Get off on the right foot this winter with Nordic skiing in Southwest and Central Idaho

Hit one of the dozens of Nordic trails in the area that are groomed for your skiing pleasure.

pzimowsky@idahostatesman.comNovember 28, 2013 

Open meadows, trails going through hallways of ponderosa pines, winding paths along frozen reservoirs and lakes, and lighted pathways along mountain ridgelines.

Southwest and Central Idaho has it all when it comes to Nordic skiing.

From groomed to breaking powder, trail systems from McCall to Sun Valley and Stanley offer variety for cross-country skiers.

You can find yourself at the edge of the Sawtooth Wilderness or skating along a trail not far from a coffee shop in McCall.

If your dog’s a snow-trail hound, you’re also in luck. Many areas allow dogs on trails.

If you’re new to Nordic skiing, a lot of these places offer lessons and rentals, and rentals are also available at ski and sporting goods stores in the Treasure Valley and in mountain towns that provide skiing. Same goes with snowshoes.

Give these places a try this winter.

BEAR BASIN

Getting there: Drive north on Idaho 55 about 102 miles from Boise to McCall. Continue about 3 miles west of McCall on Idaho 55.

What: The Nordic trail system is operated by the Payette Lake Ski Club and offers skiing in mountains, forests and meadows.

About 15 miles of trails will be groomed, and about half of them allow dogs. All trails are groomed for skate and classic skiing. There are plenty of places to go snowshoeing, too.

Nordic lessons are also available during the season.

Trail prices: Day passes are $10 for adults and $5 for children 17 and under. There is a $2 fee to have dogs on the trail. A snowshoe trail pass is $5 per day.

Note: Payette Lakes Ski Club offers a season pass, which is good for Nordic skiing at Bear Basin and alpine skiing at the Little Ski Hill, located nearby off Idaho 55, west of McCall.

Details and online purchase is available at littleskihill.org. Passes can also be purchased at local ski shops in McCall.

JUG MOUNTAIN RANCH

Getting there: From Boise, drive about 100 miles north on Idaho 55 and turn right at the Lake Fork Merc and Sinclair gas station onto East Lake Fork Road.

Drive 1.5 miles, crossing Farm to Market Road, and then straight through the entrance to Jug Mountain Ranch.

What: About 25 kilometers will be groomed, including 3 miles of snowshoe trails.

Dogs are allowed on trails, and trails are also open to fat-tire bikes on weekdays.

Trail prices: Day pass, $10; snowshoe pass, $6; season pass, $45 for individuals; $80 for couples; and $90 for families.

Information: jugmountainranch.com; 315-0575.

PONDEROSA STATE PARK

Getting there: Drive 102 miles north of Boise on Idaho 55 to McCall. Turn right on Railroad Avenue. Follow the signs to the park.

What: Ponderosa State Park has 13 miles of groomed Nordic ski trails and 3.2 miles of designated snowshoe trails in forested, mountainous terrain next to Payette Lake.

Groomed ski trails can be used by snowshoers as well.

Got a dog? Rovers Round-About is a pet-friendly trail in the park.

The state park has added a new ski trail on the east side of the park to replace one that has been missing since 2009.

The Sunrise Trail connects with Thru the Woods, Rovers-Round-About and Fox Run to create a new route for skiers. The trail is 1 mile through rolling terrain that most skill levels should be able to handle.

The Blue Moon Yurt offers evening gourmet dinners this winter. For reservations, call 634-3111 or go to bluemoonyurt.com.

Want to stay a few nights? Ponderosa State Park has five cabins nestled along the shore of Payette Lake. The cabins are fully equipped with all the comforts of home. Guests can step outside to a covered deck with views of Payette Lake and gorgeous sunsets and also easily get on groomed trails throughout the park.

The cabins can be reserved year-round, and reservations are accepted up to nine months in advance, but no fewer than two days before the arrival date.

Availability can be checked at parksandrecreation.idaho.gov. To make a reservation, call (888) 922-6743.

Trail prices: Winter Access Season Pass, $35 (pass is honored at Ponderosa and Harriman state parks). A Winter Access day pass is $4 per person, per day.

Park users entering with a motor vehicle must also pay a $5 fee unless it has a valid Idaho State Parks Passport sticker.

Information: parksandrecreation.idaho.gov.

TAMARACK RESORT

Getting there: Drive about 90 miles north of Boise on Idaho 55 to Donnelly and turn west on Roseberry Road. Follow the signs to Tamarack Resort.

What: Nordic skiers can glide along on skate and classic trails in a forested area that winds through meadows and aspen groves.

Classic or skate ski trails are groomed in the Lyle Nelson Nordic and Snowshoe Trail system.

About 9 miles are groomed, starting at the Sports Dome and winding through the foothills.

All mountain biking and hiking trails at the resort are accessible on snowshoes, and dogs are allowed on trails.

Trail prices: $10 a day for adults; $5 for children 12 and under. Check in at the activities desk in the Sports Dome for passes.

Packages include trail pass and rentals for $15 for adults and $10 for kids.

Information: 325-1000; tamarackidaho.com.

LAKE CASCADE STATE PARK

Getting there: Drive north on Idaho 55 for about 70 miles to Cascade. Look for the Lake Cascade Parkway (Old State Highway) turnoff to Lake Cascade. Turn left.

What: The Crown Point Trail at Lake Cascade State Park is groomed in winter and offers 2.5 miles along the reservoir with nice views of West Mountain in the distance. (An easier way to get to the trail is to drive north out of Cascade to Vista Point Boulevard, just north of the city limits.)

It’s a classic track. The trail is also shared by snowmobilers, snowshoers and horseback riders.

The state park will again have its Park Loop Trail open. Park Loop’s entrance starts at the Van Wyck Campground unit and runs through Ridgeview. It is a 1.2-mile classic track and skating lane for beginners and intermediates.

Dogs are allowed at Crown Point.

Trail prices: $5, daily motor vehicle entrance fee, unless you have an annual state parks sticker.

Information: Lake Cascade State Park office, 382-6544; or go to parksandrecreation.idaho.gov.

HASBROUCK RANCH

Getting there: Drive north from the Treasure Valley on Idaho 55 past Smiths Ferry and into Round Valley. Turn left at Clear Creek onto Cabarton Road. Go 1.5 miles to the parking lot on the left (south side of road).

What: The Southern Valley County Recreation District is sponsoring the grooming of 2.5 miles of trails for both skate and classic skiing.

Trails cross open meadows and go through stands of aspen.

A trail fee has been added this season to help pay for grooming. It’s a private ranch, but the owner is allowing Nordic skiing and snowshoeing on the land.

The neat thing about this trail is that it’s only an hour and 20 minutes from Eagle.

Trail officials say it’s also a good stop on the way back from skiing in the McCall and Cascade areas.

Dog are allowed.

Trail prices: $5 parking pass daily and $25 for the season.

Information: 382-5136.

BOGUS BASIN

Getting there: Drive 16.5 miles up Bogus Basin Road, and go past the Simplot Lodge on your right and the tubing hill on your left.

What: Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area usually has more than 20 miles of groomed trails, including 4 miles of lighted trails for night skiing.

You can ski all the way to the Shafer Butte Campground for great views of the Valley.

Alpine-touring skiers trek up to the campground and then ski ungroomed trails around Mores Mountain.

There are lots of opportunities for classic, skate and backcountry skiing as well as snowshoeing in the area.

Dogs are not allowed.

The staging area at Frontier Point Lodge will be lit by lights provided by Inovus Solar of Boise. That helps skiers and snowshoers gearing up to hit the trails.

More of the lower loop will be left ungroomed for snowshoers.

Other notes: The Skate Ski Passport, which was a popular new lesson package last year, is available again. Space is limited, so sign up early.

Full Moon Friday nights continue to be popular with live music, catering by Kanak Attack and discounted lessons and rentals.

The Bogus Basin yurt off the Nordic trail system still has weekend and holiday reservation dates available. Go to bogusbasin.org.

Trail prices: Adult (over 12), $14 a day, $11 half day, $8 night; child (7-11), $7 a day, $5 half day, $3 night. Six and under, and over 70 free. Snowshoe trail ticket, $7 full day, $5 half day and night.

Information: bogusbasin.org and look under “Nordic.”

IDAHO CITY PARK N' SKI

Getting there: Drive on Idaho 21 northeast of Boise about 23 miles past Idaho City. It’s about 60 miles from Boise.

What: This is a popular trail system on the mountain divide between Idaho City and Lowman in the Boise National Forest. It’s about an hour from Boise and makes a great day trip.

The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation has about 55 miles of marked trails with about 28 miles of those groomed each week during the season when conditions allow.

Dogs are allowed on most of the trails.

Trail prices: Annual Idaho Park N’ Ski permit, $25; or a three-day permit for $7.50, which is the minimum number of days you can buy.

Information: 514-2423, parksandrecreation.idaho.gov.

SUN VALLEY NORDIC

Getting there: Once in Ketchum, head to the Sun Valley Lodge. The Nordic Center is in the Sun Valley Club a mile east of Sun Valley Lodge.

What: The Sun Valley Nordic and Snowshoe Center is a 58,000-square-foot facility that features a restaurant, lounge, bar and locker rooms, along with equipment repair, rental and storage.

At the peak of the season there are usually about 25 miles of groomed and marked trails. The terrain is gentle at the trail head and progresses to challenging hills. Dogs are not allowed.

Trail prices: Adult day pass, $23; seniors (65 and over), $15 day; children under 12 are free.

Information: sunvalley.com.

GALENA LODGE-WOOD RIVER TRAILS

Getting there: As soon as you start driving north out of Ketchum, you’ll start seeing ski and snowshoe trails along Idaho 75. It’s the North Valley trail system.

Drive 24 miles north of Ketchum and you’ll come to the Galena Lodge.

What: The North Valley trail system covers more than 70 miles of terrain mostly in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

The main systems include the Lake Creek trails, Billy’s Bridge, North Fork Loop, the Harriman Trail, Prairie Creek Loop and the Galena Lodge trails.

Snowshoe trails can be found along the Harriman Trail at North Fork Loop, Billy’s Bridge and at Galena Lodge.

Galena Lodge has about 30 miles of groomed trails at the northwest end of the Boulder Mountains in the shadow of mountaintops such as 11,170-foot Galena Peak.

The trails cut through meadows and timbered country with views of the Boulder and Smoky mountains. Galena Lodge is a perfect place to warm up and have lunch.

Dogs are allowed on designated trails.

Trail prices: Adult day pass, $15; youth (13-17), $5; children (12 and under), free. Dogs, $5 a day. Snowshoe pass, $5 a day.

Information: Blaine County Recreation District: for winter trail information, go to bcrd.org; Galena Lodge: galenalodge.com; trail grooming report for trails around Sun Valley, 578-9754; Galena Lodge, 726-4010.

STANLEY AREA

Getting there: If Idaho 21 is open (it’s sometimes closed during avalanche season), it’s the best way to go. You have the option of taking Idaho 21 to Lowman or taking Idaho 55 to Banks and then the Banks to Lowman Highway.

It’s about 125 miles to Stanley from the Treasure Valley. Just 7 miles before reaching Stanley, you’ll see the turnoff for Park Creek. If you want to go to Alturas Lake, continue into Stanley and then take Idaho 75 about 26 miles south to the trail head.

What: The Sawtooth Ski Club in the Stanley area grooms two areas: Park Creek off Idaho 21, northwest of Stanley, and Alturas Lake off Idaho 75, south of Stanley.

Both areas offer beautiful backcountry skiing in the shadow of the Sawtooth Mountains. Trails are groomed on a regular basis, and dogs are allowed.

Trail prices: Donations are requested.

Information: Go to sawtoothskiclub.com.

Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors

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