Thursday, January 14, 2010

Finding Places to go Backcountry Skiing in SW Idaho

Southwestern Idaho has several mountain passes where you can find fantastic skiing such as Mores Creek Summit, Beaver Creek Summit, and Banner Summit areas along Idaho 21 State Road, as well as Galena Pass on I-75.

A great resource to get acquanted with is the the link to the Idaho Transportation Department:

Idaho Transportation Department - Idaho Roads Conditions

This link has good information such as webcams, temps, road closures, and other general information. Mountain passes can be identified by the following symbol:

Mountain Passes

Buy a Topo Map program. Carefully study the topo map corresponding to the mountain passes. And drive through these mountain passes, STOP your vehicle, LOOK UP....... then make your mind where you want to go touring and skiing!

Get familiar with secondary roads open during the winter (Warm Lake road is an example) or Forest Service roads that open late in the spring ( for example, Snowbank FS road, closed from November 1st through May 31st). Call the forest service district ranger office of your area of interest and ask.

We are also extremely fortunate to have local ski resorts with open boundary policies, such as Bogus Basin, Brundage, and Soldier Mountain. Make sure to follow the ski resort rules; exit ONLY by gates, and ONLY when the gates are OPEN. Talk to the ski patrol, they will be very happy to offer guidance and suggestions. Once more, for terrain surrounding the ski resorts study the topo maps - you will be pleasantly surprised to find so MUCH skiing variety and touring opportunities.

Google Earth is a wonderful tool to explore potential back country skiing objectives. It is an effective tool to identify "open areas" to ski in what might otherwise appears to be heavily timbered.

If you own a snowmobile - your BC Skiing opportunities are infinite in Idaho. Once you access one of the many trailheads, you are only limited by the snowmobile gas capacity. Thus no need to add no more!

As you study the Idaho topo maps to identify ski opportunities, make sure that you print your maps in the 1:24000 scale. That will allow you to use available map tools to estimate average slope steepness. A good "quad tool" is the Brunton:

Estimating average slope angles is an essential part of trip planing. The Brunton Quad tool has a scale for slope angle. For those that own a Snow, Weather, and Avalanche Guidelines field notebook (SWAG Blue book), there is also a slope angle scale available for various maps scales (including 1:24000). By the way, this field notebook is a must have item for those passionate in tracking the snowpack during the winter.

You can get this field notebook at:

The "quad tool" is useful in identifying safe climbing routes and uphill track approaches. Furthermore, areas of concerns such as steep slopes, avalanche paths, and cliffs can be identified. Do not forget that topo maps are ineffective in identifying "micro features", so do not trust blindly the information.

Finally, there are many of us that want to share Idaho's backcountry skiing with you. We care about sharing information about BC ski destinations that will make your trip safe, match your experience level,  and peg the fun meter at the MAX level. I know I speak for my many of my friends and supporters of this blog; there is enough backcountry skiing and touring in South Western Idaho to be shared among us. And that there are no reasons NOT to work together to reach this goal.