Classic vs. skate cross country skiing
Southern Idaho boasts some fantastic trail systems for cross country skiers and snowshoers. Here are some of the places to try this winter:
Bogus Basin has more than 15 miles of groomed trails, including 4 miles of well-lit trails for night skiing, which can be a surreal experience.
Bogus has a wide range of trails. The Nordic Highway is a relatively flat trail where Bogus Basin instructors teach beginners classic and skate skiing — and the sunset views are stunning. Loops branch off the Nordic Highway and several of them can get your heart pumping. The staging area for the trail system is the cozy Frontier Point Lodge, at about 6,000 feet in elevation, which provides an area to relax by a fireplace and eat a brown bag lunch.
A favorite run for many skiers is to take the Nordic Highway about 4 miles to Shafer Butte Campground, where you can shovel snow off the picnic tables in the snowbound campground and have lunch.
Idaho City Park N’ Ski
The trail system north of Idaho City along Idaho 21 will be in better shape this winter after two years of Pioneer Fire-related closures. All six yurts will be open for the first time since the fire, and new 12-foot posts will mark the trails. About two-thirds of the trail system will be open, said Leo Hennessy, the non-motorized trails coordinator for Idaho State Parks and Recreation.
Trails will be open at each of the four parking lots. Among the open trails will be the Elkhorn (7 miles), Gold Fork (5 miles), and Skyline Summit loops.
Ponderosa State Park
The 5-mile round trip to Osprey Point from the park’s trailhead is one of the best Nordic treks around. That’s because it takes you to a high point in the park where you can see Payette Lake, the 1,000-acre state park and the town of McCall in the distance. Don’t let the 5-mile trail scare you. The park has a lot of variety in trails in a 13-mile groomed Nordic trail system.
This trail system operated by the Payette Lakes Ski Club has about 30 kilometers of groomed trails in McCall. All trails are groomed for skate and classic skiing. The trails have a woodsy feel through pine forests, with a variety of terrain ranging from easy to challenging.
Jug Mountain Ranch
There are more than 15 miles of groomed trails for skiing at Jug Mountain, southeast of McCall. The golf course and mountain biking trails are transformed into Nordic trails in the winter in a scenic area on the east side of Long Valley in the shadow of Jug Handle Mountain.
Lake Cascade State Park
The Crown Point Trail at Lake Cascade State Park is groomed and offers 2.7 miles along the reservoir with nice views of West Mountain in the distance. The state park also grooms its Park Loop at the south end of Lake Cascade.
Galena Lodge and Wood River trails
There is so much Nordic skiing in the Sun Valley area it’ll take all winter to do it. 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.
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. You can ski all day and warm up/fuel up at the restaurant in the rustic lodge.
Sun Valley Resort
The resort has more than 40 kilometers of Nordic trails, primarily on the golf courses. Many of the trails snake through the scenic, mellow Trail Creek course but there are loops available in the “most difficult” category.
Alturas Lake trails in Central Idaho, about 3 to 3 1/2 hours from Boise, offer an up-close-and-personal view of the Sawtooth Mountains and the Sawtooth Wilderness. The good thing about this area is that it’s way out in the middle of nowhere but the ski trails are groomed thanks to the Sawtooth Ski Club in Stanley.
The trailhead is located at a plowed parking area along Idaho 75, about 21 miles south of Stanley. From the trailhead, it’s a quick skate or ski over the flats into aspen and fir hills and along Alturas Lake Creek. The main trail follows the creek to a narrow bridge that takes skiers toward the lake itself.