Taking skis to a snowshoe trail

A cross-country ski with a climbing skin on its bottom leans against a tree with a trail marker along the Caldera Rim Snowshoe Trail on Saturday. (Jerry Painter photo)

Two girls snowshoe up the Caldera Rim Snowshoe Trail 7 miles north of Ashton on Saturday. (Jerry Painter photo)

I spent almost 5 miles breaking trail through a heavy, sugar-style snow on Saturday.

Halfway through the outing, the conditions reminded me of similar efforts a few years ago on a ski backpacking trip in Yellowstone National Park. Our group of four zipped along for the first 3 or 4 miles until we hit slow, heavy snow. The snow became so dense that we were pushing along at less than 1 mph. Needless to say, we got so far behind schedule that we ended up turning around and zoomed back on tracks we had set the day before.

This past Saturday, I trudged along at an OK pace because I wasn’t carrying a heavy three-day pack.

Saturday I was on the fun Caldera Rim Snowshoe Trail just north of Ashton. Although I wasn’t using snowshoes, I had converted my cross-country skis into snowshoes by adding climbing skins. The skins allow skis, both Alpine and Nordic, to climb slopes up to 35 degrees. They also come in handy on steep descents — slowing your speed and giving you a bit more control.

In some ways, I find cross-country skis to be more versatile than snowshoes because I can go faster, but still climb steep inclines. Snowshoes are simpler and generally a bit more maneuverable.

If you do take cross-country skis on the Caldera Rim trail, I highly recommend climbing skins. Some sections are steep, particularly right off the parking area. Without skins, you’ll be cussing my name for suggesting this trail. Snowshoers will have a fun outing.

This trail offers a few nice overlooks of the Island Park area to the north and some views of the Snake River Plain to the south. It often winds through thick forest on ridges and gullies.

The trail is marked with round, yellow, softball-sized objects on trees every 30 or so yards.

The only critter I saw was a grouse and fresh moose tracks.

There are two loops to this trail, one cuts the route in half going for about 2 miles.

Directions and a map can be found in the guidebook “Eastern Idaho Sweet Spots” by Jerry Painter and Matt TeNgaio (sold at the Post Register and area gear shops).

My odometer measured 7.4 miles from the Frostop Drive next to Highway 20 in Ashton to the pullout on the left (west) side of the highway where the trail begins. Be careful when turning off the highway to the pullout — traffic doesn’t slow down along this stretch.

• • •

So you heard it here first (maybe), the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour will show three nights in Idaho Falls starting next year. This will put us into the league with the big boys, like Boise and Sun Valley which also have three showings.

I was told this bit of news by Clarke Kido, the Idaho Falls Nordic Ski Patrol coordinator for the film festival.

Tuesday night I spoke to the “Road Warrior” Deb Hornsby — the woman who brings the festival for the Banff Centre to all the venues in our region. She said she tours with 39 different films, but because our town only shows two nights, there’s not time available to show all the best films.

“With three nights you can see all the best films,” she said.

“What about four nights?” I asked. Hornsby said three nights is best, with four nights, you have to fill with more marginal films.

Interestingly, she said some cities, such as San Diego and Washington D.C. show the festival six nights with some of the films repeated.

Kido said the three-night showing here will be Thursday through Saturday. He’s hopeful that all three nights will sell out as the two nights have the past few years.