Whistler Blackcomb’s stranglehold on the title as the Northwest’s best ski resort might be slipping.
At least in the 10-and-younger demographic.
My daughter, who has long considered Whistler to be the coolest place on earth, turned 10 last week so, as I gift, I took her with me on an assignment that included a stop at Silver Mountain in Northern Idaho.
"Dad," she said during a ride on the resort’s 3.1-mile gondola, "this place is cooler than Whistler. When can we come back?"
Keep in mind this is coming from the perspective of a 10-year-old who probably wouldn’t place skiing in her top 10 required amenities for a ski resort.
The skiing at Silver Mountain above Kellogg, Idaho, is good, but hardly on par with Crystal Mountain let alone Whistler Blackcomb.
But what Silver Mountain does have is something no other Northwest ski area can boast – the ability to ski and surf before lunch.
In May, Silver Mountain celebrated its 40th anniversary by unveiling an indoor water park.
John Williams, marketing director for Silver Mountain, said the Silver Rapids Water Park has turned a ski area longer considered a "hidden gem" into a year-round resort.
"We get people coming here just to use the water park," Williams said.
The park has three large water slides that require climbing 81 steps for a ride through the darkened tubes. It has three hot tubs, including two next to the bar where I was able to hang out while watching the NCAA Tournament regional finals last weekend.
It has tame slides for kids, a glass roof designed for year-round sun tanning and a 315-foot river you can float on an innertube.
Then there’s the FlowRider, a 60,000-gallon constant wave that’s kind of a treadmill for surfers.
Needless to say, all this waterpark fun made it hard to keep my daughter on the slopes.
"We get a lot of that," said Neal Scholey, the resorts’ real estate director. "It’s like parents are having to make their kids eat their vegetables before they have their dessert."