|Skate skiing works great on well-groomed trails. Glide wax is critical.|
|Snowshoers hike through fresh snow to Stargaze Yurt, located 1.5 miles|
from the trailhead. It takes about an hour to get there.
|Ah, the spellbinding view from Stargaze Yurt, near Idaho City|
|If you can walk, you can snowshoe. Ski poles help with balance.|
|Classic xc ski technique - kick and glide. It feels really sweet when you get the knack for it.|
Saturday is a great opportunity to try cross-country skiing or snowshoeing at participating Idaho State Parks and the Blaine County Recreation District xc trails in the Wood River Valley.
Have you ever thought about trying xc skiing or snowshoeing? Now is the time to seize the day and give it a whirl -- it's great for exercise, getting outside and enjoying the beauty of the Idaho mountains, and it's an excellent excuse to get out of the yucky inversion in the Treasure Valley and enjoy cobalt-blue sky and warmer weather! Snow conditions are excellent!
There will be free lessons and equipment demo's at Ponderosa State Park and Lake Cascade State Park, close to home, or you can rent/grab your own equipment and try out the Idaho City Park n' Ski Trails and yurts near Idaho City. The Park n' Ski parking lots will be open for free (normally a Park n' Ski parking pass is required), and IDPR staff will serve hot cocoa at Stargaze Yurt and Rocky Ridge Yurt.
All of BCRD's xc ski and snowshoe trails will be open free of charge on Saturday in the Wood River Valley. A day pass costs $17, so that's a great value. The BCRD xc ski trail system is world-class, with more than 160 kilometers of trails available, including the trails at the Galena Lodge, north of Ketchum. See more details on Saturday's event below.
Free xc ski day is a national initiative that's been going on for many years to encourage newbies to try cross-country skiing and snowshoeing on local trails. My motto is: Give it a try! Anyone who can walk can snowshoe. A pair of ski poles helps with balance when snowshoeing. Cross-country skiing is a little more challenging, but it's not that difficult. Plus, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are relatively cheap ways to recreate outdoors in the winter, compared to downhill skiing, which can blow a hole in your wallet in one day.
I've been cross-country skiing since I was a kid growing up in Minnesota. The age-old traditional or classic technique involves a little kick and glide, a really sweet motion once you get the knack. In the mid-1980s, the skate-skiing technique came into vogue. Skate skiing is more physically demanding than the classic/traditional technique, but when you get the knack of skate skiing, and you're properly waxed, you can really sail down the trail -- at least on the flats.
On Saturday, at the parks where demo equipment is available, you could try the old kick-and-glide technique and try a pair of skate skis, and see what you like. Instructors will be on hand to help you with technique.
Here are the details:
- Idaho City Park n' Ski Areas - Take Idaho 21 past Idaho City to the signed Park n' Ski areas. It's 17-23 miles past Idaho City to the different trailheads. The Rocky Ridge Yurt is 1.5 miles from the Whoop-Um-Up parking lot. This trail is best for snowshoeing. Yurt rental manager Judy Ditto will be the host at Rocky Ridge from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Stargaze Yurt is located 1.5 miles from the parking area at Beaver Creek Summit on Idaho 21. This trail is good for either xc skiing or snowshoeing, but not skate skiing. It's my favorite of the six yurts in the area because it sits on top of a mountain, affording great views of the surrounding area, and it has great skiable terrain directly below the yurt. Leo Hennessy will be hosting visitors at Stargaze Yurt from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dogs are allowed on the trails, so bring your pups if you wish. No equipment will be available at the Park n' Ski areas. Rent some before you go at Idaho Mountain Touring, Greenwoods or Boise REI.
- Lake Cascade State Park - Free xc ski day activities will be hosted by IDPR staff at the Hasbrouck Ranch Nordic Trails on 981 Cabarton Road (this is the road to the Cabarton put-in on the Payette River, 15 miles north of Smith's Ferry). Equipment demos will be available and lessons from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sign up when you get there. Hot cocoa will be served at the trailhead.
- Ponderosa State Park, McCall - Go to the park in the east side of McCall and park by the Activity Center. Equipment demos and lessons will be available from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Equipment will be provided by Gravity Sports and Hometown Sports in McCall, and instructors will be on hand from Bear Basin Nordic Center to teach the classic and skate ski technique. Volunteers from McCall Parks & Recreation and the McCall Outdoor Science School will lead snowshoe tours. Hot drinks will be served at the trailhead.
- Blaine County Rec District - Free lessons and rentals will be available at the Croy trailhead in Hailey from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Folks can try either skate skiing or classic. The Croy trailhead is located off of Bullion Street west of Hailey. Call Sturtevants in Hailey to reserve your rental equipment, 788-7847.
Have fun and enjoy the sunshine!