Thursday, December 17, 2015

10 items for Stueby's annual Christmas gift list for the outdoorsy him & her

Hi all,

Christmas is coming upon us quickly ... it's essentially a week away! Do you have all of your shopping done? I've been doing a little checking around to see what's popular this year with regard to outdoor clothing, outerwear and toys, what's new and different, etc. Remember, buy local as much as possible when you're shopping to support Boise's quality outdoor stores.

Here's my 2015 Christmas outdoor gear list for the outdoorsy him and her:

1. First of all, we have to celebrate all the fresh snow that's fallen across Idaho in the last month or so. All of the Idaho alpine and xc resorts are open and all the tubing hills are open with a solid base of snow -- just in time for everyone to enjoy playing in the snow over the Christmas holidays! Raise your cup to the snow god Ullr and send a happy howl to the stars.

2. Headlamp - You can use them for hiking, reading, camping, cooking ... you name it, headlamps are an essential outdoor item. And they seem to mysteriously disappear around our house all the time. But there's so many brands to choose from ... where do you start? Outdoor Gear Lab recently compared 28 different headlamps and ranked them. Black Diamond headlamps dominated the top 5, and the Coast HL7, came out No. 1. It retails for only $30 online. I think it pays to spend a little more, say $50-$60, and get a brighter lamp.

3. Bike lights - I wrote a blog about biking and hiking lights recently after the time changed in the fall. See my recommendations there. Lights have gotten so much better and brighter for less cost.

"We're selling lights for 1/5th of what they sold for 5 years ago with five times the brightness," says Chris Haunold of Idaho Mountain Touring. A Light and Motion bike light at IMT with 350 lumens sells for $60 with a rechargeable battery. Five years ago, "it would have cost $500," Chris says.

4. Knives - OK, this is more of a "guy" thing than a women's item, but let's face it, a nice sharp folding knife is great to have handy at all times. Wilderness Today ranked 10 pocket knives in their survey. See what kind you want and then head over to Boise Army Navy in Garden City to buy a pocket knife.

5. Gloves - I like to have at least one set of light gloves for xc skiing, a heavier warm glove for alpine skiing, and some medium-weight gloves for other uses. Many outdoor retailers in Boise have a great selection of gloves. Backcountry Pursuit has some screaming deals on gloves and mittens at their store on Capital next to FedEx Kinkos.

Luci lantern
6. Luci Lux Inflatable Lantern - I've seen these in use at friends' houses, and I wish I had one of my own. Retail price is $19.95. How can you go wrong?

7. At Boise REI, Fischer S-Bound Backcountry Skis with the EZ Skin System are proving to be popular this holiday season. The skis have a notch for the skins, and they're easy to take on and off. Check with Boise REI on pricing.

8. Hydro flasks and stainless bottles - These are proving to be a popular low-cost buy ($10-$30) at IMT and Boise REI. Many brands are available, including Hydro Flask, New Wave, and others.

9. Patagonia Black Hole Duffle Bags - These look really nice and durable, and they only cost about $100. I saw these at IMT. They collapse into a small compact bag when empty, nice for travel, and they hold lots of gear. Larger models are in the $130-$160 range. The thing that's nice about buying Patagonia is that if anything falls apart, there's a lifetime guarantee.

10. Snowshoes - OK, maybe you're just breaking into the winter recreation scene, or you prefer to snowshoe vs. xc skiing. Snowshoes are great because if you can walk, you can snowshoe! A pair of poles for balance is a great accessory. There are multiple models and brands available, including Atlas, Tubbs and MSR. Cost is in the $140 range. One other interesting alternative is to buy a pair of Yaktrax for your boots. They're like traction devices you can strap to a pair of hiking boots. Here is Backpacker magazine's list of top snowshoes for 2015. Review the list and buy local!

And last, but certainly not least, there are Steve's outdoor guidebooks! For hikers and trail-runners, Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home is the ticket. Retails for $19.95. The Owyhee Canyonlands: An Outdoor Adventure Guide is still very popular with hikers, mountain bikers and campers. It has 55 hikes and bike rides in the Owyhees, plus a detailed guide to the 100-mile Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Byway.

The Boise Road Cycling Guide is the only road-biking map available in the Boise Valley. The two-sided, full-color, tear-proof and waterproof map retails for $12.50. Mountain Biking in McCall is the only mountain biking guide for the McCall Area. It features 40 rides, from easy trails to epic day-long journeys and multi-day rides.

In a special book-signing event for the Christmas Holiday, I'll be signing books this Saturday, Dec. 19, at the Capital City Market Holiday Annex in Vista Village, 1036 S. Vista Ave. in Boise, beginning at 11 a.m. The event will run to 1 or 2 p.m., depending on demand.

There you have it! Have a wonderful holiday! As I said, I'm already feeling blessed because of all the powder snow! Count your blessings and hug your loved ones!
- SS

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Weather forecast calls for big *pow* in Central Idaho this weekend; 24-36'' expected

Should be tons of fresh *pow* this weekend. Go get it! (Courtesy Brundage Mountain) 

Hi all,

Well, it's been warm and rainy this week, but now the temperatures are beginning to cool down -- just in time to lay down a fresh layer of powder snow for happy skiers this weekend. Indeed, Christmas is coming early for the powder hounds!

Scott Dorval on KIVI-TV has been tracking the storms and predicting 6-12 inches of new snow from the storms on Thursday, more snow Friday and Saturday, and then 10-18 inches on Saturday night and Sunday. Are you getting excited yet? I am! That's 20-37 inches of new snow forecast from Thursday - Sunday. Woo hoo!

The most snow is forecast for Brundage, Tamarack Resort and Bogus Basin. Sun Valley is supposed to get some new snow, but not more than a couple of inches a day. I heard they had 4 inches of new just this morning.

Brundage will be in full operation on Friday, with all chairs running and 100 percent of the terrain open. Tamarack is opening the whole mountain for the first time on Friday, so there will be lots of fresh snow to ski there. It's not clear what slopes will be open specifically, so check their web site for updates. Sun Valley has been open since Thanksgiving It offers top-to-bottom groomed runs that are guaranteed to burn your quads because the slopes are SO long ... more than 3,000 verts!

Personally, I'm going to head up to McCall because I think there will be the most powder there, and I have a place to stay at our Cozy Cabin in McCall. Look for early-season lodging deals in McCall and Sun Valley. You can pick up stay-and-ski packages for great prices! Sometimes you have to pick up the phone to get the best deals ... especially in McCall.

I'm not sure if Bogus Basin will be open this weekend or not. There is no indication on their web site. I couldn't get an answer on the phone this afternoon. So maybe there will be an announcement on Friday ...

If you're interested in going backcountry skiing this weekend, I'd be cautious about that. Check on avalanche conditions before you go ...

The Idaho City Park n' Ski Areas should be fine for snowshoeing this weekend. No grooming is happening yet, so the xc skiing would be marginal, especially after all the rain mid-week. Monitor the snow conditions line for more information: 208-514-2423.
I've been contacted by quite a few folks who want to buy my outdoor books for Christmas gifts, and they'd like to get their books signed. So, I have set up a special book-signing event on Saturday, Dec. 19th, beginning at 11 a.m. at the Capital City Market Annex in Vista Village. There will be live music and wine-tasting going on at the same time.

I'll have my outdoor guidebooks with me, and I also will have plenty of copies of "Idaho Microbes: How tiny single-celled organisms can harm, or save, our world."

Idaho Microbes is a brand new 268-page full-color book that features 10 chapters, or "eco-adventures," as my editor puts it, taking readers on a virtual journey to learn about a particular big-picture environmental or human health issue, and then learn about how the magical powers of microbes are helping solve the issue or make it worse. The whole project was a really fun learning experience for me.

In the case of the beer chapter, yeast is the magical ingredient that leads to the unique taste of a beer, among other things. In a chapter on "Guzzling Crude," naturally occurring microbes consume an oil spill below a Nampa gas station. In the chapter on white pine blister-rust, I show how the exotic fungus is combining with mountain pine beetles to kill off our whitebark pine trees in the rooftops of the mountains of Idaho. Fortunately, there are solutions to save our whitebark pines.

Anyway, the book is proving to be very popular so far! Idaho Microbes retails for $29.95. It's available at Rediscovered Books, the Boise State bookstore, Discovery Center of Idaho, and,  
-- SS

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Choices for skiing, riding in SW Idaho are increasing as snow gets deeper inch by inch

This is why we go to Grand Targhee ... 
Pomerelle earlier this week ... 
Magic Valley skiers were happy at Pomerelle last weekend ... 
Everyone was all smiles at Bogus, too ... 
Easy Street is groomed and ready to roll at Brundage Mountain. 
Gateway Parks in Eagle over Thanksgiving weekend.
Hi all,

Well, we're still in the transition to full-on winter. We need more snow storms to really get all the ski areas running full-bore and provide deep enough snowpack for excellent backcountry skiing in SW Idaho. That said, it's totally possible to plan a skiing, snowboarding, xc skiing, snowshoe or fat biking adventure this weekend.

Don't forget that the closest place to go play in the snow is right here in the valley at Eagle Island State Park. It's called Gateway Parks. They've got tubing, snowboarding, skiing and a terrain park.

Most of the downhill areas will be open open this weekend, and with a new storm moving in on Friday, there should be a few inches of new snow to enjoy. Check the resort web sites for early-season pricing and lodging deals.

Here's the skinny on the alpine areas:

  • Pomerelle - got 13 inches of snow this week! This is your best pick for *best pow.* They'll be open Friday-Sunday this weekend, with fresh powder for all to enjoy! Plus, more on the way! They're reporting a 21-inch base on the summit, with 13 inches of fresh this week. No one has been skiing there all week!

  • Bogus Basin - will be open Saturday and Sunday, with the Deer Point and Coach lifts running. 17-inch base as of Thursday. The tubing hill will be open as well. Be sure to make advance reservations for the tubing hill. Nordic ski trails and the Nordic lodge will be open Saturday-Sunday.

  • Brundage Mountain - is opening Saturday for a sneak peek. 20-inch base. They'll be running the Bluebird quad, Bear and Easy Street lifts on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. I heard the Activity Barn tubing hill just opened for business as well. Three tubing lanes will be open this weekend.   
  • Sun Valley - has a bunch of groomers open thanks to their robust snow-making capabilities. Go get some thigh-scorching runs on the groomers and get your legs broken in for ski season.
  • Magic Mountain - yes, Magic Mountain in the South Hills near Twin Falls is opening Saturday. It's a cool little homespun resort with about 750 vertical feet of drop. They're reporting a 22 inch base. Lift tickets are cheap!  
  • Pomerelle - got 13 inches of snow this week! This is your best pick for *best pow.* They'll be open Friday-Sunday this weekend, with fresh powder for all to enjoy! Plus, more on the way! They're reporting a 21-inch base on the summit, with 13 inches of fresh this week. No one has been skiing there all week!  
  • Grand Targhee - is a great pick. They're reporting a base depth of 29 inches. Seventy-four of 97 trails are open. A few inches of new snow is predicted over the weekend. It's Global Fat Biking day on Saturday, with free demos. 

  • As for cross-country and backcountry conditions:
    • Mores Creek Summit has 15 inches of snow according to the Snowtel web portal. Backcountry conditions are still brushy, but you could definitely tour up to Pilot Peak or Sunset Mountain on the main roads and then tuck into the backcountry once you reach the higher elevations. After Friday's storm, there could be 4-5 inches of new snow to enjoy.  
    • Bear Basin in McCall has excellent cross-country skiing conditions. Wendy and I skate skied there several days last week. They have a foot of snow and 1 inch of new. Right now, they're the only Nordic destination that's open in Valley County. The annual Snow Ball is Saturday night. Great fund-raiser for Bear Basin and the Little Ski Hill.
    • Wood River Valley - The Blaine County Recreation District has more K's open than any other area for Nordic skiing. Galena Lodge trails, the Harriman Trail, Prairie Creek are all open.  
    • Idaho City Park n' Ski Areas - are reporting 4-8 inches on the lower trails, up to 12 inches at the higher elevations. It's still not enough snow to groom. They've done a little grooming at Gold Fork and on the Banner Ridge Trail. Call the snow line for the latest conditions: 208-514-2423. Might be OK conditions for snow biking, depending on how packed the trails are by human use. 
    There you have it on the snow conditions! 

    With the weather warming up this weekend, it's likely that the Boise Foothills trails will get muddy and gummy in the lower elevations. Please avoid the trails when they're in that condition. Check with the Ridge to Rivers web site or Facebook page to check on the latest trail conditions. 

    Have fun! 
    - SS