Thursday, December 22, 2016

10 bomb-proof ideas - Christmas gifts for the outdoorsy him and her

Hi Ho Hi Ho -

Christmas is coming in a few days, so it's time for my annual last-minute Christmas gift ideas for the outdoorsy him and her. I'm calling this a list of 10 "bomb-proof" ideas because you can't go wrong with these gift ideas! They're proven to please!

We've got a true white Christmas this year not only in Boise but especially in the mountains all around us, so your friends and family will need to be properly outfitted for cold weather and playing in the snow!

Remember to support your local family-owned outdoor shops, too! All of these items can be purchased locally.

Here we go:

  1. 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.  
2. 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 the hardware store.
3. 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. 
4. 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. 

5. Lift tickets, tubing tickets - Surprise your friends or loved ones with a free lift ticket or a date to go tubing at Bogus or the Activity Barn in McCall. Lift tickets everywhere are getting more expensive, especially at destination resorts, so it's a much-appreciated gift. Tubing costs $15 at either location ($18 at the Activity Barn on holidays). At Bogus, the tubing hill requires advance reservations so you really have to plan ahead. Smart thing to do at this time of year. 

Wendy at our cozy cabin in McCall. 
6. 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. See my latest yurt roundup story in the Statesman for where to go and how to make reservations. 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

7. 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. 

8. Bike light or bike lock - Help your sweetheart get properly geared up for bike commuting. It gets dark so early that bike lights are often needed for a safe and legal ride home after work. You can find a variety of bike lights at a reasonable price. You can find blinking red rear lights for less than $10. The front lights are more expensive. Get a bright one for a better ride and visibility. Bike lights are one item where the cost keeps coming down and the performance keeps getting better. I thought this Electra LED model looked pretty cool ... $29.95 retail. 

9. 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. 

Gold Fork with Quinn and Drew
10. Book a trip to the Springs in Idaho City or Gold Fork Hot Springs near Donnelly - The Springs is much more upscale, with massage serves available, pool-side cocktails and food, and even overnight accommodations. Still, it costs only $16 to go soaking at the Springs. Go there after a day or xc skiing or snowshoeing. Advance reservations are required. Gold Fork Hot Springs is open six days a week except Tuesdays, and you can just show up and soak. The road into Gold Fork can be icy so take a good snow-worthy vehicle when you go. It costs $8 for adults and $6 for children to soak at Gold Fork. Always a good time!

*Bonus item: An outdoor guidebook from Stueby! Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home, Owyhee Canyonlands: An Outdoor Adventure Guide, Boise Road Cycling Guide, the only road biking map available for the Boise Valley, Paddling the Payette, guide to 24 day trips on the Payette River, are all available on my web site and at most outdoor stores in the valley. My most popular guide, Boise Trail Guide, is discounted just for Christmas at $15.95. Let me know if you want to meet up and get a book signed! 

Hope everyone has a great Christmas and New Years holiday season!
- SS

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Here comes the snow! Yee-haw! Where to go downhill skiing, xc skiing and snowshoeing

Big storm coming our way today and thru the weekend (courtesy NOAA) 
Brundage forecast today and tomorrow Winter Weather Advisory Woo-Hoo! 
Targhee has gotten a ton of snow in the last week ... 
Pomerelle Mountain Resort near Declo is opening on Friday
Anthony Lakes is looking good! They open Friday to season pass holders,
and on Saturday for the general public. 
Hi all,

I was watching the weather on the 10 p.m. news last night, and I heard Scott Dorval with KIVI-TV say that we should get 1-3 feet of snow in Idaho's Central Mountains in the next week! That put a smile on my face, I'll tell you what! It's been a bit of a slow start to the ski season, but now things are catching up! Bring it on!

Here's the latest information as of Thursday, Dec. 8th on ski area openings and conditions:

First, here are the resorts that are open now or plan to open this weekend:
  • Sun Valley is open for top-to-bottom skiing on man-made and natural snow. Tickets are cheaper now than they will be all season. 16-inch base at the top and bottom with snow coming down as we speak. 
  • Pomerelle Mountain Resort near Albion is opening Friday and will continue operations Saturday-Sunday with at least 80 percent of their terrain open for skiing and riding. Reporting a 12-inch base at the bottom and 16 inches at the top, with more snow coming today, tonight and tomorrow. 
  • Anthony Lakes near Baker, OR, is opening Friday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for season pass holders and then it opens Saturday and Sunday for the general public. Reporting a 30-inch base. 
  • Bogus Basin is opening Deer Point Chair and Showcase slopes Saturday, plus the beginner chair. They will open more terrain as new snow allows. Reporting a 21-inch base, and it's snowing as we speak. 
  • Brundage Mountain is opening it's beginning hill, Easy Street, and the Bear Chair on Saturday, and may open up more terrain as new snow allows. Lots of backcountry skiers have been climbing Brundage to ski fresh *pow* while they wait for the Bluebird and Engen lifts to open the rest of the mountain. Reporting 13 inch base at the bottom and 16 inches on top, with lots of snow on the way. 
  • Gateway Parks in Eagle Island State Park opens on Friday. They've got plenty of snow and lots of park features for folks to enjoy. 
  • Grand Targhee opened last week, and they've been getting a ton of snow ever since. "Over 5 feet in 7 days," is the headline on the front page of their web site. If you've got it, you might as well flaunt it! Reporting a 60-inch base. 
Gateway parks at Eagle Island State Park opens tomorrow. 
Boise is supposed to get several inches of snow today, so I'm sure people will be out playing in the snow locally. Snow biking on foothills trails will be excellent until it warms up and starts raining tomorrow. 

Dog owners will be pleased to know that Ann Morrison Park and Esther Simplot Park are official off-leash areas for the winter months. See the off-leash dog areas on the Boise Parks & Recreation web site for more locations. 

You could go snowshoeing at Bogus Basin, Idaho City Park n' Ski Areas,
Ponderosa State Park or Bear Basin in McCall 
As for Nordic skiing and snowshoeing: 
  • Bogus Basin is opening the Nordic highway on Saturday, and Sappers and other Nordic trails will be groomed for xc skiing. Stay tuned on snow bike trails. It may take a little more time to get those ready to roll. 
  • Idaho City Park n' Ski area parking lots were plowed in the past week, so you could go xc skiing or snowshoeing in the Park n' Ski areas. The trails to Banner Ridge and Stargaze are best-marked, according to Idaho Parks and Recreation officials. As previously reported, none of the xc ski trails will be groomed this year because of the Pioneer Fire. 
  • Pondersosa State Park in McCall has rolled a few of their trails including the dog loop and other trails near the trailhead. Park officials report they need another 9 inches of snow to run their groomer and open all of the terrain. But people are out xc skiing and snowshoeing today. 
  • Bear Basin trails near McCall are open and signs are going up to prepare for the weekend. They're reporting an 8 inch base prior to the storms coming today, tomorrow and this weekend. 
  • For people who like to go tubing, the Activity Barn in McCall will be opening on Friday, Nov. 9 in McCall. They'll have one tubing lane open on Friday, and more will open as snow permits. 
Enjoy this early Christmas gift of wonderful snow snow snow! Have fun!
- SS 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Where to play in the snow? Sun Valley is ready to roll, plus more ideas for the weekend

Carve the groomers at Sun Valley! Available now! 
Hi all,

We're starting to get just enough snow to go play in the mountains, but it's still not enough for most of the ski areas to open quite yet. Sun Valley is the exception with its world-class computerized snowmaking system. They opened top-to-bottom skiing yesterday -- that's 3,400 vertical feet of downhill skiing on man-made groomers to get your legs in shape. How about it?

If this sounds interesting, check out Sun Valley's lodging and specials page. I saw that they're offering a 25 percent discount on lodging and lift tickets between now and Dec. 15. I also saw that you can save 20 percent on lift tickets if you purchase them 7 days in advance ... that's $71 instead off an early-season rack rate of $89/day. Over the Christmas season, lift fees will be $133 without discount. Wow! Get there early and enjoy the discounts! Stay at the Sun Valley Lodge and soak up the history.

Before I go into more recommendations for the weekend, I wanted to recommend stopping by Idaho Mountain Touring in downtown Boise this evening (Thursday, Dec. 1) for their 32nd annual anniversary party, featuring the crew of Wide Eye Productions and Tim Woodward who will sign copies of "Idaho the Movie 2;" Kevin Everett, who will be signing copies of a new running guide; and I'll be there selling Boise Trail Guides at a Christmas-season discount price of $15.95, 20% off the normal price. The event runs from 5:30 to 8 p.m. with free beer and snacks. Conservation groups will be there this evening as well.

Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking & Running Routes Close to Home, features tons of trails close to Boise, the Owyhee Canyonlands, and Boise National Forest. It'll keep you busy for several years of hiking, with a huge selection of easy, moderate, strenuous and epic hiking/running adventures. See you there.

Back to alpine skiing, Bogus Basin (9 inches at the base) and Brundage Mountain (20 inches at the summit; 12 inches at the base) are hoping for more storms before they can open. Hopefully we get hit hard this weekend. Bogus is making snow to accelerate the opening. Tamarack Resort (18 inches at the top) reported that they're opening their bunny hill this weekend, operating Saturday and Sunday. They also have snow-making machines.

While we wait for more snow, you might want to go find your own adventure in the mountains:

  • Toss your snow boots, snowshoes or xc skis in the car, go up to the snow in the Boise, Payette or Sawtooth National Forest (above 5,000 feet) and go boot-hiking, snowshoeing or xc skiing, depending on depth of snow.  
  • I saw a lot of people goofing around on 6 inches of snow on the way to Bogus in the last week ... some were sledding, others snowboarding and skiing. 
    Fat biking on Deer Pt. Service Road 
  • Go fat biking in the snow. I'd recommend the Deer Point Service Road on the way to Bogus, the Boise Ridge Road, Middle Fork Payette River Road, forest roads around Idaho City, and areas outside the fire-closure area between Idaho City and Lowman. Even the Eastside Trail might work between Bogus and the trailhead on a fat bike. Other areas around Tamarack or Brundage would work, too. Jug Mountain Ranch has the best fat biking trails in Valley County but I'm not sure if they have enough snow yet. 
  • Go hiking/biking/running on Boise Foothills trails. There was almost a traffic jam in Military Reserve today. Everyone seemed to have the same idea to get out for a lunchtime run, bike ride or hike on the dirt. The low- and mid-level trails in the foothills are clear of snow. Dress in layers for cold weather. 
    Check out the deep pow at Targhee! Pic taken today. (courtesy Grand Targhee)
  • Make your reservations to ski/ride Grand Targhee. They opened today with a 55 inch base at the summit. Look at how much powder they had today! Oh baby! 
  • Bruneau Dunes State Park would be a great place to hike around on a weekend like this when it's cool. 
  • I saw a nice outdoor feature story on staying at rental cabins at Three Island State Park in the Twin Falls Times-News. Check it out! 
  • I also saw a great summary of Soldier Mountain's new offerings in the winter of 2016-17 under new ownership. They're having a season pass party tomorrow night. Check it out!
I also wanted to mention a first-time event happening in mid-December at Brundage Mountain ... it's a world-class mountaineering event called the “Northwest Passage Ski Mountaineering Race,” co-sponsored by the McCall Winter Sports Club and the United States Ski Mountaineering Association on Dec. 16-17. 

On Friday, Dec. 16, racers will compete in a 520-meter "vertical race," starting at 4:00 pm at the base of Brundage's 45th Parallel ski run and finishes at the top of Engen. This event is open to local skiers and elite racers.  

On Saturday, Dec. 17, elite racers will tackle a 12.9-mile uphill/downhill course that includes six climbs covering a total of 6400 vertical feet. Recreational racers will compete in a 7.3-mile route with four climbs and 3860 feet of elevation gain. Both courses begin at the base of Brundage Mountain with an uphill climb to the Lakeview Bowl area, which will be the site of the first transition to downhill skiing. From there, competitors will climb back out of the Lakeview area, and leave the ski area boundary en route to the summit of Sargents Mountain. There, racers will complete additional climbs and descents in the Sargents bowl before finishing at the base of Hidden Valley.
If you'd like to sign up for the Northwest Passage Ski Mountaineering Race, go to the Brundage web site.  Volunteers are needed to help with the race as well. Contact Jim Pace if you'd like to volunteer at
Have fun!
- SS