Thursday, December 19, 2013

Pray for more snow to augment the slow start we have so far; where to find snow this weekend

Sun Valley groomers are a hoot! 

Big views in all directions
Ski the pow at Targhee!
Galena has some of the best xc skiing in North America! 
Bear Basin is the main xc venue in McCall right now 
Boot hiking the Five Mile-Orchard Gulch loop in the Boise footies 
Hi all,

Now that we have a little bit of snow, and we can enjoy some downhill skiing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the mountains, it's time to fire up the weekly outdoor tips for the winter season.

We've had a slow start in terms of snow, that's for sure. Snowpack levels in the Payette and Boise basins are about 64 percent of normal so far. The Big Wood is 59 percent, and the Weiser is 45 percent. I'm hoping that winter storms really pick up in the coming weeks. It looks as if a significant storm is coming in on Friday, and that will allow Brundage Mountain to open for the ski season. Yay!

Here's the latest conditions at popular alpine skiing destinations:

  • Sun Valley has the most skiing of any downhill area in the SW Idaho region, with top-to-bottom groomers available. We're talking leg-burners down Warm Springs or College and River Run. Lift tickets are discounted at $69/day right now, and if you combine a ski day(s) with lodging, you can probably do better than that. 
  • Bogus Basin has some terrain open on the front side, and they will likely open the backside when they get more snow. Lift tickets are $25 at the moment.  
  • Brundage opens on Friday. Lift tickets cost $36 on opening day. 
  • Tamarack Resort is operating on Thursday-Sunday, with skiing on the Summit Chairlift. I've heard the skiing is quite good in the upper part of the mountain. They're charging $49/day for adults. 
  • Grand Targhee has the best skiing in the southern Idaho, with the full mountain open and a 54-inch base. Lift tickets are $59 through Dec. 20; $72 during the holidays. Not sure if they have any rooms left for Christmas break, but I bet Targhee will be busy! 
As for cross-country skiing ... 
  • Bogus Basin Nordic has about 15Ks of groomed xc ski trails at the moment. The main trail from the Nordic Lodge is groomed past the Shafer Butte picnic area turnoff. Several shorter loops are open as well. Day tickets cost $11 for a full day, $8 for a half day after 1 p.m. 
  • Bear Basin has 9 inches of snow, with all of the main trails open. The web site doesn't specify exactly how many K's are open in total. Cost is $10 for adults. 
  • Ponderosa Park doesn't have enough snow depth to open right now, but after Friday's storm, they may open by the weekened. Ditto with Jug Mountain Ranch.  
  • Galena Lodge, north of Ketchum/Sun Valley is reportedly skiing great. They have 30Ks of trails open at the present time. Many of the trails around Galena Lodge are open, plus the Harriman Trail down to Prairie Creek, and the Prairie Creek system is open. Down-valley trails are closed until they get more snow. The cost to ski at Galena is $15 for adults; $5 for kids, and kids 12 and under ski free.  
  • The Idaho City Park n' Ski Trails are open but not groomed yet, because they need more snow for grooming. The snow phone reports 1.5-2 feet of snow in places. The parking lots are plowed. So you could head up there with your snow boots and go for a hike or go snowshoeing. Banner Ridge and Beaver Creek Summit and Stargaze Yurt areas should have the most snow being at the highest elevation. Be sure to get a Park n' Ski parking pass on your way at the gas station in Idaho City. 
Backcountry skiing is decent at Mores Creek Summit, I hear. But it's going to be thin in places. Watch out for hazards. Drive to the Mores Creek Summit parking lot above Idaho City, and hoof it up to Pilot Peak, Freeman Peak or Sunset Mountain from the Mores Creek parking lot. Skins on skis or snowshoes work great! 

Closer to home, one thing I've been doing a lot of lately is boot-hiking in the foothills with my dog. The trails have been frozen, with a few inches of snow on top, and it makes for great walking in Sorels or the equivalent. Enjoy while you can. A lot of the trails out of Camelsback Park are great for this, as well as Corrals Trail, Five Mile Creek Trail and Orchard Gulch.    

Before I sign off, I should mention that the new Owyhee Canyonlands guidebook by yours truly and Mark Lisk has been popular since it was released in early December. You can find them in Boise at Lisk Gallery, Idaho Mountain Touring, George's Cycles, World Cycles and Rediscovered Books, (Boise REI and Barnes & Noble will stock them soon) Sierra Trading Post in Meridian, Flying M coffee house in Nampa, Cafferty's Cycles in Nampa, Hastings in Nampa, the Owyhee County Historic Museum gift shop in Murphy, Homedale Drug in Homedale, Logan's Market in Marsing, Gus's gas stop in Grand View, and more, plus at and

Have a great holiday everyone! 
- SS