Thursday, November 19, 2015

Go play in the snow! Boot-hiking, xc skiing, snowshoeing, snow biking all are doable

Pic from Grand Targhee parking lot 

Thanksgiving ski vacation in the Tetons? How can you go wrong? 
Snow biking to Skyline Yurt last Saturday ... 0-4 inches of snow at that time. 
Fat biking on the Boise Ridge Road (courtesy Aileen Frey)
Hi all,

If you're like me, and you get excited about the prospect of playing in the snow, this weekend looks like a perfect time to do it. The weather gods have been generous lately in providing a new coating of snow in the mountains of SW Idaho. This means you can head out to your favorite sledding spot, or go boot-hiking, xc skiing, fat biking or snowshoeing in the mountains.

None of Idaho's ski areas are opening quite yet, but Grand Targhee, located just over our eastern border in Alta, Wyoming, is opening on Friday (tomorrow)! Isn't that way cool! I wish I were heading over there right now. Targhee is reporting a 25-inch base with 50 inches of snowfall so far this year.

Check out Grand Targhee's lodging deals as we look ahead to Thanksgiving week. I saw a 4-day, $85 per night ski-and-stay package ... that's hard to beat! Sun Valley should be opening on Thanksgiving Day with natural and man-made snow. Watch their web site for pre-season deals.

Remember, it's early season so expect to get your equipment scratched up. Hint: Take the rock skis.

Closer to home, here are my top recommendations for playing in the snow:

  • Deer Point Service Road - Bogus Basin likes to keep its slopes clear of pre-season skiers/riders but a few miles before Bogus, you can park in a pull-out on the right, and boot-hike, snowshoe or xc ski on the Deer Point Service Road. This is the road that utility trucks take to the top of Deer Point to service cell and radio towers, etc. It climbs at a steady pace for 2 miles to the Bogus boundary, and then a right-hand turn takes you over to the Boise Ridge Road. Bogus is reporting a base of 15 inches, so there should be plenty of snow up there. 
  • Mores Creek Summit - East of Idaho City, you can go snowshoeing or xc skiing on the road tracks to Sunset Mountain or Pilot Peak or points along the way. The Mores Creek Snowtel site shows a depth of 11 inches of snow as of Thursday evening. Might be a good weekend for a nice backcountry tour! 
  • Idaho City Park n' Ski Areas - A little farther east of Idaho City, the snow depths in the Gold Fork area are ranging from 3-6 inches of snow as of Thursday night. Leo Hennessy reported 3 inches of new snow on Thursday. Should be good for boot-hiking, xc skiing, fat biking or snowshoeing with potential scratchy conditions! The trail to Stargaze Yurt should be great, too. 
  • Big Creek Summit - East of Cascade on the way to Warm Lake. You can hit a hot springs on the way home! 
  • Brundage Mountain - Brundage doesn't seem to mind backcountry skiers carving it up before the area opens. I've been seeing great Facebook pics of people skiing at Brundage in the last week with skis and skins. Brundage reported a foot of new snow at the base this week. Awesome! Snow depths are 16 inches at the base and 22 inches on top as of Thursday evening. Watch their web site for information on if/when they may open next week. 
  • Wood River Valley xc trails - A few of the trails are open in the North Valley, particularly the Harriman Trail from Sawtooth SNRA to Galena Lodge and the Prairie Creek Loop. Those are some of my favorite skate skiing areas. See the Blaine County Recreation District grooming report
One other thing: I wanted to mention that I've revamped my web site at so that it's mobile-friendly. But it has all of the cool content from before ... you can buy hard-copy books and maps on my site, as always, but you also can buy full-color digital books and maps or individual hikes, biking trips or paddling routes a la carte for 99 cents each. Plus there's information about renting our Cozy Cabin in McCall and my PR and Marketing services. Just FYI ... 

Enjoy the snow!
- SS

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Super-bright night lights can lengthen your outdoor hiking, running and biking season

Nite Rider Pro 1800 lights up a Greenbelt pathway big-time! 
Hi all,

Well, the time changed last weekend, and now it's getting dark pretty early. Officially, the sun will set on the western horizon in Boise today at 5:30 p.m. Man, that is early. And it will get worse until the winter equinox on Dec. 21st. So for the working people of the world, you get home from work and it's dark outside.

But maybe you'd still like to get out for a workout? For a relatively small amount of money, you could pick up a nice headlamp to go hiking or trail-running at night, and for a little more money, you can pick up a bright light for your bike and go night riding on the Greenbelt or the foothills.

For example, for $40, you could pick up a Petzl Tikka XP Headlamp, which is pretty bright (160 lumens), and see plenty well to go hiking or trail-running in the dark. For $100, you could buy a Nite Rider light with a brightness rating of 750 lumens at World Cycle. "It's pretty ideal without breaking the bank," says Courtney Yamada-Anderson, a sales rep at World.

"The beam is amazing," Brian Baker of Shu's Idaho Running Company says of the Petzl headlamp. "Even the fastest runners have a hard time outrunning that light."

One thing that benefits everyone is that headlamps and night lights are getting brighter and less expensive as time goes on. Think about buying a cool light set to make it possible to go hiking, running or biking in the evenings or early morning.

Walking, running or biking at night puts a whole new slant on your workout. There's something eerie about the darkness and unknown that makes everything a little bit more exciting and edgy than usual. Biking on foothills trails at night is kind of wild because the whole trail experience is different than riding the same trail in the daylight. Everything looks different in the dark.

Before I detail the lighting options, remember to wear reflective clothing when you're out walking, running or biking in the dark. This is particularly important when you're out on the sidewalks or streets of Boise at night. "Be seen!" Reflective vests or straps will complement your lights.

Also, dress in layers for colder weather.

Hiking and running lights: Basic headlamps can work, but for night-time workouts, it's best to punch it up a notch for the best experience.

The Princeton Tec Fuel (70 lumens), seen at Bandanna Running & Walking, is a solid, basic walking or running headlamp that's also lightweight. Retail price is $30.

I saw some Knuckle Lights at Shu's that seemed cool for running or walking. You literally wear the lights on your knuckles.

On the higher end, Bandanna carries a deluxe Nathan Runners Headlamp (192 lumens), the Nebula
Fire model, for just $75. That one is even brighter than the Petzl model mentioned above. It also responds to hand motions to change modes from high-beam to strobe or other modes. Cool technology!

Both Shu's and Bandanna carry inexpensive clip-on lights. Bandanna has Nathan Clip Lights and Nathan Strobe Lights for just $10. Shu's carries another type of clip-on called Amphipods ... they're like a clam-shell and clip onto just about anything.

Many different brands make good headlamps ... too many to mention here. Visit your favorite outdoor store to find the one that's right for you.

Biking lights: The lighting and battery technology keep getting better, and the products get cheaper. But here are a few models to consider. Some people recommend using two lights for biking at night -- a handlebar-mounted light, and a light mounted on your helmet. This is for best lighting and safety. If one of your lights cuts out, then you've got a backup.

World Cycle carries Nite Rider deluxe lights, which run $250 - $300 for the high-end super-bright models, with 1400 lumens or 1800 lumens. "The NiteRider Pro 1800 is the highest scoring bike light we've tested," says Outdoor Gear Lab. "We give it a 10 out of 10 for its beam pattern and brightness. It had the most even beam and by far the greatest maximum distance (a whopping 172 meters) of all 20 lights tested." On the downside, the lights are heavy and difficult to install, the reviewers said. But my oh my, you could light up the trail with one of those! 

The Nite Rider 750 is mentioned above at $100 retail. 
Light n' Motion Urban 800

At Idaho Mountain Touring, they carry Light n' Motion products and Trek lights. There's an Urban 350 model for $100 (350 lumens), and a more powerful Urban 800 fast-charge for $160. The Urban 800 is "simply the lightest, brightest, most compact light in its class," according to the Light n' Motion people.

The Trek 700 (lumens) sells for $120. On the higher end, they carry the Light n' Motion Taz 1200 Black Raven, which retails for $240. This light is as bright as a car beam, according to Light n' Motion. Men's Journal had this to say: "Taz 1200 has the serious headlight power of 1,200 lumens for when your rides are at their darkest: Thick rainstorms, woodsy shortcuts, moonless nights on unlighted streets. But its 300-lumen low setting is ample for most runabouts too. The light pops on and off of its mount easily for security, and charges via USB."

Speaking of charging, pay attention to the battery life on the different lights you are considering and how long it takes to charge the unit.

Don't forget that the Bogus Basin Ski Education Foundation is hosting the 65th annual Ski Swap Friday-Sunday at Expo Idaho. See the web site for details on when you can take your stuff over there to get sold, etc. The swap opens for buyers at 5 p.m. 

Have fun!
- SS