Park n' Ski parksandrecreation.idaho.gov
Winter recreation can be daunting--and not just because of the cold, slick roads and danger of being buried in an avalanche. We're just talking about the hassle. Not only do you have to locate your gear, but you have to find the right layers to wear, guessing how cold it will be before and after you recreate compared to how warm you'll be while doing said recreation.
And after you get done packing enough clothing options to get you through all possible conditions (including and not limited to: nuclear winter, Indian summer, spring corn, Arctic blast, whiteout blizzard and/or alien invasion), you still have to jam your just-in-case necessities into your pack before locating your sunscreen, polarized glasses and emergency hand warmers.
Wouldn't it be nice to have at least one aspect of the experience made a little easier?
It's one reason to love the Park n' Ski program across Idaho. One little pass--$25 annual or $7.50 for three days, available online or at select retailers--grants access to 17 Park n' Ski trail systems across the state, offering a whoppin' 180 miles of Nordic trails, as well as several yurts available for rental.
The fee helps keep the parking lots plowed through the winter and some of the trails groomed. Some areas share trail access with snowmobilers, but there are plenty of Nordic-only trails for those who don't want to have to dodge their motorized brethren. Several also allow dogs.
In an effort to briefly escape the winter inversion clutching Boise in a death grip, I recently headed to one of the closest Park n' Ski locations--Whoop-Um-Up, located 18 miles north of Idaho City along Highway 21.
Climbing out of the valley meant leaving the frigid temperatures and chewable air behind in exchange for clear skies and miles of looping trails. With snowshoes on my feet and roughly half my winter wardrobe in the car, I spent several hours casually meandering the well-marked trails, weaving in and out of the sun as it filtered through the trees.
Despite a packed parking lot, the trails were surprisingly empty, and whatever groups were encountered along the way were so clearly thrilled to have made a daylong escape, we were all grinning like kids on spring break.
Thanks to the variety of intersecting trails, it's easy for snowshoers and cross country skiers of varying abilities and fitness levels to chose a route that meets their needs.
Back in the parking lot, fellow escapees perched on tailgates or in camp chairs, downing picnic lunches and warm drinks before facing the inevitable return home and that dreaded end-of-day duty: putting away all those clothes you dragged out, just in case.