Pomerelle Mountain Resort
Southern Idaho’s Pomerelle Mountain Resort lies high in the Sawtooth National Forest. A triple chair, double chair and a new “magic carpet” boardwalk lift access a varied terrain with a vertical drop of one-thousand feet. The resorts location near Albion, Idaho puts it in the perfect path for massive snowfalls. Weather systems from both Lake Tahoe in California and Utah’s Salt Lake bring many storms through this part of Cassia County. In a typical year Pomerelle receives more than forty feet of light, dry snow.
“Well, we get a lot of it, and we’re darned proud of it too. Pomerelle’s base elevation, down at the lodge, is 8,000 feet. That’s higher than any of the other areas in Idaho start at.
The white winter landscape here is dominated by one other color, yellow, school bus yellow. They roll into the parking lot every weekday, carrying students whose hometowns stretch from Idaho Falls to Twin Falls and dipping down into the small towns of northern Utah and Nevada. The students stream off the buses, line up and swarm the rental shop. Here, they are efficiently outfitted with boots, skis and poles. The operation runs as clock to clock work as a ski lodge full of teenagers can.
At the center of it all is area manager Jody Burrows. Pomerelle is her family’s business. Her parents began running the mountain in the early 1970s. Jody and her husband John have kept the area’s main focus on partnerships with the region’s school districts. Pricing, scheduling and staffing center on teaching snow sports to students who otherwise would likely never set an edge on a ski hill.
“That’s the reason I’m here…help them come up here. The difference you can make in their future because they find themselves achieving and accomplishing something instead of getting a bad grade on a spelling test, so it is very important.”
Barry Whiting has been helping out on the slopes at Pomerelle for over three decades.
“We have a good rapport with all the schools; we try to give everybody a chance at this from the first grade one. We have children up here have a chance to have a ski lesion, hopefully have a chance to get on the ski lift and make some turns, and just see the winter environment. I always tell people there are 11 football players and five basketball players, but anyone can ski. It’s something they can take hold of and enjoy the rest of their life. You don’t have to be 6’6” to be the star of the team. Everyone’s the star of the team up here”
With five-hundred acres of diverse terrain there’s plenty of room to pick up some top notch ski skills. And once you’ve learned the basics there ample opportunity to cut loose in the powder. It’s a skier’s paradise and they come from far and wide to hit these slopes.
“I love it up here, most of the time the weather is great, blue. We came up and it was foggy but it cleared, just gorgeous, gorgeous weather up here and it seems to be that way every time we come up.”
Ski hill operators say community resorts like Pomerelle and other smaller facilities are an important part of the industry. They keep the sport available to a broader spectrum of society and insure that it will continue to be a vibrant pastime for years to come.
“Without these small areas being able to teach skiers and snowboarders, the industry would go flat, the industry would have a problem because not everyone can afford to go to Sun Valley or Snowbird or one of those destination ski areas to learn how to ski or board. We make the skiers and boarders who go on to other areas.”
It’s these local ski hills where people can learn the sport affordably. A down-home atmosphere helps them get comfortable with the sport while they grow confident in their abilities. It’s a relationship that is not part of the picture at most major destination resorts. Those places wouldn’t have the visitors they do if not for these hometown ski hills. Here to have fun in the snow is one of life’s early lessons.