A storm that dumped 4 feet of snow in the days before Christmas knocked down about 100 trees on cross-country ski and snowshoe trails in the Idaho Park N’ Ski system. It left parking lots clogged and ungroomed trails with knee-deep snow in some areas.
The popular winter trails, about 50 miles northeast of Boise off Idaho 21, are still open and being used by skiers, snowshoers and yurt-goers, said Leo Hennessy, the non-motorized trails coordinator with the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. He surveyed the area Monday.
Trail users with reservations for the area’s six yurts were going under, over and around downed trees to get to the popular winter getaways. None of the yurts, which are operated by Idaho Parks and Recreation, were damaged in the storm, Hennessy said.
Hennessy hoped to start cutting out the fallen timber soon. The job will be challenging because the only way to get around the trail system in the Boise Mountains is on skis, snowshoes, snowmobiles or over-the-snow trail groomers.
Some of the trees have fallen across the 10-foot-wide trails; some are buried under snow.
Idaho Transportation Department crews were busy plowing Idaho 21 after Christmas and couldn’t get to the parking lots, Hennessy said. ITD doesn’t turn its attention to the lots until the highway is fully cleared. Both lanes of the highway were plowed but walls of snow lined the roadway, leaving little room on the shoulders to pull off.
Complicating the problem for the cross-country trails, Parks and Recreation’s new $200,000 trail groomer slid off a steep embankment along the Gold Fork Westside Trail and was stuck in a brushy ravine Monday. Personnel expected to use other equipment to pull it out.
The groomer, in its first season this year, groomed all 26 miles of the Park N’ Ski system before the storm. The trails are packed and covered with fresh snow.
“We were darn lucky,” Hennessy said after checking out the groomer. The new machine was financed by grants and proceeds from yurt rentals. The vehicle is used to groom snow-covered logging roads in a network of trails between Mores Creek and Beaver Creek summits. It can plow and pack a 10-foot trail and cut skier tracks on the edges for traditional skiing. The center lane is designed for skate skiing. Trails are groomed from December to mid-March.
Want to use the Park N’ Ski trails?
▪ Double-check the weather before heading out and cancel your plans if there is a major snowstorm.
▪ Be flexible. You might not be able to get into the parking lot at your favorite trailhead. Pick another. There are four Park N’ Ski lots along Idaho 21 starting 18 miles northeast of Idaho City. Most lots are open to some degree but may not be entirely plowed, according to Leo Hennessy, the non-motorized trails coordinator with the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. As of Monday, the Beaver Creek parking lot was in the best shape.
▪ Be prepared for the possibility of getting stuck or having to dig out of a parking lot. Make sure your vehicle is equipped with good winter tires. Have a shovel, cat litter, pieces of carpet or other traction devices on hand. A tow strap is a must if you are totally stuck.
▪ When parking in an unplowed lot, try to park along the sides and leave room for other vehicles and the snow plow to enter. Don’t park in the middle of the lot or traffic lanes. Yurt-goers may find their vehicles plowed in after spending several nights in the backcountry. That’s when a shovel and traction devices come in handy.
▪ Expect deep powder on the trails and inconsistent grooming in the coming weeks.
▪ Park N’ Ski permits are needed to use the parking areas. An annual permit is $25. A one- to three-day permit is $7.50. Funds from the permits go to groom the trails and plow the lots. Permits can be purchased from vendors. Follow the link on this story at IdahoStatesman.com for a list of vendors.