Four Ways to Get Outside During Winter Months
When winter sports come to mind, it’s typically ruddy-cheeked and smiling skiers and snowboarders plowing through fresh powder or carving arcs on a fresh slope.
Maybe skiing or snowboarding is about as pleasing to you as slipping on an icy driveway. Have no fear; there’s lots to do in winter so that you won’t face months of cabin fever and dreaming of spring.
Nearly anyone can do these activities, and they’re an opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy the snowy months. Don’t just look at them as an excuse to get outdoors. After you get started, don’t be surprised if you look forward to winter in the future.
If you can walk, you can snowshoe—it’s that simple. For your first outing, rent snowshoes, which are inexpensive and available at many sporting goods stores, ski resorts, snow parks and other locations. On your first outing, it may be best to go to an area that has marked snowshoe trails, such as a state park, Nordic ski area or other places with packed trails. Snowshoeing on packed trails will initially keep you in your comfort zone, but honestly, you will want to branch out because the beauty of snowshoes is they will take you almost anyplace in the snow.
My favorite outing is loading the dog and heading someplace to hike in the woods. My dog loves it, and breathing clean, cool air and hearing the soft crunch of snow packing under my snowshoes while hiking through a beautiful, quiet forest is a unique and tranquil experience you can’t duplicate any other time of year.
Good news for you, the story about never forgetting how to ride a bike applies to fat bikes, too. If you’re unfamiliar, fat bikes got their name from their oversized balloon tires that provide floatation and traction on packed snow.
It’s understandable if you fear riding a bike on snow sounds like an opportunity to experience gravity’s dark side, but you can handle it. Stay on flat terrain to get started, and then add hills as you feel comfortable. Fat bikes are fun because you can pedal at a casual pace and blow past the snowshoers and cover as much terrain as Nordic skiers.
McCall and Sun Valley both have rentals for fat bikes and ample trails suitable for all skill levels. If I had to pick a place for my first outing, Jug Mountain Ranch near McCall gets my vote. They rent fat bikes there and have a great trail network for riding them, and it’s hard to beat the winter scenery. Quick note: Fat bike conditions are best on hard-packed trails, so postpone your trip if there’s been fresh, deep snow.
If you think nothing sounds colder than standing on a frozen lake and staring at a hole in the ice, it’s understandable you might not be attracted to ice fishing. But, trust me, there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Ice fishing is a social experience. Think of it as a tailgate party on ice. Grab your friends, a picnic lunch and something to cook on, like a propane stove or a grill, fill a cooler and go.
Lake Cascade is a good place to start because it consistently has thick enough ice during winter and plowed parking and access points near Cascade, as well as abundant and trophy-sized perch and trout. Tackle Tom’s in Cascade rents ice augers. Aside from that, all you need is a slush spoon and trout-fishing rods and tackle.
If you’re wondering where to fish, follow the crowds. There are no secret spots on the ice, and it’s a fun way to meet other anglers.
Still not thrilled about winter? How’s this sound? You’re soaking in a swimming pool with bathtub temperature water naturally heated by a geothermal spring and watching snowflakes delicately descend from the cold winter air and immediately melt.
You’re breathing billows puffs of steam, which also rises off your exposed skin, but you reach for a drink to cool yourself.
Maybe this is more your style for spending a winter day outdoors. Don’t feel guilty about it—revel in it. Idaho has a wealth of geothermal springs, and many have been turned into swimming pools and resorts. You can find them near Idaho City, Garden Valley, in the McCall area at Gold Fork and Burgdorf, and near New Meadows, Council and Cambridge.
If you’re slightly more adventurous, there are many semi-developed hot springs on public land. Do a Google search for Idaho hot springs to find lots of information about them.