A winter tradition born in the Alps of central Europe that involves strapping one's feet to two planks and hurling down the side of a mountain while holding two sharpened poles. Like many other winter sports, the creation of Alpine skiing may have involved large quantities of alcohol—probably beer—and a bet, probably by someone named Claus. Over the years, Alpine skis have evolved from 9-foot-long boards to high-tech, poly-carbonate layered, metal-edged, graphics-covered works of art on which skiers still ruin household irons while attempting to apply wax. Alpine skiing takes many forms, including downhill, slalom, freestyle and moguls—each variation is also believed to have been created with the liberal application of alcohol. Alpine skiing is now considered a family activity, and children are often seen being initiated into the sport by having the tips of their skis lashed together and then shoved down the hill while hearing the words "pizza" and "fries" yelled at them. Idaho is filled with ski resorts, offering something for all levels of skiers. Ski areas range in size, accoutrements and price, as well as location, so advanced research is recommended. Check out the mountain guide on pages 28 and 29 or visit visitidaho.org/winter.
Putting a fancy French word before a commonly used one—though it is of Norwegian origin—often elevates a particular custom to a more elite level ... in theory. Apres means after, and apres ski is a term meant to elicit visions of designer-parka-clad snowbunnies with names like Biff and Muffy standing shoulder to shoulder in the ski lodge, sipping a cognac and discussing stock analyses while staring dreamily into a roaring fire as they wait for an order of crudites and warm hors d'oeuvres. A truer picture of apres ski is a gaggle of exhausted skiers or snowboarders, some still in hand-me-down bib overalls and last year's jacket, hair sweat-damp, faces red with windburn, sharing a pitcher of microbrew and a big plate of nachos while they regale each other with stories of particularly harrowing runs. This snapshot can be taken at the Pioneer or Frontier Point lodges at Bogus Basin, or this same scenario might be witnessed down the hill at places like Highlands Hollow Brew Pub, Lulu's Fine Pizza, O'Michael's Pub & Grill or Pac-Out, where folks may know what the word apres means, but wouldn't be caught dead using it.
An ancient example of how humans have found ways to let others do the hard work for us. In this case, a team of dogs is hitched to a small, toboggan-like sled large enough to hold no more than two humans and some gear. While it may be tempting to compare the activity to that of dogs pulling miniature wagons in small-town parades, dog sledding actually serves a purpose and is way, way faster—although nowhere near as adorable. Dog sledding is most often found in far northern climates, where temperatures can freeze your car doors shut. A driver, or musher, directs the team, while passengers try to maintain feeling in their nether regions, which are resting on the thin sled gliding over the snow. The scenery flies by—at least that which is visible beyond the rear ends of the dogs. While there aren't a lot of dog sledding opportunities in the Boise area, there are some to the north and east. Closest found is Sun Valley, where Sun Valley Dog Sled Adventures can take you on a tour for between $95 and $350 per person. For more information, check out sunvalleyplace.com and click on the Sun Valley Sled Dog Adventures link.
A traditional form of winter transportation originating in Nordic countries, also known as cross-country skiing. It's a perfect activity for those tired of the spectacular, bone-crunching, high-speed crashes offered by Alpine skiing (see entry this page). Instead, clip your toes into the bindings on the long, narrow skis and hit the trail. This may induce side-splitting cramps, burning muscles and gasping for breath. Done in the traditional one-foot-in-front-of-the-other method (unlike the side-to-side skate skiing, see entry page 15), Nordic skiing can get participants away from the crowds. The experience is infinitely better with the inclusion of a picnic and/or a flask. Easy access along 37K of groomed, lit trails can be found at the Bogus Basin Nordic Center, based out of the Frontier Point Lodge. Passes cost no more than $12, and on-site rentals and lessons are available. Roughly 180 miles of trails are also spread across 16 Nordic areas on public lands across the state, offering a mix of trail lengths and difficulty levels, managed by the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. Roughly half the trails are groomed, and some areas allow skiers to bring dogs. A Park and Ski pass costs $25 annually or $7.50 for three days and is available at an assortment of outdoor retailers and government offices. For more information, visit bogusbasin.org or parksandrecreation.idaho.gov.
French for "I just dropped my tele skis at the Youth Ranch," Randonee has evolved into Alpine touring, or AT, in recent years. This technique combines the free-heeling ways of telemarking with the fixed-heel power of the classic downhill binding. Another translation: backcountry skiing for the weak. As more and more folks venture into the backcountry, AT gear allows for efficient hiking on top of the snow but does not require an entire season to learn a new kind of turn; randy skiers ski like people from New Jersey, that is, like every other Tom, Dick and Harry on the mountain. But for highly technical, extreme off-piste skiing, there are several advantages to AT bindings: more control, more power and more efficiency per turn. Of course, tele skiers claim to have certain advantages, too, in balance and looking cooler. But go ahead. Spring for an AT package. Don't forget to take an avalanche class and always, always go with a buddy. You can't buy your way out of some situations, Jacque.
A warped and twisted version of Nordic skiing (see entry page 14) invented by people too impatient to settle for the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other method. Instead, skate skiers use a side-to-side pushing motion to catapult themselves down a wide, groomed trail. The activity is a favorite of the most fit athletes, who seem to like to wear bright, skin-tight suits to either be aerodynamic or serve as a warning to nearby predators. Skate skiing requires strength, balance and coordination, and those who are either learning, or possess none of the necessary attributes run the risk of becoming a twisted, flailing mass traveling at a high rate of speed until they are abruptly stopped, usually by the ground. Skate skiing requires a wide, smooth trail, so the vast majority of skate skiing opportunities are found at developed areas. The closest to Boise is at Bogus Basin, where professional groomers maintain 37K of trails daily. Day passes cost no more than $12, and lessons and equipment rentals are available based out of the Frontier Point Lodge. Skate skiing on public land is a little more touch-and-go. While roughly half of the state's 180 miles of trails are groomed, few are groomed for skate skiing, and those are only done once a week. An annual Park and Ski pass costs $25, or $7.50 for three days. For more information, visit bogusbasin.org or parksandrecreation.idaho.gov.
Also known as snowblades or short skis. Decades ago, men who lived by the motto "longer is better" scoffed at the short ski. Scaling down from a whopping 210 centimeters to a miniscule 80 seemed emasculating. These days, the debate is a tomato/tomahto argument—it all comes down to preference. If it's a pow-pow day, go long. If it's spring crunchy, go short for a few runs. Faster? Long. More maneuverability? Short (for a few runs). Perhaps the easiest way to spot a skiboarder (who may be on snowblades but won't be called a snowblader because the term is the trademark name of Solomon's short skis) isn't an examination and comparison of the length the rider is sporting, but rather, the absence of poles. Rent 'em. Buy 'em. Try 'em.
A hybrid of Nordic skiing and dog sledding (see entries page 14). The ancient practice involves using an animal—usually dogs, horses or caribou—to pull someone wearing Nordic skis along a snow-covered trail, typically at a high rate of speed. We believe a large amount of alcohol, possibly mead, and a bet led to the creation of skijoring (cross reference with the creation of Alpine skiing on page 14). To this day, the sight of someone flying down a trail behind a large, four-legged animal elicits blank stares and mutters about inebriation. The sport is gaining in popularity, though, as winter recreationists discover it as a way to find a relatively inexpensive thrill—just make sure the dog is actually big enough to pull a human without suffering a doggie coronary. Skijoring is most commonly done on public lands where dogs are allowed. Several skijoring clubs have sprung up in recent years, including the Boise Skijoring Club. The group's Web site features trails, contacts and links and answers to common questions. For more information, check out skijor.bravepages.com or sleddogcentral.com and click on skijoring.
For some people in the Treasure Valley, the climate can be a drawback to living in such a wonderful place. The summers can swelter and occasional snows leave non-skiers dreaming of an Arizona vacation home. Rather than wage a pointless fight against the white stuff, try finding ways to make the best of it. Skiing and snowboarding are popular sports in these parts, but both take time and money to become proficient at (or at least good enough that each outing doesn't end in bloodshed or tears). Want to slip down a slope? Try sledding. A plastic sled can cost anywhere between $10 and $100 (unless you just want to wrap a garbage bag around a cardboard box ... but we don't recommend that) and you don't need a pass or lessons (though you should seriously consider a helmet). Plus, you don't need to drive any further than Camel's Back Park or Simplot hill (since driving in winter is another thing hopeful snowbirds hate).
Snowboarders have the dubious honor of being the BMXers of the mountain, the body boarders of the hill, the crowd that many skiers disdain. Some resorts have banned snowboarders; other resorts wish they could. For their part, snowboarders, too, wish for a hill all their own—a place where they can sit on the edge of a run without almost being skewered by a pole, a place where "totally" and "like" are universally understood, a place where plowing doesn't raise the ire of fellow hill bunnies. But that's only half the story. Many skiers have learned to snowboard and alternate between the two depending on their mood. Many skiers hit the slopes with snowboarders. Some are even nice to snowboarders. The sport is appealing to mountain novices for its relatively easy approach—strap on a board and ride it heel-toe-heel-toe. And in terms of gear, snowboarding is pretty minimal—boots, board, bindings, leash. Of course you'll need a lift ticket or a season pass on every mountain (except Alta and Deer Valley in Utah, where boarders are banned), and if you don't have your own board, rentals are available on most mountains, as well as area ski shops. Some resorts have even made a special effort to attract snowboarders, constructing elaborate play areas for them called terrain parks, where they can huck and grind to their hearts' delight. These boarder-friendly resorts include Bogus Basin and Tamarack (if the lifts are still running). For more information, check out bogusbasin.org or tamarackidaho.com.
The latest evolution in the "extreme" sports, also known as "X-treme" among crowds who either want to appear young and hip or cannot spell. Snowkiting is done either on a snowboard or skis, while the rider is attached to a large kite, roughly the size of a small parachute. But unlike a parachute, designed to transport people safely to the ground, this kite is used to yank riders off the ground and into the air, after which they (theoretically) end up back on the ground—eventually. While the activity used to happen only accidently to the likes of Wile E. Coyote, it has gained popularity among those who feel the need to combine speed, cold and altitude. Most snowkiters can be found in open, snow-covered fields or gentle rolling hills, although some prefer a more mountainous environment. The area around Soldier Mountain Ski Resort near Fairfield in Central Idaho has become a bastion for snowkiters. Boise-based Idaho Kitesports offers lessons ranging in price from $60 to more than $500, depending on skill level and length of lesson. For more information, check out idahokitesports.com.
An activity born out of the desire to go somewhere both faster and louder. It's a possible evolution from dog sledding (see entry page 14) in which dogs were replaced with an engine and "gee" and "haw" were replaced with "yee-haw." In this activity, motorized sleds featuring two maneuverable skis in the front and a large, rotating tread in back are used to travel over, or sometimes through, the snow, usually at a high rate of speed. From humble beginnings in which engines had as much power as a lethargic gerbil, to today's custom creations resembling streamlined tanks, snowmobiling has continued to grow in popularity. Some riders are drawn to the sport as a less strenuous means of winter recreation, while others enjoy running over things and pushing their machines to the max. The state has more than 7,200 miles of snowmobile trails open to the public, with 29 trail grooming programs. Millions more acres are available for open riding across National Forest, Bureau of Land Management and state land. Check with Forest Service and BLM offices to find out which areas are open to motorized travel. Visit parksandrecreation.idaho.gov and click on "snowmobiling" under the recreation tab to learn more information, including registration requirements and safety tips.
Invented by people who got really sick of postholing through the top layer of snow to be left with one leg buried up to their thigh and the other bent at an unnatural angle somewhere near their ear. This sport evolved from early wooden snowshoes that were roughly the size and weight of a canoe, to today's modern snowshoes—marvels of advanced technology and innovation. They come with names like "Explorer" or "Pioneer" allowing manufacturers to charge more. Snowshoes can be worn with traditional snowboots, although some sort of cuff or gaiter is recommended to keep snow flipped off the back of the snowshoe from piling up inside the boot. By wearing snowshoes, recreationists are able to perform a rare and exotic winter activity: walking. On the snow. The large metal claw on the bottom also makes a great defensive weapon if set upon by rival snowshoe gangs. Bogus Basin offers several trails designated especially for snowshoers, and the area's groomed Nordic trails are open as well. Day passes cost no more than $12 and equipment rentals are available on the mountain. Snowshoes can also be rented for a nominal price from most ski shops in town. Trails in the state Park and Ski areas are also open to snowshoers (a season pass costs $25 or $7.50 for three days), but snowshoers can pick any snowbound area and head for the hills. For more information, visit bogusbasin.org or parksandrecreation.idaho.gov.
Also known as free-heeling and sometimes "telemarketing," this is the preferred method for backcountry winter travelers and sadomasochists alike. A special binding allows the skier's heel to rise, making it possible to hike uphill with the aid of a faux-mohair strap that sticks to the bottom of the ski. These free-heeling powers, however, necessitate an alternate downhill technique wherein the skier dips into repetitive deep-knee bends until quad muscles turn to Jell-O, burning and shaking all the way to the car. With telemark skis, one can ski anywhere there is snow and hill; no need for a lift. As telemark gear has improved in recent years, more and more S&M practitioners can be seen on-piste, carving turns with the best downhill skiers. But a few nostalgic die-hards still hit the trees in their leather boots and skinny skis. Bogus Basin and Brundage Mountain Resort are both well-known for their tele-clusters. Free-heelers must stick together, after all. For more information, visit bogusbasin.org or brundage.com.
Primordial urges prompt segments of the greater Homo sapiens population to physically attach the lower transportative parts of their bodies (known simply as "legs" to the population's members) to objects prior to throwing themselves down snow-covered mountains. However, such restraints are not present in the activity commonly known as tubing. Like many other human sports, tubing is named after the implement used to accomplish the task, namely, an inner tube. During tubing sessions, a mechanism pulls tubers up a hill through the use of a leash device that ties up multiple tubers simultaneously. Once the roped tubers reach the apex of the tubing hill (astute observers will notice the simplicity of the human mind requires that words of the same activity be linguistically similar, hence: tubing, tuber and tubing hill), they unhook from the mechanism and fling themselves to the hill's base again, while riding atop the tube, which is itself little more than air encased in a synthetic material that's highly susceptible to puncture. Parents allow their small children to tube alone down the 800-foot drop, while some groups link arms and slide down the hill as a pod. The act of tubing involves both the uphill and downhill cycles and is repeated for up to two hours at the mountain known as Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area, after which time, tubing passes expire. Aside from appropriate cold-weather protective gear worn to insulate the fragile human shell, tubers need only money to participate in such an activity. Tubes are provided by the establishment. Reservations are recommended at Bogus Basin. Tubing is $10 per person for a two-hour session Friday, Saturday and Sunday only. For more information, visit bogusbasin.org.