Thursday, February 23, 2017

Kite-skiing in the Fairfield area puts a different twist on skiing and riding

Kite-skiing near Fairfield ... this pic was taken during an annual event several years ago. 
Hi all,

This winter is showing no signs of easing up as we near the end of February this weekend. Temperatures will be taking a dive in the mountains with highs in the low 20s, and lows in the single digits. Even Boise will barely get above freezing on Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday looks to be a day of sunshine, even if it will be brisk, and the alpine, cross-country skiing and backcountry skiing should be stellar. That's because the cold temperatures should keep the snow conditions nice and cold for high-quality turns! Don't forget the season pass sales going on at Bogus BasinBrundage Mountain, Soldier Mountain and Tamarack Resort right now -- people who buy early get the best prices and most benefits. Go for it!

In the meantime, I'd like to share a blog post I did for Southern Idaho Tourism this week about kite-skiing in the Fairfield area. This is something I've heard about off and on, but I've never personally tried it. I interviewed Eddy Petranek of Boise, who is not only an expert kite-skier, he also a paraglider and a kite-boarder on lakes and the ocean. He's one of those guys with all the toys and the skills to have fun with them!

Petranek used to give people kite-skiing lessons on weekends in the Fairfield area, but a few years ago, he started a family, so he's been too busy to teach lately. No local lessons or rentals are available at the moment.

The way to plug in with kite-skiers is on SnowkiteIdaho, a Yahoo group.

The bottom line is that a huge snow-covered area on the east side of Cat Creek Summit along U.S. 20 has emerged as the best place to go kite-skiing in the state of Idaho. It's got the open terrain, consistent wind and a lot of clear days to enjoy cruising around in the hills. Petranek has a big kite that carries him some 30 feet into the air.

"It feels like you're in the air for an eternity," Petranek says. "It's a really cool feeling. And then you land like a butterfly."

The ideal thing, it seems, would be to double-up on a day trip to Soldier Mountain near Fairfield and then go kite-skiing. You might stop at the Soldier Creek Brewery in Fairfield for coffee, lunch or dinner. They've got great coffee and food!
Notes: I wanted to share a couple of stories that appeared in the Idaho Statesman's Playing Outdoors section recently:

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Drip drip drip snow snow snow? Go to high elevations for best skiing; or go hot springing

Big series of wet storms coming our way ... area in green is expected to get 13-28 inches of snow by Monday.
Courtesy Idaho Daily Snow Report
The Springs at Idaho City 
Bonneville Hot Springs near Lowman 
Hi all,

We've got another big burst of storms coming our way this weekend, and continuing into next week, and it's a pretty warm system, so pay attention to the snow levels to find the best skiing.

This weekend also kicks off season pass sales at Bogus Basin, Brundage Mountain, Tamarack and Soldier Mountain. See their web sites for details. But this is the time to plunk down the bucks to buy a discounted season pass for next year, and you can use the pass for the remainder of this season as well. Good thing to do to support your favorite ski areas into the future.

As I drill down on snow levels, it may be a bit soggy at times at Bogus Basin, which will be on the cusp of rain and snow, according to the National Weather Service. At least it's going to freeze on Saturday night and Sunday night, so that should bode well for the following mornings on this long weekend. Watch the Bogus Basin web cams for the latest.

The situation at Brundage Mountain looks to be slightly better because it will freeze at night, every night, in the coming days, and snow during the day. According to the Idaho Daily Snow Report, put together by a skier who's also a professional meteorologist, she's predicting 13-28 inches of new snow by Monday in the West Central Mountains. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing might be good, too, especially in the mornings.

The upper chairlift at Tamarack will be good because it services the top 1,000 feet of the mountain, and that should be above the snow line. Same goes with skiing Sun Valley ... the top chairlifts will be in the snow zone and the bottom chairs may not be ... at least in the afternoons.

In Stanley, they're hosting the Sawtooth Winter Fest on Friday-Sunday, but the main event is on Saturday with a long calendar of activities, including a snow bike race, ice skating, street party, live music, three-legged races and all kinds of fun stuff. Unfortunately, highway Idaho 21 is closed due to avalanches, so you'll need to get there via Sun Valley if you decide to go.

Meanwhile, it's going to be rainy all weekend in Boise, so if you don't want to go play in the snow, maybe you could take an umbrella hike on the Greenbelt (foothills trails are very muddy; please stay off  of them), or go for a road trip and go visit your favorite hot springs. Maybe you'll decide to do a movie marathon at home. Go ice skating at Idaho Ice World. Catch up on the laundry ... who knows?

Some hot springs suggestions include:

  • The Springs in Idaho City - Hang out in the pool and order drinks and food with the pool-side service. Fun place to go! Be sure to call ahead and make advance reservations. 
  • Gold Fork Hot Springs south of Donnelly - Beautiful pools, reasonable price, but it can get crowded in the tiny changing rooms when it's busy. 
  • Thousand Springs Resort, Miracle or Banbury Hot Springs near Hagerman. All great places to take the kids and family. Private pools available. 
  • Primitive hot springs like Skinny Dipper, Kirkham or Bonneville Hot Springs near Garden Valley and Lowman. See the Idaho Hot Springs web site for details. 
  • Givens Hot Springs near Marsing. I've heard mixed reviews about this commercial hot springs, but you be the judge. 
Have a nice long weekend!
- SS 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Drip drip drip ... outdoor tips for the weekend despite the soggy weather; sunny days ahead!

Elk in Garden Valley along the Banks to Lowman Road (courtesy 
Pine Flats Hot Springs next to the South Fork Payette River 
Hi all,

I suppose you could try to ski this weekend, but it seems the conditions might be pretty weird depending on how much it rains or snows after the rain goes away. We've been receiving a big deluge of rain mid-week with snow levels over 8,000 feet on Thursday, which really screws up the snow in the mountains! Plus, flooding is expected Friday in multiple locations -- cross your fingers that there aren't any major mud slides! Avalanche danger is very high as well. Be safe!

The good news is that it's supposed to be sunny and clear on Saturday and Sunday in Boise, with temperatures in the 40s during the day. So for this weekend, I'm recommending a low-key Greenbelt loop in East Boise or a scenic drive to see wildlife in Garden Valley and maybe hit a hot springs as part of the trip.

Marianne Williams Park-Barber Park Loop - Foothills trails are going to be duck soup, so I'm recommending that you take a 4-mile hike starting and finishing in Bown Crossing, with optional coffee, lunch or beer afterwards. Pick up the Greenbelt on the north side of the Boise River in Marianne Williams Park and follow that pathway east to the nature trail. Go right on the nature trail and continue to the Eckert Road bridge. Cross the river, and walk west through Barber Park on dirt pathways back to Bown Crossing. Be sure to wear your snow boots for the walk! The dirt trail will be muddy or slushy. Carry some water, take your time, bring the bino's and look for birds and wildlife along the way.

Garden Valley Wildlife Tour - Take Idaho 55 north to Banks and drive east on the Banks to Lowman Road through a deer and elk winter range to see wild turkeys, elk and deer. Bring your camera and bino's. You should see quite a few animals, particularly between the Garden Valley airstrip and Pine Flats Hot Springs.

Potential primitive hot springs to visit on the trip include Skinny Dipper, Pine Flats, Kirkham Hot Springs, or Bonneville Hot Springs, 25 miles east of Lowman. See the Idaho Hot Springs site for details. Circle back through Idaho City on the way home via Idaho 21, if you wish, to make a big driving loop. If you do that, the Springs in Idaho City would be another potential hot springs stop. Advance reservations are required.

Let me know if you see some wild game!

Just so you know ... river season is upon us! I posted a snowpack map on my Facebook page today, noting the big numbers, and then I checked on Idaho river flows, and the Owyhee River is flowing 8,000 cfs at Rome, Oregon, and the Bruneau is running at 2,000 cfs. Several people said they're hiking in to run Five Mile Rapids on the Bruneau ... hard core! I bet there will be some people running the Owyhee, too! The Payette was just barely rising, 2500 cfs ... that might be different tomorrow!

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Big *pow* predicted at Bogus & Brundage; where to go xc skiing, snowshoeing in McCall

Winter Storm Warning predicts lots of snow at Brundage Mountain and Bogus Basin Friday and Saturday
My son Drew loves snowshoeing. Here he's enjoying a trail in Ponderosa State
Park. See link to story below about where to go xc sking, snowshoeing and
fat biking in the greater McCall area during the Winter Carnival. 
XC ski trails at Bear Basin are well-groomed and extensive! Dogs are allowed! 
Fat biking at Jug Mountain Ranch on a bluebird day
Hi all,

For those of you who still like snow, it appears that we're going to get slammed pretty hard tomorrow and this weekend in the mountains of SW Idaho and Central Idaho. The weather forecasts are predicting a Winter Storm Warning, with 3-7 inches at Bogus Basin tomorrow (Friday), 1-3 inches Friday night, and 2-4 inches on Saturday, for a total potential of 14+ inches, considering more is expected Saturday night and Sunday. Woo hoo for the powder hounds!

A similar scenario is supposed to play out in the West Central Mountains, benefiting Tamarack and Brundage Mountain, during the second weekend of the Winter Carnival. Brundage is actually predicted to get 3-7 inches Friday, 4-8 inches Friday night, 2-4 inches Saturday and 2-4 Saturday night, with more coming on Sunday. That adds up to more than 20 inches of snow Friday and Saturday! Oh baby!

Brundage is trying to entice women to head their way on Saturday with Diva Day, $30 lift tickets for women 18 and over (discounted from $64). They'll have a "snowga" session at 1:30 p.m., and Rebecca Scott will be playing in the afternoon after 2 p.m. in the bar. In downtown McCall, you can tour the world-class ice sculptures, enjoy live music, see fireworks Saturday night, and try to win a Polaris Ranger UTV via a raffle. Tickets cost only $10. Drawing is Saturday night. Someone has to win it! Why not you? See event schedule for more details.

There's still some lodging available in McCall and surrounding areas. Check ASAP with the McCall Chamber or to inquire further.

Earlier this week, I wrote an outdoor story for the Idaho Statesman about where to xc skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking in McCall during the Winter Carnival or anytime this winter. I talked about visiting Bear Basin, Ponderosa State Park, the Activity Barn/North Valley Trail and Jug Mountain Ranch. See my article for details. Excellent way to burn off some calories while you're enjoying all the great food, drink and entertainment at the Winter Carnival!

Have fun!
- SS