Winter is a great time of the year to get away from it all.
This years Winter Recreation Guide lists a whole bunch of developed ski and snowshoe areas from McCall to Sun Valley where youll find groomed trails and warm, cozy lodges.
But if you want to break away from it all in the dead of winter and experience solitude, you may want to go bushwhacking.
Hardy backcountry trekkers like to go for it on their own cross country.
That means they have to be self reliant, have an understanding of winter hazards, and be in tune with the weather and other potential hazards they may encounter. You can still get off the beaten path in winter, but be prepared.
Check the weather before your trip. You dont want to be off trail in a blizzard. Fresh powder is cool, except when its covering your tracks so you cant find your way back to the trailhead. Dont count on your tracks to save you if you get lost. Wind-blown snow can cover them quickly.
When planning a longer outing, check your route on topographical maps before heading out.
Check out elevation gains, steep ridges and box canyons that may make the trip too difficult.
Choosing the right route may take some practice. Sometimes you will pick a place and find out its not suitable terrain for snowshoeing. Chalk it up to experience and try someplace else.
Print your maps out on waterproof paper. Without waterproof paper, one snowflake can take out 1/4 mile on your map.
Dont forget to mark where you parked your vehicle with your GPS.
Always leave word with friends or relatives. Tell them where you are going and when and what time you will be back. If you dont check in with them past your worry hour, they need to call the county sheriff or Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue.
Be sure they have a description of your car and the license plate number.
Carry safety gear in your pack, including extra waterproof or water resistant clothing, backpacking stove and fuel, small pot or aluminum cup for heating soup or tea; extra clothing; first-aid kit, survival kit with firestarter and a lightweight backpacking tarp or bivy sack.
Group members can use two-way radios to stay in touch.
Have extra batteries for GPS and headlamps. Lithium batteries work better in cold weather than alkalines.
Make sure your car has emergency food, water, clothing, and jumper cables.
Know your limits. Dont venture out farther than your energy level or the number of daylight hours to get back to the car.
Check avalanche danger. Backcountry trekking on snowshoes means youre away from controlled areas like ski resorts where avalanche danger is controlled. Be able to recognize avalanche terrain and avoid it when avalanche danger is high.
If youre likely to be snowshoeing in avalanche country, take an avalanche safety course and carry the proper safety equipment.
Carry a shovel. They come in handy for everything from digging out a plowed-in vehicle to digging a snow shelter in case of an emergency.
Here are some popular places for off-trail snowshoeing or cross-country skiing:
The mountains north and east of McCall.
Backcountry roads and ridges off the Warm Lake Highway between Cascade and Warm Lake.
Off-trail areas around Pilot Peak, Sunset Lookout and Banner Ridge, all northeast of Idaho City.
Areas along Idaho 21 from the Bull Trout Lake area to the Cape Horn area, including Copper Mountain and the road off Idaho 21 to Bear Valley.
Galena Summit and other areas along the Wood River Valley.
Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors