Thursday, December 21, 2023

A few ideas for Christmas-New Year's break in SW Idaho - skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and hot springs!

The scene at the top of Deer Point Chair on Thursday afternoon in the sunshine. 

Hi all, 

Mother Nature has been quite stingy when it comes to delivering the snow so far this year. Ullr the Norwegian snow god may very well still be in a deep sleep!

So that makes it a little more difficult to find things to do this Christmas-New Years holiday break. Here are a few outdoorsy ideas that I've been thinking about:

  • Downhill skiing at Bogus Basin, Brundage, Sun Valley or Tamarack. All four resorts are open 7 days a week. Check on the latest conditions and see what runs and lifts are open to make your choices. 2-3" of new snow are forecast on Friday PM/Saturday. Sunny skies are forecast on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. 
    • I skied the front side of Bogus on Thursday, and Ridge and Showcase seemed to have the most continuous snowpack thanks to snow-making and north-facing slopes. Bogus may reopen the backside this weekend. Warm temperatures above the inversion are making things challenging. It was 44 degrees up there today. Felt nice! 

    • Sun Valley just opened the Warm Springs side of the mountain with top-to-bottom skiing. The River Run side of the mountain was open to start off the season. 
      People skiing on lower Warm Springs when the new lifts opened
       on Wednesday. (Courtesy Sun Valley)  

    • Brundage is waiting for more snow before opening the new Centennial quad chairlift, but it's operating 7 days a week with the Bluebird Express, Bear Chair and bunny hill. 
    • Tamarack is running the Summit chair for 1,000 verts on the upper story of the mountain and the Discovery beginner chair.     
  • Go find your own hiking adventure on snowshoes, snow boots or hiking shoes and trax for gripping in the ice. Head for a mountain pass where you can find access to your own adventure. I saw that Mores Creek Summit has a snow depth of 17 inches as of today, 2 less than several days ago. It's been warm up there too ... 44 degrees today. I've seen people hiking Mt. Cervidae over by Lucky Peak (go early when the trail is frozen)  
  • All-weather trails on Ridge to Rivers trails or my expanded list of all-weather trails in the region. My list includes Bruneau Dunes State Park and Eagle Island State Park trails. 
    Gold Fork Hot Springs on a quiet day. 

  • Go soaking in a hot springs ... Gold Fork is accessible by vehicle (vax cards are required), you need a snowmobile to reach Burgdorf (rentals can be arranged in McCall), and there are others to consider such as Zims near New Meadows, Miracle Hot Springs near Hagerman, Mundo Hot Springs near Cambridge and the Springs in Idaho City. Reservations are required for many of these developed hot springs. And then there are other primitive springs such as Kirkham and Bonneville and others in the Boise National Forest. 
There you have it! Hope everyone has a marvelous Christmas holiday! Here comes 2024! 
- SS  

Thursday, December 14, 2023

My 2023 Edition: 15 Christmas gift ideas for the outdoorsy him and her

Hi all, 

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

1. Prosmart heated vest for him or her $109.99. Really! 

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.  Camping lantern for your campsite. Saw this one that looked pretty cool. It's a rechargeable model with a USB port for charging your phone. Capetronics is the brand. $27.99

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. Available online via Idaho Mountain Touring. 

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. Alphabeing camping lounger. Great for car-camping, river trips, etc. $39.98 
8. Patagonia trucker hats - Chris at IMT: These are Red Hot!- every age loves them -- men, women and kids.

9. 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.

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

11. 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.

12. 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. 

13. 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.

14. 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. 

15. 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.

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 Melissa Dawn at  about 7:40 a.m. Please listen in!

Thursday, December 7, 2023

How to stay alive Outside - guest column by Wendy Wilson


Wendy on the East Fork Owyhee River ... 

A recent book by Boise author Emma Walker, titled Dead Reckoning, Learning from Accidents in the Outdoors, is a remarkably easy read on a frightening subject.

Published by Falcon Press in 2021, it beat the Mission Impossible film with the same title by two years. The book won’t be made into a major movie, but it gives a big-picture view of snow safety, river safety, desert and high-elevation travel. I recommend it for a fast tour of everything you might need to know before going outside in Idaho.

Reading this 209-page book won’t make you a wilderness guide, but it is essential reading for a weekend warrior like me. Walker provides excellent insights into assessing general risks in the outdoors and touches on very scary and specific information about traveling in grizzly bear country (some in Idaho) and anticipating the habits of mountain lions (essentially anywhere in Idaho).

Like all of us, Ms. Walker started young and dumb. She relates her close calls with death stoically and without pride. Plus, her many years of experience with the publication, The Snowy Torrents, has given her the curiosity to collect real data to summarize the real risks we all face out there. That combination creates something of a bittersweet wisdom.

Author Emma Walker

The book doesn’t offer much information about the signs of hypothermia – often considered the most frequent cause of death in the outdoors. Growing up as a Midwesterner myself, I can easily rattle off the progression from shivering to impaired coordination (using the “walk-the-line” sobriety test) to heart failure in profound hypothermia. A good summary can be found at if you want the refresher course.

But I’ve certainly done many of the dumb things that are the main subject of this book: not having a map; not checking with locals about current conditions before starting a wilderness trip; not having a viable back up plan for an accident; not heeding a weather report or a storm warning.

I survived this lack of situational awareness in part with elementary map and compass skills from the Girl Scouts of America and basic canoeing instruction from the American Canoe Association. Many Idaho outdoor adventurers don’t even have that much training to start with. For them, I suggest at hard look at the “Lessons Learned” sections in each chapter of Dead Reckoning.

She summarizes each chapter with a variation of her theme  – know where are going, know your own limits, make your own decisions, and turn around before it is an emergency.

I love her somewhat personal stories about backcountry psychology, such as the boyfriend that justifiably leaves because she was so addicted to out-of-door adventures. The rush of fear that makes a person write their mother’s phone number down for potential rescuers to find. She tells great stories demonstrating how social pressure and being overly committed to a goal can cloud better judgment.

Walker’s book is, at best, as an easy way to learn the amazing facts on how to avoid backcountry accidents. For example, all skiers should read Chapter 7 on how to not die by an avalanche.

  • Use or the Sawtooth or Payette Avalanche Centers to research backcountry conditions before you go. Most accidents happen on days of “considerable” danger because people don’t go skiing out-of-bounds so much on days of High or Extreme danger. So be especially cautious on days with Considerable danger.
  • Always have everyone use rescue gear. You would think everyone uses peeps, shovels and probes, but 40% to 67% of the time, avalanche victims had none or inadequate rescue gear.
  • Insanely, more than 10% of avalanche fatalities were solo travelers. Don’t ski alone. Talk with your partners about avalanche risk, be cautious and stick together.
  • Be ready and aware. Most people who die from slides die immediately from trauma or within 15 minutes from suffocation. Be ready to act fast.

After reading Emma Walker’s book, Dead Reckoning, the words “people die out there” seem a little less unpredictable. The risk is always there, so it is good to know the odds.

The book is available at the Boise Public Library (as soon as I return it), Amazon and probably in local area bookstores. Thanks Emma!

Wendy Wilson

Wendy is a lifelong outdoors woman and conservationist who has lived in Idaho for over 35 years. She has ventured on many outdoor trips in the hinterlands of the Northwest Territories and Alaska, and she was a river guide on the Owyhee River. She is Steve's life partner.