Thursday, January 17, 2019

Go play in the snow! Big powder days coming through MLK weekend with 2-feet of new!

Powder day at Brundage Mountain this morning! I felt blessed to be there! (Courtesy Brundage Mountain) 

Hi all,

I snuck up to McCall last night so I could ski some fresh *pow* this morning, and it was a great morning at Brundage Mountain. It was bombing snow relentlessly, perhaps at 1-inch an hour or more, and by mid-day Brundage had 10 inches of new, including 4 inches overnight.

Every run I took was virgin *pow* all the way ... I didn't want to stop for anything! My legs felt strong!

It might be 50 degrees and gray in Boise, but it's full-on winter in the mountains! And this particular weekend, all of our regional ski areas are supposed to get a big dose of snow. Not only today, but continuing through the MLK weekend.

According to Open Snow, here are the expected snow totals for the next 5 days:

I watch the weather pretty close, and you don't see those kind of numbers in the forecast for SW Idaho very often. If you have the time and flexiblity, might be time for a powder road trip! Bogus Basin, Tamarack, Brundage, Sun Valley, Solder Mountain, Pomerelle and Magic Mountain are all in close range!

I wrote about taking a road trip to ski Soldier, Magic and Pomerelle a few years back, and I thought I'd share that with you ... All of those ski areas are reasonably priced, and they're kind of like taking a step back in time in terms of the down-home friendly atmosphere around the base lodges. 

But with Bogus Basin projected to get 2 feet of snow over the MLK weekend, you might not need to go anywhere! Ditto if you're planning to be in McCall to ski Brundage or Tamarack. Brundage is having a beer and gear festival on Saturday and Sunday. 

Sun Valley is getting its fair share, too. All of this will be great for Idaho's snowpack, which has been lagging in the 70 percent zone in recent days (Boise, Payette and Salmon basins). 

Backcountry skiing and snowshoeing this weekend could prove to be challenging because of the deep snow for breaking trail, but be safe and careful out there! Check on avalanche conditions at the Payette or Sawtooth Avalanche Centers.

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Gonna feel like early spring weather this weekend - 4 ideas for outdoorsy fun

This weekend might be a good time to go see bald eagles and cormorants on the Eagle Greenbelt, south side, Boise River. 
My son Drewby hiking Browns Canyon with us in the springtime. 
It's always a treat to ski Sun Valley in the sunshine. 
Bear Basin in the sunshine. Great xc ski and snowshoe trail system in McCall. 
Hi all,

It's been quite a parade of snow storms in the mountains in the last few weeks, but that's made it feel pretty gray and dreary in the Treasure Valley. For the first time in a while, it's going to be sunny and a little warmer in this weekend, Friday-Sunday, so it's time to get outside to cure a little cabin fever.

It'll be sunny in the mountains and in the valley, according to the National Weather Service, so you really can have your pick as to whether you'd like to head out in either direction.

Here are four options that I'd recommend:

1. Go walking, running or biking on the Boise River Greenbelt. High temperatures are supposed to be in the low 40s this weekend, so it won't be exactly balmy. Wait until the afternoon to head out to enjoy the warmest part of the day. 

That said, please avoid using the Ridge to Rivers Trails this weekend. Table Rock Trails are closed because of muddy conditions, and the rest of the trails are getting hammered when they're soft in the afternoon. Temperatures are expected to freeze at night, so if you got out really early, it'd be OK, but generally, it'd be better to go do something on the Greenbelt. Idaho Fish and Game also just closed trails in the Boise River Wildlife Management Area, including the Homestead Trail next to Harris Ranch.

2. Go spring skiing at Bogus Basin, Tamarack Resort, Brundage Mountain Resort or Sun Valley. Get a bunch of friends together or do a family outing. Conditions are great everywhere!

3. Go xc skiing, snowshoeing or snowbiking at Bogus Basin, Idaho City Park and Ski Areas, McCall area or Sun Valley area. Once again, conditions are excellent in all four locations.

4. Go hiking in the Owyhee Canyonlands. Stick to the good roads to do a little adventuring in the Owyhees. Succor Creek, Sage Creek, Leslie Gulch and Mary's Creek would be the best bets right now. Maybe Browns Canyon near Oreana would be good, too. All of these hikes are featured in my Owyhee Canyonlands guidebook.

There you have it! Enjoy the sunshine!
- SS   

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Stellar midwinter conditions in McCall! Five reasons to visit before Winter Carnival

Tubing at the Activity Barn (courtesy Activity Barn) 
Powder riding at Brundage on a bluebird day (courtesy Brundage Mountain) 
Hi all,

You'd never know it in Boise, but a whole series of snowstorms in McCall have created stellar midwinter conditions for alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snow-biking. Add hot springs to the list and you've got 5 reasons to visit the McCall area before Winter Carnival starts in the last week of January.

Wendy and I were fortunate to stay at our Cozy Cabin in McCall for almost two weeks over the holiday break, and that put us pretty close to heaven. Being winter people coming from Michigan (her) and Minnesota (me), we love playing in the snow. After multiple days of skiing, xc skiing, snowshoeing and snow-biking, my legs were crying "Uncle!"

Wow that's some deep powder! (courtesy Tamarack Resort) 
That's got to be one of greatest feelings when you feel so sated from doing the things you love to do with friends and family.

Lodging should be easier to find now that New Year's Day is behind us, so see if you can book a room/condo/house and enjoy one or more of the following activities in McCall and surrounding areas:

  • Tubing at the Activity Barn - No advance reservations are needed to go tubing in McCall. The Activity Barn is located a few miles south of town on a hill that provides an 800-foot exciting ride down the tubing lane. There's a lift that brings you back to the top. Dress warm. You can go it alone, or link up and slide down the hill together with your kids. Tickets cost $18/person, or $13 after 4 p.m. for 1 hour of fun. The Activity Barn is open on Fridays and weekends, and closed Monday-Thursday. See the web site for details.  
    North Valley Trail, south of the Activity Barn. Perfect conditions.  
  • Go cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or snow-biking on the North Valley Trail and Activity Barn trails. A lot of people are just learning about this opportunity, but you can use the Nordic trails at the Activity Barn and on the North Valley Trail for free (donations for grooming gladly appreciated). Snow bikes are available for rent at the Activity Barn or bring your own. The North Valley Trail runs for about 2.5 miles from the Activity Barn out to the southern trailhead on Heinrich Lane, so you can do a 5-mile outing in that regard, or you can jump on the Activity Barn trails and add 3 miles to the whole outing. I recommend both trails if you have time.  
  • Alpine skiing at Brundage Mountain north of McCall or Tamarack Resort west of Donnelly. The snow gods have been kind to Brundage and Tamarack, providing an excellent base for this time of year. Brundage has a 42-inch base at the bottom of the hill and 47 inches at the summit. One-hundred percent of the mountain is open. Tamarack has 31 inches at mid-mountain and 36 inches at the summit. Nearly all of the mountain is open. Tamarack is  operating 7 days a week this year. Both mountains are super fun to ski/ride. 
    Snow biking at JMR. 
  • Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at Bear Basin, Ponderosa State Park or Jug Mountain Ranch. Dogs are allowed on all of the trails at Bear Basin and JMR, which is a bonus for us dog-owners. JMR also has excellent snow-biking trails and rental bikes. All three of these venues are worth visiting. All are scenic with diverse terrain, groomed xc trails, and separate snowshoe trails.  
    Bear Basin xc ski trails on a snowy day. 
  • Go to Gold Fork Hot Springs or take a snowmobile trip to Burgdorf Hot Springs. After all of the day's activities, it's time to soothe the muscles with a long soak in hot, natural geothermal water. Gold Fork is about 30 minutes south of McCall via the Davis Creek Road, south of Donnelly. Make sure you bring cash. It's closed on Tuesdays. Bring a suit and a towel, and you're golden. Non-glass beverages are allowed at pool-side. Burgdorf is open 7 days a week, starting at 10 a.m. each day. You can rent a snowmobile or go on a guided tour with Brundage Mountain to Burgdorf. It's a 25-mile trip on a groomed trail with optional off-trail sledding available along the way. I've taken my family on a guided trip, and they absolutely loved it. Make sure you pack a lunch or snacks for the trip.
    Main pool at Gold Fork Hot Springs. (courtesy Gold Fork) 
    There you have it! Hope everyone has a great year in 2019! 

- SS


Thursday, December 20, 2018

Stueby's Christmas gift ideas for the outdoorsy him and her

Hi all,

Christmas is coming! It's just five days away! Time for my annual Christmas gift ideas for the outdoorsy him and her.

In case you haven't noticed, we've been blessed with a series of snow storms that have allowed Idaho's ski areas to open earlier than usual, and the skiing/riding has been great for those who can get away and experience it! See my latest snow forecasts at for the latest information. The short story is that a parade of storms are forecast to hit Idaho's ski areas through the Christmas holiday, freshening the ski slopes nearly every day.

I also saw that Stanley has created a nifty ice rink for the winter season. That'd be fun to visit when you're in the 'hood ... especially if you have your own skates!
Icewear Norwegian sweater $82

 Now, on to the gifts!

1. How about a sexy ski sweater for your honey? There's a big variety to choose from in terms of a fleece-type sweater, or a cozy wool sweater, or other types of warm and cuddly sweaters for your sweetheart.

2. A warm, cozy Carhartt vest from D&B Supply, or a Patagonia down vest from Idaho Mountain TouringBoise REIGreenwoods Ski Haus or McU Sports.

3. SocksLots of color, designs and patterns, Smart Wool comfort made in the USA. Everyday Compression to support people standing on their feet, and it doesn't take 3 men and gorilla to put your socks on. Recommendation from Chris at IMT. 

4. Ski gloves - It's nice to have several pairs that work for various tasks such as driving, xc skiing or snowshoeing (thinner weight), and alpine skiing (warmer). Another reason to have several pairs is because we all tend to lose gloves and mittens. Just part of life. I have found some of my favorite gloves for xc skiing and lightweight use in the work glove section of May Hardware in McCall or the local Maverick service station.

5. Snowshoes - It takes a lot of time and money to master the art of skiing or snowboarding, but just about anyone who can walk can strap on a pair of snowshoes and do great! It helps to bring a pair of ski poles for balance. There are many different brands available. Price range: $50-$150 for snowshoe-pole combo sets. You might be able to find a pair at the Boise Outdoor Gear Exchange.
Blundstone all-weather boots 

6. Fancy boots! Blundstone Australian boots are super hot right now, Sorelle-fashion boots that are functional and don’t look like hunting pack boots, and Olukai slip-ons boot/shoes

Women's Apt. 9® Herringbone Cadet Hat7. Winter hats - Can't go wrong in this department, but it's always nice to find a winter hat that has personality! Similar with gloves, it's nice to have different winter hats for situations when it's relatively warm or you're working up a sweat (thinner weight), and when you need a bomber warm hat that keeps you warm in single digits or sub-zero weather. Remember that wool ultimately rocks in the warmth department. Another helpful item is a facemask for the really cold days on the mountain. I also love the smart-looking ballcap-style hats they make for women.

8. Patagonia trucker hats - Chris at IMT: These are Red Hot!- every age loves them -- men, women and kids.

9. Headlamp - For outdoorsy folks, it's about as easy to lose a
headlamp as it is to lose a pair of socks. Especially if you're a family of outdoorsy folks ... everyone borrows your headlamp and it never comes back! You can snag a headlamp for $25-$50, and it has great value for your camping trips, night hiking, river trips, backpacking, even for use around the home! My favorite brands include Petzl and Black Diamond. Get a bright one and you'll appreciate it! My latest Black Diamond model runs on 4 AAA batteries and it's really nice and bright.
10. Guidebooks! - Ha! Always a thoughtful item in the stocking or under the tree ... my guides are available of course, from Boise Trail Guide, Owyhee Canyonlands, Paddling the Payette (just updated for SUPers) and Boise Road Cycling Guide, plus my biography on the great champion for birds of prey Morley Nelson, Cool North Wind, in memory of all of his achievements related to the creation of the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. Plus I recommend Matt Leidecker's guides for the Sawtooths, White Clouds and Middle Fork Salmon River.

Wendy at our cozy cabin in McCall. 
11. Rent a cabin or a yurt for a gift - Backcountry yurts are hard to get on winter weekends already, but there are still mid-week dates available. You also could rent a cabin in Garden Valley, Cascade, McCall or Sun Valley for a romantic getaway. Check for rentals at vrbo.comAirBnB and Wendy and I rent our Cozy Cabin in McCall for weeks and weekends. Best price in town at $110/night! Sleeps 6. More information on my web site and You also could check on a Forest Service cabin rental through, or a state parks cabin at the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation

12. Capilene tops, long underwear - For any outdoorsy person who's active, getting out and exercising several days a week, you can quickly run short of tops and bottoms after they get pitted out and pitched into the laundry. So it's nice to have a deep supply of different tops especially ... lightweight, midweight, expedition weight, etc. These items typically run $25-$75. REI and Patagonia make gear with lasting value. Take a look at smart wool, too. 

13. Buck knife or Swiss Army knife - These items also have a way of disappearing. But especially guys appreciate having a knife handy for all sorts of things. A single-blade Buck knife is really sleek and cool, and the multi-tasking Swiss Army knives are always a hit. 

14. Hydro Flask - Previously known as a water bottle, the hydro flasks available today can be used for drinking coffee on the go, taking a long a nice hot cup of tea or hot chocolate on an outdoor outing, or actually packing plain old water. Hydro Flask is a brand by itself, but there are many other brands that make quality stainless steel insulated cups and containers. Pricing is in the $10 to $25 range or more. 

15. River Gear - Pick up some accessories or a new SUP, hard-shell kayak, inflatable kayak, canoe or raft at Idaho River Sports, Cascade River GearAIRE in Meridian,  or Boise Army-Navy.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!
- SS  

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Staying in an Idaho backcountry yurt is a great way to enhance your winter fun

Here's Quinn at the top of the ridge next to Stargaze Yurt, ready to make some turns! 
My son Quinn at the Stargaze Yurt ... plenty of snow! 

Hi all,

My outdoor tip of the week was printed in the Idaho Press outdoor page this week.

All about renting a backcountry yurt in Idaho to maximize on winter fun ...

Click on the link to read all about it. The yurt roundup includes where you can rent yurts and huts in Idaho. Pull together some friends and find some dates to do a yurt trip together!

BTW, there is more than 30 inches of snow at the Idaho City Park and Ski Areas, northeast of Idaho City, and the xc trails will be groomed this weekend. Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Where's the snow? Where can you go play in the snow in SW and Central Idaho?

Pow day at Grand Targhee Resort ... a frequent occurrence these days ... Get there if you can! (courtesy Grand Targhee)
Head over to Sun Valley and carve some turns. See how long your legs can last. (Courtesy Sun Valley) 

Hi all,

With each passing snowstorm, the mountains are getting coated with fresh layers of snow, allowing the ski season to get started at least in a limited way since Thanksgiving.

I've been tracking this as a snow forecaster for, and I thought I'd devote this week's tip of the week to places where you can go play in the snow at the moment ...

Bear Basin by the trailhead (Courtesy Ed Roper) 

1. Bogus Basin has several Nordic trails open -- Nordic highway, Sapper's Return and Redtail are groomed.

2. Bear Basin in McCall  just groomed their system of xc trails today. Reporting a 9-inch base. I learned about it first-hand from Ed Roper who has maintained and groomed the Bear Basin trails for years. He said he just groomed the entire network of trails, but some of the loops like Mack's don't have enough coverage for recommended use. The main trails should be just fine, however!

3. Jug Mountain Ranch reports just rolled their xc trail system. Recommending snow-biking in the morning. JMR has excellent snow-biking trails!!! Highly recommend it!

4. North Valley Trail in McCall has been rolled with just a couple of inches of snow. Best for snow-biking.

5. Idaho City Park and Ski Trails - The snow phone, 208-514-2423, indicated that snow bases are minimal but trails are open for public use. Be sure to carry a shovel with you in case the parking areas haven't been plowed very well past Mores Creek Summit.

6. Mores Creek Summit - Snow conditions at Pilot Peak looked promising above 7,000 feet in a post by Chago on He reported 50 centimeters or almost 20 inches of snow in the upper portion of the mountain. Thanks Chago!

7. Wood River Valley - Portions of the Blaine County xc trail systems are open north of the Sawtooth NRA trailhead and at Galena Lodge. That'd be worth a trip if you have the time and a place to stay.

Snowcat view of fresh pow at Pomerelle

  • Sun Valley has top-to-bottom skiing on man-made and natural snow. That's 3,400 vertical feet of skiing, more than enough to test your legs and most likely kill your legs in a matter of a couple of hours. River Run, Lookout and Christmas lifts are running at the moment. They've got a great lodging deal going right now where you can stay at the Sun Valley Lodge for $129 a night and early-season lift tickets are $55. 
  • Brundage Mountain will be reopening its Easy Street beginner chairlift this weekend. Free skiing for kids and adults! Reporting 14 inches at the base and 22 inches at the summit. There's a storm system coming through on Friday, with an 80 percent chance of snow, but only an inch or so of accumulation expected. Dang! 
  • Pomerelle Mountain Resort will reopen on Saturday after getting at least 10 inches of new snow this week ... they're reporting 20 inches at the base area and 25 inches on top, with another foot of snow forecast tonight and tomorrow, perhaps more. The storm system coming through on Friday favors all of the ski resorts south of I-84, including Pomerelle, Magic Mountain, Pebble Creek and Kelly Canyon. 
  • Schweitzer Mountain is reopening Friday and remaining open for 7-day-a-week operations from that point forward. Reporting a 12-inch base at the base area and 15 inches mid-mountain, but that is packed snow, with man-made snow augmenting natural snow. 
  • Grand Targhee is in prime condition with a 50-inch base, 13 inches of freshies in the last 48 hours, 93 inches cumulative so far this year. Nearly 100 percent open! Road trip!  

Remember, these are early-season conditions, so don't take your best skis out quite yet.
- SS

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Looking ahead to winter ... What does a Mild El Nino really mean for SW/Central Idaho?

Courtesy National Weather Service 
Previous El Nino winters since 1950 in terms of precipitation. 1976-77 was my freshman year at the University of Montana, and it was absolutely one of the worst drought winters in the 1900s ... Montana Snow Bowl in Missoula never opened! 
Hi all,

I went to an early-season meeting with water and weather experts last week to learn more detail about what a mild El Nino winter really means, and what's expected?

The bad news is that if the experts are right, the El Nino winter will bring warmer-than-normal temperatures and drier-than-normal precipitation at least in the first half of the winter. The jet stream with storms is expected to set up to move across the southern tier of the United States, and more High Pressure weather patterns are expected to set up off the Pacific Coast.

That's the pattern we have right now affecting Southwest Idaho ... we've had High Pressure systems dominating the region, with cold and clear nights, cold mornings, and warmer afternoons suitable for hiking, biking and running.

This weather is expected to persist until the end of next week, when there's a chance of storms moving in on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. The official 6- to 10-day forecast calls for above-normal temperatures and above-normal precipitation for this region ... guess we'll see if the above-normal precipitation kicks in over Thanksgiving weekend.

So for the short term, if you're excited to see some snow fall in SW Idaho, you'll have to wait until then. And if you want to go skiing, you'll need to look for opportunities where resorts are making snow. Sun Valley always comes through with at least some limited skiing/riding available with its world-class snowmaking system. Brundage Mountain will be making snow on the bunny hill and at the Activity Barn, the tubing hill and xc area south of McCall. Bogus Basin also is firing up its snow-making system to provide some early-season skiing.

Going back to El Nino winter predictions, Troy Lindquist with the National Weather Service indicated that "not all El Nino events are the same." They printed a series of maps of El Nino winters to show how things really play out. "You see a lot of variabilities in there."

Long-term precipitation trends also may not be as dry as predicted, Lindquist said. "With the precipitation index, there is not as strong of an indicator one way or the other," he said.

Looking at the latest 30-day and 90-day forecasts, Lindquist is right ... all of the long-term forecasts are predicting above-normal temperatures, but as you look at the 30-day and 90-day forecasts, the chance of precipitation is showing more like "Equal Chances" (which is good) or even "Above Normal."

What this means is that depending on how many degrees above-normal temperatures we get, the snow level may rise higher than we'd like ... the base area of most ski resorts in Idaho is at about 6,000 feet. If the freezing level is more like 7,000 feet, you know what that means ... pretty soggy conditions at the base area ... and poor snow quality. 

Here's a series of maps showing their precipitation predictions:

8-14 day outlook shows a good chance of above-normal precipitation ... 

30-day outlook calls for Equal Chances or above-normal precipitation in E. Idaho 
90-day outlook calls for Equal Chances of precipitation. That's good! 
The bottom line is you should hope for a cold and snowy winter and hope the weather people are WRONG! Grow a beard! Women could grow hairy legs. Do a snow dance. Do whatever you think will bring snowy conditions!

This is what we're hoping for! Big *pow*! 
Every El Nino winter is different!
- SS