Friday, January 17, 2020

Ride a snowmobile to Burgdorf Hot Springs! Iconic Idaho winter trip!

Hi all,

My outdoor tip of the week is about our snowmobile trip to Burgdorf Hot Springs!

See my detailed write up in the Idaho Press ...

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Try Ann Morrison Park for winter dog walk close to home

Room to Roam! Huck is a speck off the distance in the middle of Ann Morrison Park.
Huck goes after the ducks and geese
Hi all,

As Boise grows, it seems we've been losing access to some places where you could let your dog run free, off-leash, places where you could throw balls for your dog, or just let them run around and burn off some energy.

But the new Together Treasure Valley Dog Island Park, a 5.4-acre dog-friendly park inside the huge 153-acre Ann Morrison Park, create two excellent destinations for exercising your dog in the winter in Boise.

Ann Morrison Park (courtesy Boise Parks & Recreation) Dog Island Park is in the SW corner.
The ability to walk anywhere in the park with your dog roaming around along the tree rows and creeks in Ann Morrison is a real treat. It's a super-pleasant, quiet place to walk, while your pups get their exercise. On Thursday morning, we walked around the park in our snow boots, with a few inches of fresh snow on the ground.   

I've personally found that the Dog Island Park can get pretty packed with dogs and people at times, so having the option of roaming the whole expanse of Ann Morrison Park is a real value-added experience.  

Dog Island Park is fenced but still pretty spacious.
The larger park is open to dogs off-leash from Nov. 1 - Feb. 28 in hopes of scattering Canada geese, in particular, and cutting down on goose poop. Make sure your pooch has a current city dog license.

Dog Island Park has a off-leash areas, "shy dog" fenced-off areas, ponds and oodles of extra tennis balls that people have left behind on the lawns or in the ponds. I thought that was kind of funny to see so many tennis balls lying around.

See a Boise Parks and Recreation listing of other off-leash parks, where you can take your dog. Please remember to pick up after your pets!

BTW ... it's going to be a stellar powder weekend on the slopes wherever you might be heading. Big powder dump coming Friday/Saturday/Sunday! Yay!

- SS

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Idaho Free Cross-County Ski Day is Saturday, plus update on Nordic conditions everywhere!

It's Free Cross-country Ski Day in Idaho on Saturday, Jan. 4! Free hot drinks at the Stargaze yurt! That's the mighty Quinn!
Hi all,

For those of us who pay close attention to snow conditions, snowfall, ski conditions, etc., it's been a bit of a slow start to winter in Southwest Idaho and most of the state for that matter. The series of storms we've had in the last few weeks, however, especially the big storm we had on New Year's Eve/New Year's Day, has put the mountains in pretty good shape for full-on winter recreation.

Wendy and I went up to Mores Creek Summit on New Years Day, as alas, we were not in McCall, where the really big powder dump occurred. There was a good 8-10 inches of new snow on the grade heading up Sunset Mountain, and it was pretty thick snow with high moisture content. Not the best for making turns, but it's the kind of base-making layer we need EVERYWHERE!

Let's hope we get some more big dumps soon! There's a small system that will bring a few inches of new snow to the SW Idaho mountains on Saturday, but we need more! Keep track on Idaho OpenSnow

In the meantime, here's an update on Nordic trail conditions and events coming up: 
  • The annual Idaho Parks and Recreation Ski Free Day is happening on Saturday, Jan. 4, statewide. In the Idaho City Park and Ski Areas, you can attend an open house at the Stargaze yurt from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Stargaze is accessible to snowshoers and backcountry skiers from Beaver Creek Summit on Idaho Highway 21 between Idaho City and Lowman. Park in the pullout, hike 1.2 miles to the yurt, and learn about the Idaho Park and Ski Trail System from Tom Helmer, IDPR non-motorized trail coordinator. He'll be serving free hot chocolate, coffee and tea. Tom replaced Leo Hennessy in the last year.
  • DeEtta Peterson, IDPR yurt coordinator, will lead a 1.76-mile snowshoe hike from the Banner Ridge Park and Ski parking lot, beginning at 10 a.m. She'll be leading several groups through 2 p.m. The Banner Ridge trailhead accesses the Banner Ridge and Elkhorn yurts, plus snowshoe and ski trails. DeEtta is super knowledgeable about all of the yurts and park and ski trails as well.
  • To check on the latest snow and grooming conditions at the Idaho City Park and Ski Trails, call 208-514-2423. The latest recording I heard as of Dec. 30 indicated that there was a 26-inch base (prior to the New Year's storm event), so it's well over 30 inches now. Much-improved coverage! The trails are groomed weekly.  
  • Ponderosa State Park will be offering free lessons and free equipment in McCall from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Gravity Sports and Hometown Sports have a great selection of gear to try out.  McCall Master Naturalists will offer free snowshoe instruction and guided tours. McCall Master Naturalists, St Luke’s McCall and Albertson’s will provide hot drinks and snacks. Hopefully, Scout the Fox will be visiting, too. 
  • Race for the Diamonds at Ponderosa Park on Saturday - This sounds really fun! Registration at 5 p.m. Two-person relay teams are picked at random. Each skier races a 3K course. The winning team gets a $150 gift certificate from McCall Jewelry! Plus there is a 1K and 3K race for kids.
  • Tamarack Resort has opened its Nordic Trails - About 15K's are groomed. Some of Tamarack's Nordic Trails are open to snow-biking as well. 
  • All of the trails in Bear Basin, Jug Mountain Ranch (snow-biking, too) and the North Valley Trail (snow-biking, too) are groomed and in great shape! See McCall Nordic for the latest grooming reports on all of the xc areas in Valley County. 
  • All of Bogus Basin's Nordic trails are open. See the grooming report here.  
  • See the Blaine County Winter Trailink for the latest conditions in the Wood River Valley. Almost all of the trails are open in the valley now. 
- SS

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

25 Christmas gift ideas for the outdoorsy him and her

See item #24! Snowmobile to Burgdorf Hot Springs with Brundage Mountain (Courtesy Visit Idaho).
Hi all,

It's that time of year when I make some last-minute recommendations on outdoorsy Christmas gifts for the outdoorsy him or her.

I checked with a few of the outdoor retailers to see what's popular this year ... particularly in the less-expensive gift category for stocking stuffers with Christmas coming soon! It's just a week away!

Here we go:

1. Hydroflasks and water bottles continue to be super popular ... at Idaho Mountain Touring and Idaho River Sports, they have a wide assortment of Hydroflask water bottles available, and at IRS, they have these cool, expandable light-weight Que bottles for $24.95. They're made out of silicone, so no plastic involved! Also might consider Yeti bottles and cups ... the best cooler-maker is branching out!  

2. How about a bicycle bell for the Greenbelt or the trails? IMT has these compact little bicycle bells for $20. Tell people you're "coming up" on the trail and "ring" the bell!


3. Socks - Can't really go wrong here, but you can liven things up a little with Blue Q socks Lots of color, designs and patterns, and messages. $11.99/pair. Another possibility? Smart Wool comfort made in the USA. Everyday Compression to support people standing on their feet, and it doesn't take 3 men and gorilla to put your socks on. 

4. Smart phone bicycle mount - OK nobody can part with their phone for even a brief bike ride, and nowadays, your smart phone might be tracking your ride. The handlebar mount for your phone runs about $25.
5. Cool outdoorsy ornaments - Can't go wrong here ... Do you know anyone who's bonkers about kayaking? IRS has some cool kayak ornaments

6. How about a sexy ski sweater or fleece pullover for your honey? There's a big variety to choose from in terms of a fleece-type sweater, or a cozy wool sweater, or other types of warm and cuddly sweaters for your sweetheart.

7. A warm, cozy Carhartt vest from D and B Supply, or a Patagonia down vest from Idaho Mountain TouringBoise REIGreenwoods Ski Haus or McU Sports.


8. Ski gloves - It's great 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 May Hardware in McCall or the local Maverick service station.

9. 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. You might be able to find a pair at the Boise Outdoor Gear Exchange.

10. Pop-up Luci lights  - Super popular for the tent or the deck. Solar-powered.

11. 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.

12. Cyclecomputer - A new cyclecomputer is a great gift idea for the avid cyclist of any kind. Cyclecomputers can be used on road bikes, cruisers, mountain bikes, you name it! IMT has a Bontrager model on sale for $55. It provides info. on speed, distance traveled and calories burned. Sometimes simplicity is all you need!

13. Fancy boots! Blundstone Australian boots are super hot right now, Sorelle-fashion boots that are functional and don’t look like hunting pack boots, and Olukai slip-ons boot/shoes

Women's Apt. 9® Herringbone Cadet Hat14. 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.

15. Patagonia trucker hats - Always a super popular item. Every age loves them -- men, women and kids.

16. Guidebooks! - Ha! Always a thoughtful item in the stocking or under the tree ... my guides are available online, of course, from Boise Trail Guide, Owyhee Canyonlands, Paddling the Payette (just updated for SUPers) and Boise Road Cycling Guide, plus my biography on the great champion for birds of prey Morley Nelson, Cool North Wind, in memory of all of his achievements related to the creation of the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area.

Wendy at our cozy cabin in McCall. 
17. 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. 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 InIdaho.com. 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 vrbo.com. You also could check on a Forest Service cabin rental through recreation.gov, or a state parks cabin at the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation

18. 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 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.

19. Saxx underwear, voted world's best underwear - I love the Duluth Trading underwear, too, but for men, the Saxx boxer briefs have an extra pocket in front to keep your package of family jewels in a compact, supportive place. 

20. Buck knife or Swiss Army knife - These items also have a way of disappearing. But especially guys appreciate having a knife handy for all sorts of things. A single-blade Buck knife is really sleek and cool, and the multi-tasking Swiss Army knives are always a hit. 

21. River Gear - Pick up some accessories or a new SUP, hard-shell kayak, inflatable kayak, canoe or raft at Idaho River Sports, Cascade River GearAIRE in Meridian,  or Boise Army-Navy.

22. Yaktrax has a wide variety of options for your hiking boots to provide traction on ice and snow. Items are priced from $20-$60. Great investment for safety and no dumb accidents going ass-over-tea kettle in a fricking parking lot or icy trail.

23. Do you have a hammock? IMT has a big assortment of Grand Trunk hammocks for individuals and couples. Individual hammocks are priced in the $55 range. That'd be a neat gift!

24. Book a trip for the family to go snowmobiling to Burgdorf Hot Springs with Brundage Resort. This is a super-fun adventure that's fun to do with family or friends. Ride on the biles 25 miles to the hot springs, soak as long as you want, have lunch, and come back. Ah, this is living! 

25. How about a long weekend at Sun Valley? Pick up a ski-and-stay package and stay at the Sun Valley Lodge, enjoy the spacious hot pool apres ski, and live like a king/queen in a casual luxury environment. Another possibility is a weekend getaway to Shore Lodge in McCall. They have excellent food, a hot pool, and you can go xc skiing, snowshoeing or downhill skiing nearby at Brundage Mountain or Tamarack. 

Merry Christmas to all!
- Steve Stuebner

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Big *pow* allows more alpine and xc ski areas open in Idaho

Bear Basin xc trails are groomed and open for the season in McCall. There's a free Demo Day on Saturday. 
Here's Drewby snowshoeing in Ponderosa State Park. The park is open to xc skiing and snowshoeing now.
Hi all,

A significant storm system has been dumping up to a foot of new snow in the Boise Mountains, West Central Mountains and Central Idaho mountains over the last couple of days. The new snow is welcome and much-needed to build more base for Idaho's ski areas. 

The new snow inspired Tamarack and Brundage Mountain to open (tomorrow) on Friday for the season, which is exciting for me as a second-home owner in McCall. Bogus Basin, Sun Valley
and Pomerelle are getting significant quantities of snow out of the storm cycle as well, so the alpine ski season is pretty much launched with most of the major ski areas open and operating before the Christmas holiday in Southern Idaho. Yay!

Watch for my posts on opensnow.com and my Facebook page for daily updates on snow storms heading our way and ski conditions.

The good news is that it's supposed to continue to snow hard tonight in the mountains, so we could get quite a bit more snow out of this storm cycle through the weekend. The chance of new snow tapers as we move toward Sunday.

I do have some news to share about cross-country and snowshoeing conditions in the McCall area and in Idaho City.

Cross-country skiing or snowshoeing will be doable in McCall this weekend, so I'm excited about that, too! Bear Basin, Ponderosa State Park and the Nordic trails by the Activity Barn and North Valley Trail have been rolled. Bear Basin trails, located a little higher in elevation above town, have been groomed once, and will be groomed again tomorrow.

Bear Basin is reporting a 13-inch base with 5 inches of new snow today. Bear Basin will be hosting a Demo Day on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with Gravity Sports and Hometown Sports of McCall providing free equipment to try out. No trail passes will be required either ... so Bear Basin is a good bet for Saturday!

The trails have been rolled at Ponderosa State Park, and they're open to xc skiing or snowshoeing, according to park officials. No boot hiking allowed.

See McCall Nordic for the latest grooming report

The Idaho City Park and Ski Areas likely will be groomed early next week, according to Idaho Parks and Recreation officials. The Park and Ski trails have been getting a big dose of new snow over the last couple of days, officials said, with about 2 feet of new snow in places. The new snow is wet and heavy -- perfect base-making snow. I saw the Mores Creek snotel site was showing 10 inches of new snow in the last 24 hours. Sweet!

I'm sure there will be some backcountry skiers and snowshoers checking out Sunset Mountain and Pilot Peak this weekend.


Nordic skiing and snowshoeing in the Wood River Valley keeps getting better, and more trails will open as snow permits around Galena Summit and in the valley. The Blaine County Winter Trailink provides a quick glimpse of what xc and snowshoeing trails are open so far and the latest grooming conditions.

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Hot tips on where to play in the snow this weekend in SW Idaho

Grand Targhee will be celebrating Global Fat Bike Day on Saturday with free 1-hour rentals. (Courtesy Grand Targhee)
Free demo day at Galena Lodge on Saturday. (Courtesy Galena Lodge)
Hi all,

My, it has been a DREARY week for those of us stuck in the valley! Wake up to freezing ground fog, and hope things burn off for a little sunshine in the afternoon. Pretty grim.

Hopefully, all of you have been doing your snow dancing, sending good vibes to the Snow God Ullr.

A solid storm system is headed our way Friday night-Sunday, which is expected to dump 4-6 inches in the mountains, hopefully even more! Here's my OpenSnow post with the details on weekend weather and ski area openings and re-openings this weekend.

It's note-worthy to mention that Sun Valley will be opening the Warm Springs side of Bald Mountain on Saturday with the Challenger lift, providing more than 3,000 thigh-burning verts top to bottom. Ditto with the River Run side of the mountain, Upper College and Lower College. Sun Valley is offering reduced lift ticket and lodging prices prior to the Christmas season. Be sure to take advantage of that!

Photo for #BarrelyanEvent snowboard event this year. (courtesy Bogus Basin) _
It's also pretty cool that Bogus Basin is providing top-to-bottom skiing with man-made snow on Chair #1 Deer Point, plus you have the Terrain Park, some Nordic ski trails are open and the tubing hill is open. There's a snowboard event happening on Saturday. Be sure to make advance reservations to go tubing. More terrain will open as we get more snow.

Tamarack and Brundage will be operating their beginner lifts this weekend, but that's all until we get more snow. Did I say we need more snow~!!!! Skiing/riding is free at Brundage BTW.

Cross-country skiers might want to travel to the Wood River Valley this weekend to ski some groomed trails around Galena Lodge and in the Wood River Trail System. Galena Lodge is hosting a demo day on Saturday to give you a chance to try out new skis, boots and pools for Free!


The Blaine County Winter Trailink provides a quick glimpse of what xc and snowshoeing trails are open so far. The Harriman Trail is apparently skiing really well, north of the Sawtooth NRA trailhead, and there are a number of trails open around Galena Lodge.

There isn't enough snow in McCall for xc ski grooming yet, so stay tuned on that.

Closer to Boise, watch the Ridge to Rivers Facebook page for the latest conditions. It's touch-and-go on most trails right now except on the all-weather trails, and if it rains this weekend in the valley (snow up high), the lower foothills trails will be muddy and gummy. Please stay off muddy trails.

Boot hiking? Family crew hiking Freddy's Stack Rock Trail over to Sweet Connie.
Book hiking is another possibility this weekend on the service road to Deer Point or perhaps the Eastside Trail or the new Freddy's Stack Rock trail above the snowline. We boot-hiked Freddy's on Thanksgiving Day. It had several inches of snow on a frozen surface ... perfect!

Road trip? In case you haven't heard, the skiing/riding in Utah is pretty darn good already! Wasatch Resorts are reporting summit bases in the 50-60 inch range. More snow is expected this weekend! The skiing/riding is decent at Grand Targhee, too, right now ... they're celebrating Global Snow Bike Day on Saturday, with 1-hour free rentals.  


Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Go enjoy the trails while mild weather persists ... Jug Mountain Ranch trails rocked our world!

All grins coming down Doe Joe Trail at Jug Mountain Ranch
Steve Schneider

Jim Giuffre, Wendy and Steve by JMR Reservoir
Hi all,

Well, it's looking as if we're getting a slow start on winter, even though we had a cool and wet September and October.

I checked the short- and long-term weather forecasts, and it appears that we'll have continued warmer-than-usual temperatures in the afternoons and below-normal precipitation for the next couple of weeks. In a long-range 2019-20 winter forecast, NOAA is predicting that most of the western United States will have a warmer-than-normal winter, but the Northwest region, including Idaho, has equal chances for normal precipitation, at least by December. That's the good news!




In the meantime, you might as well enjoy these sunny afternoons, and hit the trails while they're still in prime shape. At least in the Boise Foothills, the trails are dry and perfect for hiking, trail-running and mountain biking. Same goes for the Owyhee Canyonlands.

I went mountain biking at Jug Mountain Ranch last weekend near Lake Fork, and the trails there were in great shape still (slightly lower elevation than McCall), while the trails north of McCall above 5,500 feet were muddy, icy and snowy. Ponderosa State Park trails were mostly doable. And the North Valley Trail in McCall is still in perfect shape.

Courtesy Jug Mountain Ranch
At Jug Mountain Ranch, I rode South Elk-South Boundary Road to Berm & Ernie, and took Berm & Ernie down to the trailhead. That was a super fun loop, with a fun cruise through the timber on the South Elk singletrack trail, a fairly strenuous climb on the South Boundary Road up to the JMR Lookout, and then you lower your seat and cruise down Berm & Ernie. There are a number of rock drops along the way and spots to launch for big air. They rate that trail as a "blue" run or intermediate.

I also rode from the JMR trailhead up the main trail to JMR reservoir, crossed the dam, rode around the reservoir on Shoreline trail, which had a few patches of ice and snow on it, but otherwise, totally fun and doable. Then we climbed up to the JMR Lookout spot, and zoomed down Doe Joe, which is an endless series of switchbacks with bermed corners, but all smooth ... no rocks ... for a sweet ride.

JMR rates Doe Joe as a beginner trail, which seems a little off, but hey, if you're uncomfortable with riding bermed corners, there are other ways down the mountain, too. Doe Joe is a great addition to the JMR trail system, yet another reason to go there. 



Almost all of the trails at JMR are set up for an uphill shuttle service (provided during summer season). But if you don't mind grinding up the hill yourself, you can enjoy some great trails there before the snow comes. JMR officials caution to stay off any muddy trails if you encounter them. And then after winter comes, you can also snow bike at JMR on the xc trails, including some of the main access roads and trails you can ride now.

Highly recommend it!
- SS 

Bonus shot - big buck in Ponderosa State Park

Gorgeous evening on Payette Lake ... Wendy and Huck. Once the sun goes down, the temp drops like a rock.