Thursday, February 6, 2014

Try cross-country skiing at Alturas Lake; double it up by staying at Smiley Creek Lodge

Beautiful backdrop for xc skiing! The trails are groomed for classic and skate skiing.
(photo courtesy Galena Lodge) 
The ski trails are dog friendly. Courtesy the Idaho Statesman 
The Alturas Lake trails are kid-friendly, too. Courtesy The Elephants Perch in Ketchum 
Hi all,

I've always wanted to go skate skiing on the trails by Alturas Lake in the Sawtooth Mountains, and I had an opportunity to swing by there today on my home from Salmon.

I had planned to alpine ski at Lost Trail Pass, north of Salmon, this morning, but it was minus-25 degrees in town, and they decided to close the ski area until it warms up. Several ski areas were closed in Western Montana today as well because of severe cold in the minus-30 to minus-40 range. Yikes!

Anyway, it got down to only minus-15 in Stanley this morning, so it was much more balmy than Salmon. But it was still below zero when I went skate skiing today, which meant for slower going (not much glide on cold snow), and I really had to bundle up -- like with more clothes on than I've ever worn for skate skiing. And I needed every stitch of it (including a neck gator). But it's supposed to warm up nicely this weekend, with temperatures in the high 20s on Saturday and 30 on Sunday.

BRCD ski map of Alturas Lake Trails. (click to enlarge)
I recommend touring the Alturas Lake Ski Trails as part of an overnight trip to Smiley Creek Lodge, a friendly place with hearty and wholesome food, and reasonably priced lodging and cabins. They have rooms available in the coming weekends. Lodge rooms are $100/night, with several beds for groups of friends or families. Their cabins rent for $60/night.

You could cross-country ski at Alturas Lake on one day, and then ski Galena Lodge the next. The big allure at Alturas Lake is the jaw-dropping scenary afforded by the Sawtooth Mountains. I couldn't see the peaks today because of light snow and low clouds, but you can pick a time to go when you've got a fair-weather weekend and sunny skies for the maximum views and enjoyment.

The Alturas Lake trail system features a 6.5-kilometer xc ski trail from Highway 75 to Alturas Lake, and then several 2.5-kilometer loops that peel off to the north of the main trail. All of the trails are rated beginner and intermediate. The main trail to the lake has lots of ups and downs through the pines. Very scenic and beautiful. Dogs are allowed on all of the Alturas Lake Trails.

How to get there: Take Idaho 75 north of Stanley approximately 20 miles to a signed, vehicle pullout on the west side of the highway for the Alturas Lake trails system. There is a porta potty at the trailhead.

Thanks to the Blaine County Recreation District for grooming and maintaining the trails. The BCRD provides signs at all of the key junctions to help you navigate your adventure. Trail passes are available from nearby outdoor retailers and at Galena Lodge. Daily passes cost $15 for adults; and $5 for dogs.

If you decided to double-up and explore the xc trails on the Ketchum side of Galena Summit for Day 2, stop at Galena Lodge for information on the vast ski trail system at Galena, the Harriman Trail, Prairie Creek Trails, and much more. It's all world-class xc skiing. And it's all great for skate skiing or xc skiing.

BTW ... there is a free skate-skiing clinic in Stanley on Saturday being offered by the Sawtooth Society. They're gathering at the Park Creek trailhead, seven miles west of Stanley. Beginner lessons from 10 to noon, and a clinic for intermediate and advanced skiers runs from 1-3 p.m. Rentals on hand for $10. For more information, contact

Cool to see the Statesman do a feature about Fat Bikes in McCall. Thought I'd share the link to that story, if you haven't seen it. Here's a link to my blog and video on Fat Biking that appeared a couple of weeks ago. I want one of those cool bikes!

Steve talks about his outdoor tips with Ken Bass and Misty Taylor on The River 94.9 FM Friday mornings at approximately 7:30 a.m. Go to to find information about Steve's outdoor guidebooks and other resources.  

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