Imagine my surprise as I returned to Sun Valley Thursday from a quick trip out of town. When I left, skies were blue and temperatures were hot. The coin-like leaves of our ubiquitous aspen copse were just beginning to be dipped in gold. The region’s colorful, warm, inviting autumn days were just heating up.
Yes, this photo was taken at the Sun Valley Lodge on September 26, just days after the autumnal equinox
But always-fickle Mother Nature seemed to have missed that memo as the snow began to fly, then dump, in earnest on Wednesday. By Thursday evening, Bald Mountain was blanketed in more than five inches of fresh early season powder, clearly demarcating the runs when the clouds lifted and the sun shone Friday morning.
For winter sports enthusiasts, the first snow of the year makes your heart race just a little faster. The sight of Baldy’s trails covered in white evokes a longing that sets into motion the countdown to the mountain’s opening day around Thanksgiving. To see current conditions on the mountains, click HERE to access Sun Valley’s webcams.
On Thursday, snow blanketed backyards still in their late summer bloom
This snow year in Sun Valley promises to be a great one and it actually is time to begin thinking about the coming season, especially if you plan to put a trip to Idaho in your upcoming holiday plans. New direct flights from San Francisco to Sun Valley on United Airlines begin December 12, making the connection between the Bay Area and the Wood River Valley as easy as can be. Early season lift and lodging packages tied to this new flight begin at $81 per person double occupancy and will book quickly. Imagine buckling up in San Francisco and unbuckling in paradise a short two hours later. Now is definitely the time to look at your calendar to take advantage of this new option.
This week's view from Baldy didn't exactly say September, but it certainly made snow sports enthusiasts start thinking about winter
It’s also the time for regular skiers and snowboarders to secure their season lockers at the base of the mountain as prices increase October 1. Having a locker to store skis, boards, boots and all your gear is the ultimate convenience. Rentals also come with other benefits including 10 percent off all Sun Valley owned retail stores, 20 percent off of rentals, two free demo rentals per season (try out those powder skis you’ve been coveting when the snow flies!) and unlimited ski tuning at $100 discount.
Friday morning brought bluebird skies and snow covering Baldy's runs
According to all the chic ladies at Brass Ranch, this is also going to be a banner year for ski wear. The lines being unpacked daily include some of the prettiest, most flattering coats, pants and accessories seen in ages. The early snow reminds that now is a great time to secure the perfect ski ensemble or even to shop for some holiday gifts while the selection is at its best.
Yes, this September snowfall will probably melt on the valley floor by this weekend, but it certainly put everyone around here in a mood for what will shortly follow. Sun Valley is beautiful year-round, but looks particularly lovely wearing white.
Fall is reasserting its dominance this weekend despite five inches of fresh snow and it promises to be a gorgeous autumn
Be sure to book your Sun Valley winter getaway now. It’s going to be an unbelievable year on Baldy, Dollar and up and down our miles and miles of award-winning cross-country trails.
Two months and counting … and in the meantime, there is golf to be played, hikes to be taken, bike rides to enjoy and fish to be fished for. It’s another splendid September in Sun Valley!
The Sun Valley Gun Club provided what Silver Creek Outfitter's owner Terry Ring called the perfect venue for the event
During the warmer weather months, the club, located just across the street from the entrance to historic Trail Creek Cabin, invites beginners to sharp shooters to come out and try their aim at Sporting Clays, Trap and Skeet, Double Trap, Wobble Trap, Duck Tower and 5-Stand. Certified instructors are always available to help beginners get started or to provide a refresher lesson. During the Legacy demo day, things get even more fun and interesting.
Beretta's Mobile Showroom brought the storied manufacturer's inventory right to the Gun Club
Beretta shotguns are already featured at the Sun Valley Gun Club, so it only further enhances the experience when Silver Creek Outfitter’s owner, Terry Ring, arranges to have the huge Beretta trailer, with equally huge graphics, pull into the club’s parking lot. Outfitted with Beretta’s beautifully crafted range of guns, enthusiasts are welcome to try out any that look appealing. All you need to do is sign a waiver, chose your gun and take your stand at your assigned station. Locals and visitors alike stepped up to the challenge.
“The event was a huge success for new and experienced shooters,” Ring said. “Our guests were excited to demo Beretta’s range of shotguns shooting Sporting Clays, Trap and Skeet. The Sun Valley Gun Club was the perfect venue for the event.”
Many available guns were checked out and in use at Sun Valley Gun Club's stations during demo day
The Beretta truck moved to downtown Ketchum outside Silver Creek’s flagship store on Saturday, allowing even more people to step in and enjoy the Mobile Showroom. Dealer representatives were on hand to show the full line of Beretta guns and shooting accessories.
Even if hunting is not your thing, shooting Sporting Clays, Trap and Skeet can be really fun. Just ask all the men and women who came out for the Legacy weekend.
Shooting Sporting Clays and Trap and Skeet is a fun way to enjoy an autumn day in Sun Valley, whether you are a beginner or expert
For more information on the facilities or to schedule a lesson, please contact the Sun Valley Gun Club at (208) 622-2111. To learn more about Idaho’s fall hunting season through Silver Creek Outfitters, please click HERE.
The strains of Tchaikovsky’s Elegy drift from the speakers high above Sun Valley’s outdoor rink as a dozen skaters, members of Ice Theatre of New York, mark a new piece in their repertory. Couples stand face-to-face, shoulder-to-shoulder, hands on each others’ waists and backs, moving arms and legs slightly to the strains of the music and listening to the corrections and notes given by an elegant man, dressed casually in jeans and a New York University sweatshirt, leaning on the rail.
Edward Villella, Douglas Webster, Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre take a short break from rehearsals for Ice Theatre of New York
At the edge of the rink, Douglas Webster, the artistic director of Ice Theatre of New York, confers with this man, the legendary Edward Villella who is overseeing the rehearsal with laser-like intensity. “Do you like the arms here, or here,” Webster asks, demonstrating two possibilities. In response, Villella who is considered the most celebrated male dancer of his time, the greatest produced in America, responds by showing the port de bras he prefers. Even in that tiny gesture, Villella’s tremendous grace, passion and power, the hallmarks of his storied dance and choreography career, are apparent even to the untrained eye.
Villella joined the New York City Ballet where he became a soloist in 1958 and principal dancer in 1960. He is perhaps best known as the original male lead in many important ballets, especially a revival George Balanchine’s exquisite 1929 masterpiece, Prodigal Son. He left New York to found Miami City Ballet in 1986, bringing that company to international acclaim. He is a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors and was awarded the National Medal of the Arts by President Clinton. In the rarefied world of ballet, he is royalty.
Villella is accustomed to working with the best ballet dancers in the world but, in Sun Valley, turned his attention to ice dance (photo: Villelladance.org)
Transferring a lifetime of working with prima ballerinas en pointe and danseurs in soft shoes to dancers laced tightly into skate boots with sharp, inflexible boots on their feet is a challenge Villella said he is enjoying. “The flat foot is where it is hard for me to translate,” laughed Villella at a rehearsal at the outdoor rink earlier this week. “But the arms, they are universal.”
Reveries is a special piece Villella is choreographing for Ice Theatre of New York’s Gala, a tribute to Kurt Browning and Sonia Rodriguez, a ballerina, in New York City on October 25. Villella describes Reveries, an 11-minute work featuring five couples, as a “lush romantic ballet about unattainable love.”
Ice dancer Kim Navarro said it’s been an honor working with the ballet great. “A door has been opened to this rich and historic ballet world and it is an honor to get to peek through it,” she explained. “It feels like we get to peer into a world that is something much greater than us, just skating. Just to be in Edward’s presence is a great honor that has not been lost on any of the skaters. May I also say how humble he is? He keeps thanking us for being willing participants of his work. Amazing!”
Sun Valley favorites Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre rehearse Reveries
Sun Valley’s audiences can enjoy a performance of the piece set to Elegy and see Villella’s signature style, as well as the well-known ice dance company’s other repertory for the upcoming season at a special show on October 2. The show is free and features skaters from all over the globe, as well as Sun Valley On Ice dancers Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre, Joel Dear, Ty Cockrum and Natalia Zaitseva.
In the meantime, Villella, who is in Sun Valley with his wife, Linda Carbonetto, is enjoying fall in Idaho. Villella said he hasn’t been here in 30 years. “It is the most serene place I have been in a long time,” he said in his soft voice. He added that he is truly enjoying working here amid our spectacular fall scenery at the iconic rink. Linda, a former Canadian Olympic figure skater, is also relishing fall in Sun Valley, even finding time to skate.
The legendary Edward Villella works with his dancers on the ice
For me, who seriously studied ballet throughout my childhood and became a fervent (fanatical?) fan of the New York City Ballet, meeting Villella left me speechless. It is always interesting, how in this little rural corner of Idaho, so many of us have the chance to meet or see our heroes, whether they are ski racers, actors, cellists, mountain bikers, pop stars, figure skaters, or in my case, a ballet dancer.
Be sure to come out on October 2 to enjoy a gorgeous night of ice dance and to get a glimpse of the greatness that is Edward Villella.
Come out and enjoy a fall evening with a fantastic ice show -- all for Higher Ground, an organization that changes lives
Ice Theatre of New York, under the artistic direction of Douglas Webster, has made Sun Valley’s beautiful two rinks its home since September 11, bringing a three-week residency to our figure skating Shangri-La. Working with favorite Sun Valley on Ice show skaters like Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre, Joel Dear, Ty Cockrum and Natalia Zaitseva, and other professionals from all over the country and the world, the residency is preparing the renown skating company for a special performance in New York in October. In the works are rehearsals on existing and new repertory pieces. Swing by the Sun Valley outdoor rink between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. and, weather permitting, get a rare behind-the-scenes peek at how Ice Theatre of New York trains and prepares.
The one-and-only Edward Villella (right, with artistic director Douglas Webster) rehearses with members of Ice Theatre of New York
Now, cue the famous choreographer. The one and only Edward Villella, formerly of the New York City Ballet and founder of Miami City Ballet, is rinkside in Sun Valley lending his considerable talents to this project. To those of us who love ballet, he is a superstar.
Now, enter the excellent cause. All bleacher seats on Wednesday evening are being sold for a suggested donation of $10 to support the Higher Ground’s military programs. Higher Ground is a Ketchum-based non-profit that works with injured veterans and their families and loved ones. Men and women who have served and suffered physical injuries, a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and/or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD and/or MST) come to Sun Valley to participate in snowsports, fly fishing, whitewater rafting and other healing camps under the care and expertise of Higher Ground.
Higher Ground offers numerous programs throughout the year to veterans that utilize Sun Valley's amazing, healing outdoors
A special group that is holding a convention in Sun Valley this week reached out to Higher Ground, offering to help them fundraise for their vital projects. Erin Rheinschild, Director of Philanthropy at Higher Ground explained, “they had a ice show on their schedule this week, but planned to enjoy dinner at the Lodge and then watch the show from the terrace. That left the bleachers empty. They said they appreciate and value the work we do and would like, with Sun Valley, to offer those seats as a fundraiser for our military programs. Of course we said yes!”
So, on Wednesday night, come out to enjoy a sneak peek of the Ice Theatre of New York repertory, a headline performance by perennial favorite Jumpin’ Joe, the amazing core skaters of Sun Valley On Ice, all while supporting the life changing work of Higher Ground.
Expect some exciting extras, too. According to Rheinschild, a Color Guard from Mountain Home Air Force Base will be in attendance. They will also have a terrific silent auction and a pass the hat. “This event brings a great deal of awareness to everyone about our programs,” Rheinschild said. “We encourage everyone to come out, enjoy a fabulous show and learn more about Higher Ground.”
Tickets are available at the door for a suggested donation of $10. Seats are first come, first served and doors open at 7 p.m. For more information, call 208-726-9298 or click HERE.
Members of the Ice Theatre of New York look forward to showcasing their repertory for Sun Valley audiences
Please check back to this blog for both a detailed look at Edward Villella and the Ice Theatre of New York in advance of their free performance in Sun Valley scheduled for October 2. Please also watch for a story on the tradition that Higher Ground continues – a long history of Sun Valley as a place of healing.
Foodies are counting down the days to the start of the popular, informative and full-of-fun Sun Valley Harvest Festival, coming to town next week. From September 19 to the 22nd, Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge, the streets of Ketchum and even Roundhouse Restaurant will pulsate with the smells of delicious locally-sourced cuisine, the spectacle of food prep demonstrations, the wisdom and insight of famous guest chefs and the sights of everything you need to improve dinner time at your own home. If you like food – and who doesn’t – this is a can’t-miss weekend.
One of the highlights of four full days of memorable events is sure to be the Martini & Caviar party on Saturday, September 21, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. This year, the event gets even better with a move up Bald Mountain to the historic and charming Roundhouse Restaurant. Perched at 7,700 feet above the valley floor, Roundhouse is probably one of the best party rooms in the Lower 48. And the Martinis and caviar are sure to be as spectacular as the surroundings when Sun Valley Executive Chef John Murcko creates his culinary magic in the thin air.
Inventive cocktails and caviar -- what could be better?
Festivities begin when you are greeted with a glass of Michelle sparkling wine and whisked up to Roundhouse on the gondola. The scenic ride sets the tone for what is to come. Once ensconced at Roundhouse, Murcko, a James Beard Award Semi-Finalist and food visionary, will get the party started in earnest. Carefully crafted hors d’oeuvres featuring local Idaho sturgeon caviar will delight the palate, especially when paired with artisanal cocktails fashioned from Square One Organic Spirits. Mixologist with the most, Ryan Sullivan, is sure to create flavors perfect for the occasion.
Back on the valley floor, Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge will also be a hub of activity all weekend long. Starting on Saturday, September 21, the lawns at the base of Dollar will be transformed into a Harvest Marketplace. Be sure to spend some quality time with hand-selected purveyors from around the Pacific Northwest and West Coast. Specialty food producers and local and regional farmers will be in attendance, and the latest and greatest in kitchen appliances and cookware will be on display.
When dining at Roundhouse, getting there is half the fun
Also at Dollar, catch Guest Chef Demonstrations under the big tent all day September 21, beginning at 9:30 a.m. Join acclaimed chefs including Rodrigo Bueno, Akasha Richmond, Tina Ruggiero, Tal Ronnen and Scot Jones and Malika Ameen who are in Sun Valley from all over the country as they demonstrate topics ranging from “Buy Local, Cook Global,” to “Sweet and Spicy: Unique Twists for Flavorful Baking.” After each cooking demonstration, you will enjoy a sample of the chef’s creation with a specially selected wine from one of the Festival’s featured wineries.
Finally, at this lovely venue on Sunday, be sure to get your tickets to the Grand Tasting. This benefit for the Sun Valley Culinary Institute might be the highlight of your year food-wise. Sample seasonal offerings from local chefs and specialty food makers. Wines, beer from the Sawtooth Brewery and spirits from Idaho’s own Distilled Resources will add to the merriment. The Grand Tasting will also feature 20-minute breakout sessions covering topics from coffee to tea; nut butters to chocolate.
What do you get when you add Sun Valley Executive Chef John Murcko and caviar? Epicurean magic, that's what!
For the entire Harvest Festival schedule and for ticket information, please click HERE.
Students from the nearby Community School volunteer at last year's event
Now might be a good time to start eating just a little less every day to make sure you are hungry for the Sun Valley Harvest Festival. The food is not only plentiful, but divinely delicious. You won’t want to miss a bite!
We all know that Bald Mountain is one big playground and next summer, expect to see new, updated, state-of-the-art places to play.
New mountain bike flow trails on Baldy will make the downhill even more fun
Picture this: It’s a spectacular Sun Valley summer day. You load your mountain bike onto the gondola at the base of River Run and hop on the next car, enjoying the scenic ride up the hill. At the summit, you strap on your helmet, snug up your sunglasses, mount your saddle and prepare to go with the flow.
In the works on Baldy, are nine new “flow” mountain bike trails that will, in the next five to six years, provide nearly 20 miles of new buttery single track that promise to get riders into a groove unlike any they have ever experienced. The first is expected to debut early summer 2014.
Construction is well underway on the first flow trail on Baldy
Flow trails have become very popular in recent years, but have historically been hard to access for recreational bikers. Not anymore. According to Sun Valley’s Julian Tyo, an avid and accomplished mountain biker who is involved in the concept, design and implementation of these trails, Baldy’s new terrain developments are a game changer. Tyo explained, “flow trails optimize the mountain bike experience for riders of all ability levels,” and ours will be accessible by chairlift.
The concept sounds tantalizing — downhill trails that have an intrinsic, smooth rhythm, a “terrain-induced roller coaster experience,” according to the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA). Pedaling and braking are kept to a minimum on flow trails. Instead, features including banked turns, rolling terrain, jumps and consistent and predictable surfaces are what transport the rider through wooded glades or under bluebird skies.
Sun Valley is already singletrack Nirvana and is about to get even better
Like a skier or snowboarder, the mountain biker carves back and forth, flowing down the mountain without worry of abrupt corners, obstacles or drop offs. Riders can revel in this experience without concern to their fitness level or skill set. There are no logs to jump or rocks to navigate on the flow trails being built.
Tyo concurs that this is what people can expect on Baldy. “We envision riders of all ability levels using the new flow trails,” he explained. “The design of these trails is for riders of different ability levels to have a variety of experiences on the same trail. Our goal is to provide trails that keep all riders wanting to come back for more.”
A comparison to winter sports might be the popular Family Cross and Skier Cross courses offered on Dollar Mountain in the snow season.
On flow tracks, the terrain and gravity do the work. You have the fun. This one will be ready for action for summer 2014.
The first phase of construction on Baldy’s flow trails is underway, which will result in the scheduled opening of the first at the beginning of summer 2014. Phase one is a “four-mile, green rated flow trail (with ratings similar to winter ski trail ratings) on Forest Service land from the top of the mountain to Roundhouse,” Tyo said.
The new trails are user-specific and unidirectional, available only for downhill mountain bike traffic. In addition to the flow trails, two new hiking and uphill biking only trails will be part of this upgrade. The design maintains existing use patterns on the hill.
How vital is this project to enthusiasts who visit or live in the area? Very! “This project is important to the Resort to increase summer offerings on Bald Mountain consistent with the goal of year-round recreation on public lands,” Tyo enthused. “The addition of these trails completes the picture of Sun Valley and the Wood River Valley as the ultimate riding destination, with nearly 450 miles of singletrack, two pump tracks and now a contemporary lift-accessed bike park. Our goal is create a ‘ski season for the summertime’ on Bald Mountain.”
Lift accessed downhill mountain biking is a scenic experience in Sun Valley
Next May, when the snow has melted, your skis are tucked away for the season but it isn’t quite nice enough yet to get on the trails, just remember, soon, very soon, you will be able to get your groove on.
For Tyo, “adding new downhill trails on Baldy has always been a dream.” A dream, that is about to become reality.
The hills in Sun Valley are alive with late summer sounds of music. Even though the mad pace of high season has slowed down a bit, two amazing shows are coming to the Sun Valley Pavilion this week that should not be missed!
On Friday, high energy, country-based favorites, Reckless Kelly take to the stage at the Sun Valley Pavilion for a concert sure to get the audience on its feet. A limited number of tickets are still available by calling 208.622.2135 or by clicking HERE.
Then, on Thursday, September 12, the one and only Clint Black will perform an intimate, acoustic concert at the Pavilion, presenting a side of his vast talent that few get to see. Here, this award winning singer-songwriter will perform with only four other musicians, while in many venues, Black plays for audiences of thousands. In Sun Valley, you will see him up close and personal. The concert, sponsored by the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, promises to be a memorable one. Black is known for a classic, traditional country style. His debut album, Killin’ Time, produced four straight number one singles and the hits just kept coming. He will perform at 7 p.m.
The Sun Valley Pavilion is the perfect place to enjoy Clint Black's intimate, acoustic show
Before ducking into the Pavilion to enjoy a pre-show glass of wine and conversation with friends new and old, be sure to spend some time in the Sun Valley Village getting the most of the late summer offerings. Sales at Village specialty shops are unbeatable in September. Both the elegant Brass Ranch and sporty Pete Lane’s are offering sportswear and ski wear at as much as 75 percent off. Logo apparel, holiday décor, gifts and wine and picnic essentials are discounted right now at the Sun Valley Signature Shop. The fashion forward ladies’ boutique, Panache, is also enticing shoppers with end-of-season prices. At Pete Lane’s, gear is also priced to sell with bikes, demos and rentals and bike apparel available. There are still weeks and weeks of fabulous weather ahead so if you have been considering buying a new bike, now is the time.
Pop into the Sun Valley Signature Shop to pick up a warm top for cool September nights
Be sure to also plan to enjoy a pre-concert dinner at one of the Sun Valley’s acclaimed restaurants. In Idaho, gardens are right now at their peak and menus are filled with and embarrassment of fresh vegetables and local delights. Just steps from the Pavilion, take a seat on the decks of the Bald Mountain Pizza and Pasta or Gretchen’s and soak up the early evening sun. Just up the road, Trail Creek Cabin provides a unique venue that is rustic yet sophisticated and very special. The signature Konditorei Restaurant will also be serving dinner until 9 p.m. beginning September 8.
Dinner on the deck of Bald Mountain Pizza and Pasta is casual and delicious
Sun Valley Resort is offering special room rates the night of Clint Black’s performance. Shop, savor and soak up the sounds of this country music superstar before retiring to the Inn or the Lodge. Order a nightcap at the Duchin Room or the Ram Lounge before turning in for a restful night. No driving, no worries, just relaxation. The package includes one night’s lodging and two show tickets for $129 per person double occupancy. Call 800-786-8259 for reservations or click HERE for more information.
You don't need to go far from town to enjoy a fall hike complete with golden aspens
Ah, September in Sun Valley: Cool mornings and evenings; warm sunny days; the always-evolving alchemy of aspen leaves as they turn bright gold. Though each season here certainly has its merits, there is something truly spectacular about autumn.
And with the children back in school, the booked-to-the-minute fun of Labor Day weekend behind us, it’s time to get out there and take a hike. Though many local trails were temporarily closed in August due to the Beaver Creek Fire, right now, local hiking is at its peak.
The Hemingway Memorial is a beautiful tribute to the author and a gateway to terrific local hikes
Whether you have lived in Sun Valley your entire life or are just visiting for the weekend, a great place to start a September hike is at the Hemingway Memorial just east of the Sun Valley Lodge on Trail Creek Road. The memorial features a likeness of the legendary writer who completed For Whom the Bell Tolls in suite 206 at the Lodge, and is tucked beneath shady trees on the banks of Trail Creek. Stone benches in the shape of a half moon offer a place to sit and reflect on the inscription that reminds Hemingway is laid to rest in the Ketchum Cemetery:
Best of all he loved the fall
The leaves yellow on the cottonwoods
Leaves floating on the trout streams
And above the hills
The high blue windless skies
Now he will be a part of them forever.
From this very unique, and very nearby, trailhead, miles of beautiful single track wend through Proctor Mountain. For the novice, gentle walks lead along the creek and east. Craving more vertical? Numerous trails climb to the saddle of Proctor, offering fantastic views in every direction, including one of the best ones around of Baldy. If you’re up for a challenge, the Ruud Mountain trail cuts steeply right to the more traditional Proctor Mountain trails, leading to, and beyond, one of the first chairlifts in the world.
Bald Mountain in the warmer months offers stunning vistas and great exercise to those on foot
Also “in town” are popular hiking and biking trails near the White Clouds golf course across from Sun Valley Resort. Don’t forget Bald Mountain offers a great cardiac workout, terrific views and the possibility of a fabulous lunch to reward you for your efforts. Start at the River Run side of the hill and bear right to the Bald Mountain Trail. This leads, in switchbacks, both to the Roundhouse Restaurant (offering a fabulous barbecue deck lunch through September 8), and all the way to the summit. If you want to channel your inner local, head straight up the Warm Springs or River Run ski runs to the top. It’s an unbeatable workout and who knows, maybe you will want to take the Baldy Hill Climb later this month.
Slightly further afield, but still a very short drive from town, the Adams Gulch trailhead just north of Ketchum provides many trail options for hiking and mountain biking, as do Chocolate Gulch and Fox Creek. To the east, a hike to the historic Pioneer Cabin (there are three different routes up) is one of the most beautiful in the area. In the fall, this very popular hike is more lightly traveled and it is the perfect time to go.
The walk up to Pioneer Cabin is beautiful, but the real payout is cresting the final ridge
For all these hikes, remember, even if the trailhead is right up the street, you are in altitude and the autumn weather can be variable so be prepared. Bring plenty of water and a light rain shell, layers, wear comfortable sturdy shoes, bring a snack or lunch and sunscreen is a must.
For a full list of current trail conditions, please click HERE.
September is the most beautiful hiking month in the Wood River Valley, at least by my account. Take some time for yourself, get out there and hit the trails!
The 55th Wagon Days parade takes place tomorrow, Saturday Aug. 31 at 1 p.m. In honor of the event, The Valley Sun’s guest blogger Jennifer Tuohy digs into the history behind the centerpiece of the parade, The Big Hitch, also known as the Lewis Ore Wagons, the only wagons of their kind in existence today.
The 2013 Wagon Days poster by Ketchum photographer Steve Snyder showcases the majestic beauty of the Lewis Ore Wagons. Click on the poster to purchase a copy.
On August 15, 1958, Katherine Lewis rode down Ketchum’s Main Street as the Queen of the very first Wagon Days Parade. It was her 85th birthday, and the town she had called home for seven decades was honoring her in a way only this town could. Behind her snaked a line of seven unique ore wagons that had been pulled out of storage especially in honor of Ketchum’s grande dame.
As Kate, as she was known, watched the giant wagons rumble through town for the first time in over a decade her thoughts likely travelled back through the years to the story behind this remarkable sight. A story that began, as many stories of the Wild West do, with the quest for gold.
In May of 1879, David Ketchum arrived in Idaho’s Wood River Valley searching for metallic treasures in its mountains. Although he discovered the first lead and silver deposits in the area, Ketchum left a few months later. But many came behind him, chasing the same dream, and on August 2, 1880, the town of Ketchum was born.
One of those who followed in Ketchum’s footsteps was Issac Lewis. But he didn’t come just to mine, he came to build a community. Hailing from Butte, Montana, Lewis was a banker and a businessman and – as many businessmen did in those days – he saw an opportunity to create a community out of this town of dusty mining tents and dirty miners. He quickly invested in real estate, opened the town’s first drug store, helped build the Gueyer Hot Springs Resort, purchased the weekly newspaper, and constructed the town’s first bank. In his own words he “virtually made the town.” The effort Issac put into building Ketchum is still visible in the form of the First National Bank building which still stands on Main Street.
Issac’s son, Horace, soon joined him from Montana, along with his wife, Katherine. They settled on the brand new Lewis Ranch, which extended from just east of what is now Spruce Avenue in Ketchum to the mouth of Trail Creek Canyon. Horace, looking out at the daunting mountains surrounding his new home, spied another investment opportunity for his family: transporting the lead and silver from the valleys beyond into the new railroad-town of Ketchum.
The Lewis Ore Wagons remain a centerpiece of the valley's history. Alongside Bald Mountain they are one of the most recognizable features of the former mining town of Ketchum. Photo courtesy Sun Valley Resort.
In 1884 he formed the Ketchum & Challis Toll Road company to construct a road over the precipitous Trail Creek Summit and built a chain of massive wagons known as the Ketchum Fast Freight Line. A testament to human engineering and masterful animal husbandry, these giant wagons carried between 18,000 and 24,000 pounds of ore along a road no wider than a wagon. They careened around hairpin turns and teetered along sheer ledges on giant six-foot wheels, covering 12 to 14 miles per day. Built to withstand the stresses of traversing the summit loaded with ore, the wagons were daisy chained together and powered by a team of draft mules, chosen for their temperament, strength and stamina. This awesome combination of metal, wood and beast was masterfully controlled by a unique craftsman, the mule skinner. Using a jerk-line, a rein approximately 100 feet long attached to each member of the team, the mule skinner controlled as many as 20 mules at a time through a series of distinct whips and jerks.
This video demonstrates the skill of the mule skinner, showing how each mule in the team of up to twenty, must be commanded to perform a different task. (Not displaying? Click here.)
At the height of the mining activity in the Wood River, Big Lost, and Salmon River valleys the Ketchum Fast Freight Line employed 700 mules and 30 wagons to haul 700,000 pounds of ore to the Philadelphia Smelter on Warm Springs Road annually. There it was turned from raw ore into precious metal and shipped down the Oregon Short Line railroad.
Between 1880 and 1885 approximately $12 million worth of lead and silver left the valley. By 1902, when rail service to Mackay and Challis arrived, the Ketchum Fast Freight Line became obsolete and in 1909 the wagons were retired for good. Two years later Horace passed away.
For a couple years, the wagons sat sadly in a barn on the Lewis Ranch. Then, in 1911, Horace’s widow, Katherine, sold the ranch to Ernest Brass, moving down the road to a house in town. Her home is also still standing, currently occupied by the Elephant’s Perch sporting goods shop.
Kate Lewis's moved into this home in Ketchum in 1911. It is now the Elephant's Perch sporting goods store. Photo from Google Maps.
Connoisseurs of the history of Sun Valley Resort will have already made the connection in this story. That ranch between Ketchum and Trail Creek, which Kate sold to the Brass family, had a grander future in store.
For the next 20 years Ernest Brass and his large family struggled to get by. In January 1936, after losing half his herd to an appetite for the poisonous purple larkspur, Brass met a handsome foreigner named Count Felix Schaffgotsch. Schaffgotsch was on a scouting mission for Averell Harriman, searching for the perfect spot at the end of a railroad track on which the president of Union Pacific Railroad could build a luxurious ski lodge. Brass Ranch was that spot. In April, Ernest Brass sold his 3,888 acres to Union Pacific for $39,000. That December the Sun Valley Lodge opened its doors. Among the names on the guest list for opening night was Katherine Lewis.
The wagons on the other hand, were not invited to the party. Mining had long since been replaced in the valley’s economy by sheep, who had no need for breakneck rides down mountain sides. These giant emblems of Ketchum’s past sat in a rapidly crumbling barn along what is now Sun Valley Road until 1925 when one of the valley’s last teamsters, Sam Sanders, brought them out for the Fourth of July parade, and then one more time in 1940 for the Sun Valley Rodeo. For the next 15 years the wagons were left silent and forgotten. Then, in 1958, the city of Ketchum was looking for a way to honor its founding mother Kate Lewis’ 85th birthday. What better way to do that than to resurrect the source of her family’s fortunes, the Lewis Ore Wagons, and parade them through town, in what became known as the first Wagon Days parade.
In October 1958, two months after riding triumphantly through Ketchum, Kate Lewis passed away. Her nephew Palmer G Lewis, donated the wagons to the city on the condition that they be displayed once a year to commemorate Idaho’s mining heritage, and so the annual event that is Wagon Days was born.
In 1985 the wagons were given their very own home, a museum designed and built especially to house them, and allow them to be on display year round. The city has kept its promise to the Lewis family, and trots out these massive symbols of American history annually (barring wildfire and city politics) for the grand finale to the Wagon Days Parade. Held Labor Day weekend, the event has extended into a 5 day festival celebrating the area’s heritage, but the Saturday parade at 1 p.m. is still the centerpiece, and the Lewis Ore Wagons’ hair-raising trip down Sun Valley Road and around the corner onto Main Street is still the highlight. If she could see what “her town” has become, and the smiles of joy the parade brings to the thousands who gather to watch the largest non-motorized parade in the West, Kate would be so very proud.
Preserving this unique and irreplaceable relic of history is a costly effort. As the Lewis Ore Wagons near their 130th birthday, the Wagon Days Committee is looking to raise $10,000 to help maintain the wagons through an indiegogo campaign. Donate to the campaign here.
For a full schedule of events this Wagon Days’ weekend go here. For a list of the 100 unique wagons from across the West participating in the 2013 Wagon Days’ parade click here.
Blue skies and picture perfect weather welcomed diners to lunch at Roundhouse Restaurant Thursday
The weather Thursday was bluebird skies, scattered white fluffy clouds, bright sunshine and no smoke: the perfect day to kick off Labor Day weekend by hopping on the River Run gondola to ascend to a barbecue lunch with the best view in town. Sailing over the single track mountain bike trails and ski runs, the ride on the gondola is beyond scenic. As you soar above the tree line, the majestic Pioneer Mountains provide a sublime vista to the east, while the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley take form in miniature below.
But getting there is only half the fun when you decide to have lunch at the historic Roundhouse restaurant. Perched at 7,700-feet above Ketchum, Roundhouse says Sun Valley like nothing else. With its rustic interior, vast decks and unparalleled views, a meal there shouldn’t be missed.
The view is unbeatable from the Roundhouse deck -- and the barbecue lunch lives up to its surroundings
Roundhouse just reopened for the rest of the summer season and will serve a tasty, varied barbecue menu through September 8. Choose from traditional beef burgers or veer into the more esoteric: buffalo burgers, chicken burgers, veggie burgers (my choice – delicious!), bratwursts and entrée salads. Sides include homemade coleslaw, potato salad, fruit salad or chips. Enjoy a beer, wine, cocktail or soft drink with your sophisticated picnic on the deck.
From Friday to Monday, the Lookout Restaurant atop Baldy will also offer its wildly popular taco bar at lunch to those enjoying a hike, bike ride or sightseeing trip on the mountain. Lift service to Lookout begins where the gondola lets off to get riders to the tip top of the hill.
A gondola ride up to the historic Roundhouse for lunch is a must-do Sun Valley activity
Lunch with a view is just one of many must-do activities to put on your Labor Day weekend “to-do” list. One of the busiest holidays of the year in Sun Valley, there are parades to delight; antiques and art to browse and buy; cars to covet; pancakes of which to partake.
The annual multi-day celebration that is Wagon Days is jam-packed. Starting Friday, Arts, Crafts and Antiques Fairs can be found up and down the Valley. From 4 – 7 p.m. that day, cowboy poets, old-time fiddling, western music and more will delight at the Ore Museum in Ketchum with concerts from Matt Renner and the band Slow Children Playing to follow.Also Friday night, local art galleries will open their doors and welcome lookers and buyers from 5 – 8 p.m.
The "Big Hitch," made up of six enormous ore wagons, is a sight to behold as the grand finale of Saturday's parade
Saturday is the big show with many events leading up to Wagon Days‘ famous Big Hitch Parade. Starting at 8 a.m., bring the entire family to Ketchum for an old-fashioned, all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast with all proceeds benefiting local youth groups. The kids can work off that carb-fueled energy at a children’s carnival featuring mini train rides, astro jumps, a climbing wall, bungee run and more.
At 1 p.m. the Big Hitch Parade rolls down Sun Valley Road. This, the largest non-motorized parade in the Northwest, features museum quality buggies, carriages, carts, stagecoaches and wagons that illustrate and honor the tenacity of the area’s early settlers. Six gigantic Lewis Ore Wagons, the Big Hitch, pulled by a 20-mule jerkline, offer the eye popping grand finale. Music and festivity in Ketchum extend well into the night following the parade.
The Great Wagon Days Duck Race also follows at Rotary Park. A favorite of children of all ages, this event launches thousands of plastic ducks into to Big Wood River to ‘race,’ all while benefiting local non-profits.
Sun Valley's Silver Car Auction is eye candy for anyone who loves fabulous four-wheelers
In Sun Valley, on both Saturday and Sunday, be sure to come by the Silver Car Auction beginning at 9 a.m. 250 collector car owners and dealers display and auction off unique and beautiful cars until 8 p.m. There is eye candy for everyone from admirers of classic cars to sports cars and is a must-see for aficionados of every persuasion.
While in Sun Valley, be sure to stop into the Konditorei or Gretchen’s for a delicious breakfast or lunch, or grab gourmet sandwiches to go at the Short Line Deli followed by a special ice cream treat at a la mode. Village restaurants will be serving dinner over the weekend, too – the perfect way to unwind and enjoy the best in local flavors and handcrafted recipes after a very busy day.
The Great Wagon Days Duck Race is a spectacle and fun for children of all ages!
We can’t wait to see everyone out in Sun Valley and Ketchum enjoying glorious weather (the forecast looks great), a fantastic array of events and fun for everyone. We are all so grateful that Wagon Days is on and better than ever and can’t wait to share this spectacular weekend, as well as our own very special, very active version of normal, with our guests. It’s going to be a great Labor Day weekend!
To borrow shamelessly from the incomparable Johnny Nash, Jimmy Nash and others, “It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day…”