Tamarack is a curious place these days as it continues to struggle to find a buyer and at the same time trying to stay open as a resort – sort of. It is bankrupt, in every sense of the word, but still hoping to survive more or less intact. The degradation of facilities at the resort over the last year was truly amazing. The resort, which is about a 2.5 hour drive (in summer) from Boise airport, is located in a beautiful location and the scenery is spectacular. The original plan was for an “all things to all people” resort: Alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, golf, zipline, disc golf, hiking, dirt biking, a marina, restaurants, hotel and all sorts of accommodation – you name it. Sadly however this very ambitious concept was poorly thought out, lacking woefully for competent management to execute the plan and then, poor economic times hit. The result is that today the place is a shell of what is was supposed to be with property owners and locals holding their breath for the last 1.5 years in the hopes of a buyer coming along.
The houses, townhouses, and cottage are high quality residences and are keenly priced to rent. However there is a reason for these low prices – the place is a virtual ghost town with few of the original resort facilities available – and those which are available are suffering from an obvious lack of investment. The whole infrastructure of the place screams “we need some investment and professional management” as can easily be seen from: the unfinished buildings with bare Tyvek barriers flapping in the breeze; the massive crane over unfinished building works which has laid dormant since about March 2009; leaking roofs and windows on the unfinished buildings; streetlights and other lighting in common parts burned out for extended periods; abandoned home foundations; foreclosure notices posted, roads needing resurfacing; a reduced proprietary Tamarack Internet and TV service; an information website that is woefully out of date and; various vehicles just parked for months in open lots suffering from a lack of any type of attention over the seasons. However one of the bright spots at Tamarack are the members of the security force who are on duty and are attentive, friendly, and very helpful.
The main features of the resort are in varying states of play including but not limited to:
• Food - There is no place to eat at Tamarack. Someone tried to open a small facility with a very limited menu in the Lodge in August. However that was open limited hours for a few weekends and then closed later in the month and then opened for a couple more weekends and then closed until the winter – when it hopes to open again - maybe. This means the closest places to eat are only a coffee shop and one restaurant (which is not open all week) in Donnelly (20 miles round trip). Otherwise you need to go to McCall which is 44 miles round trip. For food shopping you must go to McCall. One rental agent does not tell you this ahead of time so there have been many renters unpleasantly surprised upon arrival in the area. (Comically the printed information Valet Vacation Rentals provides upon arrival at your rented property states and I quote, “There are no services at Tamarack currently open so make certain you do your grocery shopping in Boise”. That is not a lot of help considering you probably just came from the direction of Boise and in any case the first supermarket in the Boise area is roughly 210 miles round trip away from the property at Tamarack back to Boise.)
• Skiing - closed down 19 months ago and as of early September 2010 there had been no maintenance done on any aspect of these facilities. This summer some of the resort maintenance equipment (such as Sno-Cats) was repossessed and there is/was even a possible repossession fight going on regarding some of the lifts. A group of homeowners are going to reopen (on 12/20/10) a portion of the mountain (not the whole mountain or all of the lifts) to skiing this winter but it will be a “shoestring” operation with the place only open 4 days per week. They plan to also have some limited food service. The decision to open the skiing is not one founded in the altruism of the homeowners - as they readily admit. It is motivated by their desire to try to stem the devaluation of their property values as well as try to make the whole resort a more attractive proposition to a potential buyer.
• Golf – the golf course is a stunning layout and when it opened in 2006 received awards and accolades. As is the case with so much of the resort it has suffered also from a lack of investment, attention and, professional management. There are less than flattering reviews on Trip Advisor and other places online that pretty well (albeit bluntly) sum up the 2009 condition of the course. The course lost its ranking with Golf magazine this summer and perhaps will lose its ranking with Golf Digest. This past summer there was a full time grounds crew of only 6 people to take care of this expansive course (compared to a staff of 14 I am told were working the year before and compared to about 20-24 people a course like this would normally employ). One manager from the firm managing the course summed up the situation by saying, “We only have 6 full time people and couldn’t afford fertilizer until early August so there was only so much we could do”.
• Hiking – there is/was an extensive network of trails, of varying degrees of difficulty designed into the resort and that plan should make Tamarack a great place for hiking. However again the trails have not been maintained, a number of them this summer were overgrown or blocked by fallen trees to the point of impassable and signage has fallen or has been damaged. Nonetheless once you find the open trails this is a wonderful place to hike.
• Dirt biking – obviously there are no operating downhill dirt biking activities now as there were taking place in the past. Likewise the structures at the Bike Skills Park have now all fallen apart and are unusable.
• Disc (Frisbee) golf – This has just been abandoned to the elements and visitors struggle to even find the course let alone the next hole as they try to go round the course. No one seems to be able to supply a map of the course so ironically the only people using the course are “local residents” who have kept their maps from years gone by.
• Zipline – the zipline is the one bright spot at the resort as it is privately managed and well run by no nonsense owners. They have a variety of cables on the mountain and combined with various canopy tours, a very friendly staff and proper training, this makes for a really exciting and fun experience.
• Accommodation - is excellent if one rents a cottage, townhome or house. The Lodge seems to be a different story as there is literally no staff working there and individual accommodations vary radically. The front desk is haphazardly staffed a limited number of hours by a member of the staff of one the local rental agencies (VVR) and if one is not renting through that agency then they are reportedly of very little help to Lodge guests. If you check in during evening hours there is no one there and guests are greeted by a sign which disconcertingly asks them to sign a book in the lobby so the Fire Department can find them in the case of an emergency. Numerous guests this summer nicknamed it “The Shining”. Cleaning is patchy in the various Lodge accommodations as is Internet service. The cottages, townhomes and houses are almost entirely privately owned. The financial well being of the owner and, whether or not they are financially “underwater” on the property, tends to be the predicating factor on the maintenance status of the property. (This is understandable as practically every property, if not all the properties, are worth now much less than their original sales price.) It is not unusual to find hot water, heating or appliances not working upon arrival (and that was just my 2 visits).
There are two main rental agencies handling Tamarack Properties – Idaho Resort Rentals and Valet Vacation Rentals - with at least two smaller companies trying to make inroads into this game. Idaho Resort Rentals has a smaller stable of properties but seems to be more an actual property management company and thus there are few guest complaints about the condition or cleanliness of their rental property. Valet Vacation Rentals is a really just a rental agency with a large compliment of properties – it seems too large for their staff and capabilities – and thus rentals from them are most charitably described as a “hit or miss” proposition. They appear to try hard to please initially but their only interest is to get you into a property by any means possible so they get their commission. You are then left to your own devices. Cleaning fees are very high and others have complained of even further cleaning fees being deducted from deposits. A number of the properties being rented are, or have been in foreclosure proceedings and this summer season more followed. (Whilst I was staying there two neighboring properties were posted for foreclosure auction – one of the properties having a family renting and staying in it at the time when the papers were served.) If you are thinking of visiting you should ask the status of the property which you are considering renting as needless to say those in foreclosure are not receiving sufficient investment for even the most essential maintenance work. Also be aware that if you call the number of the Tamarack Resort web site for lodging you are getting connected directly to Valet Vacation Rentals – not the actual resort or any other agent – and thus you will be limited to VVR services and properties only.
Going forward most property owners and people living in the area are quite excited about the prospects of a buyer. There is reportedly now a firm offer from one buyer (although his credentials have people concerned) and most homeowners are confident that with the opening of the ski season more buyers will be knocking at the door. If they get lucky and get a qualified buyer, who actually wants to make this a resort, not just a property play, then Tamarack has the potential to be a quite pleasant place a few years down the road.
In the interim, caveat (renter) emptor.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Tamarack Resort is a four-season ski resort located in Donnelly, Idaho just 90 miles north of Boise. Tamarack is the Treasure Valley's closest mountain resort with snowmaking abilities and is centrally located in the heart of endless recreational opportunities. During the summer, the resort is home to mountain both cross-country and lift-serviced downhill mountain biking, as well as hiking, whitewater rafting, zipline tours, watersports on Lake Cascade, and more. During Prime Summer & Winter Months, Tamarack offers a wide array of amenities from multiple restaurants, a local market, hot tub in the Lodge, and endless recreational activities. During Off Season, Tamarack is a great place to visit if your looking to get away from the hustle and bustle. This is a great place to enjoy the quiet, sitting by the fire, and just relax. There isn't many amenities available so be sure to rent a unit with a full kitchen or make reservations at your favorite restaurant in McCall. Guests can enjoy all the hiking trails, beautiful scenery, and ample wildlife. During off season, the hot tub in the Lodge is only open on weekends. Swimming pool is closed during off season. Tamarack has several lodging options available for you to choose from. Our Hotel rooms are available for 1 night stays and you will have access to the Hot Tub in the Lodge, also there are several condo's available with kitchens to choose from as well. If a cabin in the mountains is more your style, then we have several that range from Small Cottages, to Ski in/out Townhomes, to Large Chalets, and even Custom Estate Homes. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Tamarack Hotel Donnelly
- Tamarack Resort Idaho/Donnelly