Thursday, December 20, 2012

Great news! Idaho City Park and Ski yurts have been reopended for public use immediately

The yurts are open! The yurts are open! 
I'm psyched! The Boise National Forest and Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation have resolved their differences regarding the permitting issues and liability insurance related to the operation of the Idaho City Park and Ski yurts.

The popular six yurts located amid the Idaho City Park and Ski trail system will be reopened for public use immediately, according to a press release from IDPR:

BOISE – (December 20, 2012) The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation (IDPR) announced today that operations have resumed for the Idaho City Backcountry Yurt Program.
IDPR will be contacting backcountry yurt customers by phone today and tomorrow to reinstate previous reservations that were cancelled, with arrival dates from today’s date forward.
Customers will be given the opportunity to reinstate their reservation for the dates they originally booked,” said Tammy Kolsky, IDPR Reservation Program Manager.  “If customers wish to reinstate the reservation, payment will be taken at that time, or the reservation can be cancelled if the stay no longer meets the customers’ plans.”
All remaining inventory will become available on Wednesday, December 26, 2012 at 8 am Mountain time online at or by phone: 1-888-922-6743.
I want to thank everyone who wrote letters to Boise National Forest and IDPR officials regarding the recent yurt closure. I fired off a quick note to them this afternoon, saying: 
I wanted to send you a quick note of thanks for working quickly to resolve issues related to the special-use permit with the USFS for the ID City Park and Ski yurt system. I received a phone call this morning from Jennifer Okerland, indicating that IDPR will be contacting people who previously held reservations for this winter and fulfilling those reservations. That’s great news for everyone concerned.

Again, thanks and I hope the Boise National Forest and IDPR can have a long and enduring partnership regarding the yurt system operation.

Best, Steve Stuebner 


Be sure to check out my previous blog post on skiing/riding Grand Targhee, if you happened to miss it ... 

I promised to share a few Christmas gift ideas for the outdoorsy man and woman ... Here are some goodies that will be sure to please ...

  • Tie Boss easy tie down rope and pulley system. $14.99 for 1/4-inch rope and $19.99 for 3/8-inch rope. For tying down your recreation toys on the roof rack or in the back of the pickup, whatever.
  • Carbon Comfort bike seat, the brainchild of Jeri Rutherford of Boise. I haven't been able to test-drive one myself, but quite a few people like the seats, both men and women. They're carried by McU Sports and Ride Out Technologies
  • Biggest Swiss Army knife you've ever seen. The Victorinox Champ Swiss Army Knife. Only $75 at REI. This one deserves a picture: 


There you have it! See you out on the slopes!
- SS 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Grant Targhee, the snow magnet, is the place to be right now; great destination for the holidays

Monday was a powder day at Grand Targhee. That's Quinn between the cars. 
Waiting for the patrol to drop the rope at 9 a.m. Everyone was excited. 
Mountain map ... click to enlarge
Hi all,

If you've been thinking about planning a ski vacation for the holidays, Grand Targhee is a sure bet right now, with plenty of snow (67-inch base) and some excellent ski-and-stay lodging deals. The rooms are filling up quickly, though, so you should act fast.

My son, Quinn, and I skied Targhee on Monday. We were in Idaho Falls for a hockey tournament over the previous weekend, and decided to play hooky. Six inches of snow had fallen the day before, and 12 inches were forecast for Monday. We were psyched for a big powder day.

We stayed at Targhee the night before in the Teewinot lodge, and I had time to take a nice long hot tub before dinner. There were a bunch of folks soaking in the spacious outdoor tub, and they were all psyched about the ski day on Sunday. One woman was there from Denver, and she had gone cat skiing for the day.
Deep powder! 
"Best ski day of my life," she said. The snow had been knee- to waist-deep in the backcountry surrounding Targhee, and the *pow* was nice and light. She nailed it. "It's nice to be able to ski here cuz there's hardly any snow in Colorado."

Other folks in the tub were from Minnesota and Wisconsin, and several others were from Colorado as well. They had done their Internet research, and Targhee was -- and still is -- the place to be.

Quinn and I were ready to go when the patrol dropped the rope for the Sacajawea lift, which serves Peaked Mountain. High winds were forecast for Monday, so we figured that area might be a little more out of the wind than the main Dreamcatcher lift, which goes to the top of Fred's Mountain. Turns out, Dreamcatcher never opened Monday because of high winds, so EVERYONE went to Sacajawea and the new powder got skied up pretty darn quick, even on a Monday!

Nevertheless, we took the Dreamweaver run down the ridge, and then drop into Quiver, a black-diamond glade skiing area, and found fresh pockets of powder for several hours. By noon, Peaked had been carved up pretty good. I wished we had been able to stay for several more days ... I bet Tuesday was phenomenal once they opened the other lifts.
On a clear day, the views from the top of Grand Targhee are totally spectacular.
I've been a big fan of Grand Targhee for decades. I remember years when the snowpack was thin in Idaho and the region, and Targhee always seemed to have the most snow. It's located near the Continental Divide, and when the storms circulate into the Northern Rockies, Targhee seems to be  ideally situated in a zone where they get hit with a ton of snow, one wave after the next. The base area is at 7,800 feet (which is 200 feet higher than the summit of Bogus Basin), so that means that Targhee will get snow even when the snow level is at 7,000 feet, like it was earlier this month. Average annual snowfall is 500+ inches -- that's over 41 feet!

Here are a link to a YouTube video of skiing/riding at Targhee.

It's also a great place to ski for a powder hound. The slopes are mostly wide open, with a little grooming here and there, and tons of tree-skiing everywhere. With a continuous vertical drop of 2,176 feet, it'll make your legs burn. Targhee added a lift on Peaked Mountain a number of years ago, so that really adds to the terrain as well. Before that lift was built, I used to skin up Peaked on my tele skis and ski untouched powder after the slopes got carved up.

Targhee also has 15 kilometers of groomed cross-country trails immediately adjacent to the base area, an outdoor pool and hot tub, on-mountain ski-in ski-out lodging and dining, snowcat skiing and a tubing hill. Basically all of the amenities are there for families or adults.

Right now, the best lodging deals include:

  • Stay four nights or more, and you ski free at a rate of $55 per person per night. 
  • Stay three nights and get the 4th night free. 
  • Combination snowcat trips and lodging specials are available through the holidays and in January, there are some screaming-good deals available.  
How to get there: Grand Targhee is located near Driggs, Idaho. Quickest way to get there from Boise is to take I-84 to Idaho Falls, U.S. 26 to Swan Valley, ID 31 to Victor, and ID 33 to Driggs. It takes about 5.5 to 6 hours to get there, depending on road conditions and how fast you drive. 

Last weekend, a number of my friends headed over to Sun Valley to take advantage ski-and-stay deals for $79 per day. That was smart because those lodging deals end tomorrow (Dec. 20), and rates go up for the Christmas holiday. Still, Sun Valley also has good snow coverage with 55 inches on top and 36 inches at mid-mountain. They have opened Seattle Ridge as well.

Brundage Mountain has 71 inches at the summit, so they have excellent snowpack. I'm sure a lot of people will be heading to McCall for the holidays. Tamarack is reporting 16-61 inches of snow. They've got some great lodging specials going on right now. Glad to hear Bogus Basin will open Friday. I recommend taking your rock skis.

Have fun! I'll be doing another blog this week on last-minute Christmas gift ideas for outdoorsy guys and women.  
- SS

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Frustrated by the closure of the Idaho City Park and Ski yurts? So are we! Here's how to help

The Lanza family serves breakfast inside the Skyline Yurt 
Quinn Stuebner plays in the snow by Skyline Yurt. 
Hi all,

I'm sure a lot of cross-country skiers, backcountry skiers and snowshoers are just as upset as I am about the temporary closure of the Idaho City Park and Ski yurt system.

Last fall, when someone in the Boise National Forest discovered that there wasn't a special use permit on file for the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation to operate six yurts in the Idaho City Park and Ski Areas, the yurt system was shut down, and IDPR had to refund $26,155 in rental revenue to hundreds of unhappy customers.

The agencies have had several months to get the permitting and liability insurance issues worked out, but they haven't reached agreement. I've been talking with my friend Mike Lanza, Northwest editor of Backpacker magazine, about this, as well as a number of other folks, and we feel it's time to apply a little political pressure to get this situation fixed.

So we crafted a letter that we're sending to the decision-makers tonight, and we're going to launch a social media campaign tonight and earned media campaign tomorrow in hopes of elevating the priority for resolving this issue. We'd like to see the yurt system opened by New Year's Day.

How can you help? Write or call the following point people on this issue:
Here's the text of our letter and some background:

Dear Ms. Seesholtz, Ms. Faurot, Ms. Merrill and Mr. Strack,
As recreationists who frequently use the Idaho City Park and Ski Areas and the wonderful companion system of six yurts contained therein, we are disappointed that the Boise National Forest and the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation have yet to reach an agreement that would allow cross-country skiers and snowshoers to use the yurt system in the winter of 2012-2013.

It's our understanding that the Boise National Forest wants IDPR to obtain a special use permit to operate the yurt system, and provide a certificate of liability insurance coverage for the yurt system.

This should not take months to resolve. It's our opinion that the Forest Service is making a "mountain out of a molehill" with respect to concerns about liability insurance to indemnify the Forest Service from self-guided people using the Park and Ski trails and the yurts.

Here are the facts:

·         The yurt-rental system has been running seamlessly on a sustainable basis since the first yurt was built in 1996, without any significant concerns or complaints—or any lawsuits.
·         The Idaho City Park and Ski Area yurts are used by approximately 2,500 people per year—mostly in the winter—and yurt rentals generate approximately $80,000 in revenue, according to IDPR. The temporary closure of the yurts in Fall 2012 resulted in the loss of $26,155 in revenue.
·         The Idaho City Park and Ski trails and yurts were initially a collaborative partnership project between the Idaho City Ranger District and IDPR. The first yurt, Banner Ridge, was built in 1996. Volunteers from the Southwest Idaho Mountain Biking Association (SWIMBA), Nordic Voice and REI helped build the yurt. Since that time, there has been significant community investment in the yurt system on an ongoing basis.
·         Former Idaho City Ranger District Recreation and Trails officer Terry Sexton was instrumental in the creation of the Idaho City Park and Ski Areas and yurt system. The Idaho City Ranger District should be a partner in the trail and yurt systems and assist in making the program successful, not erect bureaucratic obstacles. 
·         Yurt-rental revenue is critical for paying for grooming the cross-country ski trails. By temporarily halting the yurt-rental program, the Forest Service and IDPR are jeopardizing the revenue stream that makes the Park and Ski trails usable by winter recreationists.

Mr. Strack has indicated that the Forest Service is asking for more liability insurance than IDPR can afford. Forest Service officials say that a special-use applicant that receives all of the revenue from a yurt operation should be expected to pay for liability insurance. The question is, how much?  

We urge the USFS and IDPR to find a short-term fix this month so that the yurts can reopen by New Year’s. Postponing this matter any longer would, we strongly believe, be a great disservice to the public that has long cherished and financially supported these trail and yurt systems.

Thank you for your immediate consideration of this matter of great importance to many Idahoans.


Steve Stuebner
Outdoor recreationist, blogger and author

Mike Lanza,
Outdoor recreationist, Backpacker Magazine Northwest Editor, blogger, and author

Dean Meer 
Boise REI store manager

Chris Haunold, owner
Idaho Mountain Touring

Tomas Patek, owner
World Cycle

Tom "Chel" Chelstrom
Former Boise REI store manager

Joyce Fabre
Boise Women's Hiking Network

JT More
Backcountry skier and frequent yurt user

Mike Needham
Boise Trailheads Meet Up Facebook group

Mark Menlove
Executive Director, Winter Wildlands Alliance

Brad Acker
Patrol Director, 705 NSP Backcountry Ski Patrol

Santiago Rodriguez
National Ski Patrol—SW Idaho Avalanche Instructor Trainer
Author of “Mores Creek Summit” Blog

Sandy Epeldi
Recreationist, vice president of the Idaho Outdoor Association, author

Branden Durst
State Senator, District 18, Boise

Mat Erpelding

State Representative, District 19 House Seat A

Holli Woodings
State Representative, District 19 House Seat B

Janie Ward-Engelking
State Representative, District 18 House Seat A

Lauren McLean
Boise City Councilwoman, recreationist, skier

Suki Molina
Recreationist, skier

Kay Hummel
Backcountry and Nordic skier and volunteer

Marianne Nelson
Recreationist, skier

We know that there are hundreds, if not several thousand people who feel the same way we do about this situation. Write the decision-makers and make yourself heard!

Many thanks!
- SS

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Head for high country to find snow; plan a road trip to go skiing in Sun Valley or Grand Targhee

Skate skiing at Galena is perfect right now ... they never got any rain. Yay! 
Galena Lodge as of Sunday. They have snow in spades! (Courtesy Galena Lodge)
Grand Targhee ... dig it! 

Hi all,

The weekly outdoor tips are back from yours truly.

Winter is getting a slow start because of the warm weather and rain we've had in the lower elevations, but above 6,500-foot elevation, there is quite a bit of snow accumulating.

"Tell them to head to the high country," says Ron Abramovich, snow survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. "Snow starts accumulating around 6,500 feet in the Boise Basin, and it gets deep fast as you increase in elevation. Trinity and Atlanta Summit SNOTEL sites have about 50 inches of snow on the ground. In the Payette basin, the Deadwood site has the most snow in the state with 83 inches of snow on the ground."

Wow! It'd be nice to have a snowmobile or your own personal snowcat to reach those spots ...

If you'd like to go play in the snow this weekend, here's what I'd recommend:

  • For cross-country skiing, head for Galena Lodge, north of Sun Valley. They've got more than 48 inches by the parking lot, and lots of kilometers open for Nordic skiing. There's a FREE demo day going on Saturday, and a race Sunday. Trail passes cost $10 Saturday, and kids under 12 ski or snowshoe for free. "We've got so much snow it's ridiculous," said David, who answered the phone this afternoon. Note the picture above! Their conditions are stellar.  
  • For snowshoeing, Galena Lodge would be great, or if you're heading for Cascade or McCall, you could try Big Creek Summit on the way to Warm Lake or drive up Lick Creek Road until you run into snow and make your own adventure. Leo Hennessy is leading an Idaho Outdoors trip at Big Creek Summit on Saturday. See the Idaho Outdoors Yahoo Group to learn how to sign up. 
  • Another possibility for xc skiing and snowshoeing would be the Harriman Trail, north of Ketchum and Sun Valley. The Harriman trail is reportedly open from the Sawtooth NRA to Galena Lodge. That's an easy-going trail that winds along the Big Wood River. Great place to go. 
  • For downhill skiing, the best bets right now appear to be at Sun Valley and Grand Targhee. We're talking road trip! I saw a great video of people power skiing at Sun Valley last weekend that made me really jealous. Look for stay-and-play deals at Sun Valley to save money. I saw one package for $79.50 per person (lift ticket and lodging). See more here.
  • At Grand Targhee, which is reporting a 57-inch base right now, you can book 4 nights lodging and ski free. More details here. Grand Targhee and Sun Valley are probably going to be VERY POPULAR at Christmas time.   
  • Just so you know ... there isn't much snow yet at Mores Creek Summit. Just 6 inches. And the Idaho City Park n' Ski Areas need more snow, too. Leo said there isn't even enough snow yet to ski or snowshoe on the roads! 
There you have it! If you're wondering what's happening with yurt rentals in the Idaho City Park n' Ski Areas, tune in next week, I'll have more information then.

If you're stuck in town, the Ridge to Rivers Trails have been drying out after the rainstorms, and the trails that are most sandy are best to rely on. Be sure to check on the Ridge to Rivers web site to check on the current trail report.

Have fun!
- SS