Winter in the Salmon River mountains of Central Idaho covers up so much of what we love in the backcountry; colorful plants, insects (there’s a few if you pay attention), birds (the ravens, owls, goshawks, woodpeckers, and some resident song birds stick around), fast moving creeks, unique rock formations, archeological sites and so much more. Summer may be a warm memory, and a dream of tomorrow today, but Winter offers its own unique visual and physical gifts to celebrate. Crisp and clear summit views spanning a 100 miles in each direction, sculpted snow formations, powerful snowy storms, sparkling frozen air. Stark and dramatic views from a distance offer nearly monochromatic scenes, that can look to be almost dead, yet upon close inspection are revealed to include a living winter ecosystem adapted over millions of years to survive in these harsh conditions.
Winter also creates new pathways to travel into our beloved natural public lands, via snowmobile, snowbikes, cross country skis, and randonee style bindings that allow skiers (or snowboarders with splitboards) to “hike” up the mountain with hinged bindings and specialized “skins” that stick to the bottom of our skis allowing us to climb steep snow slopes, and ski back down.
I captured these images a few weeks back on my first volunteer shift with the Payette Avalanche Center. Unfortunately the historically long partial government shutdown made it impossible to even volunteer during this time. I am hopeful our elected leaders can keep the government open, and fund critically important public programs such as the Payette Avalanche Center, which produces snow safety reports that benefit a broad range of user groups.