Friday, December 17, 2021

Winter finally arrives with a powder bang! Downhill skiing, xc skiing, snowshoeing, snow biking are doable right now!

Mid-week pow day at Bogus Basin. Private Idaho! 

Hi all, 

Well, Old Man Winter, or perhaps it was the Norwegian Snow God, Ullr, took his time to wake up from a long summer snooze, but in the last 5-10 days winter has kicked with a major powder bang statewide, thank goodness! 

In the Central Mountains, West-Central Mountains, and Boise Mountains, 2.5-3 feet of new snow has fallen or more, depending on location, and that has suddenly allowed most of Idaho's ski areas to open for the season, plus that snowfall has put the mountains in shape for xc skiing, snowshoeing and snow-biking. 

See my post at the Idaho Daily Snow for the latest snow forecasts for Idaho. 

Earlier this week, Bogus Basin opened the Pine Creek chairlift for the season, and on Saturday, they'll open Bitterroot and Superior lifts, basically the whole mountain. Fun fun fun! Might even have some sunshine at Bogus this weekend on Friday and Saturday. Bogus is reporting a 25-inch base, with 7" in the last 24 hours, and six lifts in operation. Remember it's still early-season conditions. 

Brundage Mountain Resort and Tamarack Resort opened on Tuesday of this week with over 30" of new snow since the previous Friday ... from "zero to hero," is how spokeswoman April Whitney put it for Brundage. Tamarack got even more snow than Brundage in that series of storms, and it was amazing for skiers/riders to enjoy copious amounts of powder on opening day! 

Sun Valley, Galena Summit and the Wood River Valley also have shared in the powder goods, with over 2.5 feet of new snow falling in that area and counting. That has allowed the Galena and BCRD to groom a large portion of the Wood River and Galena Lodge xc trail system. They're open 7 days a week. 

The McCall Nordic report indicates that all of the key xc areas are working on getting up and running, including Ponderosa State Park, Bear Basin, Tamarack Resort Jug Mountain Ranch.

I have not gotten a report from the Idaho City Park and Ski areas, but I saw that the Mores Creek Snotel site has 34 inches of snow near Mores Creek Summit, so all of that area should be in good shape for xc skiing, snowshoeing and backcountry skiing. Try to find a grooming report to see if IDPR has been up there grooming trails to the backcountry yurts. 

Be aware that there's substantial avalanche danger following the big snow storms! See the latest reports from the Sawtooth Avalanche Center and Payette Avalanche Center. It may be best to stick to lower-gradient slopes and do some touring to avoid any potential danger. 

In case you were wondering, interesting to see the latest Idaho snowpack map ... we are catching up! 

Snow forecast in Idaho through 12/26. These are cumulative totals from today. 


Thursday, December 2, 2021

With sunny afternoons through Sunday, enjoy low-elevation trails like the Wilson-Reynolds Loop in the Owyhees

Entrance to Reynolds Creek canyon from the north. Took this pic in the spring.

Hi all, 

One more week of this unseasonably warm weather in December before winter weather is forecast to descend on Idaho next week.

So you might as well continue to enjoy low-elevation trails in the Boise Foothills or the Owyhee Front.  Please keep tabs on the Ridge to Rivers Facebook page for the latest trail conditions ... trails that are on north slopes or in permanent shade are going to be muddy and should be avoided. 

Trails in the Snake River canyon, such as this recent post detailing trips to an old homestead or Celebration Park to Halverson Lake would work well as would these must-do hikes in the Owyhees - Leslie Gulch and Mary's Creek/Sheep Creek.   

The China Ditch Trail ... Courtesy Idaho Hiking Club

Another sweet hiking loop is the Wilson Creek-Reynolds Creek Loop, which is featured in both my Boise Trail Guide and Owyhee Canyonlands guidebooks. It's 7.5 miles round-trip, travel time about 3.5 hours, vertical gain 750 feet, and it's super scenic. I saw that the Idaho Hike Club hiked it earlier this week. 

Here's a description in All Trails as well. 

My writeup on the hike:  

General remarks: This is a great hike/trail run in the foothills of the Owyhee Mountains, about 45 minutes from Boise. The trail weaves through rock formations on the way over to Reynolds Creek, and then you'll hike along on top of the China Ditch Trail - an old Chinese-built irrigation ditch high above the creek. The red rock canyon is spectacular. Bring your camera, plenty of water and a lunch.

Example of the cool rock formations you'll see going over to Reynolds Creek canyon.

Getting there
: From downtown Boise, hook up with I-184 west and head for Nampa. Take the Franklin Road exit (City Center) in Nampa, and turn left. Follow Franklin to the intersection with 11th Street. Turn right and take 11th into downtown Nampa. Follow signs for Idaho 45 south. Take ID 45 to Walters Ferry at the Snake River and turn right on ID 78, heading for Marsing. In a couple miles, turn left on Wilson Creek Road. Proceed up the paved road until it turns to dirt and pull into a dirt parking area on the left for BLM Trails #300 and #400. The hike/run starts here.

Directions: To begin, pick up Trail #300 out of the parking lot. Ignore trails branching off to the left in the first mile. At mile .9, you’ll cross a road and continue on the singletrack trail. The trail climbs one last hill and then widens into a two-track and descends to a T-junction at a dirt road (mile 1.8). Go right for a short bit, and turn left on Trail #410, a sandy wash going downhill towards Reynolds Creek. At mile 2.3, go right on Trail #310 and proceed for a half mile to a junction with Trail #600, the "China Ditch” trail. Go right and walk upstream along Reynolds Creek canyon for about a long mile. After walking next to vertical rock walls, the trail opens up on the right at the junction with Trail #510, #601 and #610. Go right on #510 and climb out of the canyon. At mile 4, bear right at a Y junction on #510 and stay on #510 to BLM dirt road #37154. Go right and follow the road to the junction with Trail #400. Go left on #400 at mile 5.28 and head back to the trailhead. At the top of the first hill, you can either stay on Trail #400 or branch off on #300. Both ways head over to the Wilson Creek Road and the trailhead.

Hiking notes: Even though the route is 7+ miles, the elevation gain is pretty minimal, so the hike may be suitable for kids 8 and over. My kids enjoyed the hike, especially throwing rocks into the creek on the China Ditch trail.

Wondering what's going on with the winter storms predicted next week? See my post in for the Idaho Daily Snow for details. 

- SS  

Make sure you bring the kids! This was Quinn and Drew a few years ago!


Thursday, November 18, 2021

Snow situation looking ahead to Thanksgiving, Christmas tree permits, Steelhead in the Boise River

I took this pic on Tuesday on the River Run side of Bald Mountain in Sun Valley.

Hi all, 

The snow situation leading up to Thanksgiving next week is looking a bit thin, according to the weather forecasts, and on-the-ground conditions in the mountains. 

I did an update last night on the Idaho Daily Snow on, and this was my summary:

"Much-needed cooler temperatures since Tuesday are allowing Idaho's ski areas to make snow in hopes of a Thanksgiving opening. The next storm on Thursday night-Friday offers some glimmer of hope, with 4-7" possible at Tamarack and Brundage, and 6" at Schweitzer, Silver and Lookout. Sun Valley and Bogus Basin are forecast to get 1-2." Another storm next week may bring another 3-8." 

However, the weather/snow forecasts for the Thursday night/Friday/Saturday storm event vary quite a bit, and the quantity of snow associated with that storm event may not be as much as predicted. See the Idaho Daily Snow to see the snow forecast maps and details. There's another snow storm coming next Tuesday, but it may not have much quantity.

The upshot is that the ski areas with robust snow-making equipment will have the best chance of providing some skiing/snowboarding on Thanksgiving Day. Sun Valley and Bogus Basin are planning to open on Thanksgiving. Bogus will have the Mountain Coaster open as well. Other ski areas like Tamarack and Brundage are hoping to open on Friday, Nov. 26, weather permitting. See the Idaho Daily Snow for a full list of ski area projected opening dates. 

Update: Bogus Basin's Hike Park with terrain park features opens Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Access is FREE. Double R Ranch BBQ Smokehouse will be open as well.  

The reality of the situation is that the Idaho mountains had more snow depth two weeks ago than we have now, especially if they depend on Mother Nature for snowpack. The major warm-up that occurred in the second half of last week melted a lot of the mountain snow, unfortunately. Hence, it may be more promising to think about other outdoor activities while we wait to get more snow for xc sking and downhill skiing/riding. 

Fun to get kids involved in picking out a tree in the national forest.

Here are some other suggestions: 

  • Grab a permit from the Boise, Payette or Sawtooth National Forest and go cut your own Christmas tree. Fun activity. The permits are available on The permits cost $10/tree. The permits stipulate that Christmas tree cutting begins on Saturday, Nov. 20. Be sure to bring a good saw for cutting the tree and some straps/ropes for lashing the tree to the top of your rig, if you don't have a pickup truck. 

    Steelhead photo courtesy IDFG
  • Go steelhead fishing on the Boise River. Idaho Fish and Game will be releasing about 250 steelhead into the Boise River today (Thursday, Nov. 18) at the typical spots, Barber Park, Broadway Bridge, Americana Bridge and Glenwood Bridge. Make sure you have a fishing license and a steelhead permit. See IDFG article about the special steelhead season on the Boise River. 
    Snow biking on the Deer Point road, which is a good place to go boot hiking too, early season.

  • Go boot-hiking or fat biking in the snow in the mountains for fun after the snow storm on Friday or hit the Ridge to Rivers trails after they dry out. Be sure to layer up for colder weather. 
  • Road biking or a Greenbelt ride will work great when the trails are muddy as an alternative. I rode the Cartwright 4 summits loop yesterday afternoon, and it always delivers a major workout! 

    Boot hike on the trail to Stack Rock on a previous Thanksgiving Day.

  • Go for a hike in the Owyhees. See my recent post about hiking Sage Creek or another post about three must-do hikes - Black Magic Canyon, Leslie Gulch or Mary's Creek and Sheep Creek canyons.

There you have it! Have a nice Thanksgiving and count your blessings with your family, friends and loved ones.


Thursday, November 11, 2021

Oodles of workout tips to get your body ready for ski season!

A powder day at Brundage Mountain

Hi all, 

It's time to be thinking about getting your body tuned up for ski season! We could be xc skiing or snowshoeing by Thanksgiving, perhaps even sooner, and if Mother Nature delivers enough snow, we could be downhill skiing by then as well! 

I found three excellent posts from REI and Outside online with specific recommendations for ski-conditions exercises that I'll share below. 

You'll need to think about working on the muscles that you use most when skiing -- your quads, glutes, hamstrings, hips and lower back. Plus, I find that my arms and wrists can get sore, early in the season, from using my poles when turning ... so doing some light weights with your arms, hands and wrists will pay dividends. 

The bottom line is that if you do some advance ski conditioning, it will reduce the chance of injury. This becomes more important with age, I can vouch for that!  

Lynette Hayes, a Boise personal fitness trainer and owner of Active & Fit, says, "People always think legs, which is of course important, but don't forget the power you need that comes from your hips and core. Also work in some single leg stuff for strength and balance." 

Side activities like cycling or running that boost your cardio will get your heart rate and lungs pumping, and they also add to leg strength, so that's all good in terms of ski conditioning. 

Hip roll exercise ... courtesy REI

Start with these ski conditioning exercises
from REI ... the post has text and video. The exercises are pretty basic, but all doable and not that hard. All of them seem like they'd be really effective in working specific areas of your body. And like many of the exercises described in these routines, you barely need any special workout machines or anything like that ... just you, your workout mat, and a few free weights or kettle bells, and maybe a few props. 

The REI ski workout routine includes hip rolls, working the inner thighs, squats, lunges, lateral ski jumps, core work and more.  

The next two are from ... and they're a bit more advanced, but all doable at some level hopefully! 

Here are seven exercise routines from pro big-mountain skier Crystal Wright of Jackson Hole. Again, text and video. Really cool stuff! She covers things like "leg blasters," a combo of lunges and squats, jump lunges and jump squats. And then lateral ski jumps, lower back work, single-leg dead lifts, and finishes off with Jane Fonda leg exercises! 

Lateral ski jump ... courtesy REI

And to finish this out, how about a serious ski workout routine from Lindsey Vonn! This one is called "Killer Workout" with "10 exercises to make you strong, fast and explosive on the hill." Courtesy Outside online.

She covers things like front and side plank, flying like a ski jumper on top of an exercise ball, lying leg rotation, mini-band skate walks, one-legged lateral ski jumps, box jump, squats, hamstring curls with the exercise ball and more. 

I know I feel personally motivated to get ready for this year's ski season. We had such a phenomenal year last year ... really the best ski season for me personally since college! So, I really want to be ready this year! I've been biking and hiking consistently, but need to add ski-specific exercises to hit the slopes "running" or shall we say schussing! Ha!

The Treasure Valley YMCA has a month-long ski conditioning class coming up if you're a member ...

See you on the slopes!
- SS

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Revisiting hiking trails that shine during shoulder season - Sage Creek and Orchard-5 Mile Loop

Wendy enjoys the quiet walk in Sage Creek canyon in the Owyhee Canyonlands.

Hi all, 

Revisiting trails that you love is kind of like getting re-acquainted with an old friend.

For Wendy's birthday, we zipped out to Sage Creek on Wednesday in the Owyhee Canyonlands for a delightful afternoon. Sage Creek canyon is close to Succor Creek State Park. It's accessed by a well-graveled all-weather road. So it's a cool, off-beat place to go in late fall, winter and spring.

I discovered Sage Creek canyon when researching my Owyhee Canyonlands guidebook some years ago. It's a moderate walk into a scenic, incised canyon that's chock full of geologic other-worldly shapes and features. It's always a treat to visit the canyon in my book.

Towering reddish-orange rhyolite spires, fins, caves and phallic-type rocks jut into the sky as you're walking up the draw. You'll see darker and more recent basalt rock features along the way as well.  

Wall of blonde volcanic ash in Sage Creek canyon.

Lots of cool geologic features to explore.

But several miles into the canyon from the trailhead, you come to a unique area that's full of volcanic rock and ash flows. The ash flows are blond-colored, green and chalk-colored, and they're very erosive ... you can carve off outside layers with your fingernail. There are some balance-rock features in the area as well.

To just sit there and observe all of those features is quite breath-taking. Be sure to bring a lunch and plenty of water and snacks. Allow for 3-4 hours to explore. 

It's about 4 miles or so to explore the full interior of Sage Creek while you're climbing along the creek-bottom on a general incline. It's an easy kid-friendly, out-and-back hike even if you go only a couple of miles into the canyon. If you have plenty of time, you can try to cover the whole canyon experience. The upper canyon ends when you approach the McIntyre Ridge Road.

Huck flushed a couple of chukars in the canyon.

How to get there:
Take I-84 to the ID 55 exit in Nampa, heading west toward Marsing. After about 5 miles or so on ID 55, turn right on Chicken Dinner Road to Homedale Road. Go left on Homedale Road and follow that into the town of Homedale. Follow State Highway 19 west of Homedale, and then Highway 201 in Oregon, to a signed turnoff for Succor Creek State Park on the left. Head south on the dirt road. It's about 12 miles to the unsigned right-hand turnoff for the Sage Creek Trailhead. There is a lone scrubby cottonwood tree at the turnoff. If you have a 4WD rig, follow the primitive two-track road over several creek-crossings to the trailhead .9 miles from the Succor Creek Road. Or just park and hike that portion. Either way works. 

You may need muck boots or just your hiking boots for the hike. If it's wet and the creek is running with water, you'll want your muck boots. Yesterday, our hiking shoes worked well. 

Selfie with Steve and Wendy on the descent into Five Mile Creek canyon.

Another good shoulder-season hike in the Boise Foothills
is to do the Rocky Canyon-Orchard Gulch-Five Mile Creek loop. This is a moderate to strenuous 5.5-mile hike in the NE Boise Foothills. The trails are pretty sandy, and once winter comes, they become covered with ice or snow, and still hikeable. 

Wendy and I hiked that loop last Sunday, and the leaves were still golden in many places ... but that will change in the coming weeks as fall transitions to winter. 

Getting there: Take Shaw Mountain Road by Fort Boise to Rocky Canyon Road, and follow Rocky Canyon Road to the end of the pavement. Go up the dirt road about about four miles to the trailhead for Five Mile Creek. Park.  

Hike uphill on Rocky Canyon Road for a long mile to the trailhead for Trail #7 in Orchard Gulch. Follow that trail about 2.5 miles to the junction with the connector trail over to Five Mile Creek. All of the climbing is done now. Hike down to Five Mile Creek Trail, go left and return to the trailhead and your vehicle. Hiking time is 2.5-3 hours.


BBSEF Ski Swap is this weekend, Nov. 5-7! The giant ski equipment and clothing sale is being run for the 70th year!!! Opens at 1 p.m. on Friday at the Expo Building Fairgrounds. Entry fee is $5. 

The Land Trust of the Treasure Valley is looking for volunteers to plant sagebrush and other plants in the Harrison Hollow area on Friday at 10 a.m. Sign up here

- SS

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Fleeting fall colors in Idaho; Mountain Snow coming next week; Ski Swaps coming up

Colorful scene in upper Dry Creek on a quiet mid-week afternoon. 

Hi all, 

It's been a treat to watch the fall colors ablaze throughout Idaho in recent weeks after the hot and smoky summer. But starting tomorrow, Mother Nature is about to turn the page to winter and mountain snow in the high country, and continue into next week. 

The weekend ahead looks pretty rainy in the valleys, but in the breaks between storms, maybe you can take a hike, run, bike ride or scenic drive to enjoy the fall colors perhaps at their peak right now, before the storms below the leaves off the trees and the tamaracks in Valley County lose their golden needles. 

As a reminder, here are some recommended trails in the Ridge to Rivers trail system for seeing fall colors ... (please stay off muddy trails when they're wet!): 

  • Watchman Trail 
  • Shingle Creek Trail 
  • Dry Creek Trail 
  • Freddy's Stack Rock Trail 
  • New connector trail to Stack Rock 
  • Peggy's Trail - Chukar Butte 


In McCall and Sun Valley, the colors have been peaking as well. Last week when I was in the Sun Valley area, the cottonwoods around Adams Gulch were brilliant! Farther up the valley toward Galena, the leaves had already fallen and the color show was over. 

Taken today, 10-21-21 in downtown McCall

The tammies are the main feature in Long Valley right now ...
Looking across at the Needles peaks and Lake Cascade

For those of you who like to play in the snow, the beginning of the winter season is coming with a series of snow storms forecast in the mountains. Looking at, I'm seeing the brunt of the storm coming to the Big Wood Basin and Sun Valley, where 8" of new snow is possible through next Wednesday, Tamarack Resort, 9-12", Brundage, 18-26" through next Wednesday, and Bogus Basin, 4" through Wednesday. 

The main event appears to be Monday and Tuesday. But at least in the McCall area, the snow storms start on Friday in the mountains and continue through next Wednesday. We'll see how it plays out. 


So if the winter storms might get you thinking about the upcoming ski season, if you're in need of more ski gear, ski swaps are a great way to save money and get the kids and family geared up. 

There's a new Boise Community Ski Swap going on this weekend, Friday-Sunday, at the old Shopko location on Broadway near I-84 in Boise. 

The BBSRA Ski Swap is scheduled for Nov. 5-7 at Expo Idaho. So that one is still a couple of weeks away. 

I'm stoked to see some wet weather coming in! Let's hope we get nailed and the snow sticks to start the accumulation of mountain snow for the winter of 2021-22!
- SS