Winter Guide: Top Things To Do in Stanley, Idaho
When is Stanley, Idaho's Winter Season?
Do you want to know a fantastic trivia fact?
Stanley, Idaho, is one of the coldest places, and sometimes it is the coldest place in the lower 48 states. According to the National Weather Service, on Dec. 23, 1981, Stanley was the site of a record-breaking minus 54 degrees! The unique combination of being located at the base of mountains in a "bowl" and having an elevation of 6,200 feet means that cold air from the snowy peaks above settles into the valley and stays. During the winter season, from New Year's Day to the 2nd weekend in March, temperatures average below 35°F, and snowfall averages 72".
You might be wondering why Stanley being a cold place has us excited. The reason is that the cool temperatures and the amount of snowfall in Stanley make it an insulated and peaceful environment with impressive views. It also opens up a sundry of fun events and winter sports like skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, hunting, biking, hockey, and ice skating. To top it all off, Stanley can stay open year-round, and the winter fun can continue for much longer than it can in other recreational towns.
All of this is excellent news for people in surrounding metropolitan towns like Boise and the Treasure Valley who are looking to spice up a dreary weekend or go on a family road trip. So, if you're growing intrigued, continue reading for a full breakdown of why you should consider visiting Stanley in the winter.
Table of Contents
- What Are the Top Outdoor Recreation Adventures in Stanley, Idaho, in Winter?
- What is the Best Way to Relax in Stanley, Idaho, During Winter?
- Stanley's Top Summer Attractions and Events
- The Top Shops In Stanley, Idaho, for Anything You Need in Winter
- Best Places to Sleep in Stanley, Idaho, During Winter
What Are the Top Outdoor Recreation Adventures in Stanley, Idaho, in Winter?
Snowmobiling, Off Roading, and Motorsports
Depending upon snow and trail conditions, snowmobile rentals begin Dec. 20 and run through Mar. 31. With 185 miles of groomed trails, snowmobiling is one of many popular winter sporting options that draw people to visit and play in Stanley. Avid snowmobilers bring their machines, while everyone can rent one from a local outdoor shop. Don't worry if you're underprepared; at Sawtooth Traxx, bibs and coats are available for rent, and gloves and hand warmers are for sale. Helmets and the first tank of gas are included.
Popular Snowmobile Trails
Nip and Tuck/Kelly Creek Loop | Stanley Lake/Elk Mountain Overlook | Stanley to Redfish Lake | Redfish Lake to Smiley Creek | Stanley to Boundary Creek Parking Lot | Boundary Creek Parking Lot to Lowman | Elk Creek Loop
Winter ATV/UTV Rentals
Guidebooks and Maps
Do you enjoy backcountry skiing, nordic/cross-country skiing, or snowshoeing? You'll find excellent options for all of the above in the Sawtooth Mountains south and west of Stanley, Idaho. For novice skiers or those who are just new to the area, a private guide can be hired for groups of up to 4 as soon as the snow flies until as long as there is snow on the ground. There are also avalanche education programs offered. There are groomed trail systems at Alturas Lake and Park Creek for nordic skiers.
For those looking to maximize their skiing experience, a guided Williams Peak Hut trip offered by Sawtooth Mountain Guides is the way to go! After a fun day of backcountry skiing, you'll return to two yurts outfitted with beds, stoves, kitchens, and a sauna. Be sure to check 511 before you go!
Ski & Snowshoe Rentals
The winter hunting season begins in Stanley each December and January with mountain lions and bobcats. Many outfitters prefer to hunt once there is snow on the ground because it makes spotting animals easier, means foliage is decreased, preserves the animal, and makes tracking them more simple.
Winter Hunting Outfitters
Are you surprised to see biking on a list of things to do in the Winter in Stanley? Good! We're happy to inform you that there is an incredible opportunity to ride fat (tire) bikes in winter along beautifully scenic, groomed easements, forest-service trails, logging roads, and snowmobile trails. There are hundreds of miles of trails you can ride. In fact, if you're so inclined, you could ride from Stanley to Donnelly, Smiley Creek, or Challis on groomed runs! Riding a fat bike is a great way to recreate outside and absorb the beauty of the Stanley area. If you're lucky, you might even see some wildlife!
Top Fat Bike Rentals in Winter
Ice Skating, Pond Hockey, and Curling
Ice skating, pond hockey, and curling are three quintessential wintertime sports. Stanley, Idaho, caters to all of them with a public outdoor rink thanks to the Stanley Skating Club. The Stanley Ice Rink is located across from Pioneer Park on a hill, so while you skate, you can enjoy views of the Sawtooths from your vantage point. Admission is free, and skates can be borrowed!
What is the Best Way to Relax in Stanley, Idaho, During Winter?
One of the most relaxing things to do while in Stanley is to soak in some of the abundant natural hot springs. They occur all over the base of mountains in Idaho, where groundwater is heated by hot igneous rocks or shallow magma bodies. In addition to being relaxing, they are full of dissolved minerals which are great for your skin!
Hot Springs in the Stanley Area
Basin Creek Campground | Basin Creek (Cove/Kem) | Bear Valley | Bonus | Boundary Creek | Dagger Creek | Elkhorn (Boat Box) | Mormon Bend | Sheepeater | Sitting Bull | Snake Pit | Trail Flat
Hot Springs North of Stanley On Highway 75
Lunch break Warm Spring | Owen Cabin | Slate Creek (Hoodoo) | Sunbeam | Upper Loon
Hot Springs West of Stanley on Highway 21
Bonneville | Deadwood | Kirkham | Pine Flats | Sacajawea | Tenmile
Stanley's Top Winter Attractions and Events
In addition to offering a large selection of winter sports, Stanley, Idaho, also hosts five significant winter events. Each one is designed to help break up the monotony of winter by getting people of the small town out and about and encouraging visitors to come celebrate the snow, and beautiful wintry wonderland Stanley becomes. Be sure to book a room early if you plan to attend because options are minimal, especially on the event weekends.
Top Stanley Attractions and Events in January
Sawtooth Outdoor Bonspiel a.k.a. “S.O.B.” | Late January
Towards the end of January, the Boise Curling Club hosts their annual Sawtooth Outdoor Bonspiel, a.k.a. "S.O.B.," in Stanley, Idaho, at the Stanley Ice Rink. The event is a 16-team, three-day open curling tournament. It begins on a Friday night and ends on a Sunday afternoon. The S.O.B. also includes a banquet, rink-side heated tent, and fire barrels to keep everyone warm. You can even learn to curl!
Top Stanley Attractions and Events in February
Stanley Skating Club Draw Pond Hockey Tournament | Early February
For hockey lovers, Stanley hosts their Draw Pond Hockey Tournament at the beginning of February. It begins on a Friday night with a pool play round. On Saturday, the last three rounds of pool play finish, and the double-elimination tournament begins. On Sunday, the tournament concludes. A light and dark jersey, skates, a hockey stick, and a helmet are the required equipment to play. There's even a Stanley (Idaho) Cup trophy!
The Salmon River Snowmobile Club's Snowmobiler's Ball, Fun Run and Raffle | Early February
On the day of the annual Snowmobiler's Ball, snowmobiling fans spend their morning riding or cheering for participants who ride snow machines in a "fun run." Later that night, they dress up, enjoy great food, listen to live music, bid on auction items, and hope they've purchased the winning raffle tickets. Each year the top raffle prize is a snowmobile! The other two prizes differ from year to year, but in the past, have included cash or a rifle.
Winterfest | President's Day Weekend
One of the most significant winter events is Stanley's Winterfest. Sponsored by the Stanley Sawtooth Chamber of Commerce, Winterfest occurs annually over President's Day Weekend. It mashes up different sports with quirky twists. Winterfest attendees can participate in Outhouse races, Drag (Queen) Races, the Fatbike Fondo, Howlin' Wolf Raft Rides, a turkey bowl, pickup hockey, the ski plane fly-in, and street dancing. For those 21+, there is even a beach party at Mountain Village Resort!
Top Stanley Attractions and Events in March
Sawtooth Ski Festival | Early March
Since 2002, the Sawtooth Ski Club has hosted its annual Sawtooth Ski Festival and invited the public to "ski, play, dance, shop, and socialize" to support cross-country skiing around Stanley, Idaho. The event begins on a Saturday with a chili feed. Then, participants wearing skis or snowshoes collect five cards from different stopping stations along a defined course. Later, they compete with the poker hand they've drawn to try and win prizes. Afterward, a celebrity chef provides food during the Dinner Extravaganza while a silent auction occurs. The next day's event, the Alturas Lake Ski Trails Soup Kitchen Social, is for anyone who wants to ski trails and enjoy soup and cookies. All the events are funded by donations which help fundraise for the cost of grooming cross-country trails at Park Creek and Alturas Lake.
Top Stanley Restaurants Open in Winter
When visiting Stanley, Idaho, you can prepare yourself by understanding that the town has a small population and it does not run at the capacity that it does during the summer when thousands of visitors pass through. Some restaurateurs choose to close for the winter, meaning options are reduced, and you may need to be more patient with those that are open. But don't worry. The food is always worth the wait! Especially after a long day's adventure!
Here's where to start if you're looking for a place to dine while enjoying your wintry stay:
Top Stanley Restaurants Open in Winter
The Top Shops In Stanley, Idaho, for Anything You Need in Winter
While some businesses are seasonal and close over the winter, many Stanley businesses remain open. These shops have you covered for most of the needs that arise while you're away from home.
Items Available for Sale in Stanley, Idaho Shops
Biking supplies | Clothing | Curios & Souvenirs | Grocery and convenience store items | Hunting & fishing permits and supplies | Liquor | Maps | Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) supplies and registration stickers | Shoes | Sporting goods
Best Places to Sleep in Stanley, Idaho, During Winter
A great way to experience the Sawtooth National Recreation Area is to create a schedule for each day of your trip that ends with an incredible meal and comfortable lodging in Stanley. This is especially so in winter when it's too cold for tent camping.
Hotels and Motels
Vacation Homes & Cabin Rentals
Mountain Village Resort | Torreys Burnt Creek Inn
Stanley, Idaho, tends to leave an impression on its visitors. If your experience with Stanley has moved you during the summertime, we invite you to enjoy Stanley's fun, wintry side too! Its beauty is unmatched, and the fun continues no matter the temperature!
Written by Amber Hawton-Hill