Thursday, January 27, 2011

Try the new Rideshare to Bogus car-pool program - cool prizes await top car-poolers

Hi all,

On behalf of Valley Regional Transit, we launched a new car-pooling program to Bogus Basin on Thursday. It's called Rideshare to Bogus.

I thought I'd devote my outdoor blog to this topic this week to help spread the word ... because getting on the bandwagon of this car-pooling program is a good thing for you, a good thing for the Boise community, and a good thing for the environment.

Why car-pool? Parking at Bogus can be challenging, and traffic on Bogus Basin Road is often congested, so it's always a good thing to car-pool . Plus, car-pooling reduces our carbon footprint, decreases air pollution, reduces wear and tear on vehicles left in the garage, and ultimately, it'll save you money!

How does the program work? We've set up three options to make it easier for skiers, riders and xc skiers to find people to car-pool with.

1. Sign up to car-pool on the new Rideshare to Bogus web site. This is a super-cool site that's patterned after the Rideshare program for Lake Tahoe-area ski resorts. Search for people to car-pool with by age, gender, skier type (alpine skier, snowboarder, Nordic, "tele" skier, etc.), ability levels, smoking preference and more. Once you sign up for a ride on a certain date at a certain time, you'll receive emails from people offering rides on the same date and time. Pick a place to meet and go.

2. Become a fan of the Rideshare to Bogus Facebook page and offer rides or request rides on the page. Facebook profiles help discover more about people you might be riding with.

3. . Join the Rideshare to Bogus Yahoo group and offer or request rides to Bogus. Watch for fellow Yahoo users whom you may already know from other Yahoo groups.

OK, car-pooling sounds kind of fun, and of course, many people have been doing it for years.

But to really get you excited about it, we have created some incentives in the form of really sweet prizes. Car-poolers who log the most car-pooling activity in late January and February will win a GoPro HD Hero video camera ($300 retail value). In March, the winner will receive a BCA Tracker avalanche beacon ($299 retail value). Thanks to our local ski and snowboard shops for supporting the program.

There's no catch. You just have to document your car-pooling trips with our scorecard, and submit the scorecard at the end of February to be eligible for prizes. Hey, why not?

Sorry to say, we tried to get preferential parking for super car-poolers, but that didn't work. Bogus Basin officials noted that they don't have enough parking marshalls to enforce preferential parking spaces. They've tried it before.

We also tried to line up a park and ride lot at the base of Bogus Basin Road, but that didn't work out either. So when you line up a ride, pick a place to park that works for all concerned. ValleyRide does have park and ride lots throughout the Treasure Valley that can be used anytime. And Bogus Basin has a park and ride lot at 11th and Bannock downtown Boise (open on weekends only).

So there you have it. Riders should bring some gas money to contribute. Print out the scorecard, put it on a clipboard in your vehicle, and document your trips. Seize the day.

Who knows? You might even meet some new friends to ski or ride or cross-country ski with, or maybe meet someone you'd like to date.

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Find plenty of virgin powder, solitude at Tamarack Resort in Central Idaho near McCall

The only ski tracks I saw that day were my own ...

Hi all,

I went back to Tamarack Resort for the first time in a couple of years on Saturday. It was a busy day ... the upper parking lot was full, and it was hard to find an open table in the Canoe Grill during lunchtime. But even so, it was amazingly easy to find big fields of virgin powder in all of my favorite off-trail locations. In my view, that's a big reason to go there.

Here's a short video that I put together on Saturday.

As most people know by now, the Tamarack homeowners banded together to raise enough funds for the bankrupt resort to operate this winter. Tamarack is open Thursday - Sunday and most holidays. Operating hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Because Tamarack is closed Monday-Wednesday each week, that means there is great potential for any new snow to pile up until skiers and snowboarders show up on Thursday to shred it. And generally, there aren't enough skiers around on Thursday to actually consume the powder, compared to how quickly powder gets shredded at Bogus Basin or Brundage (usually in the space of 1.5 hours it's carved up).

So see what you can do about arranging a trip to Tamarack on a Thursday and enjoy the solitude and big fields of unskied powder. Yeah, baby!

Tamarack also offers discounts as an incentive for people to visit. Every Thursday and Friday, you can buy one lift ticket at the regular price, and get a second one for your family or friend at half price. Full price for a lift ticket is $46/day, so your second ticket would cost $23. Tamarack's lift price compares to $48 at Bogus and $55 at Brundage.

The only downsides are that the Wildwood ski lift is closed, so you can't ski that chair unless you brought your climbing skins, and Tamarack is not providing day care services for young children.

If you like skiing powder and off-trail stuff, be sure to check out the off-trail skiing on the south and north sides of the Tamarack Summit. Something I learned while working at Tamarack is that some of the best skiing is out of bounds. There are several open glades to the south of the resort and Lone Tree Mountain, a 20-minute walk to the south, offers a ton powder skiing on the northeast side of the mountain. Here's a video from that area.

Remember: You'll need climbing skins, an avalanche beacon, avalanche probe and shovel if you venture into the backcountry.

To the north of the Tamarack boundary off the summit, you can drop into Wildwood Bowl, a nice and steep powder shot that leads into the old Wildwood chairlift area. Count on some time hoofing back to the resort area from there, but on a good powder day, it might be worth it.

Another benefit of skiing at Tamarack is they have the Summit Chair, which services the top 1,000 vertical feet of the mountain. That means if temperatures are warm in the lower part of the mountain, or if it's raining down low -- as it was everywhere last weekend -- it's going to be snowing up high. So you can ski the upper third of the mountain and stay out of the rain. That can be a big plus.

The other thing I enjoy about Tamarack is the long top-to-bottom runs with 2,800 feet of vertical drop. You can take off from the top and ski Bliss or Serenity top to bottom. I especially enjoy skiing on Bliss, which was cut fairly narrow in width, and it has clumps of trees that you can slalom around on your way down the hill. Again, because of the lack of crowds, you can really cruise those runs at high speed and see if you can make it top to bottom non-stop.

While you're in the 'hood, consider visiting Gold Fork Hot Springs near Donnelly to soothe your ski legs, and check out one of several cool eateries in McCall, such as the Salmon River Brewery, the new Sushi Bar, or Wraptor, a healthy lunch alternative with soups, wraps and great cookies. West Mountain Gear & Grind is a great place to stop for coffee in Donnelly, and they have recreation gear and tune-up equipment in the shop as well.

Have fun!

- SS

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

W. Idaho Fly Fishing Expo offers great opportunity to learn about fly fishing

Wendy catches a native cutthroat

The stuff you need (courtesy A.B. Herndon Rod Co.)

Nice brown trout (courtesy My Fly Fishing Blog)

Look at the angler's concentration ... gotta keep an eye on the fly ...

Fly fishing on the Middle Fork of the Salmon (courtesy Visit Idaho)

Hi all,

The Boise Valley Fly Fishermen are hosting the Western Idaho Fly Fishing Expo this weekend at the fairgrounds, and the program is geared toward teaching newbies about fly fishing. There are plenty of things going on that are of interest to the experienced angler as well.

I'd really encourage anyone who wants to get into the sport of fly fishing to attend the two-hour intro session on Friday afternoon, starting at 3:30 p.m., or the Ladies session beginning at noon on Saturday. More on that in a moment.

I've been fly fishing since the mid-1980s, and I love it. I'm not a die-hard angler, but I love to fly fish when I'm floating many of Idaho's wonderful trout streams such as the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, or the South Fork of the Snake River. I also like to wade fish in the Boise River or wade fish when I'm camping on the Middle Fork of the Boise River. Fly fishing can be a great way to catch trout at high mountain lakes as well.

There's something poetic about the sport of fly fishing. Watch video. It's incredibly relaxing to just hang out in the river, cast your line, listen to the sweet sound of your fly line peeling out of the reel and whizzing by your ear, and enjoy the natural environment around you. The sport requires a fair bit of concentration, so it's easy to forget about work or extraneous issues that may be causing stress in your life.

Susan Bernatas, a member of the Boise Valley Fly Fishermen who organized the Ladies program this year, agrees. "I love being on the river, watching the colors on the water, and the meditation of casting and just being out there on the water," she says.

The other benefit is that sometimes, it's easier to catch fish on a fly than using a lure or even a worm (don't mention worm fishing to a serious fly fisher :) ). Dry flies and sub-surface nymphs are replicas of real flies and nymphs. These are the food sources that fish eat to survive. When a big insect hatch occurs on a river or a high mountain lake, the fish come to the surface to feed, and it's really exciting to cast a dry fly on the water and wait for a nice fish to come up and take it.

In many cases, because our trout rivers and lakes are so clean and pure, you can actually see the fish rise from below to take your fly, and then you set the hook and watch the fish jump and dive into deep water while you patiently play it and bring it to your net.

"That's definitely a magical moment when you can see the fish come up to take the fly," Bernatas says.

Fly fishing with a single barbless hook is also a very humane way to fish because it's easy to remove the hook and release the fish back into the water. Some rivers in Idaho allow only single barbless hooks as a method of take to preserve the fishery.

Attending the clinics at the Fly Fishing Expo will teach you the basics about what equipment you'll need, tips on fly casting, what kinds of flies and nymphs to use, and during the Ladies session, there even will be a fashion show. Gotta look the part! Please pre-register if you'd like to attend the Ladies program by emailing Susan at

There are no costs to attend the clinics - just pay the nominal entrance fee of $3 per person, or $5 for two.

A large casting pond will be created for the show. Free casting clinics will allow people to get a feeling for fly casting, and you can learn a lot by watching the pros, too. But practice makes perfect ... well, sort of, depending on the wind :)
The expo will be a great opportunity for newbies to learn from the pros. Remember, it costs more than $100 for a fly fishing lesson. Check out the event and see if fly fishing is for you.
Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Lots of fun stuff planned for free cross-country ski day in Idaho on Saturday, Jan. 8

Climbing to Stargaze Yurt. All photos by Cindee Goes

Views from the new Stargaze Yurt near Idaho City


Breaking trail can be tough!

Hi all,

Every year, I have to promote free cross-country ski day because it's FREE!

Alpine and Nordic skiing have gotten so darn expensive in so many ways, so you have to capitalize on the times when trail and parking fees have been waived, and it's FREE! OK, you might need to rent some equipment, if you don't have your own, but otherwise, it's FREE! In McCall, they're even providing FREE rental equipment at Ponderosa State Park (see below).

The Idaho Department of Parks & Recreation is offering all kinds of goodies on Saturday at its state parks and Park n' Ski Areas. At the Idaho City Park n' Ski area, you can sign up for an intermediate or advanced snowshoe tour, or ski or snowshoe into the new Stargaze Yurt (1.3 miles one-way) near the Beaver Creek Summit parking area, or walk into the Whispering Pines Yurt (2 miles one-way) near the Gold Fork parking area and attend an "open house." The yurts will be warm, and you can see how the yurts are set up, how many bunks they have, etc., and what you'll need to bring when you rent one. You might need to bring your own Schnapps :).

If you like to snowshoe, consider signing up for an intermediate snowshoe clinic/tour with Owen Jones, or an advanced snowshoe clinic/tour with Leo Hennessy. Both of those guys are experienced off-trail snowshoers, so they have the skills, and they'll put you through some fun paces ... like creek-crossings, jumping off rocks, 360's or something silly like that.

Leo told me that he's going to lead a 5-mile tour from Beaver Creek Summit parking area, hike over to the Stargaze Yurt to show folks the newest yurt in the fleet, and then hike over the mountains to the Gold Fork trail system, stop in the Whispering Pines Yurt to get warm, and drop out at the Gold Fork parking lot. Sounds like a fun tour!

To sign up for either the intermediate or advanced clinic, contact Judy Ditto at IDPR at or call 208-334-4199. Participants will meet at Discovery Park near Lucky Peak at 9 a.m. to car pool to the ski trails. The beginner clinics are already full. Sorry about that!

Note that all of the Idaho City Park n' Ski trails are open to dogs this year except for the groomed trails leading to Banner Ridge. So if like to take your puppy snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, this is a great opportunity. Please pick up after your pets on the trail. If you are signing up for a clinic, however, no dogs are allowed.

At Ponderosa State Park in McCall, one of the most beautiful places to ski or snowshoe anywhere in the Rockies (see my video), IDPR is partnering with local sporting goods stores and others to provide FREE demo equipment and FREE lessons! This is the place to be for people who don't have their own gear. Gravity Sports and Home Town Sports are providing the gear, and the McCall Nordic Ski Team and McCall Parks & Recreation officials are teaching the lessons. Both skate skiing lessons and traditional cross-country skiing techniques will be offered. Great chance to learn!

If you're in the 'hood near Cascade, IDPR is going to provide hot chili, corn bread and hot drinks at the Van Wyck park unit over by the boat ramp in Cascade (turn left at Howdy's). There is a short cross-country ski trail (one-half mile) that you can sample by the lakeshore, and the Crown Point Trail is nearby (5.5 miles round-trip). The Crown Point Trail is a gorgeous and easy (it's essential tabletop flat) trail that tours the eastern shore of Lake Cascade. You might see some bald eagles flying around and other wildlife.

I'm going to be in Idaho Falls this weekend at my son's hockey tournament, so I'm hoping to get enough time to head up to Harriman State Park to do some skate skiing. IDPR is offering free lessons at Harriman for those of you who might be in the 'hood. Harriman is similar to Ponderosa in offering world-class scenery and first-rate ski and snowshoe trails. On a clear day, the Tetons are easily in view, always a beautiful sight to behold, and the steam rises from the Henrys Fork, where you might see swans in the river. Moose often are wandering around as well.

Don't miss this chance to have a great day on Saturday for almost no cost!

Remember to dress in layers, bring plenty of food and water with you in your pack, and carry an avalanche beacon, probe poles and shovel if you're planning on traveling into avalanche zones.

Have fun!

For more outdoor tips, go to Steve talks about his outdoor tips each week on 94.9 FM The River at approximately 7:10 a.m. on Fridays.