Picture yourself skiing or snowshoeing along a pine-lined mountain ridge with awesome views of Boise's valley and distant scenes of the rugged, snow-capped Owyhee Mountains and the Snake River Plain to the south and west. It's easy if you live in the Boise area. And there's arguably no better way to leave the work-day worries behind and enjoy a good workout in the snow.
If you live in Boise Valley, there's no reason to shelve the snowshoes or Nordic skis during the work week. With Bogus Basin, and its extensive cross-country ski and snowshoe trail system, located just 16 miles from downtown, it's easy to get in a couple of hours on the trails either before or after work. And some snowgoers who have flexibility in their schedules even take extended lunch hours to enjoy a workout on Boise's favorite mountain.
Winter trails are as near as Bogus and far from the valley as McCall. While you're skate skiing or kicking and gliding along the Nordic Highway at Bogus, you could also be planning that weekend getaway at Ponderosa State Park at McCall. So, get your skis and snowshoes ready. The snow is starting to pile up at these recreation areas, and they should be opening somewhere around mid-December this year.
The downhill ski area at Bogus Basin has one of the best Nordic trail systems around with more than 20 miles of groomed trails, including 4 miles of well-lit trails for night skiing. Cross-country skiing or snowshoeing under the lights is a surreal experience. Especially if it's snowing, and the flakes can be seen softly swirling under the lights. Look up and see the twinkling of stars, and look toward the valley and see the twinkling of city lights.
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 where snowshoers try out their gear for the first time. 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. There's also a table and bench where you can put a coat of wax on your skis and a shop with an assortment of rental gear.
From the lodge, there's quite a lot of terrain that's left ungroomed for adventurous snowshoers, while groomed Nordic trails wind around in several loops. A favorite run for many skiers is to take the Nordic Highway about 3 miles to Shafer Butte Campground, where you can shovel snow off the picnic tables in the snowbound campground and have lunch. Shafer Butte Campground, which is just opposite the summit of the downhill ski area, is a favorite jumping off point for backcountry Telemark skiers who traverse Mores Mountain. There you'll find some powder bowls sprinkled around the mountain.
Just remember when you head out 3 miles toward Shafer Butte Picnic Area, that you have to return 3 miles to the trailhead. It can be a several-hour long trip. Bogus Basin also rents a yurt in the Nordic trail system for overnight stays, just in case you want to plan a couple of days of snowshoeing or skiing. For information and reservations, go to BogusBasin.org.
Trail prices: Adults and children 12 and older, $14 full day, $11 half day, $8 night; child (7-11), $7 a day, $5 half day, $3 night; 6 and younger and older than 70, free. Adult snowshoe trail ticket, adult, $7 full day, $5 half day and night; child, $5 full day, $3 half day and night.
You'll have to leave your ski dog at home. Bogus Basin doesn't allow canine cross-country skiing.
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.
PONDEROSA STATE PARK
Now, let's get out of town. Skiers and snowshoers who explore Ponderosa State Park are in awe of the stunning beauty of this 1,000-acre park, which is on a peninsula in Payette Lake. It's worth a weekend trip. Trails go through open meadows and hallways of hundreds-year-old ponderosa pines and along frozen Payette Lake. It takes a little effort, but a favorite trek is all the way from the visitors center to a scenic overlook at Osprey Point. You can put in about 5 miles round trip, but it's a spectacular view of the lake.
The park's namesake, the 150-foot-tall ponderosa pines, are something to see. These grand trees are in a forest of Douglas fir, grand fir, lodgepole pine, and western larch. And, you've got to love the aspen groves in the snow-ladened atmosphere. Exploring winter in the park is best done over a weekend and you can stay in motels in McCall or cabins at the state park. The cabins in the park offer an up-close-and-personal experience of the park's wild areas at all hours of the day and evening. The park's five cabins are nestled along the shore of Payette Lake. They are fully equipped with all the comforts of home. Guests can step outside to a covered deck with views of Payette Lake, as well as gorgeous sunsets and also easy access to the groomed trails throughout the park.
The cabins can be reserved at the Idaho Parks and Recreation website, or you can call (888) 922-6743. The park usually has 13 miles of groomed Nordic ski trails and a little more than 3.2 miles of designated snowshoe trails in the mountainous terrain. Groomed ski trails can be used by snowshoers, too. Got a dog? Rovers Round-About is a pet-friendly trail in the park.
If you're at the park, don't miss an evening at the Blue Moon Yurt, which offers gourmet dinners and wonderful accomodations. Otherwise, McCall has a variety of restaurants and brew pubs just a few miles from the park.
Trail prices: A Winter Access day pass is $5 per person, per day. Park users entering in a motor vehicle must also pay a $5 fee unless they have a Idaho State Parks Passport sticker.
Getting there: Drive 102 miles north of Boise on Idaho 55 to McCall. Turn right on Railroad Avenue. Follow the signs to the park.