Snow in September

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 was a photo taken of the Sun Valley Lodge on September 26, just days after the autumnal equinox

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

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

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

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.

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!

–RES

It’s Autumn! Get Out and Hike

You don't need to go far from town to enjoy a fall hike complete with golden aspens

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

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

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 pay out is cresting the final ridge

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!

–RES