Thursday, February 17, 2011

Banner Ridge yurt near Idaho City is a great location for skiing, snowshoeing, xc skiing

L-R, Steve, Wendy, Marianne and Norm

IDPR has excellent signs and trail markers at every junction

Getting ready to go at the trailhead next to ID 21

Banner Ridge Yurt ... sleeps 6 comfortably
Hi all,

We had a fun, 3-day outing to the Banner Ridge Yurt last Sunday - Tuesday in the Idaho City Park n' Ski system.

Because we haven't received much new snow in SW Idaho in the last month, I suspected that the backcountry skiing conditions would be lousy. But it didn't matter because the Banner Ridge yurt is ideally located in a place where you can go on a snowshoe tour, a ski tour, snow sledding or cross-country skiing on the extensive Nordic trails in the Park n' Ski system.

Here's a video from our trip.

The day we skied into the yurt, I pulled a heavy sled full of all kinds of goodies, a 12-pack of beer, a 5-liter box of wine, tons of food, Wendy's sleeping bag, two pairs of skate ski gear and more ... it was REALLY heavy ... but I just took my time and made it OK.

After lunch, we checked out the snow on the north and northeast slopes, and it was pretty rotten -- wind-slab, crust, weird snow on top of crust ... basically, nothing to get us excited about backcountry skiing. Too bad because there is a TON of north-facing skiing terrain directly adjacent to the yurt. Something to remember when the conditions are great. North slopes usually have the lightest and best snow because they don't see much sun.

So the next day, Wendy and I decided to head out on the cross-country trails with our skate skis. The cross-country ski trails in the Idaho City Park n' Ski system have something to offer for everyone. You can access 22 miles or 35 kilometers of trails from the yurt. Ability levels range from easy to expert. Most of the trails are intermediate. Plus, the yurt lies conveniently adjacent to the groomed cross-country trail, so that makes for easy access.

In my experience, the xc ski trails don't seem to get that much use by hard-core skate skiers, and I'm not sure why. The ski trail system would be a welcome change from the Bogus Basin Nordic trails (diversity is the spice of life, right?), and if you go for big distance, you'll get an excellent workout on long climbs. IDPR grooms the trails once a week, so they do receive regular grooming.

I've done the Elkhorn and Alpine loops before, so I thought I'd try something longer. We decided to see if we could cruise by the Elkhorn and Skyline yurts, and decide what to do from there. The track was hard and fast in the morning. Our glide wax worked marvelously.

By the time we reached the Skyline Yurt junction, Wendy was ready to head back, knowing she had several hills to climb on the return trip. I still felt pretty full of energy, so I decided to do the big loop -- a combination of the Summit Trail to the Beaver Trail, a long climb up the Beaver Trail (over 4 miles) to the Elkhorn Trail, and then back to Banner Ridge. It kicked my butt.

I figured my loop was about 13.5 miles or 21.4K's long. Instead of doing the majority of the climbing when my legs were fresh, most of the climbing occurred in the second half of the trip, so slowly but surely, I ran out of energy (and wax), so it was a bit of a slog back to the yurt.

For an active skate-skier who thirsts for a hearty workout, I'd think we'd see more people skiing that long loop. I didn't see one track the whole way. Give it a whirl sometime!

In the meantime, try to snag the Banner Ridge Yurt for a few days of guaranteed fun. It's a great location!