Category Archives: Skiing

Stories and images from my cross-country and backcountry skiing adventures, from family- and beginner-friendly to expert-level trips.

March 12, 2014 Backcountry skiing Winter Corner near Idaho's Mores Creek Summit.

An Ode to Favorite Spots Most People Don’t Know

In Skiing   |   Tagged , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment

By Michael Lanza

Fresh snow from the storm of the past couple of days blankets the ground, padding by inches a white comforter several feet thick. Ponderosa pine boughs sag under the weight of a substance equivalent to an awful lot of very tiny feathers. But that storm has passed like a dream you can’t quite recall. Now, the sun throws operating-room brilliance on every nook and cranny of a mountain I’ve come to know well enough to have a detailed map of its terrain in my head.

It’s the kind of winter day you want to put in a leftovers box, to save some of it for later.

Unfortunately, no one has yet invented a box like that. So two friends and I will cut laborious zigzags uphill and float downhill on our skis until our time limitations—and our legs—inform us it’s time to head home. And in the long stretches of silence, when we’re strung out in a line climbing uphill, or taking turns riding gravity like it was a galloping horse, I’ll find myself contemplating the curious intersection of chance, passion, and geography where we find ourselves falling in love with an obscure spot on the map. Continue reading →

March 6, 2014 Vogelsang Lake, Yosemite National Park.

One Photo, One Story: 10 Tips For Raising Outdoors-Loving Kids

In Backpacking, Climbing, Family Adventures, Hiking, National Park Adventures, Paddling, Skiing, Skills   |   Leave a comment

By Michael Lanza

As we neared Gunsight Pass in Glacier National Park, on the middle day of a three-day family backpacking trip, a man and woman in their fifties stopped to talk with us. They sized up our kids and smiled; Nate was nine and Alex was seven. “We’re impressed!” they told us. “We never had any luck trying to get our kids to backpack when they were young.” We chatted a bit and then headed off in opposite directions on the trail.

After they were out of earshot, Alex turned to me, wanting to clarify a point: “You didn’t get us to do this,” she told me. “We wanted to do it.” Her words, of course, warmed my heart. But her comment also spotlighted the biggest lesson for parents hoping to raise their kids to love the outdoors: Create experiences that make them eager to go out again the next time. Continue reading →

February 27, 2014 Cross-country skiing the Beaver Trail, Boise National Forest, Idaho.

5 Kids, 4 Days, No Wifi… Only Trees and Snow

In Family Adventures, Hut Treks, Skiing   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   1 Comment

By Michael Lanza

We pause at the top of a steep hill on the Elkhorn Loop Trail in Idaho’s Boise National Forest and contemplate where to go from here. My 17-year-old niece, Anna Garofalo, and I have cross-country skied for two hours to reach this quiet spot in the ponderosa pine forest, miles from the nearest road—and more than 2,000 miles and an experiential chasm from the only place she has ever known as home.

I lay out the choices to Anna: turn around and ski two more hours back to the Skyline yurt, where we’re spending three nights with my wife and kids and another family; or explore a trail I’ve never actually skied in the many trips I’ve made to this system of ski trails and yurts north of Idaho City. I’ve never skied it because, unlike most of the trails out here, it’s not groomed, and it lies out on the farthest perimeter of the trail system. Going that way would take us at least three more hours to reach the yurt. But I’ve long wanted to ski it, if for no other reason than its name: the Wayout Trail.

“Let’s do it,” Anna tells me. “After all, when am I going to be back here again?” God, I love that attitude. But I suppose that’s how you would look at something you’ve been literally waiting almost your entire life to do. Continue reading →

February 21, 2014 Skiing below Mount Heyburn, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho.

Photo Gallery: Backcountry Skiing Idaho’s Sawtooths

In Skiing   |   Tagged , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment

By Michael Lanza

Idaho’s best-known mountain range, the Sawtooths remain surprisingly, pleasantly uncrowded. I’ve taken backpacking trips on gorgeous weekends at the height of summer without seeing more than a few other hikers. But come here when snow blankets the peaks and you may see no one else for days. And from a spacious and warm yurt at 7,400 feet near the Bench Lakes, below the sharp pinnacles of Mount Heyburn, backcountry skiers and snowshoers can explore a rich bounty of moderate terrain—and have the snow to themselves. Continue reading →

January 29, 2014 The view from Baldy Knoll.

Rediscovering A Sense of Wonder: Backcountry Skiing the Tetons

In Hut Treks, National Park Adventures, Skiing   |   Tagged , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment

By Michael Lanza

The morning air at 8,800 feet in Wyoming’s Teton Range hovers in the single digits Fahrenheit, and the breeze wields a below-zero wind chill like a straight razor: It feels on the verge of shaving the two-day-old beard from my face. In blinding sunshine, six of us step outside the Baldy Knoll yurt to find at least six inches of light powder—cold smoke—that fell overnight atop the 10 inches of snow that had dropped from the generous heavens in recent days. We arrived here late yesterday afternoon, just a couple hours before the frozen waterfall of fat, featherweight snowflakes began pouring copiously from a coal-black night sky.

Skiing in the mountains, as with anything else in life, is really all about timing. And sometimes you just get lucky. Continue reading →

← Older posts