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.

Exploring Idaho’s Backcountry Ski Options

by Andrew Mentzer, Idaho Tourism

It’s time to start thinking about where to play this winter. Idaho is home to some of the coolest and most lively mountain towns in the USA.  If you’re looking for a little adventure as the snow starts to fly, but are weary of tackling the back country on your own, check out these great options to get into some steep and deep terrain without risking life and limb.  From human powered skinning trips to full service, family-friendly snowcat tours and to heli-skiing options, Idaho’s back country has something for every budget and skill level.  Below are a few options we have assembled with a little help from our friends at Ski Idaho.

Enjoy a backcountry ski or snowboard adventure near McCall, Idaho.

Payette Powder Guides

Payette Powder Guides
Take a trip out to one of the most scenic alpine areas in central Idaho with Payette Powder Guides. Their snowmobile and cat tours will leave you awestruck atop the Lick Creek Range—adjacent to the beautiful resort town of McCall.  Rates start at $360 for a two-person guided day trip.  Multi-day tours are also available; as well as yurt rentals and avalanche courses for those looking to go it alone.

Sun Valley Resort Heli-Skiing
As the birthplace of U.S. heli-skiing, Sun Valley has a long tradition of flying visitors to an untouched skier’s paradise on top of the Rockies. A vast territory—covering three mountain ranges—provides unparalleled access to Idaho’s legendary powder and terrain for all abilities in some of the lightest and deepest powder in the lower 48.  Sun Valley Resort offers heli-skiing packages starting at $1250 per person.

Ski the spectacular backcountry of Sun Valley with Sun Valley HeliSki

Sun Valley HeliSki

Selkirk Powder Company at Schweitzer Mountain
Best Overall USA Cat Skiing Experience—ranked second place by Powderhounds.com for 2013.  Located just 30 miles from the wettest spot in the entire U.S. Rockies and based out of Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Selkirk Powder Company offers heaps of fresh powder, untracked trees lines, steep chutes and pillow lines. Click here to sign up for an epic session of powder skiing. Prices start at $400 per person with discounts for groups.

Snowcat skiing in the backcountry near Brundage Mountain.

Brundage Mountain Snowcat Skiing

Brundage Mountain Snowcat Skiing
Join Brundage Mountain on a guided cat skiing trip into the beautiful backcountry of the Payette National Forest and experience a pristine, snowy wonderland.  Brundage’s cat tours access more than 17,000 acres of snowy steeps, tree-lined glades and powdery bowls.  Riders can experience this rush for only $269 for a single seat or book a whole cat for as little as $180 per person.  Click here to see Brundage Mountain cat skiing options.

Grand Targhee Snowcat Skiing
Grand Targhee’s snowcat adventures are an experience not to be missed, with breathtaking views of the Grand Tetons, 600 dedicated skiable acres, and incredible powder stashes. Terrain is appropriate for an intermediate skill level and above.  You and eleven other skiers and riders will enjoy up to 18,000 vertical feet during your adventure alongside Targhee’s powder cat guides.  Offerings include expansive bowls, gladed cruisers and steep tree pitches—all with awe inspiring views.  Prices start at $199 for a half day. Click here for additional full day, private and group pricing.

Teton Mountain Heli-Skiing
Teton Springs Lodge and Spa located in Victor, Idaho offers excellent back country options for those looking to get off the beaten path.

Perfect lines below the helicopter on a Teton Springs Lodge & Spa heli-ski outing with High Mountain HeliSki.

Teton Springs Lodge & Spa/High Mountain HeliSki

The helicopter will pick you up in the parking lot of the resort!  Teton Springs Lodge has partnered with High Mountain Heli-Skiing to provide an unmatched powder skiing and boarding adventure. For less than $1,500 (includes 3 days of lodging, breakfast, one day of heli-skiing and a ticket to Grand Targhee Resort) High Mountain Heli-Skiing offers 305,000 acres of skiable terrain in and around the Teton Mountains.  After a day of magnificent skiing or boarding, breathtaking scenery and glorious powder turns, round out your day with a visit to the Stillwaters Spa & Salon where you can choose from a wide variety of luxury spa treatments, including deep-tissue and sports massage!  Click here for more information.

Soldier Mountain Cat Skiing
Soldier Mountain Cat Skiing is back in action!  With a new 11-passenger snowcat, a flat screen TV to enjoy on your way up the mountain, an optional overnight stay in our yurt, and fresh powder all day long, Soldier Mountain’s cat skiing is first class. It’s also affordable, starting at $275 per person.  Turn your snowcat adventure into a moonlight overnight in a cozy yurt for only $38 per person. The hilltop yurt sleeps 12 with padded full and single bunk beds. To reserve your space, call (208) 764-2526 or email catski@soldiermountain.com.

Lodging and après ski options are plentiful in Idaho ski towns and the friendly locals are always willing to point visitors to a favorite bistro or bar.  Gear up and make memories in the incredible Idaho backcountry.  Learn more about Idaho’s winter activities at www.visitidaho.org/winter.

Top Eagle Watching Spots in Idaho

by Cathy Bourner, Idaho Tourism

Seeing bald eagles in flight is something to behold. Here in Idaho, a traditional winter nesting ground for eagles, sightings are frequent.  January is celebrated as National Bald Eagle Watching Month and from November through February, eagles are easy to see around the state.  It isn’t the cold temperatures that drive the birds south. Instead, when the rivers freeze in their northern ranges of Canada and Alaska, the eagles move south to Idaho’s open waterways and a plentiful supply of fish.  An abundant food supply and trees capable of supporting a nest that can exceed 10 feet in diameter are two factors that eagles require in a nesting area, and Idaho has a number of locations that fit the bill.

Photo Credit:  Lake Pend Oreille Cruises

Photo Credit: Lake Pend Oreille Cruises

–Northern Idaho is a bald eagle spotting mecca.  In the area around Bonners Ferry, eagle watchers are sure to have excellent viewing opportunities.  Favorite locations to see nesting pairs include the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge, Perkins Lake and McArthur Lake Wildlife Management Area.

–Wintering eagles are most abundant along Lake Coeur d’Alene, Lake Pend Oreille, and sections of the Priest River in northern Idaho. Sightings at Wolf Lodge Bay and Beauty Bay are particularly rich viewing areas on Lake Coeur d’Alene.  You may also take a winter eagle watching cruise with Coeur d’Alene Lake Cruises. Lake Pend Oreille Cruises offers eagle watching trips in the warmer months.

–Both bald and golden eagles can be seen during the winter at Silver Creek Preserve in the Wood River Valley south of  Hailey in central Idaho.

Photo Credit: Jerry Rega

Photo Credit: Jerry Rega

–In south central Idaho, Thousand Springs State Park’s Box Canyon in the Hagerman Valley is a good place to eagle watch. Head south of Hagerman to the top of Vader Grade to watch eagles soar as the sun sets.

–Southwest of Nampa, Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge and Lake Lowell provides the right combination of fish and nesting locations for bald eagles.

Barber Dam in southeast Boise is a more urban location to spot eagles, but it is not unusual to see them closer to downtown when you’re on the greenbelt.

–In eastern Idaho, The South Fork of the Snake River, stretching some 60 miles from Palisades Dam to its confluence with the Henrys Fork, hosts the largest breeding population of bald eagles in Idaho.

There are many more locations where you may catch sight of these magnificent birds.  The Idaho Birding Trail is an outstanding

Photo Credit: Jerry Rega

Photo Credit: Jerry Rega

resource for locating the hundreds of bird species that inhabit Idaho.  The Idaho Department of Fish & Game has put together an exhaustive list of an enormous variety of birds and where you can find them.  The guide lists over 50 locations where bald eagles might be seen.

Leave your calendar open February 14-16, 2014 for Hagerman Idaho’s first Bird Festival. February is a spectacular time to view the thousands of waterfowl that winter in the open waters in this valley. The sheer number of birds in the area is impressive, but there is also a remarkable diversity with 75 to 100 species present. Programs for all levels and ages will include guided bird field trips with experts, workshops, the premier showing of “Idaho Owls,” a wine and cheese social and much more. Learn more at www.facebook.com/HagermanBirdFestival.

The Idaho Statesman ran an article about eagle watching in southwest Idaho on December 19. Take a look here.

Adding birdwatching to your Idaho winter adventure is easy! Contact a local chapter of the Audubon Society   for more information or visit the links throughout this post.  For more information about visiting Idaho go to www.visitidaho.org.

The Season Sparkles with Holiday Lights

Whether you are visiting for the first time, reconnecting with family or friends, or are a long time Idahoan, nothing says ‘holidays’ like twinkling light displays.  Gather your loved ones and check out these favorites.

Winter Spirit, LewistonHoliday
Ignite the holidays with Winter Spirit! The community lights up with interactive displays and dancing trees in Locomotive Park. A large gas fireplace warms visitors and children are fascinated by the pageant of colors. Holiday tradition that uses over a half million lights making Locomotive Park a spectacular site to visit.  Enjoy Winter Spirit through January 3.

Caldwell lights2013Winter Wonderland, Caldwell
Downtown Caldwell’s Indian Creek is illuminated with 500,000 lights.  Bridges that span the creek, railings, lamp posts, trees and character displays are covered with twinkling lights. This event brings families and visitors from all over to enjoy the beauty and celebrate the season.  Don’t miss the Treasure Valley Night Light Parade on December 7, with over two miles of brightly lit floats!

Winter Garden aGlow, Boise
You’ve seen the gardens in bloom in summer, but have you seen one glow in the winter? Explore the Idaho Botanical Garden under the dazzling array of more than 308,000 lights. Shop the Holiday Garden Gift Store and warm your hands alongside crackling fire barrels while live choirs fill the air with holiday music. Visit Santa and view the Holiday Express train display.

Coeur d’Alene Holiday Lights Show, Coeur d’Alene
Bring the family to see the Coeur d’Alene Resort Holiday Light Show, a wonderland of over 1.5 million lights and the largest on-the-water holiday light display in America.  The “Journey to the North Pole” Lake Cruise visits Santa’s North Pole Toy Workshop where one of the world’s tallest Christmas trees awaits, towering and twinkling in the evening sky.

Boise Shuttle Holiday Lights Tours, Boise
Take an old fashioned trolley excursions into Boise’s most elaborately decorated neighborhoods. The hour-long tours have been a favorite family tradition since 1991.  Scheduled tour dates are December 13, 14, 20 and 21. Tickets are $14.00 for adults and $7.00 for children and can be purchased by calling 208-342-1900.

Winter Wonderland Festival, Sun Valley
The lights turn on December 1st signaling a month filled with festivities.  Stroll through Sun Valley Village enjoying the sparkling lights, window decorations and snow sculptures.

The Thunder Mountain Line’s Santa Express offers something a bit different.  Departing from Horseshoe Bend, ride the rails to Santa’s Village in festively decorated cars while enjoying Christmas music and visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus.  In the Village, take pictures with Santa, visit the Candy Cane House and stroll through the Magic Forest to decorate trees with carrot ornaments for Santa’s reindeer.

Check Out the Vitamin ID Winter Sweeps!

Idaho Tourism and Ski Idaho have teamed-up to give you the chance to experience the “soul of skiing” through great Idaho giveaways! The Vitamin ID Winter Sweepstakes offers an abundance of prizes, ranging from getaways to Idaho’s most popular ski areas (including Sun Valley, Brundage Mountain, and Schweitzer Mountain), to lift tickets and outdoor gear. New offers are posted every Friday, and you can enter weekly through February! Visit www.idahowinter.org for your chance to win!

IdahoWinterBug 2013Here are the weekly prizes for December.

–It’s off to eastern Idaho and the Teton Valley to relax and unwind. Enjoy a two night stay in a one bedroom suite at Teton Springs Lodge and Spa. Offer includes continental breakfast each day and unlimited scenic views.

–Enjoy south central Idaho with four lift tickets to Pomerelle Mountain Resort in Albion and a two night stay at the Best Western Plus Burley Inn.

–Get ready to explore your outdoor habitat in any type of sunlight with Native Eyewear. Be the proud owner of his and her sunglasses – the perfect companion for seeing the path ahead.

–At Core Concepts, they create authentic adventure apparel, distilled from grand days on Idaho’s rivers and mountains. Prize includes a $100 gift card for purchase of Core clothing or accessories.