Stanley, Idaho may be popular for its summer adventuring opportunities, but still remains a hidden gem during the winter months. Many people, especially those who visit from southern states are intimidated by the extreme weather that the Sawtooth Valley has such a reputation for. With extreme weather comes extreme beauty, sports, and experiences that are incomparable to other destinations.
This humble town of 69 residents continues to be a destination year-round because of these extreme opportunities.
The reputation of Stanley’s winter season is the main reason tourism shifts after Labor Day. For those who can handle a little cold and who strive to enjoy Idaho’s snowy haven, Stanley is the destination for winter fun. With the snow comes snow-driven sports like the following:
- Snowmobiling - Stanley has always been a destination for those that enjoy this sport. People from all around trailer their snowmobiles to the Sawtooth Valley to enjoy the fresh powder, groomed trails, and quaint lodging all at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains. Do not fret if you do not have your own equipment, Stanley has rental services like Sawtooth Traxx that allow people to just show up and enjoy the views and trails without the hassle of packing their own snowmobile.
- Cross Country Skiing - You may notice as you drive into the city of Stanley in the winter months that most driveways are not accessible by vehicle. You may see snowmobiles and often ski equipment lining the highway. This is because residents and visitors often need to use alternative equipment to access their homes. With the stellar views of the Sawtooths and the miles of forest-service trails, Stanley remains one of the most sought-after cross country and nordic skiing destinations. Riverwear is now providing rentals for cross country skis and snowshoes for those who do not have their own equipment.
- Snowshoeing - is a classic and timeless sport that is great for the whole family. Stanley has many trails, extreme and easy-going, that the whole family can enjoy. One of the most popular and breathtaking trails is the Redfish Lake loop.
All of these sports can be used for leisure as well. There are many beautiful views and hot springs right out of town, which gives you a great excuse to try one of these activities out.
With snow, comes ice. Stanley has one of the most beautiful outdoor ice rinks in the U.S. Our small, but the mighty rink was even considered as a destination location for the annual NHL outdoor hockey game. It sits above the town, near the airport and Pioneer Park. The location leaves an unmatched view of the Sawtooth Mountain Range and the city of Stanley. This ice rink is home to two major events during the Winter;
- Sawtooth Outdoor Bonspiel (S.O.B.) - This is a curling event that brings people from all over the Northwest because of its friendly competition, unique location, and fun twist on a very traditional sport. It is hosted the last weekend in January.
Stanley Pond Hockey Tournament - Have you ever played pond hockey? No matter what your skill level, this tournament is the most fun you’ll have on ice skates. Much like the Sawtooth Outdoor Bonspiel, a hockey tournament is a destination event in Stanley that brings a niche group of hockey players and fans. The whole town lights up with friendly competition and comradery. The Stanley Skating Club would like to invite you to attend the Annual Draw Pond Hockey Tournament the first weekend in February.
Stanley is one of the coldest places in the continental United States - so, of course, it hosts one of the best winter festivals around. The Stanley Winterfest is all about snow, beer, and keeping it weird! The family-friendly event happens every President’s Day weekend. Here is a list of the fun events to happen at this year’s Winterfest:
- Glow in the Dark beach party pub crawl
- Fat Bike Fondo
- Ski Plane Fly-in (Subject to Weather Conditions)
- Kid’s Concert with the Boise School of Rock
- Live Music & Street Dance
- Outhouse Race
- “Howlin’ Wolf” Raft Ride
- Kid’s activities
- Turkey Bowl
- Wild Drag Race
*Weather dependent for some events
Many tourists are under the perception that the city of Stanley “shuts down” in the winter. Well, as you now know, this simply isn’t true. Although some summer-based businesses like rafting and horseback riding close for the winter months, many businesses remain open or shift their business to match the winter opportunities. And, with the help of the new sinter events, Stanley now has quite a few winter-stay options. Here is a list of the lodging available throughout the winter:
Torrey’s Burnt Creek Inn Cabins (RV Park closes at end of October)
Stanley has some amazing food options that will warm you up after a long day of playing in the snow or on the ice. Some restaurants and bars remain open during the winter months, and some are open just for events. Here is a list of those yummy options that will help fill your craving:
Why Visit Stanley, Idaho in the Winter?
If you want to see amazing winter views, try new sports or enjoy your favorite winter hobby - Stanley is the place to do it. With the multiple events throughout winter, there is always a new experience to enjoy. Please come and visit the Sawtooth Valley this winter, and see and experience the true Idaho winter for yourself.