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Exploring Donnelly, Idaho, Ski Country's Littlest Town

At last count, the population of Donnelly, Idaho a few miles southwest of Tamarack Resort, and two hours from the Boise airport, was tallied at a mere 152 residents. The town, which spans all of four city blocks along Highway 55, stands out as a diminutive gateway to outsized winter recreational opportunities including the un-crowded slopes of Tamarack, access to over 500 miles of groomed snowmobiling (Donnelly even has its own snowmobiling club), ice skating on Cascade Lake, and plentiful nordic skiing trails all of which makes Donnelly stand out as a tiny town with big opportunities.

World Class Skiing: Tamarack Resort has had a bumpy ride since its founding in 2004, but this season the resort emerged from foreclosure and is now fully operational, spinning all 6 chairs seven days a week for the first time since 2008. To say that the 2,800 vertical feet of terrain is un-crowded is an understatement—locals report that an average day involves about 15-20 fellow skiers, a busy day is the rare occasion with more than 40 skiers boarding the chair at opening. That leaves a lot of elbowroom throughout the 900 acres of terrain…that's not including the additional resort-accessed sidecountry.

Unexpected Gourmet Fare: Tom Steinberg and wife Julie, the owners of Donnelly's most popular eating establishment Buffalo Gal, moved to Donnelly after tiring of "the race for powder" at their previous home resort in Oregon. These restaurateurs enjoy the active, outdoor lifestyle, and the lack of crowds, while locals and visitors alike rave about the fare at Buffalo Gal. Tom says the aim of the restaurant is to feature high quality food without being pretentious in a very relaxed atmosphere. He says, "We want people to be comfortable coming in straight from skiing, rafting, or the hot springs." The most popular items on the menu are the Argentinean Braised Brisket (the recipe for it was recently featured in Bon Appetit) and the Japanese Steak Bites. Along with those regular items, the restaurant features unexpected eclectic specials, which have ranged from Caribbean Goat Stew, to Puerto Rican Carne Frita, and a Korean Pork Soup. Donnelly also has a coffee shop, Flight of Fancy; you can't miss it.

Luxurious Lodging: Launched as a destination resort on par with Sun Valley, Tamarack offers modern resort lodging in the Lodge At Osprey Meadows. Also plentiful are a range of private homes rentals at Tamarack and in Donnelly available through shared rental sites.

Unexpected Opportunities Off The Slopes: With the diminutive offerings in Donnelly, it's all about the outdoors. No visit is complete without a soak at the nearby natural Gold Fork Hotsprings. Also, consider booking a horse-drawn sleigh ride to view the local elk herd along the Gold Fork River.

Nightlife: To be fair, this micro town isn't big on the late-night scene. Donnelly features two bars directly across the street from each other, one of which serves breakfast on weekends, the other closes at 9 nightly. You'll have to drive 13 miles further up Highway 55 to McCall for any more excitement in this tiny town.

· The Last Resort [NY Times]
· McCall area offers a lot of groomed trails for skiers and bikers [Idaho Statesman]
· 10 Tiny Homes For Sale in Ski Country Right Now [Curbed Ski]
· Mapping the 25 Best Après-Ski Spots in North America [Curbed Ski]
· The Best Ski Towns to Invest in Real Estate, 2015 Edition [Curbed Ski]