Thursday, December 8, 2011

Head for the high country to find snow in SW Idaho, Galena, Bear Basin and Banner Ridge

Galena Trails in late November (courtesy Galena Lodge)

Bear Basin trails (courtesy Steve Jones/McCall Nordic)

Bear Basin (courtesy Steve Jones/McCall Nordic)
Hi all,

Well it's time to fire up the outdoor tips again now that the big game hunting seasons are pretty much over, and the mountains are cloaked in snow ... well, not a lot of snow, but at least it's a start!

This week I'll focus on places where you can go to recreate in the snow in SW Idaho ... either snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing, backcountry skiing or alpine skiing.

Galena Lodge, located 23 miles north of Sun Valley, has 35 kilometers of cross-country trails open with an average 12-inch groomed base. "The skiing is pretty fricking good considering," says Erin Zell, co-owner of Galena Lodge. "The days are nice and the nights are cold, so that's good for snow retention."

On Saturday, Galena is hosting a free demo day featuring Backwoods Mountain Sports, the Elephants Perch and Idaho Mountain Touring from Boise will be there as well. This is a great chance to try out the latest and greatest xc skis and boots from all the major sports reps. If you participate in demo day, the $15 trail pass is waived, and demos are free as well!

Zell mentioned that even the Harriman Trail is being groomed from Galena clear down to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area headquarters north of Ketchum, so if you like to xc ski on the Harriman Trail, that's available too. Please see the Blaine County Recreation District web site for details on xc trail conditions in the Wood River Valley.

Don't forget that Galena has three very cool yurts that you can rent during the winter. Check their calendar if you'd like to book one.

Bear Basin is pretty much the only place where you can go cross-country skiing on groomed trails in the McCall area right now. The latest grooming report from McCall Nordic indicates that there is a 7-inch base with 15K's open for skiing right now. Longtime Nordic skier Gregg Lawley of McCall skied Bear Basin on Sunday. "It was actually surprisingly good!" he says.

While you're in McCall, stop at the Hub and check on yurt dates available with the Payette Powder Guides at Lick Creek Summit.

The Idaho City Park 'n Ski Areas are open for snow-shoeing and xc skiing, but the skiing is pretty marginal at this point with only 12-18 inches of snow, according to Leo Hennessy, non-motorized trail coordinator for Idaho Parks & Recreation. He recommends snow-shoeing as the best bet. Banner Ridge and Beaver Creek Summit/Stargaze areas will be the most promising because they're above 6,500 feet and have the most snow.

If you're into backcountry skiing, I've heard good reports about skiing in the Pilot Peak/Sunset Mountain areas near Mores Creek Summit. I've also heard that backcountry skiing at Brundage Mountain is pretty good in higher elevations. Near Stanley, I've heard the skiing is excellent on the slopes above Williams Peak Yurt in the Sawtooths. Be sure to bring climbing skins, an avalanche beacon, shovel and probe if you venture into the backcountry.

If you go to Sun Valley or McCall, look for low-cost lodging deals at this time of year. Check with the Sun Valley chamber or McCall chamber for lodging options.

And if you're thirsting for some lift-served downhill skiing action, you could head to Sun Valley, Pomerelle, Grand Targhee, Schweitzer, Silver Mountain or Lookout Pass in Idaho. I skied Solitude in Utah last weekend on a 27-inch base. There was some great skiing in Sunshine Bowl and some other high-speed groomers. Here's some video from our outing last Sunday.

Even if you get out in the snow this weekend, we need more snow! Do the snow dance thing and do it good!
- SS


chuktA said...

Don't forget Lost Trail Powder Mountain!
They are open too.

Steve Stuebner said...

Thanks for that ChukT! Lost Trail Pass is a great place to ski!