Thursday, December 21, 2017

15 last-minute Christmas gift ideas for the outdoorsy him and her ...

Happy Holiday to all!  
Hi all,

Christmas is sneaking up on us! It's just four days away! Time for my annual outdoorsy Christmas gift ideas for the outdoorsy him and her.

Before I get into the gifts, we received an early Christmas gift from the snow god Ullr! A solid winter storm hit the McCall area this week with 8 inches of new snow. That will improve the Nordic skiing at Bear Basin, Ponderosa State Park, Jug Mountain Ranch and the North Valley Trail/Activity Barn trails. Just in time for the holidays! Plus, Brundage Mountain Resort will open the bluebird quad tomorrow (Friday) for top-to-bottom skiing. They've got 14 inches at the base and 35 inches at the summit. That's where I'm heading tomorrow morning!   

The other resort news is that Bogus Basin is opening the Glade Runner alpine mountain coaster tomorrow (Friday)! The coaster travels 4,330 feet through the woods at speeds up to 25 mph. You can ride by yourself or with another passenger. Riders control their speed. Tickets are $15 for singles and $25 for doubles. Season pass holders get $5 off on their first ride. This is a much-anticipated opportunity for people to enjoy Bogus even if they're not skiers or riders. I can't wait to try it! 

Tamarack Resort also will be opening top-to-bottom skiing tomorrow (Friday) with man-made snow at the bottom. They're reporting snow depths of 10 inches at the bottom and 38 inches on top. Sun Valley is opening more terrain as snow allows, and the Nordic skiing in the upper Wood River Valley is stellar. 

Now, on to the gifts!

1. Have you heard about these new Anon M2 goggles? The lenses wrap around your eyes in a big way, and the lenses can be swapped out easily with rare earth magnets holding them to the frame. They look really cool, and the cost is on par with other high-end pair goggles, $239.95. Take a look at the new technology with all brands!

2. Luci Lights. These solar-powered wonders are popular! Great for the back deck, camping, ambiance, you name it!  Prices range from $19.95 for a Luci outdoor light to $35 for a build-your-own kit. 

3. A warm, cozy Carhartt vest from D&B Supply, or a Patagonia down vest from Idaho Mountain Touring or Boise REI

4. Ski gloves - It's nice to have several pairs that work for various tasks such as driving, xc skiing or snowshoeing (thinner weight), and alpine skiing (warmer). Another reason to have several pairs is because we all tend to lose gloves and mittens. Just part of life. I have found some of my favorite gloves for xc skiing and lightweight use in the work glove section of May Hardware in McCall or the local Maverick service station.

5. Snowshoes - It takes a lot of time and money to master the art of skiing or snowboarding, but just about anyone who can walk can strap on a pair of snowshoes and do great! It helps to bring a pair of ski poles for balance. There are many different brands available. Price range: $50-$150 for snowshoe-pole combo sets. 
6. Winter hats - Can't go wrong in this department, but it's always nice to find a winter hat that has personality! Similar with gloves, it's nice to have different winter hats for situations when it's relatively warm or you're working up a sweat (thinner weight), and when you need a bomber warm hat that keeps you warm in single digits or sub-zero weather. Remember that wool ultimately rocks in the warmth department. Another helpful item is a facemask for the really cold days on the mountain. I also love the smart-looking ballcap-style hats they make for women.
7. Headlamp - For outdoorsy folks, it's about as easy to lose a headlamp as it is to lose a pair of socks. Especially if you're a family of outdoorsy folks ... everyone borrows your headlamp and it never comes back! You can snag a headlamp for $25-$50, and it has great value for your camping trips, night hiking, river trips, backpacking, even for use around the home! My favorite brands include Petzl and Black Diamond. Get a bright one and you'll appreciate it! My latest Black Diamond model runs on 4 AAA batteries and it's really nice and bright. 

8. Lift tickets, tubing tickets - Surprise your friends or loved ones with a free lift ticket or a date to go tubing at Bogus or the Activity Barn in McCall. Lift tickets everywhere are getting more expensive, especially at destination resorts, so it's a much-appreciated gift. Tubing costs $15 at either location ($18 at the Activity Barn on holidays). At Bogus, the tubing hill requires advance reservations so be sure to plan ahead.

Wendy at our cozy cabin in McCall. 
9. Rent a cabin or a yurt for a gift - Backcountry yurts are hard to get on winter weekends already, but there are still mid-week dates available. You also could rent a cabin in Garden Valley, Cascade, McCall or Sun Valley for a romantic getaway. Check for rentals at vrbo.comAirBnB and Wendy and I rent our Cozy Cabin in McCall for weeks and weekends. Best price in town at $110/night! Sleeps 6. More information on my web site and You also could check on a Forest Service cabin rental through, or a state parks cabin at the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation

10. Capilene tops, long underwear - For any outdoorsy person who's active, getting out and exercising several days a week, you can quickly run short of tops and bottoms after they get pitted out and pitched into the laundry. So it's nice to have a deep supply of different tops especially ... lightweight, midweight, expedition weight, etc. These items typically run $25-$75. REI and Patagonia make gear with lasting value. Take a look at smart wool, too. 

11. Bike light or bike lock - Help your sweetheart get properly geared up for bike commuting. It gets dark so early that bike lights are often needed for a safe and legal ride home after work. You can find a variety of bike lights at a reasonable price. You can find blinking red rear lights for less than $10. The front lights are more expensive. Get a bright one for a better ride and visibility. Bike lights are one item where the cost keeps coming down and the performance keeps getting better. I thought this Electra LED model looked pretty cool ... $29.95 retail. 

12. Hydro Flask - Previously known as a water bottle, the hydro flasks available today can be used for drinking coffee on the go, taking a long a nice hot cup of tea or hot chocolate on an outdoor outing, or actually packing plain old water. Hydro Flask is a brand by itself, but there are many other brands that make quality stainless steel insulated cups and containers. Pricing is in the $10 to $25 range or more. 

Gold Fork with Quinn and Drew
13. Book a trip to the Springs in Idaho City or Gold Fork Hot Springs near Donnelly - The Springs is much more upscale, with massage serves available, pool-side cocktails and food, and even overnight accommodations. Still, it costs only $16 to go soaking at the Springs. Go there after a day or xc skiing or snowshoeing. Advance reservations are required. Gold Fork Hot Springs is open six days a week except Tuesdays, and you can just show up and soak. The road into Gold Fork can be icy so take a good snow-worthy vehicle when you go. It costs $8 for adults and $6 for children to soak at Gold Fork. Always a good time!

14. Go Pro Hero 5 - It's smaller and more compact but it's got more bells and whistles than ever. See the Go Pro web site for more detail.

15. Pick up a pair of xc skis to expand your winter repertoire. The most versatile set up is a pair of class xc skis with fish scales. Usually you can buy a combination set with skis, boots and poles. If you're more ambitious, invest in a skate skiing set up. Great winter workout! Visit Idaho Mountain Touring, Greenwoods or Boise REI to check on their package offerings.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!
- SS  

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Where to go, if you'd like to play in the snow - xc skiing, tubing & sleigh rides in SW Idaho

Fair weather skiing at Targhee means you get to enjoy big views of the Tetons! (Courtesy Grand Targhee)
Grand Targhee has the best, and most snow in the region right now. 
Brundage is offering sleigh rides at the Activity Barn in McCall for the first time this year! 
Hi all,

I've been cursing this blasted high pressure weather pattern that's been deflecting winter storms away from us for quite some time now. A small storm moving through on Friday is supposed to blow the inversion out of the Treasure Valley, with any luck at all. Let's hope!

But in the meantime, it's possible to find places where you can go play in the snow! I've got some recommendations on where to go downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, tubing or on a sleigh ride!

  • Best downhill skiing right now - Ski the man-made groomers at Sun Valley or hit the road and ski Grand Targhee! Look for pre-Christmas season lodging deals at Sun Valley via a ski-and-stay package. Or, pick a few days when you can break away to visit Grand Targhee, and stay overnight on the mountain. They've got the best snow in the region, with a 62-inch base at the summit, 52 inches at the base area. 
  • Cross-country skiing close to home - The Nordic Lodge and limited Nordic trails at Bogus Basin are open. You also could xc ski at Bear Basin in McCall or on limited trails at Ponderosa State Park in McCall. Bear Basin is reporting a 12-inch base, recommending classic skiing. 
  • Best cross-country skiing - Go to Ketchum/Sun Valley and ski the North Valley Trails, Prairie Creek Loop, Harriman Trail or the trails at Galena Lodge. The xc trails in the Wood River Valley have the most kilometers open and best conditions for skate skiing or classic skiing.
    Tubing at Bogus Basin 
  • Tubing - Bogus Basin's tubing hill is open on Saturday and Sunday this weekend, and Brundage Mountain is opening the tubing hill at the Activity Barn in McCall on Friday, Dec. 15, for the holiday season. Check the web sites for hours and pricing. You need advance reservations to go tubing at Bogus, so you need to plan ahead! 
  • Sleigh rides - Brundage is offering sleigh rides at the Activity Barn for the first time this year. It's a 90-minute ride in the outskirts of McCall with fetching views of the surrounding countryside. The sleigh holds up to 15 people. Cost is $30 for adults, and $12 for kids 17 and under. Be sure to dress warm! They have hot chocolate and coffee in the yurt. 
    Hap and Florence Points elk-viewing sleigh rides 
    • Another great option is going on a winter sleigh ride with Hap and Florence Points in Donnelly to see elk and enjoy the mountain scenery. The Points Ranch has been offering this service for many years! Call 208-325-8783 for pricing.
    • Sun Valley offers one-hour sleigh rides and also dinner tours to Trail Creek Cabin. Pricing is $20-30 for the one-hour ride, depending on dates, and $129 to $169 for the dinner tours. Contact Sun Valley for more information. 
    • It appears that Bogus Creek Outfitters is no longer in operation. Their phone is disconnected. 
      People have been skating on Little Payette Lake for a week. 
  • Ice skating - If you like to go ice skating, and you plan to be in McCall, locals have been skating on Little Payette Lake, which has been smooth as glass, perfect conditions! Things may change after it snows, so try to get there soon! There may be skating on ponds in the Boise Valley, but be careful! You also can go skating at Idaho Ice World, the Manchester Ice Center in McCall or Sun Valley. 
Hope you enjoy the snow! 
- SS 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Plan a snowmobile adventure to Burgdorf Hot Springs, plus more hot springs to visit

Burgdorf Hot Springs - an Idaho classic north of McCall (courtesy of Brundage Mountain)
Hi all,

My outdoor tip this week is about visiting some of the best hot springs in SW Idaho. I wrote a hot springs roundup for the Idaho Statesman's Outdoors section this week, and I'm sharing the link to that here in my blog.

We are blessed to have these natural wonders right here in our own backyard.

Also, tonight I'll be signing copies of Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home, and the Owyhee Canyonlands: An Outdoor Adventure Guide at the City Peanut Shop in downtown Boise for First Thursday! There will be beer and peanut pairings to enjoy as well.

This is a great chance to get autographed copies of my guidebooks for gifts! Hope to see you tonight!

Have fun, and dress warm! 
- SS