For the week of December 30, 1998   thru January 5, 1999  

Galena Lodge offers snowshoeing, too

Healthy alternative to cross-country skiing

Express Staff Writer

snowshoe2.jpg (12393 bytes)Three yurts await guests who snowshoe or cross-country ski to these warm hideaways. (Express photos by Charmaine McCann)

"Knock Knock," asked Dianne.

"Who’s there," Dan responded.

"Little old lady."

"Little old lady who."

"I didn’t know you could yodel."

"Little old lady who," we all chimed.

"Yodel-he-hee-hooo," we yodeled, high on exercise, life and the mountains.

The clouds and snow flurries had broken and the sun beat down on the mountain ridge, only a couple miles away from Galena Lodge. A vast wilderness was spread before us, the Boulder Mountains towering to the east and the jagged Sawtooths to the north and west. Blanketed in conifers, the valleys shimmered in the afternoon light and the dividing ridges swelled below the rugged alpine backdrop as we lounged, half buried in snow, taking it all in.

The day, which had begun at Galena Lodge’s rugged but quaint facilities, 22 miles north of Ketchum, took us over most of the snowshoe trails Galena offers but culminated with the incredible views and brief but welcome sunlight. And it was appropriate. We were snowshoeing on a trail known as Megan’s Mountain View.

In addition to its many miles of well-maintained cross-country skiing trails, Galena offers between 17 and 20 kilometers of well-marked snowshoe trails, proprietor Tom Downey said.

Dianne Lee Popocic, one of Galena’s nine live-in employees, is responsible for maintenance of the snowshoe trails and is very fond of the winter activity.

It’s easy, she said. Snowshoeing is a great way to get into the woods in the winter without having to mess with bulky, awkward gear. Coordination is not a prerequisite and besides, she added with a smile, it’s a great workout.

Popocic said there are advantages to snowshoeing on marked trails as opposed to trekking into uncontrolled areas. The marked trails keep people from harm’s way, she said. Getting lost, avalanche danger and other unexpected hazards are more controlled within Galena’s boundaries.

On-snow regulations are not strict. Popocic said people are asked not to snowshoe on the ski trails but, otherwise, are free to go wherever. She did point out, however, that the marked trails offer the safest and most well maintained routes.

There are four marked trails, which all depart from Galena’s main lodge.

Babushka’s trail, Galena’s longest offering, climbs the ridge to the east and accesses several yurts. The rustically furnished, but cozy yurts, are for rent, and sleep two to eight, Popocic said, depending on the yurt.

Niege’s Ridgeline Romp is named after Galena’s mascot dog, Niege, and climbs a ridge to the west of the lodge. After reaching the trail’s apex, it winds back through a wooded valley and joins with Megan’s Mountain View.

Megan’s Mountain View offers the best views of the valleys and surrounding mountains and it climbs steeply up a rock-covered ridgeline.

A fourth trail, River Trail, borders the Big Wood River to the south of the lodge and then loops back.

All of the paths are, at least in part, loops and wind back on themselves or back to the trailheads, Popocic said.

Sun Valley resident Dan Hoffman had never snowshoed before and was surprised at the amount of fun the sport offers for such little effort.

"I was not expecting it to be that easy," he said. "It’s a good way to exercise and it seems to be inexpensive."

After finishing the last loop of the day, we happily and easily plodded through the snow. When we neared the lodge, we stopped to look at an old cabin with manure chinking and gray, aging logs.

This is Pioneer Cabin, Popocic explained, one of Galena’s original buildings.

According to Downey, the town of Galena was originally built for miners, but in the 1890s, the price of silver dropped and the town "went bust."

"People lived here periodically as a stop going over Galena pass," he said of the years following the wane in the silver market.

And for a while, the lodge served as a store operated by Pearl Barber.

But in the 1970s it started up as a Nordic center, he said, and has been transformed into what it is today.

Galena Lodge, a portion of which is still the original and historical structure, is a community-owned operation. Money earned through trail passes and yurt rentals goes to the Blaine County Recreation District, which grooms the miles of cross-country ski trails.

Profits from the lodge’s operating expenses such as food and service go to the proprietors, Downey and his wife, Amy.

"The snowshoe trails were something we saw a need for," Downey said. "People were hiking on the ski trails."

Snowshoe trail passes cost $3 for a day and snowshoe rentals are available for $10 a day or $8 a half day.

The day done, the lodge’s fire blazing, we sit and ponder the day’s extraordinary unfolding. Friends, fun, exercise, a beautiful world, and goofy platforms strapped to our feet-- what more is needed, at least for today?


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