Snow is falling throughout the state. Which resort will you be skiing at this holiday weekend?

Snow accumulations are climbing around the state. Get your Olympic game face on and ski Idaho this weekend!

Schweitzer Mountain

Schweitzer Mountain

 

Kelly Canyon: 97 inches
Grand Targhee: 96 inches
Lost Trail: 96 inches
Lookout Pass: 94 inches
Schweitzer: 74 inches
Pomerelle: 74 inches
Tamarack: 74 inches
Silver Mountain: 63 inches
Brundage: 66 inches

Brundage Mountain

Brundage Mountain

Bogus Basin 47 inches (base area, not summit)
Cottonwood Butte: 38 inches
Sun Valley: 52 inches
Bald Mountain: 52 inches
Pebble Creek: 46 inches
Snowhaven: 38 inches

For up to date snow reports, click here. 
Ski Idaho!

Ski Idaho!

Idaho Wines Love Chocolate

by Brenna Christison, Idaho Wine Commission

Ste. Chapelle Moscato pair nicely with dark chocolate.

Ste. Chapelle Moscato pairs nicely with dark chocolate.

Have you ever paired chocolate and wine? Wine and chocolate is an amazing dessert and a great way to end your evening. What could be sweeter on Valentine’s Day?

I enjoy dark chocolate most with a bold red wine; it makes the two even more delicious! When pairing the two, a good rule to follow is to make sure the wine is a little sweeter than the chocolate. If extreme dark chocolate (70% cacao) is your favorite, pair it with a bold red such as a cabernet sauvignon or malbec. You need a big, robust wine that can stand up to a heavy dark chocolate, as a milder wine will be overtaken by a strong cocoa content.  One of my favorite chocolate pairing wines is Koenig Vineyard’s 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon – awarded 91 points by Wine Spectator. If your chocolate has mint flavor or nuts, a cabernet sauvignon is a great option.

If you prefer a milder dark chocolate (60% cacao) try a merlot or syrah. Cold Spring’s 2009 Merlot, a gold medal winner in the 2013 Idaho Wine Competition, would be a great pairing. Milk chocolate has a softer, creamier texture than dark chocolate, and works nicely with a lighter, sweeter wine. Try a dessert wine or a rosè like Sawtooth Winery’s 2012 Classic Fly Series.

Chocolate bars from Cowgirl Chocolates

Chocolate bars from Cowgirl Chocolates.

Cinsault Rosè, another gold medal recipient from the 2013 Idaho Wine Competition. White chocolate, although technically not chocolate, is quite tasty with a moscato. Try Ste. Chapelle’s moscato for a delicious combination.

Idaho has wonderful wines, and there are some terrific chocolate shops, too.

Cowgirl Chocolates in Moscow, ID
Dream Chocolates in Boise, ID
The Chocolat Bar in Boise, ID
Weiser Candy Co. in Weiser, ID
Arno Chocolates in Twin Falls, ID
The McCall Candy Company in McCall, ID
Sandpoint Chocolate Bear in Sandpoint, ID
Coeur d’Alene Chocolates, in Coeur d’Alene, ID

Always remember to eat the chocolate you love and drink the wine you love – especially if it is Idaho wine and chocolates!

Wow, Fat Bikes Rock!

by Steve Stuebner, Stueby’s Outdoor Journal blog

Fat BikesYou’ve probably noticed that Fat Bikes are becoming all the rage as a unique and robust human-powered vehicle for winter and summer recreation. I decided to rent an XL Salsa Mukluk 3 from Meridian Cycle last weekend, and I met up with a bunch of guys from McCall and Boise at Jug Mountain Ranch in McCall to try it out.

I had so much fun on the ride that now I want a fat bike of my own! Ha! Imagine that.

Gregg Lawley of McCall, who runs the groomer and Nordic Center at Jug Mountain Ranch, is allowing both fat bikes and dogs to run free on their cross-country ski trails. They’ve got 15K’s open for fat biking and skiing. Trail fees are $10 per day. It’s an awesome place to ride!

We only touched a portion of the trails as we rode up some singletrack and cross-country ski trails up to to Jug Mountain Reservoir, made a loop around the lake on a groomed ski trail, and then flew downhill on cross-country trails to the Landing, and then rode singletrack trails through the woods to more cross-country trails in the bottom of the valley, and circled back to the Nordic Center, where we started. It was about a 10-mile ride, and everyone was grinning ear to ear. What a blast!

“That was the most fun I’ve had in a long time,” Lawley said.

Fat Biking at Jug Mountain Ranch

All of the cross-country trails at Jug Mountain Ranch were packed nice and hard by Lawley’s groomer, so it didn’t seem like we were making any impact on the cross-country ski trails. I could barely see any of the tracks from the faster riders who were ahead of me. I had no problem getting traction on the way up or the way down. If it had been warmer (above freezing) and the trails were soft, then I’m sure it would have been a different story. We started the ride in the morning to make sure things were firm.

Ready to ride fat bikes at Jug Mountain Ranch.

Getting ready to ride at Jug Mountain Ranch Nordic Center

All of the McCall guys we rode with had fat bikes of their own. They’ve been riding at Jug Mountain Ranch frequently, and they ride on local snowmobile trails and snowshoe trails as well.

They’re all training for the Snowy 45, a super-fun fat bike relay race at Jug Mountain Ranch on March 2 this year. The event was held for the first time last year, and “everyone had so much fun we decided we’ve got to do it again,” Lawley says. Entries are open for this year’s race. Each team needs to pull together four riders for the relay race. Costumes are encouraged, there will be music and beer and the whole deal.

2013 Snowy 45 rider.

2013 Snowy 45 rider.

Reagan said he and his wife, Michelle, got intrigued by fat bikes when they saw they were catching on in the Teton Valley, and as the owners of Gravity Sports in McCall, they thought they’d pick up a few bikes for rentals and sell them as well. They’ve proved to be quite popular. “We decided to get them initially to bridge the shoulder seasons in McCall,” he said. “But as time has gone on, we’ve used them a lot more than we thought we would.”

In the Boise Valley, Meridian Cycles has been renting the bikes for more than a year, and offering rentals of several sizes and models as well. “We can’t keep them in stock,” said Paul McKenna, shop owner. “We’ve been going through like three of them in a week. It’s pretty amazing.”

Word is that even the manufacturers can’t keep up with demand. I made a quick survey of the Boise-area bike shops and at this point, Meridian Cycles and Idaho Mountain Touring have bikes for rent, and the other shops like George’s, World Cycle, Bob’s Bicycles and Ken’s Bicycle Warehouse are trying to get more fat bikes on hand for sales, but they don’t have any for rent.

So if you are heading up to McCall and you want to go fat biking, you might reserve the lone rental model at Jug Mountain Ranch in advance (call Gregg Lawley at 208-315-0575), reserve one at Gravity Sports (208-634-8530), or rent one from Meridian Cycles or Idaho Mountain Touring and take it with you.

In McCall, the city has plowed the golf cart paths on the city golf course, so you can cruise around all over the golf course on a fat bike. I did that on Saturday before I went skate skiing at Bear Basin.

Where else can you ride?

You could ride Boise foothills trails when they’re frozen, and another cool option is that the Idaho City Park n’ Ski Area groomed cross-country trails and snowshoe trails are available for fat biking, according to Leo Hennessy of Idaho Parks & Recreation.  “I’m open-minded about it, and I’ve been encouraging it,” he said. “Conditions are pretty ripe for it right now in the morning when things are frozen.”

“But people should stay off the trails if they’re getting soft and you’re putting a big groove in the trail with your tires.”

If you ride on the Park n’ Ski trails, use common sense. Don’t ride on top of the set classic track and upset the cross-country skiers. Probably the best place to ride will be on the side of the cross-country trails opposite of the set track, Hennessy said. “The middle of the trail will probably be the softest area.”

The McCall guys are riding on groomed snowmobile trails, but apparently, local snowmobile clubs around the state have different policies about whether fat bikes are allowed on snowmobile trails. Check with them first to be on the safe side. It wouldn’t hurt to give them a contribution to the grooming fund or buy a snowmobile registration sticker and put it on your fat bike.

Hot Springs, A Relaxing Feature of Idaho’s Landscape

by Diane Norton, Idaho Tourism

Mineral hot springs have always been popular and many people believe the relaxing water has magical healing powers. Native Americans have a long relationship with hot springs and revere hot springs as sacred healing places. The hot spring areas were also known as neutral ground where warriors could travel to and rest peacefully. “Some tell us it’s spiritual because they are right above the springs source where there’s that interface of water, earth and the atmosphere,” said Mark Lowe, Executive Director of the Lava Hot Springs Foundation.

Lava Hot Springs was originally part of the Fort Hall Indian reservation. In 1902, the government realigned the boundaries and the hot springs became the State of Idaho’s property. With the railway in place and western expansion underway, settlers constructed tents next to the springs as early as 1907. Seven years later the Riverside Hotel, the first hotel in Lava Hot Springs, was built.  Fast forward to today, the region is known as a “Hot Spring Mecca” inviting travelers to enjoy local hospitality at Lava Hot Springs Inn, Home Hotel and Aura Soma Lava.

Whether you are seeking a place to meditate, relax or sooth your muscles, the Gem state offers an abundance of year-round soaking options. Winter is the perfect time to visit Idaho’s steamy springs.  Imagine yourself relaxing in the hot mineral water, watching the snow fall and gazing up at the stars.  Not much compares…

Idaho Hot Springs Map

Click on map for a complete listing of hot springs and the locations.

Below is a sampling of year-round springs to enjoy!

 

Bear Lake Hot Springs, Paris, ID
Soak in large pools near the shore of beautiful Bear Lake. Camping is available.

Burgdorf Hot Springs, McCall, ID
Established in 1870, Burgdorf is both a hot springs and ghost town. Remains of cabins and an old hotel can be seen in a meadow on private land surrounded by the Payette National Forest. Accessible in winter only by snowmobile or cross-country ski. Lodging available.

Challis Hot SpringsChallis, ID
Challis Hot Springs is an historic springs and campground on the banks of the Salmon River south of Challis. Water temperatures range from 90-127 degrees and pools are open year-round.

Downata Hot SpringsDowney, ID
Downata Hot Springs is a full-service hot springs resort south of Pocatello.

Givens Hot SpringsGivens Hot Springs, ID
Long an Indian winter village site, the area was homesteaded in 1881 by Oregon Trail pioneers Milford and Mattie Givens. A pool and hotel were built in the 1880s to accommodate travelers, Silver City miners seeking arthritis relief, and local residents coming out for diversion. Within a 45-mile radius of Givens there are two museums, Indian petroglyphs, ATV trails, and Silver City – an historic mining town.

Gold Fork Hot SpringsMcCall, ID
Gold Fork Hot Springs offers mineral pools and hydromassage.

Lava Hot Springs PoolsLava Hot Springs, ID
For centuries, many Indian tribes gathered at these natural hot water springs, calling them the healing waters. Geologists theorize that the water has been a consistent 110 degrees for at least 50 million years. Today, the State of Idaho maintains this world-famous, family-friendly resort complex year-round. The facility offers hot mineral pools that are odor free.
Travelers Mike and Jurgen take a break at Lava. 

Miracle Hot SpringsBuhl, ID
Miracle Hot Springs is open year-round with two outdoor pools, and 19 private hot pools. The water is soft to the touch and naturally clean with a sensational alkaline pH of 9.6. Professional massage therapists are on site. There is a 12 unit RV park and many tent spaces. Miracle also rents overnight camping domes and a 1000 sq. ft. event dome can be reserved for group activities.

Riverdale Resort Hot SpringsPreston, ID
Two hot springs pools, which are open year round, one Olympic-size pool, water slides, camping and RV sites are features of this new development near Preston.

Silver Creek PlungeGarden Valley, ID
Silver Creek Plunge is a remote mountain hot springs resort on the middle fork of the Payette River in the Boise National Forest near Garden Valley. It features campsites, a mini-mart, snack bar, horseshoes, volleyball and basketball. It’s open year round, but accessible only by snowmobile in winter.

Sligar’s Thousand Springs ResortHagerman, ID
Sligar’s offers an indoor swimming pool and private hydro-jet pools with a scenic view of the Snake River and the Thousand Springs area. Riverside camping spots with electricity are also available.

The SpringsIdaho City, ID
Reservations are definitely recommended on weekends at this luxury hot springs retreat. The pools aren’t overcrowded so everyone may relax and soak in comfort.

Zim’s Hot SpringsNew Meadows, ID
Zim’s is located in scenic New Meadows, just north of McCall. Open year-round, these natural hot springs surface at 90 to 95 degrees, depending on weather. One of the pools is Olympic size and kept at a cool 93 degrees and the other soaking pool is a muscle-relaxing 104 degrees.

For lodging and activity information near these springs, visit www.visitidaho.org.

Last Month for Idaho Winter Giveaways

by Laurie McConnell, Idaho Tourism

Our Idaho Winter Giveaways are are winding down – this is the last month – but there are still some great prizes offered in February.   Prizes include getaways with lift tickets to some of Idaho’s most popular ski areas and outdoor gear.  New offers are posted every Friday and you can enter weekly through February 27.  Feeling lucky?  Go to www.idahowinter.org to enter.

Check out the Idaho Winter Giveaways for February!

Uncrowded slopes at Lookout Pass.Enjoy a winter adventure in Historic Wallace and the Silver Valley. The Panhandle Powder Package includes a two night stay at the Stardust Motel and two lift tickets to Lookout Pass.

 

 

 

Valley views from Bogus Basin Mtn. Recreation Area.Boise, Idaho’s picturesque capital welcomes you with five lift tickets to Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area and a two night stay at trendy Hotel 43.

 

 

 

Snowboard the deep powder at Brundage Mountain.Visit scenic McCall and the best snow in Idaho at Brundage Mountain Resort. Offer includes a two night stay at the Best Western Plus McCall and four lift tickets to Brundage Mountain.

 

 

 

Stylish sunglasses from Smith Optics.Be the proud owner of his and her Smith Optics sunglasses. For over forty years, Smith Optics has hung its hat on a heritage of authenticity and innovating products for the fresh-air addicts who push their limits and gear daily.

 

 

We can help with your winter vacation plans, too.  Log on to www.visitidaho.org for lodging, activity and event information.

 

Top Spots to Snowshoe in Idaho

It’s true what they say:  if you can walk, you can snowshoe. Some of the most spectacular scenery in the western U.S. awaits you in Idaho and snowshoeing is the perfect way to explore Idaho’s 30 trail systems and back country opportunities. Today’s equipment

Sun Valley Snowshoers

Sun Valley Snowshoers

is hassle-free and enables everyone, old and young, to walk and climb with ease. Abundant groomed Nordic trails are available throughout the state, but the real fun comes when you get off the trail.

The thrill of snowshoeing down steep, wooded slopes where skiers can’t go and hikers wouldn’t venture in warmer seasons is what makes this sport so exciting. Quickly becoming one of the most popular winter sports in the country, snowshoeing is a great way to stay healthy. SnowSports Industries of America (SIA) says an average person burns between 400-500 calories per hour snowshoeing at moderate speeds.

Snowshoeing in McCall

Snowshoeing in McCall

Near the historic mining town of Idaho City, the Whoop-Um-Up Nordic Trail, part of Idaho State Parks’ Park N Ski program, offers excellent off-trail snowshoeing opportunities. The trailhead is located 17 miles north of Idaho City on Highway 21. Some of the newest trails in Idaho are located at Jug Mountain Ranch, just south of McCall, off the Payette Scenic Byway.

Harriman State Park lies in the heart of a 16,000-acre wildlife reserve in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, 20 miles north of Ashton in eastern Idaho. There are 22 miles of trails in the park with yurts and other lodging facilities available for rent. Harriman is also a wintering ground for the majestic trumpeter swan and many other water birds and animals.

The Selkirk Mountains surrounding Priest Lake in northern Idaho are a virtual paradise for winter-sports enthusiasts and include five areas around Priest Lake State Park. Trail systems have intriguing names like Reeder Indian Rock Translator Trail and Wood Rat Luby Trail. A variety of lodging options are available along Priest Lake’s 72 miles of shoreline in the shadow of the Selkirk Mountains.

Mapquest Travel Blog Snowshoe Itinerary MapGalena Lodge, northwest of Sun Valley, serves as base camp for the 120K North Valley Trails System. Join in a guided snowshoe walk with a Forest Service Ranger on Thursday mornings then enjoy hot cocoa and a freshly baked pastry at the Lodge. The Sun Valley Resort Nordic and Snowshoe Center trails meander through stunning terrain providing families a fun, unique and inexpensive winter sport experience.  Rentals are available and at 6000 feet, the trail system maintains consistent conditions so breathing is easy!

Craters of the Moon snowshoe adventure.

Craters of the Moon snowshoe adventure.

Finally, you can snowshoe through the unique lava fields at Craters of the Moon National Monument near Arco. The rangers offer winter ecology workshops on Saturdays through February on the rugged landscape where deep snow covers the once fiery lava. The day begins with a 30 minute classroom session followed by several hours of moderately strenuous snowshoeing looking for tracks and climbing a volcano.  Where else can you summit the top of a volcano in the winter?

Take a look at this mapquest travel blog to see these locations plotted on a map.

Jade Broadus offers some additional snowshoeing recommendations in this article about Idaho’s State Parks.

Winter white looks enchanting in Idaho!  Learn more about Idaho trails online at www.visitidaho.org/winter and explore Gem State recreational and lodging opportunities at www.visitidaho.org.

Sleigh Ride Dinners for Valentine’s Day

by Cathy Bourner, Idaho Tourism

 

If you’re wanting to impress that special someone with a memorable Valentine’s Day, what could be more romantic than a sleigh ride under a full moon with your beloved?  We looked around the state and found some sleigh ride and dinner combinations that will help you create just the romantic mood you’re looking for. This wintery outing is almost guaranteed to encourage hand-holding and snuggling.

Idaho Sleigh Rides in a winter wonderland.

Idaho Sleigh Rides

Idaho Sleigh Rides, based in Garden Valley, offers sleigh rides complete with a Dutch oven dinner for you and your sweetie. Snuggle under a warm blanket and listen to the sounds of sleigh bells mixed with laughter and song for a fairy tale-like experience.

Bogus Creek Outfitters is offering a special rate for their Valentine’s weekend sleigh ride and dinner.   Bundle up in blankets as you’re whisked through the winter wonderland to their cozy cabin in the Boise National Forest. You’ll be greeted with a warm fire, live music and hot drinks.  Later, after you enjoy a savory grilled steak and prawn dinner, the cowboy crew will spin a few tales and entertain you.

Operating in the Victor area, Linn Canyon Ranch offers sleigh rides and dinner at the ranch through March. Traveling at dusk, you may spot elk and other wildlife that call the canyon home.  Wrapped in warm blankets you will glide around the property pulled by the ranch’s Percheron draft horses.

Sleigh Ride to Trail Creek Cabin in Sun Valley

Sun Valley Sleigh Rides

If you’re in Central Idaho, look no further than Sun Valley for a romantic sleigh ride to Trail Creek Cabin for dinner. Sleigh rides are available throughout the winter, but they are offering special sleigh ride an dinner packages February 14–22. The menu has a western flare complimented by a great wine list and full bar.  You may also choose to take just the sleigh ride and return to the resort to enjoy its variety of dining options.

Couple enjoys a winter sleigh ride at Western Pleasure Guest Ranch.

Western Pleasure Guest Ranch

The Western Pleasure Guest Ranch near Sandpoint is offering a special Valentine’s dinner February 14 and 15.   Enjoy a 2-mile loop and marvelous scenery by sleigh then return to the lodge to warm up and enjoy hot drinks and freshly popped popcorn. When you’re toasty warm, a hearty country gourmet dinner will be served. If you would like to experience winter’s beauty under your own power, Western Pleasure will be opening its cross country ski trails on Valentine’s weekend for night skiing under the full moon.

Sleigh rides are fun with family and friends, too, and can make any day or occasion special.  For lodging information and more Idaho vacation ideas go to www.visitidaho.org.

Winter Steelhead Fishing on Idaho’s Salmon River

by Lisa D. Jenkins

Way back in September, the B-Run steelhead started to make their way from the Pacific Ocean back to the Salmon River in Idaho, and here at Exodus Wilderness Adventures we’re excited to report that winter steelhead fishing IS ON!

Steelhead fishing results in a successful catch.We’re talking big fish just waiting to hook up with you for an epic struggle.

Late January to early March regularly offers anglers consistent Idaho steelhead fishing. Judging from the earlier fall catch, our winter season will be one of the best thanks to a decent size run and an extremely favorable weather pattern that’s held the fish in the area for longer than last year.

The Salmon River runs directly north in the Riggins area so plenty of winter sunlight spills into the canyon, often making it the warmest spot in the state. Right now, plenty of hatchery and native fish are resting in the area’s waters waiting forAnnika Moffett is successful during steelhead fishing. things to warm up just a bit before they become active again. My friend, Roy Akins of Rapid River Outfitters, says he finds that any slight jump in water temp can turn the bite on like crazy and lead to some of the best fishing of the season.

While Idaho’s record steelhead weighed in at 30 pounds, 2 ounces, the average B-Run steelhead has spent 2 years in the ocean, weighs over 20 pounds and is 31 – 34 inches long when it reaches the Salmon River to spawn. Is this your year to challenge the record with a giant B-Run steelhead of your own?

There are two ways to enjoy steelhead fishing on the Salmon River this winter.

Exodus Wilderness Adventures and other guides in Riggins offer half, full and multi-day steelheadSuccessful steelhead fishing. fishing trips on Idaho’s Salmon River. Anglers often have their choice of a heated drift boat or heated jet boat – so the fishing is nice and comfortable – and all your gear is usually provided.

If you plan on fishing on your own, be sure to check the Fishing Report before you come, then stop in to see Amy at Exodus for some local tips. The Exodus office is located right on the bank of the Salmon River and we are always happy to share what we know about current river and fishing conditions.

Yes, Idaho steelhead fishing is a fine way to spend a day or two this winter.  Come Visit Idaho and see for yourself!

Idaho Winter Giveaways

by Laurie McConnell, Idaho Tourism

Our Idaho Winter Giveaways are in full swing.   Prizes range from getaways to some of Idaho’s most popular ski areas to lift tickets and outdoor gear.  New offers are posted every Friday and you can enter weekly through February.  Feeling lucky?  Go to www.idahowinter.org and enter to win Idaho Winter Giveaways.

Check out the Idaho Winter Giveaways for January!

Idaho Winter Giveaways include Skiing at Brundage Mountain.Visit scenic McCall and the best snow in Idaho at Brundage Mountain Resort. Prize includes a one night stay at Hotel McCall and four lift tickets to Brundage Mountain Ski Resort.

 

Idaho Winter Giveaways include skiing on Sun Valley's Bald Mountain.
Experience America’s first destination resort in breathtaking Sun Valley. The Ski and Stay Free package includes a one night stay at the Sun Valley Resort and lift tickets.

Idaho Winter Giveaways include catskiing on Schweitzer Mountain with Selkirk Powder Company.

It’s off to sunny Sandpoint to join Selkirk Powder Company for snowcat skiing at Schweitzer Mountain Resort. Offer also includes a two night stay in a spa suite at La Quinta Inns & Suites Sandpoint.

Idaho Winter Giveaways include skiing beautifully groomed trails at Tamarack Resort.Enjoy sunny skies and powder days at Tamarack Mountain Resort in Donnelly. Prize includes a one night stay at The Lodge at Osprey Meadows and two lift tickets.

We can help with your winter vacation plans, too.  Log on to www.visitidaho.org for lodging, activity and event information.

Celebrate National Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month in Idaho!

by Laurie McConnell, Idaho Tourism

Humans were never meant to hibernate, so gather your friends and family and head outside for winter fun and exercise. New to the slopes Hit the slopes during National Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month.and want to give skiing or boarding a try? Need a refresher or want to improve?  Idaho ski areas are ready to help.

January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard month.

Idaho ski areas are offering convenient learning programs, rentals and special discounts throughout the month, making learning easy and affordable!  Learn to ski or snowboard by taking lessons from a pro. Visit www.skiidaho.us for more information about Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month.

When planning your Idaho ski vacation, be sure to check out these special packages and offers for additional savings and activities.  Or sign up for the Ski Idaho e-newsletter on www.skiidaho.us – it’s packed full of special offers, updates and ski area information.

Family Blogger Elizabeth Rodgers skied Brundage Mountain last January. Read about her family’s experiences.

There are also classes, clinics and ‘days out’ geared especially for women.  See the list compiled by Ski Idaho.

Go to www.visitidaho.org/winter to learn more about Idaho’s winter offerings and start planning your trip today.