Outdoors Blog

Caution, not closure, defines winter recreation near Idaho City after Pioneer Fire

The Stargaze Yurt will be open this winter.
The Stargaze Yurt will be open this winter. Courtesy of Idaho State Parks and Recreation

The Boise National Forest and Idaho State Parks and Recreation are trying to preserve as much winter recreation in the Idaho City area as possible in the aftermath of the Pioneer Fire.

State Parks announced that two of its six yurts in the area will be available this winter, and the Boise National Forest plans to provide access to snowmobile trails and at least some of the popular backcountry skiing nearby. (Click here for a map showing access to those yurts.)

Still, State Parks won’t groom its Park N’ Ski trail system this winter because of access issues for the machinery. That system is used by cross-country skiers and snowshoers.

“There’s still plenty of areas to ski,” said Brant Petersen, Idaho City district ranger for the Boise National Forest. “Just understand if you choose to winter recreate inside the burn area that there’s a high degree of hazard. We’ll do what we can to reduce hazards but you’ve got to really be on your game — contact people so they know where you’re going, stick to that route, make sure you have avalanche equipment. That’s the important message: Just be really thoughtful about recreating up there this winter.”

Hazards in the burned area include potential for falling trees, avalanches and flooding when rain falls on snow.

Mores Creek Summit is one of the popular parking areas for backcountry skiers. Only about half of that terrain is inside the burn, Petersen said.

“If you’re going to ski up there, ski in those areas that haven’t burned,” Petersen said.

State Parks is working on repairs to the Banner Ridge and Stargaze yurts and hopes to have them open in November. Three of the other four yurts will be inaccessible this winter; the sixth, Whispering Pines, was destroyed by the fire.

“They weren’t completely unscathed,” Jennifer Okerlund, the communications manager for State Parks, said of the surviving yurts. “There was some melted canvas and some deck repairs that were needed.”

Boise National Forest plans to remove hazards for about a square mile around the two open yurts to provide some recreation space. The remaining area around the yurts is closed.

Banner Yurt has more options for downhill skiing than Stargaze.

“Stargaze is more of a winter play area,” Petersen said. “I’ve actually skied off the front of that several times, directly east of the yurt. It’s really short.”

Over the next several months, assessments will be done to determine whether the yurts and trails are still in suitable locations, Petersen said.

“I hope in the next few months we’ll have a good plan,” he said.

And shortly, forest officials hope to make decisions on the 50 miles of snowmobile trails inside the burn area.

“There will still be some snowmobile opportunities,” Petersen said.

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