Winter wonders await

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TESS FREEMAN/Press file Skip Truscott starts the beginning of the 24th annual Best Hand Fun Ski and Snowshoe event at the Fourth of July Pass Recreation Area on Jan. 3, 2015. The 27th annual event will take place Jan. 6 with registration from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

FOURTH OF JULY PASS — If winter blues are bringing you down, a refreshing adventure in the snowy woods might do you some good.

"You have to get outside once in a while," said Don Garringer, president of the Panhandle Nordic Cross Country Ski and Snowshoe Club. "Otherwise, cabin fever will settle in."

The Panhandle Nordic Club's annual Best Hand Fun Ski and Snowshoe event will be Saturday, Jan. 6, at the Fourth of July Pass Recreation Area. It's just the place to breathe fresh mountain air, make new friends and get that blood pumping.

"What I enjoy is the social aspect," Garringer said. "It's somewhere to meet new people and get in 5 miles' worth of exercise."

Club members and non-club members of all ages are invited to join in the family-friendly fun.

Participants will ski the loop or snowshoe on Jeanette's Jaunt. Cards will be dealt along the route and a prize ceremony will take place at 1:30 p.m. at the Panhandle warming hut, where participants will enjoy warming up around a campfire with light refreshments.

This year's prizes include a variety of gifts from Papa Murphy's Take N' Bake Pizza, coffee and bakery items, a massage, outdoor gear, growlers from local breweries and other homemade food and craft prizes by club members.

"This is the 27th year and continues to be popular with many people — club and non-club members and families — returning for the fun," said Jim McMillen, who served as club president for five years. "All ski and snowshoe ability levels are welcome."

The Best Hand event coincides with Idaho's Free Ski and Snowshoe Day, when the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation relinquishes parking fees in Park ’n Ski areas and snow belt state parks. Normally, Park ’n Ski stickers, season passes ($25) or three-day passes ($7.50) are required to park at the Fourth of July Ski Area. These can be purchased online through Idaho Parks and Recreation or at Vertical Earth, Bicycle Sales and Service, Fleet Feet and Tri State in Coeur d'Alene and at Two Wheeler Dealer and Ski Shack in Hayden.

Snow or no, the Best Hand is a go. It helps support club expenses, such as insurance and trail upkeep. The suggested donation for participation is $10 club members, $12 non-members, $5 youths 13 and younger and $25 per family.

"We're hoping the (winter) storm that comes in right now will help us complete the grooming up there," Garringer said. "With that snow, hopefully there will be a little more and hopefully the temperature stays so things don't melt and it doesn't rain."

As of Tuesday, some long-range forecasts predicted rain and snow with a high of 33 degrees on the day of the Best Hand, so dress for classic North Idaho winter weather.

For information about the Nordic Club or to see a video from last year's Best Hand event, visit www.panhandlenordicclub.com.

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