Thursday, January 25, 2018

Fresh snow in the forecast every day this weekend - perfect for McCall Winter Carnival!

One of the highlights of the McCall Winter Carnival is the professional snow sculptures.
Experts travel from throughout the region to win the contest! 

I thought this snow sculpture was phemonenal ... built at the Hunt Lodge several years ago. 
Marti Gras Parade! 

Hi all,

It should be a fabulous weekend to head up the McCall Winter Carnival. Brundage Mountain has received more than 2 feet of snow in the last week, 6 inches last night, and more than 15 inches are forecast through the weekend. It'll be great conditions for downhill skiing, xc skiing, snowshoeing, snow-biking, sleigh rides and tubing at the Activity Barn, among other things!

On Friday, Jan. 26, the McCall Winter Carnival comes to life for 10 days, and the options for fun expands multifold with fireworks, snowshoe golf, ice skating, checking out the snow sculptures, the Marti Gras parade on Saturday, beer garden, monster dog pull, beard and hairy legs contest, snow tubing, a snow bike race and so much more. See the event schedule for details. This year's theme is "Snow Place Like Home."

Here's an Outdoor Idaho program on the Winter Carnival from Idaho Public TV.

If you don't have a place to stay in McCall, yet, try the McCall Chamber,, or for lodging options. Things fill up pretty fast for winter carnival, so get on that quickly if you haven't already. The area hotels may have rooms available, too.

While you're in the hood, you can escape the crowds in McCall and ski or ride Tamarack Resort. You'll get more of a private Idaho experience at Tamarack, and that means more powder for you! Tamarack also may have lodging available.

Closer to home, downhill skiing, xc skiing or snowshoeing at Bogus Basin should be great this weekend. They've been getting a little bit of new snow practically every day this week. They had 5 inches over the last 24 hours. I skied there last Saturday, and they had solid coverage in most places. With more fresh snow during the week, the conditions should be great this weekend as more storms pass through.

Skiing or snowshoeing in the backcountry should be fab this weekend, too. Try starting from Mores Creek Summit above Idaho City and scale Pilot Peak, Freeman Peak or Sunset Mountain. I bet it'll be fantastic conditions up there.

The Idaho City Park n' Ski Areas should be getting in decent shape as well. I tried the grooming hotline, 208-514-2419, but I couldn't get through ... but due to all the storms we've been having lately, I would bet that the Gold Fork, Skyline, Banner Ridge and Stargaze trails are all in good shape for xc skiing or snowshoeing.

Hope you have a fun wintry weekend in the mountains!
- SS 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

My outdoor tip this week: Two of my favorite winter hikes on the Boise River Greenbelt

This pic was taken in March when birds were beginning to occupy nests in the heron rookery along the Eagle Greenbelt.
The rookery is one of the highlights of the trip in terms of wildlife watching. There's also a bald eagle nest in the area.
Take your hike in the evening and you'll see some amazing sunsets while geese fly overhead.
Walking/running trail on the south side of the Boise River, west of Barber Park. 
Boise River near Eckert Road bridge and Barber Park. 
Bald eagle perches in a cottonwood tree along the Eagle Greenbelt (off in the distance).
Hi all,

The warm weather we had mid-week inspired people to play golf and ride bikes in the Boise Valley, but winter is snapping back into swing starting tonight and tomorrow (Friday), especially in the mountains. We'll have rain in the valley tomorrow while it snows at Bogus Basin, Tamarack Resort and Brundage.

All three were getting hammered with snow on Thursday night. Powder day on Friday! Brundage and Tamarack had 10 inches of new overnight, and Bogus got 6 inches. Yay!

The skies are expected to clear for some potential bluebird skiing at Bogus on Saturday and Sunday, either downhill or cross-country.

Sunshine also is predicted for the Boise Valley this weekend, calling for blue skies and temperatures in the low 40s. So after skiing three days in a row at Brundage last weekend, I'm recommending a couple of my favorite winter hikes along the Boise River for this weekend ... staying closer to home.

Summer-view map of the Marianne Williams-Barber Park-Bown Crossing Loop 
The first hike is in East Boise, a 4-mile loop from Marianne Williams Park in Harris Ranch to Barber Park and the dirt/gravel walking trail on the south side of the river going back to Bown Crossing. You can connect to Marianne Williams Park by crossing the East ParkCenter Bridge. But before you do that, be sure to stop and get some coffee, beer or whatever in Bown Crossing. You're also close to Lucky 13 in Harris Ranch on the east side. Make it a fun outing combined with some food and drink.

Here's one of my previous blogposts with the full skinny on the loop from Marianne Williams Park in Harris Ranch to Barber Park and Bown Crossing.

Eagle Greenbelt loop has multiple options with the pedestrian bridge at the head of Eagle Island. 
My second recommendation is to do a 6-mile loop on the Eagle Greenbelt on foot or bike. There's always a good chance of seeing wildlife in this lesser-used area of the Greenbelt. The tour takes you from the start near Eagle Road to the pedestrian bridge spanning the Boise River at the head of Eagle Island. Then, you head west and follow the riverside trail back to Eagle Road. You'll need to walk or bike along the road for a short reach back to the north channel, and complete your loop. I recommend starting and finishing at Bardenay Restaurant, so you can get a meal and a beverage there after your outing.

Both of these hikes among a total of 90 are featured in my Boise Trail Guide. The book is available in most outdoor stores in the Boise area, on my web site, and on

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Elk-viewing sleigh ride at the Points Ranch is a real treat! Reserve a trip soon!

There were some nice bulls in the herd ...  
Drew enjoyed seeing the elk 
The elk come up and chew on hay right under your bum! 
Quinn had a close visitor too! 
Happy campers dining on premium alfalfa hay 
Hi all,

So glad that we're finally getting more snow in the mountains! Hurray!

My outdoor tip this week is all about an elk-viewing sleigh ride at the Points Ranch in Donnelly. Wendy and I took our kids on the sleigh ride over the holidays, and it was a great experience! Be sure to make reservations ahead of time and dress warm!

See my article in the Idaho Statesman Outdoors section on Tuesday, Jan. 9.

Contact the Points Ranch for more information.

I also wanted to make sure that people saw the plea by Ridge to Rivers trail managers to STAY OFF MUDDY TRAILS! in Chadd Cripe's outdoor column today in the Statesman. People are brutalizing the trails right now. Give the trails a rest, PLEASE!

The headline was, "Foothills Trails getting hammered."

Best alternatives are the all-season trail in Harrison Hollow, the Boise River Greenbelt in Boise or Eagle, or go xc skiing or snowshoeing at Bogus Basin, Idaho City, McCall or Stanley. 

Enjoy the new snow in the mountains this weekend! I'm heading for McCall to ski Brundage!
- SS

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Five outdoorsy ideas for the weekend - Free xc ski day, Mountain Coaster, Gateway tubing hill and more

Kids are having a blast on the Gateway Parks tubing hill at Eagle Island State Park in Eagle
Wendy skiing at Ponderosa State Park with Huck when he was a little puppy! He used to try to bite our ski tips. 
A lot of the foothills trails are icy ... get some traction devices for safety! 
Hi all,

These are challenging times for the winter outdoor enthusiast because of the lack of snow in recent weeks. It's hard to get excited about downhill skiing when limited slopes have been hit hard over the holidays, and there hasn't been any new snow to improve the base. Nordic skiing and snowshoeing conditions are much better in select places. DO YOUR BEST SNOW DANCE! WE NEED MORE SNOW!

In this week's outdoor tip, I'm recommending several activities that will allow you to make the best of the current situation:

1. Try xc skiing or snowshoeing on National Free XC Ski Day on Saturday, Jan. 6. Ponderosa State Park will have rental gear available for use and their trails will be open free of charge. They may even have some free instruction. Contact the park for details. The Idaho City Park n' Ski Areas will be open for free access (no fees charged in the parking lots for this one day only). You'll need to bring your own xc skis or snowshoes. Leo Hennessy with IDPR recommends snowshoeing the Banner Ridge Trail or the trail to Stargaze Yurt. The Skyline loop is groomed for xc skiing, but Leo said there are bare spots, and it has rained on top of the snow, making for a hard, slick trail. I'd agree with him and take your snowshoes. Lake Cascade State Park won't be participating this year because of lack of snow and icy conditions.

Reason to do this activity: Getting into xc skiing or snowshoeing is a great way to enjoy the mountains in the winter without burning a hole in your wallet. I've been doing both since I was a teen-ager.

Courtesy Kent Proesch YouTube 
2. Ride the Mountain Coaster at Bogus Basin. Hey, it's a brand new novelty, right? Everyone has to try it -- skiers and non-skiers/riders alike! The Glade Runner descends 4,330 feet at speeds of up to 25 mph. You conntrol your own speed. The track winds through the woods, climbing to over 40 feet in the air at times. The cost for single riders is $15 and $25 for two. I haven't ridden it yet, but I've heard good things. 

Courtesy Idaho Mountain Touring 
3. Pick up a pair of Yaktrax ice-grippers and go hiking or running on the Boise Foothills trails when they're frozen. Many of the trails are super icy right now, so it's pretty treacherous to do either activity without some traction devices. I checked out three models of Yaktrax at Idaho Mountain Touring - the Yaktrax Pro model ($30), which has metal coils that provide grip on the ice, Yaktrax Run models ($40), which are a combination of coils on the heels and studs on the ball of your feet, and Yaktrax Diamond Grips ($45), a more robust set that provides more grip on ice than the Pro model.

Trails are getting muddy the afternoon in Military Reserve ... be sure to get out early or later at night after things freeze! 
Check the Ridge to Rivers web site or Boise Foothills Trail Conditions Facebook page to get the latest information on trail conditions ... Lately, I noticed that they are seeing Table Rock trails turning muddy by late morning, and they are closed by noon on a daily basis right now. Ridge to Rivers also showed pictures of people hiking muddy trails in Military Reserve today (Jan. 4). Make sure you get out early and hike when things are frozen.

Gateway Parks tubing hill ... 
4. Take the kids tubing at Gateway Parks at Eagle Island State Park and/or go hiking along the river. There's fun little hill at the park where Gateway created two different tracks for tubing. It costs $15 for 2 hours of tubing. I went by there today and see a steady stream of people riding the magic carpet to the top for a fun ride down.

While at the park, there are some nice trails along the south and north channels of the Boise River. Bring your boot traction devices as mentioned above regarding the foothills trails. But I found the trails at Eagle Island to be mostly snow- and ice-covered and good for walking, all things considered.

5. Catch an inspiring film at the 15th annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival at the Egyptian Theater on Friday night. The film festival is sponsored by the Idaho Sierra Club chapter. Eleven adventure and conservation films will be featured. Should be fun!

There you have it! Have a fun weekend!
- SS