Thursday, January 24, 2019

McCall Winter Carnival starts on Friday, Jan. 25 with a huge slate of family fun activities

Snow sculptures are under construction! Ullr the Snow God by the Brundage Ski Patrol (Courtesy Brundage) 
Hi all,

I guess I'm acting like Mr. Obvious this week ... you know that annoying guy from the Bob and Tom show? Well, it's hard to beat the McCall Winter Carnival for family fun and entertainment. The Winter Carnival begins tomorrow on Jan. 25 for the 54th consecutive year and continues for two weekends through Feb. 3. Children's Torchlight parade starts at 6:30 p.m. Friday to kick things off.

The weather forecast looks fantastic this weekend, with sunshine every day and highs in the low 30s and lows in the teens and 20s. That'll be great for the Marti Gras Parade on Saturday, and just about any winter activity in the area. Still, dress warm!

Believe me, all of these tips are spot-on! 
#1 - Find a place to stay! 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.

Every day, the options for fun expand multifold with snowshoe golf, ice skating, touring the snow sculptures, beer gardens, 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 "Legends, Myths and Super Heroes."

The Boise Weekly had a great list of tips in the latest edition that came out today. Tips include the pancake breakfast on Saturday, Jan. 26 at the McCall Senior Center, $24 early-bird special for prime rib at 4 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 25 at the Anchor. There also will be lots of food vendors at Depot Park.

Brundage Mountain and Tamarack Resort are in great shape with fresh snow in the last week, so you can cruise some groomers and ski off-trail, whatever you like!

It'll be great conditions for downhill skiing, xc skiing, snowshoeing, snow-biking, sleigh rides and tubing at the Activity Barn and the North Valley Trail.

If you've never been to the Winter Carnival before, you'll get a flavor from this Outdoor Idaho program on Idaho Public TV.

Many other activities would be fun this weekend because of the sunshine. It'd be best to stay off the Boise Foothills trails. PLEASE! See Ridge to Rivers page on Facebook for the latest updates.

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 great as well. 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 17, 2019

Go play in the snow! Big powder days coming through MLK weekend with 2-feet of new!

Powder day at Brundage Mountain this morning! I felt blessed to be there! (Courtesy Brundage Mountain) 

Hi all,

I snuck up to McCall last night so I could ski some fresh *pow* this morning, and it was a great morning at Brundage Mountain. It was bombing snow relentlessly, perhaps at 1-inch an hour or more, and by mid-day Brundage had 10 inches of new, including 4 inches overnight.

Every run I took was virgin *pow* all the way ... I didn't want to stop for anything! My legs felt strong!

It might be 50 degrees and gray in Boise, but it's full-on winter in the mountains! And this particular weekend, all of our regional ski areas are supposed to get a big dose of snow. Not only today, but continuing through the MLK weekend.

According to Open Snow, here are the expected snow totals for the next 5 days:

I watch the weather pretty close, and you don't see those kind of numbers in the forecast for SW Idaho very often. If you have the time and flexiblity, might be time for a powder road trip! Bogus Basin, Tamarack, Brundage, Sun Valley, Solder Mountain, Pomerelle and Magic Mountain are all in close range!

I wrote about taking a road trip to ski Soldier, Magic and Pomerelle a few years back, and I thought I'd share that with you ... All of those ski areas are reasonably priced, and they're kind of like taking a step back in time in terms of the down-home friendly atmosphere around the base lodges. 

But with Bogus Basin projected to get 2 feet of snow over the MLK weekend, you might not need to go anywhere! Ditto if you're planning to be in McCall to ski Brundage or Tamarack. Brundage is having a beer and gear festival on Saturday and Sunday. 

Sun Valley is getting its fair share, too. All of this will be great for Idaho's snowpack, which has been lagging in the 70 percent zone in recent days (Boise, Payette and Salmon basins). 

Backcountry skiing and snowshoeing this weekend could prove to be challenging because of the deep snow for breaking trail, but be safe and careful out there! Check on avalanche conditions at the Payette or Sawtooth Avalanche Centers.

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Gonna feel like early spring weather this weekend - 4 ideas for outdoorsy fun

This weekend might be a good time to go see bald eagles and cormorants on the Eagle Greenbelt, south side, Boise River. 
My son Drewby hiking Browns Canyon with us in the springtime. 
It's always a treat to ski Sun Valley in the sunshine. 
Bear Basin in the sunshine. Great xc ski and snowshoe trail system in McCall. 
Hi all,

It's been quite a parade of snow storms in the mountains in the last few weeks, but that's made it feel pretty gray and dreary in the Treasure Valley. For the first time in a while, it's going to be sunny and a little warmer in this weekend, Friday-Sunday, so it's time to get outside to cure a little cabin fever.

It'll be sunny in the mountains and in the valley, according to the National Weather Service, so you really can have your pick as to whether you'd like to head out in either direction.

Here are four options that I'd recommend:

1. Go walking, running or biking on the Boise River Greenbelt. High temperatures are supposed to be in the low 40s this weekend, so it won't be exactly balmy. Wait until the afternoon to head out to enjoy the warmest part of the day. 

That said, please avoid using the Ridge to Rivers Trails this weekend. Table Rock Trails are closed because of muddy conditions, and the rest of the trails are getting hammered when they're soft in the afternoon. Temperatures are expected to freeze at night, so if you got out really early, it'd be OK, but generally, it'd be better to go do something on the Greenbelt. Idaho Fish and Game also just closed trails in the Boise River Wildlife Management Area, including the Homestead Trail next to Harris Ranch.

2. Go spring skiing at Bogus Basin, Tamarack Resort, Brundage Mountain Resort or Sun Valley. Get a bunch of friends together or do a family outing. Conditions are great everywhere!

3. Go xc skiing, snowshoeing or snowbiking at Bogus Basin, Idaho City Park and Ski Areas, McCall area or Sun Valley area. Once again, conditions are excellent in all four locations.

4. Go hiking in the Owyhee Canyonlands. Stick to the good roads to do a little adventuring in the Owyhees. Succor Creek, Sage Creek, Leslie Gulch and Mary's Creek would be the best bets right now. Maybe Browns Canyon near Oreana would be good, too. All of these hikes are featured in my Owyhee Canyonlands guidebook.

There you have it! Enjoy the sunshine!
- SS   

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Stellar midwinter conditions in McCall! Five reasons to visit before Winter Carnival

Tubing at the Activity Barn (courtesy Activity Barn) 
Powder riding at Brundage on a bluebird day (courtesy Brundage Mountain) 
Hi all,

You'd never know it in Boise, but a whole series of snowstorms in McCall have created stellar midwinter conditions for alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snow-biking. Add hot springs to the list and you've got 5 reasons to visit the McCall area before Winter Carnival starts in the last week of January.

Wendy and I were fortunate to stay at our Cozy Cabin in McCall for almost two weeks over the holiday break, and that put us pretty close to heaven. Being winter people coming from Michigan (her) and Minnesota (me), we love playing in the snow. After multiple days of skiing, xc skiing, snowshoeing and snow-biking, my legs were crying "Uncle!"

Wow that's some deep powder! (courtesy Tamarack Resort) 
That's got to be one of greatest feelings when you feel so sated from doing the things you love to do with friends and family.

Lodging should be easier to find now that New Year's Day is behind us, so see if you can book a room/condo/house and enjoy one or more of the following activities in McCall and surrounding areas:

  • Tubing at the Activity Barn - No advance reservations are needed to go tubing in McCall. The Activity Barn is located a few miles south of town on a hill that provides an 800-foot exciting ride down the tubing lane. There's a lift that brings you back to the top. Dress warm. You can go it alone, or link up and slide down the hill together with your kids. Tickets cost $18/person, or $13 after 4 p.m. for 1 hour of fun. The Activity Barn is open on Fridays and weekends, and closed Monday-Thursday. See the web site for details.  
    North Valley Trail, south of the Activity Barn. Perfect conditions.  
  • Go cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or snow-biking on the North Valley Trail and Activity Barn trails. A lot of people are just learning about this opportunity, but you can use the Nordic trails at the Activity Barn and on the North Valley Trail for free (donations for grooming gladly appreciated). Snow bikes are available for rent at the Activity Barn or bring your own. The North Valley Trail runs for about 2.5 miles from the Activity Barn out to the southern trailhead on Heinrich Lane, so you can do a 5-mile outing in that regard, or you can jump on the Activity Barn trails and add 3 miles to the whole outing. I recommend both trails if you have time.  
  • Alpine skiing at Brundage Mountain north of McCall or Tamarack Resort west of Donnelly. The snow gods have been kind to Brundage and Tamarack, providing an excellent base for this time of year. Brundage has a 42-inch base at the bottom of the hill and 47 inches at the summit. One-hundred percent of the mountain is open. Tamarack has 31 inches at mid-mountain and 36 inches at the summit. Nearly all of the mountain is open. Tamarack is  operating 7 days a week this year. Both mountains are super fun to ski/ride. 
    Snow biking at JMR. 
  • Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at Bear Basin, Ponderosa State Park or Jug Mountain Ranch. Dogs are allowed on all of the trails at Bear Basin and JMR, which is a bonus for us dog-owners. JMR also has excellent snow-biking trails and rental bikes. All three of these venues are worth visiting. All are scenic with diverse terrain, groomed xc trails, and separate snowshoe trails.  
    Bear Basin xc ski trails on a snowy day. 
  • Go to Gold Fork Hot Springs or take a snowmobile trip to Burgdorf Hot Springs. After all of the day's activities, it's time to soothe the muscles with a long soak in hot, natural geothermal water. Gold Fork is about 30 minutes south of McCall via the Davis Creek Road, south of Donnelly. Make sure you bring cash. It's closed on Tuesdays. Bring a suit and a towel, and you're golden. Non-glass beverages are allowed at pool-side. Burgdorf is open 7 days a week, starting at 10 a.m. each day. You can rent a snowmobile or go on a guided tour with Brundage Mountain to Burgdorf. It's a 25-mile trip on a groomed trail with optional off-trail sledding available along the way. I've taken my family on a guided trip, and they absolutely loved it. Make sure you pack a lunch or snacks for the trip.
    Main pool at Gold Fork Hot Springs. (courtesy Gold Fork) 
    There you have it! Hope everyone has a great year in 2019! 

- SS