dec-Apr
Night skiing: Yes
Check out the Pebble Creek Web Page Here: https://pebblecreekskiarea.com/
All photos above copyright Snow Life LLC, Stateline, NV. Story by: Z. Phelan
There may be pebbles in the creek, but some impressive boulders can be found around the slopes here.