Outdoor Idaho

Winter Recreation

Bruce Reichert, Host:

The fun doesn’t have to stop just because it’s cold outside.

Outdoor Idaho introduces you to some people who can’t wait for the snow to fall.

While others wait for spring, these folks see winter as a time to explore, to create, to see a familiar landscape in a different light.

So bundle up as Outdoor Idaho heads outside for some winter fun.

Many years ago an Idaho settler summed up his feelings about winter when he wrote, "There is little to do but wait ‘til spring."

Hi, I’m Bruce Reichert and welcome to Outdoor Idaho.

You know, the fun doesn’t have to stop when the snow flies.

If you’re willing to tolerate a little cold, you’ll find that an Idaho winter is a chance to explore and to see the familiar in a new light.

A fresh layer of snow and the world is transformed.

In the winter the familiar green is replaced by a world of white.

It is a world where light and shadow dominate, where rivers are marked by billowing clouds, where the easy life of spring and summer is replaced by a harsh struggle to survive.

Just as the winter landscape is a world of contrast, so too are our feelings about this season.

For some, winter is a time to endure, a penance to be paid for the overindulgence of summer.

A time when blue sky is greeted with the enthusiasm usually reserved for a long lost friend.

A time when the warm, sunlit days of summer are almost forgotten, and the forces of nature threaten to sweep us away.

For others, these very forces are irresistible.

Each ridge, each snow-covered slope calls to them. And they answer. Sweating and climbing up hill, only to reverse course for a rhythmic trip down.

For them, winter is a season when all manner of fun must be crammed into these shortest of days. And winter is a time of wonder, when the world is redrawn in shades of white and gray.

A time when each snowfall creates a world that is fresh and clean, unknown, untracked, seemingly unexplored.

The winter world calls to the explorer in each of us, offering us the chance to break free of the well worn paths of discovery, to blaze a new trail, to entertain the illusion we’re treading where no one has gone before, nor will again.

The silence only adds to the illusion in a world where all sounds are muffled by the falling snow, which quickly covers all traces of our visit.

For those who truly love this season, snow is not something to sweep off the sidewalk, but something to seek out and to enjoy.

In the right hands, snow can transform an entire community.

Today, the town of McCall eagerly awaits winter, but that wasn’t always the case.

For many years, winter was something to dread.

When deep snows blanketed the town, tourists stopped coming and business slowed to a crawl.

Robert Scoles, Winter Carnival Organizer:

I can remember one day I had three customers in the drug store and that doesn’t pay many bills.


In the 1960’s McCall businesses decided to turn the snow into an asset.

They called it a Winter Carnival.

Three days of fun complete with snowmobile races and a parade down snow-covered streets.

But even then, the snow sculptures were the main attraction.


Way back then, they were pretty crude.

They were pretty crude, but people still enjoyed them and we were successful.

We had at least 500 extra people in town that weekend and the Carnival has just grown and become something really quite spectacular.

The sculptures now are just intricate, beautiful, well, well, well done.


In fact today, many look forward to winter and the chance to turn massive piles of snow into works of art.

Every year teams of sculptors spend hundreds of hours creating elaborate structures, one bucket of snow at a time.

Hal Sager, Ice Sculptor:

This is a castle this year.

It’s an ice castle and it’s kind of built by the McCall area realtors and so it’s the old your home is your castle and it’s a crowd participation sculpture where the people can go up the back. There are stairways and landing platform where they can enjoy the view from up there, kind of look down on the crowds because we’re right on the main corner of town.

Jane Sager, Ice Sculptor:

We’re making a medieval castle and this is a medieval something or other, person.

That’s my model, I cannot do anything nearly that wonderful, but I need something to look at because I’m not an artist, I’m just sort of a normal person.


Most years, snow sculpting is a battle against the elements.

Some years bitter cold causes the problems.

Other times it’s the sun.

J. Sager:

I will cut in more detail tomorrow.

I’m just roughing in the basic shape now.

I’m making it bigger than I normally would and I will come back out here tomorrow and do something even more dramatic.

Oops, that’s what happens.

Things fall off.

They can’t freeze up when it’s 40 degrees outside they can’t freeze up.

We can do a little bit better ornate work when we have fresh snow to work with.

This is very icy.

We haven’t had fresh snow in about 10 days and the texture of this snow is very hard to get detail work.

If we had fresh snow we could put eyelashes on this guy but right now he’s going to be lucky to get eyes.

H. Sager:

It’s work but it’s fun work.

We’ve been on this one for, let’s see, 9 different afternoons, about 4 hours a day, 4x9 is 36, there’s probably an average of 8 people so we’ve probably got, oh what’s that, 250 hours so far. But when you get done and it might be 1 o’clock in the morning, you stand back and look at, or the first day when the crowds start coming in and there are literally hundreds of people enjoying all of this stuff.

It’s a lot of satisfaction, sure.


But just as important, the Winter Carnival helps keep McCall going during the tough winter months.


We probably would have lasted business-wise, but not as well.

Many of the businessmen even now say that it really gives them a shot in the arm they need to make it through. But as far as it really affecting McCall, I think the best thing it ever did was people working together and accomplishing something.


While some see winter as a time to create, others see it as a chance to find the perfect snow.

Jim Crawford, Backcountry Skier:

We sort of started it. We bought a snowmobile back in 1986 and just to get access to some places like this and all the other country around here that you can’t get to any other way.


Their experiences have convinced them that a combination of downhill and cross-country ski equipment works best, with the fatter skis with the cross country cable bindings and then all you need is a pair of skins.


We have got some kind of special glue on them that is reusable all of time so you can put them on, stick them on, hike up the hill.

You can hike as steep as you can walk and then when you get to the top, you take them off and you ski down.

Randy Skinner, USFS Winter Ranger:

I would never go back to the skinnier ski for this type of skiing. Call it NorPine.

It’s a cross between Nordic skiing and Alpine skiing and I guess when I have to walk up the hill to go get my turns, and it may take us 40 minutes, maybe an hour to get up, I don’t want to lose elevation falling.

That’s why I like to do this and they really do help.

Karen Olde, Backcountry Skier:

Some people still have a hard time accepting it.

I think, people who come back with us, you know, who haven’t been back before, depends on what kind of experience that they have.

They either think that we’re crazy or that we’re geniuses.


Most skiers have heard of a telemark turn, but only a handful have ever really mastered it.


On a right-hand turn my heel is down here and it’s up here so you have to kind of just push down with your toe, kind of there to get that weight on the back ski and the other one naturally has weight on it because that’s your forward ski. So that really helps if you can get some weight on the back, almost kind of like a rudder.


Going where few have gone before does have its downside.

Under certain conditions, avalanches are a distinct possibility and avalanche beacons are essential.

One way to test for danger is to dig a pit and examine the layers of snow.


This snow pack is very stable.

It’s got one continuous slab down to the ground layer.


The good thing about this sport is that you’ve got to hike for it, which gets you in great shape for one.

You have to hike for every turn you get, but you never have to ski in anybody’s tracks, ever.


There is one other way to reach fresh powder, Brundage Mountain’s snow cats.

Rich Matthews, Snowcat Ski Guide:

Okay, gentlemen, the way we’re going to work this this morning, we’re going to ski the west ridge over here.

I think we’re going to have some excellent skiing.

We’d like to have you stay behind the lead guide.

Do not break off and go into any of the chutes that you see to your right unless a guide is directing you.

There is some significant avalanche danger in areas that go to the north, so be aware.

You’re going to be working your skis forward, aft, and center. And you’ll have to be aggressive. So with that in mind, let’s go have a hoot.

Jim Lafferty, Snowcat Ski Guide:

It’s a backcountry experience with the ease of transportation.

We don’t have to skin up and use all the sweat to get to the top.

The view goes all the way to Oregon on one side and of course the Seven Devils back across and the Salmon River Range.

It’s all from a different perspective and I really enjoy it.

It’s just kind of like a party out there.

Bob Gudmundsen, Powder Skier:

It’s a little bit like I think pilots must feel because you feel like you’re flying and you just float through the spaces and it’s really as close to being free as you can be, I think, and so it’s a wonderful thing and wonderful to be out here.


The search for powder isn’t limited to skiers.

These days more and more snowboarders are heading into the backcountry.

Mitch Prissel, Snowboarder:

This snowboard here is the best backcountry snowboard available.

It’s designed and rides just like a snowboard, but it splits apart and is used to ski into locations that you would never find any where unless you were on a pair of cross country skis or touring skis.

In its snowboard state, it is a normal snowboard.

In two minutes, take this board apart and turn it into a pair of skis.

Misha Thompson, Snowboarder:

The access that it allows is incredible, for touring, for being able to get in places that are really, really difficult to access with snow shoes.

I like to get away and I like to get in the trees.

I like to get in the mountains. You’ve heard of earning your turns and your turns feel a lot different if you’ve just broken a sweat getting there.

In the backcountry it’s like every turn is precious and you really enjoy it and that’s nice.


The snowboarders like to use the terrain more. You’ll see snowboarders just up and down and all around, using any little obstacle to help them go through a turn, to move through the snow.

Myself, I love trees, love to be able to flow through trees.

I love to keep my speed up and not to make too many hard turns.

I love open bowls where you can fully take advantage of a snowboard. Where you can point it for a long distance of time. And can carry a tremendous amount of speed and then maybe lay out a big old surf style heel side turn.

It’s just the feeling of flowing. Just flowing with the hill, looking for any natural terrain that’s going to help me lean into the snow to flow down the mountain.


There’s a freedom, a flow that’s just nice.

It’s got a great rhythm to it, and snow is a great thing to play in.


The search for fun takes many to Grand Targhee Ski Area.

Every day hundreds of people ride the lift to the top of the mountain and some of the best powder skiing in the west.

And every morning they’re joined by members of the Grand Targee Ski Patrol. But while the skiers are out to have fun, the ski patrollers are working.

It’s their job to keep the mountain running safely.

Marty Kribs, Ski Patrol:

It’s kind of one of the blue-collar jobs on the mountain.

A lot of our day will consist of skiing around the mountain carrying signs and bamboo and marking obstacles and fixing ropes and closures.

We’re kind of a catchall department where anything involving mountain operations that needs to be done we may be asked to do.


The ski patrollers are jack-of-all-trades.

They measure the fresh snow to help determine the risk of avalanche.

They sweep the mountain, marking and removing obstacles, fixing signs and making sure ropes and boundary markers are in place.


Every morning in our morning sweep, one of our duties is to knock the Rime ice off our closures and bamboo. And that increases the visibility of the closures because they are there for a reason.

The Rime can build up on them and knock them down so it’s important to keep them clear.

We’re kind of the nuts and bolts of on mountain guest services, really.

You know we’re not here to really regulate the skiers. Our job is to remind them to be safe and reduce the hazards on the mountain.


Despite their efforts however, people do get hurt.

When they do, it’s the ski patrol’s job to get them out safely.


I try to assess the nature of the injury, the severity of the injury and get sort of an idea of their mental status, find out if they are on any medication and if they have been using alcohol, anything like that, that might affect my treatment.

I need to make a quick assessment so I can call for the appropriate equipment.

We are pretty much transportation experts.

The most benefit that we can give to somebody is transporting them off the mountain quickly.

When you help somebody that really needs it, - it’s a really good feeling and you’re really offering them something that nobody else on the mountain really could provide them and it’s a good feeling.

Yeah, I think it’s a great occupation.

You know, you’re never going to get rich at it but it’s real satisfying.

We definitely do our work and get our work done first, but we get to take a few nice powder runs and since we’re up here all of the time, you really get to take advantage of the great skiing.


It’s early in the morning on the outskirts of the Sawtooth Mountains and rock climber Doug Colwell is gearing up to climb a waterfall.

Doug Colwell, Ice Climber:

I’d say it looks rather questionable but that’s probably part of climbing ice in Idaho a little bit.

You’ve just got to be there at the right time.

Relative to any other ice climb, this is probably pretty foolish, trying.

I mean, you can clearly see that the ice is about ten feet off of the rock.

Sun is on the top, I’d say it is time to go.

Get my crampons on.

I don’t think I can get any good protection off of the rock, which is what I’d really like to do.

I’m going to move now because I really don’t feel very comfortable about this and so, I’d like you to watch me really closely.

I just don’t, I just don’t like it.

Oh, I felt a lot more secure, until I looked over there.

I’ve got an idea, I can just jump in there with the water and you can lower me down the other side

I don’t really want to be down climbing when I just came up unless there’s no other way.

I’d almost rather down-climb on the rock over there.

Whoa, takes all the fun right out of it.

It’s times like this when I do like having a couple rock climbing skills.

That was really pretty dangerous up there and I guess we did say we thought it was going to be that way when we started, but there was just more risk there than I guess I was willing to accept and to take today.

I didn’t like that.


When lakes freeze over, most of us put up our fishing gear and wait for spring.

That could be a big mistake, especially if you live right next to one of the best ice fishing holes in the country.

You don’t need much, a couple of sticks, some line, a bobber, a dozen worms and an easy way to cut through a foot of ice.

Since his retirement, Dewey Bolen fishes almost every day on Cascade Reservoir and he says he almost always catches fish.

Dewey Bolen, Ice Fisherman:

When you’re younger, you’ve got to work all of the time.

You never get a chance to go fishing.

After you retire, you get so old when you retired.

I can’t see a person retiring and sitting in the house all of the time.


They say there is some strategy to ice fishing. But in case your particular brand of strategy doesn’t seem to be working, it helps to dress warmly and be prepared to wait out the pesky little perch, which this winter, seem to dominate Cascade Reservoir.


Well, just as quick as that bobber goes off, you go over there and get a hold of this board and just kind of keep it tied until it goes down again and then just snap it a little bit and you have a fish, sometimes.

A little one.

A little perch.

A little perch.

With those big ones, you know, there will be a big one come along pretty quick.

Perch, yeah, I think maybe I’m in perch country.

Now them perch will quit pretty quick and we’ll start catching the trout.

Cohos. He had that bobber way down.

That was a big one too.

Oh boy, it’s a good one.

Yeah, that’s a trout.

He’s a nice trout.

Isn’t he a beauty?


Not every one is willing to brave the cold for fun.

For them, winter is a time to curl up with a good book, a warm fire and the knowledge that spring is on its way.

Thanks for watching.

We’ll see you next time.


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