Friday, February 27, 2015

Hit the groomers at Sun Valley, check for best lodging deals; plus beer bus to Brundage

Perfect corduroy for carving turns ... 
What happened to those nice wool ski sweathers? 
Great views of the Pioneer Mountains ... 
Groomers galore in Sun Valley! 
Hi all,

It's looking like another weekend where we're going to have a fresh dusting of snow in the mountains, including Brundage, Sun Valley and Tamarack, and then sunshine on Sunday. Could be a good time to hit the slopes!

I've been hearing great things about the conditions on Bald Mountain in Sun Valley. They have a very sophisticated computerized snow-making system that dishes out new snow overnight, and Sun Valley's groomers smooth it out for some ego-boosting turns. No obstacles to worry about. No potato rows between the groomer paths.

I love the feeling of being on top of Bald Mountain, taking in the splendor of the surrounding mountains, and then zooming down College or Ridge to the mid-mountain chair. Maybe Christmas Bowl is skiable? That's a hoot. You also can go top-to-bottom on Warm Springs, experiencing the full 3,300-foot vertical foot plunge to the bottom, and feel your thighs burn with every turn as you cruise downhill. Seattle Ridge is another place to let it rip on wide groomed runs. The challenge is to pace yourself so you've got enough strength and energy to put in a full day ... even after a full half-day, your legs might feel zapped.

When you're skiing downhill, feel your edges carve on the snow. The Sun Valley slopes are perfect for this. Open up your speed and ride the edges of your skis. The faster you go, the more you'll feel the beauty of the carving turn. Make big arcs with your edges, stay on top of your skis, meaning keep your weight forward, and let the skis carve the snow.

The big challenge with Sun Valley is to find discounted lift tickets and affordable lodging. Ski-and-stay packages are a great way to save money. The best deal offered by Sun Valley today is $162/night for a stay-and-ski package for two. Considering that day tickets cost $109, that's a pretty good deal! But there are lots of other stay-and-ski packages available. Try the Ketchum-Sun Valley Chamber for their deals, and InIdaho, too.

Another way to save money on Sun Valley lift tickets is to buy them online in advance. 

On Saturday, there's a beer bus that's heading up to Salmon River Brewery in McCall for a quick beer tasting and brunch. Then they're hitting the slopes at Brundage for the day, and capping it all off with a big feast and wonderful craft beer at Salmon River Brewery. Kate McGuire of K-106 is organizing the trip, and they still have a few openings. Cost is $81 per person. There are a total of 45 spots available. See Kate University Brew Bus for more information or to book your seat.   

There's some rain/snow in the forecast for the Boise Valley on Friday and Saturday, so that may muck up the trails in the Boise Foothills. I've been enjoying the trails this week, and it's been so GREAT to be out there on our wonderful trail system. Please watch the Ridge to Rivers web site and Facebook page for the most updated information on trail conditions this weekend.

If conditions are wet, my recent blog on exploring Marianne Williams Park and the Eagle Greenbelt are great alternatives where you can't go wrong.
Check out this YouTube video that I took earlier today, mountain biking the Sidewinder-Fat Tire-Trail #5 Loop with my pointer Huck. It's so much fun to watch him fly through the sagebrush, especially when we're going downhill. So I brought the GoPro today and got some footage. You might like the biking footage too!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Five springtime road bike rides that'll get your heart pumping; or ski the dust on crust

Get some friends together for a fun road ride! Drafting is good! 
The Cartwright Three Sumits Loop always delivers. 
Selfie on Swan Falls Road ... very little traffic 
The nasty Swan Falls grade  
Hi all,

We've got a little weather moving in on Friday that might bring a little rain in Boise and a little snow in the mountains.

The forecast for Brundage Mountain looks promising with at least 1-3 inches of snow expected on Friday and a little more on Saturday, then sunshine on Sunday. Less accumulation is forecast at Bogus Basin, Tamarack and Sun Valley, but I'm sure they all will take what they can get.

If a little bit of new snow gets you excited about hitting the slopes, you could ski some new dust on crust on Friday or Saturday, and then hit a bluebird day on Sunday with some fresh fluff! The same drill goes for cross-country skiing. A little bit of new snow will be a welcome change.

However, if you'd prefer to stay closer to home, I'm recommending five springtime road bike rides from my Boise Road Cycling Guide.

The word from Ridge to Rivers is that the freeze-thaw cycle we're in this week has caused a lot of moisture to rise up on the foothills trails, creating big patches of muddy trails. Check out the trail report as of today (thursday).

But with the nice weather we've been having -- more of that 50ish weather is expected next week -- it's time to dust off your road bike, if you haven't already, and get it ready for some spring rides.

I'm motivated by being part of a team that's participating in the Lyle Pearson 200 in late May. There are lots of other road cycling events this year, including the Bob LeBow Blue Cruise in late June and the Cascade 4 Summit Challenge in late July.

Here are my five springtime rides:

1. Ride the Boise River Greenbelt from Municipal Park to Discovery Park. Distance: 9 miles out, 9 miles back; 18 miles round-trip. Travel time: 1 hour. Moderate to strenuous. Take Warm Springs Avenue to Walnut, turn right, and park in Municipal Park on the left. Take the Greenbelt east out to Discovery State Park. This is a good warm-up ride. The biggest factor is always wind, because the trail is mostly flat. Note that the ride includes brand new smooth greenbelt through Marianne Williams Park. Big improvement!

2. Cartwright - Three Summits Loop aka "the dump" loop - 17.7 miles. Travel time: 1:15 - 1:30. Strenuous. Start at the junction of Hill Road and Bogus Basin Road. Go north on Bogus Basin to Cartwright. Turn left and climb to the first, short summit. The second summit is much harder ... it's like a fricking vertical WALL. Fly downhill from that summit, bear right on Cartwright, and cruise through the Dry Creek Valley before conquering the last summit on Seaman's Gulch Road. Turn left on Hill, and return to the start.
Lake Lowell Loop 
3. Lake Lowell Loop, Nampa - 26 miles. Travel time: 1.5-2 hours. Easy to moderate, depending on the wind speed. Vertical gain is 381 feet. Start/finish at the Lake Lowell boat ramp. I suggest doing the ride in a clockwise direction, but either way works. You'll jig-jog on several streets going around the east side of the lake, and then when you turn onto Lakeshore Drive, you'll ride through the most scenic section next to the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge.

4. Ride to Swan Falls, Kuna - 42 miles. Travel time: 3+ hours. Vertical gain: 1,710 feet. Strenuous. I love this ride, even though it can be painful at times in big winds. Start/finish at the Kuna Visitors Center as you drive into town. Go south on Swan Falls Road and ride the waves of sagebrush fields out to the Snake River rim (take a break if you wish at the BLM interpretive site) or drop down to Swan Falls Dam. Bring a lunch and plenty of water. Climb up that steep heinous grade and crank it back to Kuna.

5. Snake River Canyon Scenic Loop - 41 miles. Travel time: 2.5 hours. Vertical gain: 1,000 feet. Start/finish at Walters Ferry. Ride ID 45 to Map Rock Road, go left and ride along the Snake River. Hopefully the wind isn't that bad (go early to avoid heavy afternoon winds). Ride west to Marsing. You'll jig-jog to Chicken Dinner Road and pull into Marsing. Cross the Snake River and then take ID 78 on the south side of the river back to Walters Ferry. You should have a tailwind for this part of the ride, assuming the wind is from the west.

There you have it! These are all great springtime rides to get those legs in shape for bigger rides coming up!

The Boise Road Cycling Guide is available at most bike shops in the valley. It's also available via my web site, It features over 30 road rides in the Boise Valley for all abilities. It's a full-color tear-proof, waterproof fold-out map made out of organic paper. Cost is $12.50.
- SS

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Weekend forecast looks crummy; take a chance on snow or don the rain gear and hike

It's going to be a warm, soggy weekend. 
Hi all,

Well, the weather forecast is looking ridiculously warm for early February here in the valley. The high is supposed to hit 60 degrees F in Boise on Saturday, so if you want to play in the snow, you need to head north to Brundage or Tamarack and hope for the best and enjoy the last weekend of the Winter Carnival. Looks like it's going to be rainy and marginal at Bogus this weekend, so I wouldn't go there unless you are a glutton for punishment.

Below, I'll recommend two hikes close to home that would be doable in the rain. There's no bad weather, just bad gear, right? :)

The judges will be awarding prizes for the snow sculptures in the Winter Carnival, there is an ice show at the Manchester Ice and Event Centre on Friday and Saturday night, there will be fireworks and closing ceremonies on Saturday night, and a number of other activities such as the beer garden, live music, entertainment and more are happening this weekend.

The weather forecast for Brundage looks pretty wild on Friday and Saturday with lots of new wet snow in the forecast, plus high winds. Ditto for Tamarack. The Summit lift should be above the rain.

Cross-country enthusiasts may be heading over to Sun Valley for the Nordic Festival. The Boulder Mountain Tour is set for Saturday.

With all of the rain forecast for Boise, I'd recommend two hikes next to the Boise River that feature walking on gravel trails. I'd still wear your best muck boots to be on the safe side. And don't forget your rain gear! (Please stay off the foothills trails).

1. Hike a 4-mile loop through 72-acre Marianne Williams Park on the north side of the river from Bown Crossing and then cross the Eckert Road bridge and hike back along the south side of the river on the nature trail from Barber Park to Bown Crossing. And then find an eatery of your choice in Bown Crossing for a hot drink and a meal and get out of the rain!  

GPS map from the loop.
Here's a YouTube video I took several years ago featuring Marianne Williams Park.

2. Take a 5-mile hike on the north or south side of the Eagle Greenbelt. Check to see if the new pedestrian bridge is under construction near the Riverside Village area. Construction is supposed to start on Friday, according to Garden City officials. If you do the whole loop on both sides of the river, that'd be a 10-mile loop. You could hike it or bike it. Head for the Eagle Bardenay after your outing and enjoy some great food and drink!

Eagle Greenbelt Loop. You can start near Eagle Road or Glenwood. 
Have fun and stay dry!
- SS