Thursday, January 6, 2011

Lots of fun stuff planned for free cross-country ski day in Idaho on Saturday, Jan. 8

Climbing to Stargaze Yurt. All photos by Cindee Goes

Views from the new Stargaze Yurt near Idaho City


Breaking trail can be tough!

Hi all,

Every year, I have to promote free cross-country ski day because it's FREE!

Alpine and Nordic skiing have gotten so darn expensive in so many ways, so you have to capitalize on the times when trail and parking fees have been waived, and it's FREE! OK, you might need to rent some equipment, if you don't have your own, but otherwise, it's FREE! In McCall, they're even providing FREE rental equipment at Ponderosa State Park (see below).

The Idaho Department of Parks & Recreation is offering all kinds of goodies on Saturday at its state parks and Park n' Ski Areas. At the Idaho City Park n' Ski area, you can sign up for an intermediate or advanced snowshoe tour, or ski or snowshoe into the new Stargaze Yurt (1.3 miles one-way) near the Beaver Creek Summit parking area, or walk into the Whispering Pines Yurt (2 miles one-way) near the Gold Fork parking area and attend an "open house." The yurts will be warm, and you can see how the yurts are set up, how many bunks they have, etc., and what you'll need to bring when you rent one. You might need to bring your own Schnapps :).

If you like to snowshoe, consider signing up for an intermediate snowshoe clinic/tour with Owen Jones, or an advanced snowshoe clinic/tour with Leo Hennessy. Both of those guys are experienced off-trail snowshoers, so they have the skills, and they'll put you through some fun paces ... like creek-crossings, jumping off rocks, 360's or something silly like that.

Leo told me that he's going to lead a 5-mile tour from Beaver Creek Summit parking area, hike over to the Stargaze Yurt to show folks the newest yurt in the fleet, and then hike over the mountains to the Gold Fork trail system, stop in the Whispering Pines Yurt to get warm, and drop out at the Gold Fork parking lot. Sounds like a fun tour!

To sign up for either the intermediate or advanced clinic, contact Judy Ditto at IDPR at or call 208-334-4199. Participants will meet at Discovery Park near Lucky Peak at 9 a.m. to car pool to the ski trails. The beginner clinics are already full. Sorry about that!

Note that all of the Idaho City Park n' Ski trails are open to dogs this year except for the groomed trails leading to Banner Ridge. So if like to take your puppy snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, this is a great opportunity. Please pick up after your pets on the trail. If you are signing up for a clinic, however, no dogs are allowed.

At Ponderosa State Park in McCall, one of the most beautiful places to ski or snowshoe anywhere in the Rockies (see my video), IDPR is partnering with local sporting goods stores and others to provide FREE demo equipment and FREE lessons! This is the place to be for people who don't have their own gear. Gravity Sports and Home Town Sports are providing the gear, and the McCall Nordic Ski Team and McCall Parks & Recreation officials are teaching the lessons. Both skate skiing lessons and traditional cross-country skiing techniques will be offered. Great chance to learn!

If you're in the 'hood near Cascade, IDPR is going to provide hot chili, corn bread and hot drinks at the Van Wyck park unit over by the boat ramp in Cascade (turn left at Howdy's). There is a short cross-country ski trail (one-half mile) that you can sample by the lakeshore, and the Crown Point Trail is nearby (5.5 miles round-trip). The Crown Point Trail is a gorgeous and easy (it's essential tabletop flat) trail that tours the eastern shore of Lake Cascade. You might see some bald eagles flying around and other wildlife.

I'm going to be in Idaho Falls this weekend at my son's hockey tournament, so I'm hoping to get enough time to head up to Harriman State Park to do some skate skiing. IDPR is offering free lessons at Harriman for those of you who might be in the 'hood. Harriman is similar to Ponderosa in offering world-class scenery and first-rate ski and snowshoe trails. On a clear day, the Tetons are easily in view, always a beautiful sight to behold, and the steam rises from the Henrys Fork, where you might see swans in the river. Moose often are wandering around as well.

Don't miss this chance to have a great day on Saturday for almost no cost!

Remember to dress in layers, bring plenty of food and water with you in your pack, and carry an avalanche beacon, probe poles and shovel if you're planning on traveling into avalanche zones.

Have fun!

For more outdoor tips, go to Steve talks about his outdoor tips each week on 94.9 FM The River at approximately 7:10 a.m. on Fridays.

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