Boise Sports and Outdoors

Ice Blocking Down Simplot Hill - Slip and Slide at J.R.'s Place

If it's summer, there's something pretty cool going on at Simplot Hill. Boise newcomers and visitors who don't know exactly where that is only need to look toward the foothills and find the only green hill around, which also happens to be topped by an American flag the size of Guatemala. If you still can't find it, we hear it's just down the road from Phil Collins Hill, and everybody knows where that is.

Yes, the esteemed spud magnate J.R. Simplot used to live up on that green hill, but before he passed to the big potato farm in the sky he donated the entire hill, the house, and the monstrous irrigation bill to the State of Idaho to use as the governor's mansion. Given the necessary renovations and the landscape upkeep, it always sounded like a white elephant gift to me. Eventually the State realized that too, and they came to their senses and decided to give it back to the Simplots recently. Yeah, thanks but no thanks. But the good news is that it's still open for adventure.

Some time ago, a few adventurous and creative teenagers got the idea that it would be great fun to get some ice blocks and use them to slide down the hill. Thus was born the tradition of ice blocking down Simplot Hill. I must say, even though it's harder to do than it looks or sounds, it's a darn good time, even if you look like a complete buffoon while you're figuring out the proper technique for riding a small block of ice down a steep grassy hill.

If this sounds like fun to you, ice blocking Boise style is a simple activity that's great for older kids, young adults, and those grown-ups with good medical insurance. All you really need is a block of ice, which will set you back about $1.50 at any of the local grocery stores. However, I'd advise you to also bring an old towel to put over the ice block. It'll make sure that your tush only gets half wet and doesn't stick to the ice. As far as technique goes, it's kind of the old "whatever works" scenario.

While attempting to learn how to successfully ice block down the hill, I was advised by several different people to employ any and all of the following techniques in order to get the best slide:

Keep in mind that these blocks of ice are only about seven inches wide, so there's not a lot of room to work with. There are also different schools of thought on towel configuration and use. Some folks fold the towel so it only covers the ice surface; others lay it over the blocks like a magic carpet and hang onto the edges for balance. Again, whatever works for you.

I've tried all of the various ice and towel configurations, and all I can say is that I think my butt's too big and I need more practice. I'm also always completely unprepared for the cold, wet butt and the grass stains. But, hey, I think I made it about thirty feet down the hill once while managing to stay on the block, and that's saying something. It's not the sliding part that gets you; it's the steering. After you start going a little sideways, your balance gets hosed and you're in for a fabulous crash. Yeah, that about sums up all of my evenings of ice blocking: a fabulous crash.

But golly gosh darn is it fun.

Event: Ice Blocking
Where: Bottom of Simplot Hill

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When: Whenever it's hot enough to sit on blocks of ice.
Website: None
Why I love it: Man grows potatoes; man makes french fries; man buys big hill; man irrigates hill; kids slide down green hill. It's the story of America.