Thursday, January 5, 2017

Plenty of snow makes adventure ski tour possible from Bogus Basin to Boise, plus free xc ski day in Idaho

L-R, Mark Utting, Roberto Negron, Mark Anderson and Steve at the conclusion of our big ski tour
from the top of Deer Point to the Corrals Trailhead in the lower Boise Foothills. 
Hi all,

Well, this has been quite the winter so far! We've got more snow on the ground in Boise -- approximately 15 inches or more, depending on where you live -- than any time since records were first kept in 1940, according to the National Weather Service.

My friend and backcountry skiing pal Mark Anderson decided to ski from Bogus Basin to the city of Boise last week in much less snow, and he made it. When he mentioned the idea to me on Monday, I thought, I've always wanted to do that! But in 30 years of living in Boise, it seems the conditions have never been quite right. It rarely stays cold enough in Boise for the snow to stay around that long in the lower Boise Foothills, but this year, it's at least 15-20 inches deep! So I started calling backcountry skiing friends and earmarked Wednesday (yesterday) to do the big tour.

Mark, a computer science lecturer at Boise State University, was able to go with us along with friends Roberto Negron and Mark Utting. We rode the Deer Point ski lift to the top of Deer Point (elevation 7,100 feet), and started the long trek through lots of light, fresh powder snow to Boise.

Our route would take us "down" the Boise Ridge Road to Hard Guy trail, and then down Hard Guy to the Corrals Trailhead. We parked a rig at the bottom of Bob's Trail, hoping we'd have time to ski down the Highlands Trail to finish up the tour, but as things turned out, we made it to Corrals Trailhead at 5:45 p.m., and it was close to getting dark. So we asked our friendly shuttle driver, Molly Negron, to pick us up.

It took us 4.5 hours to make the trek because of all the new snow. Travel distance was about 11.5 miles, but it felt much longer than that. Vertical drop was 4,500 feet. It took us 2.5 hours just to travel along the Boise Ridge Road to Hard Guy trailhead. Three of us used backcountry skis and climbing skins. Mark Utting had a pair of lightweight backcountry skis with fish scales and metal edges, and that worked just fine for him.

Taking off at the gate at the top of Deer Point at Bogus Basin 
The Boise Ridge Road has so many ups and downs that I left my skins on for most of that segment of the trip. There were a couple of downhill pitches where we de-skinned. On the way down Hard Guy, we had to pole or walk in between the steep downhills because of all the new snow. It would go much faster after the trail is packed down by a number of skiers.

But still, the novelty of the whole trip made it totally worthwhile. All of us had scaled the Boise Foothills on our mountain bikes many times, riding up Hard Guy or Corrals-Scotts-8th Street, and it's always a thrill to zoom down Hard Guy or Dry Creek from the ridge road. It usually only takes me about 20 minutes to descend Hard Guy on my bike. Yesterday, it took us almost 2 hours to ski down the trail.

Making our way down Hard Guy ... 
In the steeper sections, we were able to make turns in the soft fluffy snow in the trail corridor, and then poled, pushed and walked to the next hill. We had to put on our skins at the Crane Creek crossing to climb up to Corrals, and we were home free from there, but still had to pole and push with all the new snow.

Roberto's wife, Molly, was our hero yesterday, driving us up to Bogus in snowy road conditions to drop us off, and then picking us up at the end of the day. Thanks Molly!

If you decide you'd like to do the tour, make sure you go with someone who knows the Boise Ridge Road route ... it's a major dirt road in the summer, but right now, it can be hard to follow. After it stops snowing for a few days, it will have more snowmobile or skier tracks on it. We found that it was pretty easy to follow the Hard Guy trail corridor because we know the trail so well from mountain biking on it.
Free cross-country ski day at Idaho State Parks 

On Saturday, Jan. 7th, Idaho State Parks will offer free trail fees, plus demo equipment and hot chocolate at Lake Cascade State Park in Cascade and at Ponderosa State Park. IDPR officials also will lead a snowshoe trip up to the Stargaze yurt on Saturday, starting at 9 p.m. You must provide your own snowshoes and ski poles.

See the IDPR web site for details about free xc ski day. This is a great time for folks to get acquainted with the sport of cross-country skiing and snowshing. Chadd Cripe of the Idaho Statesman wrote a nice article in the last week about what it's like to learn how to xc ski at Bogus Basin.

Have fun out there!
- SS