Outdoors Blog

Saturday is Idaho’s Free Ski & Snowshoe Day; here’s how to take advantage

Idaho State Parks and Recreation will hold its annual Free Ski and Snowshoe Day on Saturday — an opportunity to cross country ski or snowshoe at places like the Idaho City-area Park N’ Ski lots and Ponderosa State Park for free.

The promotion covers all 18 of Idaho’s designated Park N’ Ski lots, which usually require a parking permit, and all of the state parks in snowy areas.

“The goal ... is to introduce newcomers to the wonderful terrain and winter recreation opportunities across the state,” said Jennifer Okerlund, the department’s communications manager.

[Related: You can snowshoe in the Boise Foothills right now]

Some of the highlights:

Idaho City Park N’ Ski

Parking is free on Saturday. The trails aren’t groomed this year because of the Pioneer Fire but much of the terrain is open. Check here for closures.

Only two trails are marked — the trails to Stargaze Yurt and Banner Ridge.

For Banner Ridge, park in the Banner Ridge lot 23 miles north of Idaho City. Cross the road and follow the trail markers. For Stargaze, use the new Beaver Creek Summit parking area 25 miles north of Idaho City. The new parking area is closer to Beaver Creek Summit than the old lot. The Stargaze trail is on the west side of the road. It is open to the yurt (1.3 miles one way) but not all the way to Stargaze Point.

The other two Park N’ Ski lots — Gold Fork and Whoop-Um-Up — will be open but the snowshoeing options are limited from those this year.

[Related: Two key hikes available despite Pioneer Fire]

Leo Hennessy, who is leading a snowshoe hike for Parks and Rec (it’s full), said to expect cold temperatures and snow on Saturday. Bring a shovel, he said, just in case, but the lots should be plowed.

“It’s deep and powdery,” Hennessy said. “You’re going to have to break your own trail, but it’s a winter wonderland right now. We’re way ahead of normal snowpack.”

If you want to do the two signed hikes, get there early to make sure you have a parking spot, Hennessy said.

More info on the Park N’ Ski system here.

[Related: What I learned during a Park N’ Ski snowshoeing trip]

Ponderosa State Park

From Idaho State Parks and Rec:

There will be free entrance into the park and free winter trail access all day. If you have never tried Nordic skiing or snowshoeing and would like to, join us between 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. at the Activity Center in Ponderosa State Park. Gravity Sports, Hometown Sports and the Bear Basin Nordic Center Instructors will be providing free classic and skate ski lessons and the use of equipment during the lessons. McCall Outdoor Science School, McCall Master Naturalists and the City of McCall Parks and Recreation will be offering free snowshoe use and instruction with guided tours of some of the park’s trails. There will also be a Winter Health Booth for information about protecting your skin and keeping warm outdoors during the winter from St Luke’s McCall Center for Health Promotion. Ponderosa State Park, with the help of McCall Master Naturalists, will provide hot drinks and snacks.

[Related: Try cross country skiing for Learn a Snow Sport Month]

Lake Cascade State Park

From Idaho State Parks and Rec:

Free drinks and baked goodies will be available. Nordic ski gear and snowshoes will be available for free demos. Free beginner lessons offered. Enter for free drawing on Presidents Day Weekend for awesome recreational prizes. Events will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hasbrouck Ranch Nordic Trail area 10 miles south of Cascade. Turn west off of Idaho 55 onto the Cabarton Road, travel west 1.5 miles to the trailhead.

More details, including other participating locations, here.