Thursday, December 29, 2022

Points Ranch, Idaho Sleigh Rides offer great opportunity to see elk, enjoy the scenery!

My son Quinn enjoys a moment with a cow elk on the Points Ranch sleigh ride. 

Hi all,

We've had a very snowy start to the winter of 2022-23, and so the full slate of outdoor snow activities are available to enjoy, looking ahead to January and February of 2023. 

One thing you could plan with your immediate family or a group of friends is an elk-viewing sleigh ride with Idaho Sleigh Rides in Garden Valley or the Points Ranch near Donnelly. 

There's plenty of snow on the ground, which has driven the elk to lower elevations for their winter range. Both sleigh rides provide ample opportunities to see elk while enjoying the broader scenery. Both will be operating 7 days a week through the rest of the winter. Reservations are required. 

Get a group of friends together and reserve a trip!

The Points Ranch sleigh ride takes about 1 hour. They feed the elk while they take folks on the horse-drawn sleigh ride. The elk are watching and waiting for you to come by with more alfalfa hay ... and you'll have very up-close-and-personal encounters with them! 

I took my whole family on the Points Ranch sleigh ride, and they all loved it! 
My step-daughter Elena actually got kissed by an elk while it was feeding on a hay bale in the sleigh, and she thought that was quite memorable!

The Points Ranch is located south of Donnelly next to ID 55. They load people on the sleighon an hourly basis, and you go on a very slow loop through a big group of elk. Call 208-325-8783 to make a reservation and inquire about rates.

In Garden Valley, Idaho Sleigh Rides offers a great variety of trips, from a simple sleigh ride, to a sleigh ride and lunch, to a Dutch oven dinner ride with live music. They have a small sleigh for groups of four, and a larger sleigh that fits 12 people.  The rides last about 45 minutes and take you on a tour of some large snowy meadows and big groups of elk in Garden Valley, with the mountains lording above.
"We see the elk every day," says Darl Allred of Idaho Sleigh Rides. 
Contact Idaho Sleigh Rides to make reservations and check on pricing. 
Like I said, get a group of friends together and reserve a trip!

In Sun Valley, you can go on a sleigh ride during the day or do a deluxe dinner ride to Trail Creek Cabin. Both experiences would be great, but believe me, the dinner ride to Trail Creek Cabin would be memorable! Reservations required.

Unfortunately, Bogus Creek Outfitters is no longer in business, so if you live in the Treasure Valley, you'll need to travel to enjoy a sleigh ride. It's worth going up to the mountains to enjoy the beautiful scenery and ensure there's plenty of snow for the trip!

No matter where you go, be sure to dress warm for the sleigh ride trip. That means full-on winter gear -- long underwear, warm sweater, snow pants or a snowmobile suit, warm boots, warm winter hat and warm mittens or gloves. Bring a thermos of hot coffee or cocoa perhaps?
- SS
P.S. We have had a phenomenal series of winter storms pass through Idaho's mountains since Nov. 1. Suffice to say that the snow conditions are outstanding everywhere for sleigh rides and any other type of winter activity right now. See my daily snow forecasts about snow conditions at Idaho's ski resorts on

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Stueby's Christmas gift recommendations for the Outdoorsy Him and Her - 2022 edition!

Happy Holidays! 

Hi all, 

Christmas is just 10 days away! It's time for my annual Christmas gift ideas for the outdoorsy him and her.

This year's list includes recommendations for our friends at Idaho Mountain TouringBoise REI, and McU Sports about the latest popular and trendy items.

Now, on to the gifts!

1. A warm, cozy Carhartt vest from D&B Supply, or a Patagonia down vest from Idaho Mountain
Boise REIGreenwoods Ski Haus or McU Sports.

2. Socks - Lots of color, designs and patterns, Smart Wool comfort made in the USA. Everyday Compression to support people standing on their feet, and it doesn't take 3 men and gorilla to put your socks on. 

3.  Lights for your campsite. REI recommends Revel Gear Trail Hound lights ($25) - it's a 30-foot string of colored LED lights that could provide a festive feel for your campsite.

4Lights for your bike, your head or your body. The Bontrager Ion 200-1000 human light ($100) looks like it could light up the trails as if you're on a professional movie set.

6. 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). I have a pair of the Hestra Heli-Insulated gloves pictured here ($155), and man are they nice! Always keep my hands warm! Mine are mittens with a trigger finger. For xc skiing and lightweight use, look in the work glove section of May Hardware in McCall or a local Maverick service station.

7. 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. You might be able to find a new or used pair at the Boise Outdoor Gear Exchange. Chris from IMT recommends these super-light TSL snowshoes with Boa closures. They're made out of carbon fiber. Prices range from $69 and up. Nice gift for a serious snow-shoer, but they also have kids models priced right at $39.95.

Women's Apt. 9® Herringbone Cadet Hat8. 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.

9. Patagonia trucker hats - Chris at IMT: These are Red Hot!- every age loves them -- men, women and kids.

10. 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.

11. Dog accessories from Ruffwear. How about an insulated coat for your pup? $79.95. Those things are so danged cute!

12. Guidebooks! - Ha! Always a thoughtful item in the stocking or under the tree ... my guides are available of course, from Boise Trail Guide, Owyhee Canyonlands, Paddling the Payette, updated for SUPers, and Boise Road Cycling Guide, plus my biography on the great champion for birds of prey Morley Nelson, Cool North Wind, in memory of all of his achievements related to the creation of the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. Plus I recommend Matt Leidecker's guides for the Sawtooths, White Clouds and Middle Fork Salmon River.

13. 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. 

14. Buck knife or Swiss Army knife - These items also have a way of disappearing. But especially guys appreciate having a knife handy for all sorts of things. A single-blade Buck knife is really sleek and cool, and the multi-tasking Swiss Army knives are always a hit. Boise Army Navy has a great selection of knives.

15. 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. 

16. River Gear - Pick up some accessories or a new SUP, hard-shell kayak, inflatable kayak, canoe or raft at Idaho River SportsCascade River GearAIRE in Meridian,  or Boise Army-Navy.

It's probably safe to say that we're all ready to bid 2020 goodbye because of the Covid-19 pandemic. So thankful to see vaccinations coming online for our health care workers and all of us who will need that ASAP. Gives me hope that things could return to "normal" sometime next year. It may be months before the vaccines are available to the average person. 
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!
- SS  

Steve talks about his weekly outdoor tip on 94.9 FM The River on Friday mornings with Ken and Michelle at about 7:40 a.m. Please listen in!

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Steve's Outdoor Tips: Tamarack opens Friday, Idaho City Park and Ski trails are groomed for the weekend and more!

Should be one heck of a powdery weekend in the mountains! 

Hi all, 

For this week's outdoor tip of the week, here are some newsy items to know: 

  • Big storm coming Friday-Monday this weekend in Southwest Idaho. The storm is forecast to drop 18-24" of new snow in the Boise Mountains and at Bogus Basin, Tamarack, Brundage, the West-Central Mountains, Sawtooths, Soldier Mountain and Sun Valley. Everyone is going to benefit! The main storm event will be Friday night-Saturday and Saturday night, but it will keep snowing through Sunday and Monday. A Winter Weather Advisory will be in effect all weekend. See my latest report on the Idaho Daily Snow
          For those of you who like to avoid crowds, Soldier Mountain might be a great pick this weekend. They're supposed to get at least 2 feet of new snow!  
Skiing with Quinn below Stargaze Yurt near Beaver Creek Summit. 
  • The Idaho City Park and Ski Areas have been groomed this week and will be ready for xc skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking this weekend. Bear in mind that the trails are groomed once/week, so the snow will pile up over the weekend. That'll make for a snowy experience! Bring a shovel! See the IDPR Non-Motorized Trails Facebook page for updates. 

    Fresh powder and groomers await skiers/riders at Tamarack Resort on Friday.
    (Photo courtesy Tamarack Resort) 

  • Tamarack Resort is opening its slopes for the first time for alpine skiing on Friday, Dec. 9. The Tamarack Express, Summit Express and Discovery lifts will be running this weekend. Wildwood is not open yet. The main terrain park will be open on Lower Showtime and beginner terrain park on the Discovery lift. Tam Nordic trails are open and groomed for xc skiing.  
         They'll have a DJ playing Saturday by Tamarack Express Lift to celebrate the season getting under way, and there will be s'mores on the snowfront Saturday and Sunday from 3 pm - 5pm. Tamarack also is hosting a ski film festival this weekend. See the Tamarack web site for more information.   
  • Night skiing starts at Bogus Basin on Friday, Dec. 9. Bogus is 100 percent open. Should be a heck of a powder weekend!   
  • Steve wrote a major feature story about Jo Cassin and Stan Kolby's 35-year journey of running Idaho River Sports in Boise and growing it into the Center of the Universe for the river-boating community. See the full article in the Idaho Press Outdoors. Steve wrote the story in first person since his own whitewater boating history occurred at the same time that IRS opened in 1987 and continues to this day. 
  • Be sure to stay off Muddy Trails this weekend. It may be rainy and muddy in the lower trails.  Check on the Ridge to Rivers Facebook page for the latest conditions. The trail off of Bogus Basin Road over to Stack Rock would be a good bet for snowshoeing or maybe boot hiking.     
  • The Boise Bicycle Project is looking for more kids bikes for the Christmas give-away. If you've got some bikes that you can give away, take them over to BBP! See more on the BBP Facebook page.    
That's it! Have fun! 
- SS 

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Ullr dumps big *pow* in Idaho's Mountains, ski conditions are gonna be great! Bring a shovel!

Rider carves fresh turns in Sun Valley *pow* (Courtesy 
Hi all, 

The latest snow storm Tuesday-Wednesday this week was forecast to be a doozy, and by God, it was!!! The Snow God Ullr took a deep breath and let out a big roar - sending oodles of powder snow our way!  

Courtesy Brundage Mountain web cam 12/1/22 

Ha! For those of who like to ski/snowboard/snowshoe/xc ski/make snow angels, and play in the snow, this is "Go Time"! 

Since Tuesday, new snow amounts as of Thursday night: 

  • Bogus Basin - 10" last 24 hours, 20" in the last 7 days. They are operating 7 days a week. All front side lifts are open at this point, and backside lifts have yet to open. Nordic trails are open. Night skiing begins Dec. 9. 
  • Brundage Mountain - 15" in the last 24 hours, 33" in the last week. They reopen Friday morning for full operations with the Bluebird quad and Centennial lifts running. 
  • Tamarack - 9" in the last 24 hours, 13" in the last 48 hours. They plan on opening on Dec. 9.
  • Sun Valley - 4" in the last 24 hours, 7" in the last 48 hours, 10" in the last 72 hours. I bet the snow might be deeper than that, looking at the pics on their Facebook page.  Sun Valley is operating daily.  

    See my latest report on the Idaho Daily Snow.  
Courtesy Bogus Basin web cam

So basically, we've gotten at least a foot of new snow in the last week, if not 2-3 feet in the highest elevations. Snow bases are now in the 30-40" range already and growing. All of this new snow is going to set up our ski areas and the Idaho mountains for a great winter and ski season! And it's only Dec. 1! 

Personally, I'm planning on downhill skiing at Brundage Friday and Saturday, and also do some xc skiing with Wendy and Huck at the Bear Basin Nordic Center. Once all of the Nordic trails are groomed in the McCall area on Friday and Saturday morning, the conditions should be excellent. See McCall Nordic for all of the latest grooming reports.
Wendy and Ellie at Bear Basin on Saturday 

FYI - Near Idaho City, the Idaho Park and Ski Trails aren't groomed yet ... I checked with IDPR staff, and they reported that because Idaho Highway 21 got closed by the big snow storm, they can't get the groomer up on site to roll the trails at Gold Fork, Skyline, Banner, etc. There's plenty of snow base now so those trails will be in great shape once they're groomed.   

That said, people can still go backcountry skiing, Nordic touring and snowshoeing at More's Creek Summit, Beaver Creek Summit and at Gold Fork and Skyline by just breaking your own trail and finding your own adventure. You might need shovels to dig out a spot where you can park your car! Be sure to care avalanche beacons, probes and shovels if you're venturing into the backcountry on your own. 

Wood River Valley xc ski trails are in great shape and it looks like 100 percent of their terrain is open. They report 5" of new in the last 12 hours, 12" in the last 24 hours.  

Another idea: Upper Ridge to Rivers trails like the trail to Stack Rock from Bogus Basin Road are snow-packed and in great shape for boot hiking, snowshoeing and snow biking. 

Be sure to drive carefully and be safe out there!
Have fun!  
- SS 

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Bogus Basin "soft opening" for downhill and xc skiing happens Saturday, plus McCall and Sun Valley xc trails are open

Snow biking at Jug Mountain Ranch on Tuesday. 

Hi all,

With the early natural snow and cold weather, Bogus Basin has been making snow 24/7 and they're hosting a "soft opening" this weekend, Saturday-Sunday, Nov. 19-20. It'll be the earliest opening for alpine skiing at Bogus in 28 years! Kudos to them! 

Be aware the early opening is for eligible season pass holders only, however. Bogus is selling a limited number of reduced-priced lift tickets online. See more details here. BTW: Bogus plans to open alpine skiing for the season on Thanksgiving Day.  

If you're like me, and you enjoy playing in the snow, there's just enough snow base in the mountains that it's possible to go xc skiing, snowshoeing or backcountry skiing. Right now, it's pretty easy to do your own outings near mountain passes. That's my recommendation this weekend. I'll give a trip report on McCall xc ski areas, a few details on snow conditions at Mores Creek Summit, and the Wood River xc ski trails are open for the season, too, north of Ketchum. 

Steve and Wendy at Bear Basin last Saturday. 

McCall Trails

I xc skied Bear Basin last Saturday on classic skis with Wendy and Huck. They had about 1/3 of the trails rolled so far, and the snow depth was 9-12". The base felt very solid. We took "Just Right," the main trail over to Camas and climbed Camas over to Moon Ridge and then circled back to 4 Corners and through the Meadows back to the parking lot. 

Felt great to be out on the xc ski trails again ... in mid-November!   

Wendy with our friend Steve Jones

On Sunday, we xc skied in Ponderosa State Park with our friend Jonesy. The main trails have been rolled in the park, but they're pretty rough from people walking on them. Snow depth was 3-6" in the lower parts of the park, and 4-6" farther uphill. Still seemed fine on classic skis. Wouldn't recommend skate skiing there. We took the main trail out along the lake past Duck Bay, and then vectored off on Fox Trail to climb the hill back over to the main trail and back to the trailhead. There were a few spots where the sun had burned off the snow on the paved roads. 

On Monday, I xc skied on the North Valley Trail, starting out by the Activity Barn, south of McCall. There was 3-5" of snow depth on the trail, and it's also kind of rough because people have been boot-hiking on it as well as biking, xc skiing and snowshoeing. That's all OK! The trail has been rolled, but it won't be groomed until there's more snow. 
That's the case for all these areas right now. And no new snow is expected until the middle of next week. 

I snow-biked at Jug Mountain Ranch on Tuesday, and found a solid 4-6" base on their Nordic trails on the way up to JMR Reservoir. The trails have been rolled, but they are uneven like the other areas I just mentioned. 

Even so, the surface was mostly firm and rideable. It was a delightful sunny day, and I got a great workout grinding up to the lake. 

Mores Creek 

The Mores Creek snotel site indicates there's over 20" of snow at Mores Creek Summit, northeast of Idaho City. I've been seeing videos of backcountry skiers shredding some nice powder on Pilot Peak and Sunset Mountain. I also saw pics of a snowshoe group that had climbed to the top of Sunset Mountain.

I have no information about what's going on with the Idaho City Park and Ski Areas ... I think the snowpack may be too skinny for grooming quite yet, but you could certainly go make your own trails by Skyline and Gold Fork trails or you could climb up to Stargaze yurt at Beaver Creek Summit on Idaho 21. 

No matter what you do, please use caution and watch for unmarked obstacles! 

Wood River Valley

The Blaine County Recreation District's Winter Trails link indicates that many trails in the Wood River xc ski trail system are groomed and open. It looks like a portion of the trail system at Galena Lodge is open as well. Pick up a trail pass and go! 

The trails should be good for classic, skate skiing and snowshoes. 

That's my roundup! Have fun! 
- SS 

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Winter is coming to the Idaho Mountains! Are you ready?

We could be skiing at Bogus Basin by Thanksgiving! Wendy on Paradise. 

Hi all, 

In case you haven't noticed, winter weather has been moving into the Idaho Mountains in the last week or so. On Tuesday, 7-9" of new snow fell at Bogus Basin, Tamarack Resort and Brundage Mountain Resort, and there's another major weather system coming in on Friday and Saturday. It's an atmospheric river system, so it's expected to be a hum-dinger! 

Atmospheric river weather system is forecast to bring 200% of normal precipitation.
Courtesy Idaho Daily Snow,

Weekend forecasts through Monday are calling for 14" at Bogus, 17" at Tamarack, and more than 24" at Brundage. Sun Valley is projected to get 10" by Monday. 

These snowfall amounts will land on top of an existing base above 6,000 feet. 

Suffice it to say that winter is coming, and right now, it's coming fast! 

And the question is, Are you ready? 

It may be possible to begin snow-shoeing, xc skiing or backcountry skiing by mid-November, certainly Thanksgiving, if the existing pace continues! 

Again, are you ready? 

If you're a downhill skier, have you secured a season pass yet? Get online and look into a lift ticket-package that works for you at Bogus Basin, Tamarack Resort, Brundage Mountain Resort or Sun Valley. Maybe even look into Soldier Mountain near Fairfield! 

What about your backcountry gear? 

Do you have a pair of snowshoes and ski poles ready to roll? How about xc ski gear? Backcountry set up? Skis, boots, bindings, skins, ski pack, avalanche gear, etc. Make sure everything is dialed and ready to go!  

I recently sprung for a new pair of backcountry boots ... can't wait to try them out! Very expensive, but I think they'll be really light and comfortable. 

BTW - The BBSEF Ski Swap is this weekend! Great place to find the best deals on ski gear and clothing. Plus the reps from Bogus, Tamarack, Brundage and Soldier will be there to answer questions and sell season passes. 

Ski Swap Sale hours are:

Friday, Nov. 4, 1 pm - 10 pm
Saturday, Nov. 5, 10 am – 7 pm
Sunday, Nov. 6, 10 am - 3 pm

Gear checkin starts today (Thursday) 2-8 p.m. 

I find excellent deals on clothing, skis and equipment almost every year. I highly recommend going to the swap ... plus it's always fun to run into your friends while looking over the goods. They serve beer, wine and food at the swap as well. 

Some of my favorite Boise retail shops that can outfit you with winter gear include McU Sports, Greenwoods Ski Haus, Idaho Mountain Touring, Boise REI, Eco Lounge, and the Outdoor Exchange.    

I'm hoping the string of winter storms continues, and we can go either backcountry or downhill skiing by Thanksgiving! 

New snow forecast through Monday, Nov. 7, 
European ensemble model. 
See you out on the snow! 
- SS 

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Try this trio of Boise foothills hikes with fetching, elevated views of the city - nice to see fall colors!

View of Boise from Central Ridge Trail in Military Reserve Park.

Hi all, 

After a nice cool and wet week to turn the page toward fall seasonal norms, the weather this weekend looks quite nice for some weekend outings! Afternoon high temps will be about 57 degrees F and sunny - a bit chilly but you can dress for it.  

Now that the fall colors are beginning to happen in the Boise Valley, for my outdoor tip of the week, I'm recommending three hikes close to home where you can enjoy some fetching views of the City of Trees and the wide variety of colors visible as far as the eye can see! All of these are kid-friendly. 

Full Sail Trail heading over to Buena Vista (courtesy

Hike #1 - Buena Vista Trail, Hillside to the Hollow.
Difficulty: Moderate. Start either at the Harrison Hollow trailhead by Healthwise or behind Hillside Junior High along Hill Road. Buena Vista Trail has a very nice and moderate contour as it winds across the outer-front of the Boise Foothills, and it feels like you can reach out and touch the community below. Yet, you're at least 500 vertical feet above the city, so it's a great vantage point! If you do an out-and-back walk on Buena Vista, you'd cover several miles over an hour or so. 

Spring shot of Harrison Hollow looking down at the city.

Hike #2 - Central Ridge Trail, Military Reserve Park.
Difficulty: Moderate. Start at the Military Reserve trailhead where Mountain Cove Road bends sharply to the right going west into the foothills. There's a large parking area on the right and a trail map. You can start by walking along the Mountain Cove trail along Freestone Creek for about a mile or so. Then, you can turn to the right and climb up on Central Ridge to that initial summit. Then walk south down the backbone of Central Ridge back toward the trailhead. On Central Ridge Trail, it looks like you're going walk right into the State Capitol building and downtown Boise. Kind of a cool selfie opportunity before you drop down to the trailhead. Travel time for this one would be 1-1.5 hours at a leisurely pace.

Great views of the city from Valley View Trail 

Hike #3 - Seaman's Gulch Loop.
Difficulty: Moderate. Start at the Seaman's Gulch Trailhead off of Seaman's Gulch Road and Hill Road in West Boise. You have the option of hiking a short loop for 1 mile, or you can hike a longer loop for 3 miles with more views. In my Boise Trail Guide, I called this route "Seaman's Gulch Double Loop." The trails contour nicely across the landscape; you never have to work too hard to climb uphill. 

Short loop: Follow the left-hand fork of Trail #110 and climb to an initial ridge. Bear left at the top on Phlox Trail #112. That'll bring you back to the trailhead. 

Longer loop: Follow the same directions to start with, but once you reach the initial ridge, take Valley View Trail #111 as it wraps around the front of the Boise Foothills, super close to the edge of the city. Once the trail loops around the hills, it ties into Phlox Trail on a ridgetop, and you can head back to the trailhead on Phlox. The longer loop is 3 miles and features 500+ feet of vertical gain. Travel time is 1.5 hours. Take your time and enjoy it! 

All three of these hikes and 92 more are featured in my Boise Trail Guide: 95 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home. The book is available at, Idaho Mountain Touring, Boise REI, and Rediscovered Books. 

Ken and Melissa will be giving away a free copy of Boise Trail Guide on 94.9 FM The River tomorrow (Friday) morning at approximately 7:40 a.m. Tune into my radio gig, and you can call in to win the book at 208-287-2949. 

Have a great weekend! More moisture forecast next week! More snow for the mountains! 
- SS 

Thursday, October 20, 2022

First big winter storm coming this weekend! What will La Nina Triple Dip mean for Idaho ski season?

Fresh *pow* at Brundage Mountain Resort 

Hi all, 

The first big snowstorm of the fall is coming this weekend, and that could put at least the Idaho Mountains into winter mode for the upcoming ski season. Deer and elk hunters also will be rejoicing to see the snow potentially move big game animals down to lower elevations and provide the ability to track their movements in the snow. 

This winter is forecast to be the third La Nina winter in a row or a "Triple Dip La Nina." 

La Nina winter weather pattern map (courtesy NOAA)

What does that mean for Idaho? 

In general, La Nina winters favor more precipitation in the Pacific Northwest and the Northern Rockies. But certainly the last two La Nina winters were not all that impressive, at least in Southern Idaho, the Sun Valley area, and the Upper Snake River watershed around Yellowstone National Park and Jackson Hole, Wyo. 

A late, wet spring saved us after watching the mountain snowpack flatline between mid-January and the end of March. But now, many of Idaho's irrigation reservoirs across the Snake River Plain are close to empty or dry, so we will need a big winter to replenish our water supplies in Southern Idaho. 

How much snowfall is coming this weekend? 

The first burst of the storm system is forecast to bring 10" or more of new snow to Northern Idaho, 4-6 inches in McCall, Tamarack and Stanley, and 1-2 inches at Bogus Basin and Sun Valley through Monday. After a short break in the action, another storm system is forecast next week, bringing potentially even more mountain snow - up to 12" in the West Central Mountains and Stanley area, and 5-7" at Bogus and Sun Valley. Let's hope the forecast holds true! 

What's the Farmer's Almanac say? 

Just for grins, I checked the Farmer's Almanac for predictions on the winter of 2022-23, and their theme nationwide is "Shake, Shiver and Shovel." Ha! They are predicting a strong winter nationwide, and 

The Farmer's Almanac is calling for colder temps and normal precipitation, following the general trend expected from a La Nina winter.

Another indicator that can influence weather patterns was described this week by a meteorologist at Alan Smith talked about the Quasi-biennial Oscillation (QBO), which describes trade wind patterns in the tropics. A westerly phase of the QBO is expected to occur this winter, which is a phase that has shown some correlation with above-average winter precipitation across the Western U.S.

Although the sample size is admittedly small, winters that feature a La Niña combined with a westerly phase of the QBO appear to have a better chance of being wetter (and thus, snowier) than average across a large portion of the Western U.S. 

Combination of La Nina and QBO can lead to wetter winters. (Courtesy Alan Smith,

Here is NOAA's take on the La Nina Triple Dip. 

It's fun for us skiers to dig into these things to get a glimpse of what may occur in the winter of 2022-23. But long-term forecasts are shaky at best, so we can't put too much emphasis on them.

In my experience, every winter is different. In a year when we start getting heavy snow in the mountains in November and rain in the valleys in Idaho, that bodes well for a potentially great ski season, and opens the possibilities of skiing on Thanksgiving weekend or the first week of December.

The NOAA Climate Prediction Center is forecasting colder and wetter conditions in the next week or so, and then equal chances in November, which is better than dry and hot!

Here are the forecast maps:

Well, there you have it!

A couple of key dates coming up for skiers and riders:

- SS 

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Fall colors are popping everywhere in the Idaho mountains right now! Time for a Road Trip!

A River runs through it ...
South Fork Snake River valley, courtesy Caribou-Targhee National Forest.

Hi all, 

Based on my own observations and many people's photos in social media, the fall colors are really starting to peak in the Idaho mountains right now, especially in McCall, the Wood River Valley, the Sawtooths, the Tetons and Eastern Idaho. 

Time to plan a scenic drive ASAP to see Idaho's mountains ablaze with deep colors! Book a room or find a camping spot near your scenic drives to reduce the amount of time on the road. 

The weather looks to be just about perfect for a scenic drive this weekend with high temps in the high 60s to high 70s. 

Courtesy Caribou-Targhee National Forest 

Recommendation #1: 
Zip over the Southeast Idaho on the Pioneer Historic Byway to see some of the most magnificent colors you'll see anywhere in Idaho. The Pioneer Byway can be reached via freeway to Pocatello, and then go south to Lava Hot Springs and over to Soda Springs. Be sure to stop and swim at Lava! From Soda you'll head down to Preston and Franklin. Head over to the other side of the mountains and visit Bear Lake while you're in the 'hood.    

Idaho side of the Teton Range (courtesy Pintrist)

Recommendation #2: Head over to Idaho Falls on the freeway and continue east to Swan Valley on U.S. 26. There, you can tap into the Teton Scenic Byway and head north over to Victor, Driggs, Tetonia and Ashton, a distance of about 70 miles. There are huge views of the Teton Range from the Idaho side, and in the foreground, you'll see miles of golden and red aspen groves.  

The weather looks to be just about perfect for a scenic drive this weekend with high temps in the high 60s to high 70s. 

For a full run-down on all 31 of Idaho's scenic byways, go to VisitIdaho

Closer to home: 

File photo courtesy Ed Cannady 

Recommendation #3Sawtooth Scenic Byway - Take U.S. 20 to Fairfield and head for Sun Valley. The colors in the Wood River Valley and the Sawooth Valley should be fantastic. Stop for lunch in Ketchum. There are many great restaurants to choose from. I personally like the Pioneer, Whiskey Jacques, and Lefty's.

Hum Lake (photo courtesy Alejandro Meza/Hiking Idaho Facebook page) 

Recommendation #4Payette River Scenic Byway - Take Idaho 55 north to McCall to enjoy fall colors along the North Fork of the Payette River and in the Boise and Payette National Forests. Go for a hike in McCall at Ponderosa State Park or the Payette National Forest - the colors are ablaze! 

Fall colors lighting up Box Canyon (courtesy Southern Idaho Tourism) 

Recommendation #5Thousand Springs Scenic Byway - Follow U.S. 30 from Hagerman to Twin Falls. Potential side trips include Hagerman fishing ponds, Miracle Hot Springs, Hagerman Fossil Beds museum, Snake River Grill and more! Click here for details. Here's a post about three other scenic drives in the Magic Valley.

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Fall is Prime Time in Hells Canyon! Trip report on our 4-day fishing trip!

Hanging out around the campfire is one of my favorite things to do on fall float trips. 
I pack in firewood in a dry bag so we have plenty. 

Hi all, 

A week ago, I had the privilege of visiting Hells Canyon once again on a fall fishing trip with a small group of good friends. Even though I've done tons of fall trips in Hells Canyon, I always am awe-struck by the steep, gnarled black cliffs rising from the canyon below Hells Canyon Dam. 

It's truly a magnificent sight to behold on a sunny day. On a rainy day, like we surprisingly had last Thursday, we had jet-black skies threatening overhead, combined with the austere black cliffs of Hells Canyon. My gut was churning big-time. 

Looks like rain! I hate rigging and packing my raft in the rain! But at the beginning of a trip, I've always got a ton of adrenaline pouring through me - a mix of excitement about being on the river again, apprehension about the big rapids in the biggest-scale whitewater experience in Idaho, overstressing about what I forgot or didn't forget in terms of group gear, and now, the weather. Whatever!   

We caught lots of nice small-mouth bass, all catch and release. Fun fighters! 

We got the boats loaded before the rain hit, and then we sat out the first burst of rain under a shelter at the put-in. And then it let up for a few hours. 

Time to start floating and fishing! My friends Jim Acee and Bruce Reichert were in the front of my raft, and Acee was ready to slay the bass and trout with two fishing poles in hand and all of the trusty spin-cast lures that work in Hells Canyon. Bruce was spin-fishing for the first time in decades since he normally fly fishes at high mountain lakes. But within minutes, both of them had fish on! 

Very slowly, I worked the eddies alongside the river, and the boys caught a number of small-mouth bass. Very few trout! 

In less than 4 miles, we made camp on this cool sand bar and natural cove in the cliffs on river right. Looking up at the sky, I could see a few patches of blue, but it looked mostly dark and more rain imminent. We put up my big-ass 16x20 foot tarp, set up our kitchen stuff under that, and we were ready to sip cocktails and enjoy the scenery, rain or no rain. 

My tarp is big enough to cover the kitchen area, plus lawn chairs!  

As many Idaho boaters know, fall river trips are a great way to enjoy cooler weather, fall colors, as well as fishing and bird hunting along the way, side-hikes, etc. Hells Canyon is one of my top picks because road access is relatively easy from Boise (5-hour drive), it's got more water flow (7,000-11,000 cfs) than other Idaho rivers this time of year, and the fishing is very consistent and pretty amazing, considering the variety of fish in the Snake River. 

People fish for rainbow trout, small-mouth bass, and sturgeon, plus steelhead are running now, and fall Chinook salmon also are running now. If you don't have your own raft, you can go with a Hells Canyon outfitter or book a jet boat ride with Hells Canyon Adventures, Hammer Down River Excursions, Kilgore Outfitters and more. See Riggins Chamber or IOGA for a full list of outfitters.

The logistics for Hells Canyon are as follows: Put in a Hells Canyon Dam and float to Pittsburg Landing, a distance of about 35 miles. This trip is easily doable in three or four days. My advice: Take as much time as possible. After Labor Day, only self-issue permits are required, available at the put-in. Shuttles can be arranged through Scotty's gas station in Pine, Oregon for $225 cash. They do a marvelous job!

Below Sheep Creek ... sturgeon road ahead! 

On Day 2, I had Bruce oar the raft and I fished with Jim in the bow. The fishing was hot! We hooked a ton of bass throughout the day. We cast against the black canyon cliffs into these nifty little coves and small pools, and bam! Fish on! We released all of the bass because we had Bruce's famous chicken piccata to look forward to for dinner! Plus pineapple upsidedown cake in the Dutch oven.

But first, we ran Wild Sheep Rapids, the first big Class 4 drop at about Mile 8. I went up on the mountainside to scout the big rapid, and at 7,000+ cfs, the best route looked like the typical run for this time of year. You enter on the left-center side of this massive rapids, and then row super hard to the right-center of the rapids, and hit a narrow slot as a giant left lateral wave merges with a giant right lateral wave.

We saw a group of kayakers and one raft approach, and the lead kayaker was barking orders to the other kayakers and they didn't scout. Well, the lead kayaker made the right move, and the rest of the kayakers got absolutely slammed by a wall of 12-foot left lateral waves on the left-center side of the rapids. That was interesting to watch! Long swims for those dudes. 

Bruce and Jim 

But I hit the slot, and Kristin Nelson nailed the run as well in our group, so we were homefree to make our next camp and enjoy Bruce's chicken piccata. This time around, Bruce moisturized his dried morels with white wine, and that really added a tasty zip to those luscious shrooms! 

Third night camp. Rosy clouds hint of the sunset to come.

The next day, we needed to make some tracks. We floated through all of the whitewater rapids without a problem, caught more bass, and lunched at Johnson Bar. We ended up at Caribou Creek camp that night and had chili from Kristin and her husband, John Blanchard. The sun came out with a vengeance that afternoon, to the point where I had to swim to cool off! Quite the contrast to the start of our trip. 

Anyway, I highly recommend a fall trip in Hells Canyon. 

Here are a few other options for fall trips:     

  • Lower Salmon Canyon - Float from Hammer Creek to Heller Bar or arrange for a jet boat shuttle to Pittsburg Landing from the mouth of the Salmon. It's almost 50 miles from Hammer Creek to the mouth of the Salmon, and the river is running very low, so allow for plenty of time to do your float. Fishing is limited to small-mouth bass and steelhead in this section. 
  • Salmon River near Riggins - If you don't have time to do a longer trip, you could put in at Carey Creek or Vinegar Creek and float down to Riggins while fishing for steelhead and hunting chukars. 
  • South Fork Snake River - Put in at Palisades Dam for the long version of the float or at Swan Valley and float to the takeout at Heise. The South Fork Lodge in Swan Valley does shuttles. Check with the experts on what kinds of flies the fish are taking. The cuts on the South Fork get fished very hard by a steady stream of outfitters every day. By this time of year, it's more locals than outfitters. Here's a blog post I did on the South Fork two years ago. 
Fall trips provide great opportunities to see wildlife.
We've seen multiple black bears in Hells Canyon. 

Steve talks about his latest outdoor adventures with Ken and Melissa on 94.9 FM The River every Friday morning at about 7:40 a.m. Please tune in!