If you’ve never been snow tubing, well then I’m sorry to report that you’ve lived an unfulfilled life. Sure, most folks who’ve never tried snow tubing might not think they’re missing much. But whoever said, "Ignorance is bliss," obviously has a serious misunderstanding about the word "bliss."
Bliss actually means "a perfect untroubled happiness," which pretty much sums up how you feel while spending an hour or two snow tubing. And the best part of the blissful act of snow tubing is that it can be done by anyone from four to 84. Basically, if you can sit and giggle at the same time, you can enjoy snow tubing.
"This is soooo much fun," squealed four-year-old Athena Sterios, between hoots and giggles as she and her cousin, Jack, took a break from skiing to spend some time at Sun Valley’s Snow Tubing Park at Dollar Mountain recently.
"This really is pretty fun," Athena’s grandmother, Patti Anderson, said as they got ready to swoosh down another run.
Jack and Athena take a break from the slopes for some fun snow tubing.
Not to be confused with its watery, warm weather cousins of boat or water-ski tubing, snow tubing is basically sledding in style. Participants ride a large "Magic Carpet" up to the top of the snow covered hill, pick a run, then hop on the glorified inner tube and with a shove from a friendly attendant it’s time to slide on down the hill. There’s something about the sensation of sledding down a snowy slope that just makes you smile–and makes youngsters laugh unabashedly. Snow tubing sort of makes you feel like you’re riding a frozen water slide.
For obvious reasons, the sport has been growing in popularity nationwide and it’s now tough to find a ski area from little mom-and-pop places in New Hampshire to the largest resorts in California that don’t have a snow tubing park. The ski industry is now calling snow tubing, " the rising star of the slopes."
"It’s a great alternative for people who don’t ski or snowboard but still want to have a fun winter experience. It’s also a fun thing to do if you just want to take a break from skiing or as a fun thing to do aprs skiing," said Jon Golden, who’s worked at Sun Valley’s Tubing Park for a couple years. "People from all ages and all walks off life have fun when they come here."
No wonder snow tubing is growing in popularity. It’s the type of simple outdoor activity that can put a smile on anyone’s face. It also offers kids (and the kids in all of us) an opportunity for a few gloriously blissful moments. The type of boundless joy that kids remember their whole lives.
"Can we go again? Can we go again?" Athena and Jack asked after each run, before bounding back up to the top to giggle and squeal in delight as they zipped down the hill again. The sound of kids laughing is good for the soul, so snow tubing must be pretty good for it, too.
[The Sun Valley Snow Tube Park is open daily from 11am to 5pm. Warm hats and gloves are recommended, but there are no other clothing requirements. Check here for ticket information.]
Snow tubing is good clean fun for the whole family.
The wintry views from atop the Snow Tube Park are pretty impressive.
Don’t miss all the high flying action at this weekend’s Sun Valley Freestyle Spectacular! Friday’s events include the Slopestyle Competition, with Saturday and Sunday featuring some of the nation’s best in mogul and double mogul competitions. For more info call 208.726.4129. Conor Davis photo courtesy of SVSEF.
Adhering to the general philosophy that it’s a lot more fun to play it safe and be smart than it is to wind up in the Emergency Room, each winter the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) celebrates "Ski Safety Week."
Sun Valley is once again taking part in the national party to promote safe and responsible skiing and boarding. And the great news–besides the fact that ski patrollers are giving out coupons for free cocoa!–is that these annual reminders are working.
According to Mike Lloyd, Sun Valley’s Ski Patrol Director, Baldy is one of the safest ski areas in the country, boasting a mere 1.7% accident rate (per thousand skiers); almost a full point below the national average.
"We definitely see a positive impact from this program," Lloyd says.
To help keep Baldy and Dollar Mountains safe, fun places to shred, here are some of the highlights from this year’s National Ski Safety Week (January 14-22).
Know the Code!
It’s the responsibility of every skier and snowboarder to know and adhere to the Responsibility Code. It’s what you agree to when you buy a ski pass at just about every resort on the globe. In case you need a refresher, or a member of the Ski Patrol asks you (every day this week they’re giving out 100 coupons for free hot cocoa to kids who know the Code), here’s a refresher:
1. Always stay in control.
2. People ahead of you have the right of way.
3. Stop in a safe place for you and others.
4. Whenever starting downhill or merging, look uphill and yield.
5. Use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
6. Observe signs and warnings, and keep off closed trails.
7. Know how to use the lifts safely.
Lids on Kids
Since wearing a "Brain Bucket" is no-brainer when you’re skiing or snowboarding, Sun Valley is supporting the Lids of Kids. The program reminds shredders of a few basic guidelines:
-Wearing a helmet when participating in snow sports is a smart idea. Besides the overwhelming safety benefits of wearing a helmet, they tend to be warmer than simply wearing a hat.
-One size does not fit all. Make sure to follow some fitting guidelines before hitting the hill in headgear.
-Heads Up, Set an Example: Skiing and riding in a responsible and safe manner isn’t just important for your own sake. It’s sets a good example for kids of all ages (and sometimes it’s the adults who need to be reminded how to follow the Responsibility Code the most).
Besides plastering both Baldy and Dollar Mountains with posters promoting the Responsibility Code, Sun Valley is also holding a Kid’s Poster Contest. Entries can be picked up at Dollar Mountains’ Children’s Center. Good luck and be safe!
If we are really honest with ourselves…we have to admit that for many Mountain Diva’s form comes before function. You know the drill and you’ve seen them on the hill (perhaps even secretly admiring them from afar). It’s the perfectly pulled together Diva with the color-coordinated outfit and somehow matching accessories. The fact that she has the latest in ski technology and can shred the mountain like a pro just adds to the awe factor.
But, when it comes to helmets, every Diva (especially mountain mamas) knows the mantra: SAFETY FIRST.
Why safety first? Well, we need to set a good example for our kids, as well as our sisters and peers. And since we are often the ones purchasing helmets for our kids, it is even more important that we know the essentials–and the DOs and DON’Ts of proper helmet fitting.
The good news is that helmet design has come a long way since the classic Bell downhill ski helmets first hit the slopes. They are now lightweight, aerodynamic and well padded (some even have extra soft ear flap choices). They also come in lots of shapes and sizes (to fit every head shape) and are offered in a dazzling array of colors, designs and finishes (Mountain Divas rejoice…you can still feel like you are choosing form over function, even if it is safety first)!!
To help you make the right choice, hear are a few tips on getting the perfect fit, followed by a quick rundown on some of the more popular helmets you’ll see on the slopes this winter:
Getting The Right Fit
1. Measure Your Head. Ski helmets are generally sized based upon your head circumference (usually measured in centimeters). Even the ones that use a Small, Medium, Large scale are based on head circumference, so measure your head and compare to the manufacturer’s size chart. Measure one inch above the eyebrows all the way around. Measure kids’ head circumference in the same manner. (Jump to the end of this blog for a conversion chart of centimeters to inches.)
2. Try On Several Brands. Be sure you try BEFORE you buy. Remember that ski and boarder helmets, just like heads, come in lots of different shapes and sizes, and there is one that will be the best fit for your head. The wrong shape will feel too tight (and may even pinch or have “hot spots” in certain areas) or will be too loose at the top or on the sides. Keep trying. Just like Godilocks, there will be one that will fit “just right.”
3. Check the Fit. This is really important for fitting kids helmets. A helmet should fit securely, but not so tight you have pain. “The helmet should feel snug around the crown and shouldn’t move around too much,” says Greg Bearce, supervisor at Pete Lane’s Warm Springs. If it feels like a good fit, try the following test: gently hold the helmet in place and try to turn your head from side to side, then up and down. The helmet should feel snug and should have very little room for movement (less than an inch), and should not obscure your vision.
4. Bring Your Goggles. Be sure to bring your goggles to make sure they fit your helmet. Otherwise, you may find yourself at the top of the mountain on a powder day without proper visibility, because your goggles are too big or too small to fit your helmet.
5. Ski Helmets for Children. Whatever you do, don’t buy a helmet that is too big or it will be useless. This is especially important when buying for kids or trying to recycle helmets for younger siblings. Resist the temptation to buy a helmet for a child to “grow into” because the fit will be wrong and the helmet won’t be able do its job of absorbing the impact and preventing concussions.
6. Don’t Wear a Beanie or Hat Under Your Helmet. “This is one of the biggest fashion misconceptions out there,” says Greg Bearce, supervisor at Pete Lanes Warm Springs. “A beanie is var far the worst thing you can wear under a helmet because it prevents the helmet from doing its job,” adds Bearce, “it just allows for too much movement, doesn’t let the helmet do what it was designed to do and can lead to the compression injuries that cause concussions.” Bearce notes that some of the really thin skull caps can work under helmets because they conform exactly to the head. But when in doubt, just avoid any thicker under layers–having the room to fit a hat or beanie probably means that the helmet is too big and is not a proper fit anyway.
Helmet Style, Accessories & Options
Now onto the more creative part of helmet buying. Once you have the proper fit, you can get down to the details of style, color and accessories. Remember that different age groups have different priorities when choosing helmets–some are attracted to aerodynamics or accessories (wireless audio system ear flaps or full cell phone and in-line components) while others (especially younger kids) are drawn to the more immediate visuals of cool colors, metallic finishes or unique designs. And if you can’t find the perfect combo, you can always consider decals or stickers to add a design of your own.
Smooth, flowing lines and elegant finishing details complement the Intrigue’s low profile Hybrid Shell construction. Combining AirEvac 2 ventilation and a soft, fleeced tricot lining beneath a refined collection of designs, the Intrigueis the ideal helmet for women of discriminating tastes. It also has the option for the Skullcandy Audio System (an added bonus for Divas who like to carry their tunes with them down the mountain). And it comes a wide range of fantastic colors, including Black Pearl, White Pearl, Shadow Green, Antique/Coral, Bronze Fallen, Petal Blue Briston, Shadow Purple Baroque, White Fallen.
Revolutionary new technology discreetly concealed behind a bevy of stylish accents, the all-new Voyage will take you on a trip you never thought possible. Using revolutionary Hybrid In-Mold technology to minimize mass and maximize ventilation, the Voyage offers up the ultimate in performance without sacrificing one ounce of style. This patented technology weighs in a little less (at 450 grams/16 ounces) than the Smith Intrigue and currently comes in White, Black, Ivory Bristol, Ultramarine Night Out, Frost Gray Stereo or Paris Pink Baroque.
Giro’s Seam is the perfect all mountain helmet. An improved Thermostat vent system, Giro’s Stack Vent, and a feather light weight will keep your temp under control, your goggles clear and your comfort level at an all time high. Finish it off with the best fit system ever made (with an adjustable wheel in the back to help dial in the perfect fit) for a snow helmet and you are ready for a full day on the mountain. Lots of Giro accessories (like stereo ear flaps and other adjustments) and a wide range of colors make this a popular and functional helmet for both kids AND adults. Available in Matte Brown, Matte White, Matte Pewter, Cyan Tiles, Matte Black, Matte Red, Black Towers, Matte Blue Sunset, Matte Grey Stripes.
POC Skull Comp – Bode or Julia
The ultimate race helmet, upgraded. The Skull Comp is now updated to version 2.0, adding a new unique safety feature. After finding that today’s race skiers repeatedly hit gates hard and risk to deform the liner, we shifted the core material to multi impact EPP. On top of the liner, we use a thin outer shell in combination with our patented Aramid membrane penetration barrier, APB. To optimize the energy absorption properties, pneumatic honeycomb pads made of polyurethane are inserted into the multi impact EPP liner. Great fit, performance and protection over and overagain!
There are two editions of the POC Skull Comp, one designed by Bode Miller and one by Julia Mancuso–both extraordinary athletes at the top of their sport. Bode Miller rides with his POC Skull Comp Pro Model helmet in green and white. There is also a Poc Skull Comp Pro – Julia that is blue and white in honor of pro racer Julia Mancuso. And, as if the extreme protection and functionality weren’t enough, the Julia edition Skull Comp comes with a kit of Swarowski Crystals to make your own Julia style tiara.
A pro race helmet with Wwarowski Crystals…Mountain Divas REJOICE!!
Finally, form plus function.
Giro Seam, Mtn Blue Sunset
Helmet Size Conversion Chart
Centimeters to Inches
52 cm = 20- inches
53 cm = 20-7/8 inches
54 cm = 21 inches
55 cm = 21 5/8 inches
56 cm = 22 inches
57 cm = 22 3/8 inches
58 cm = 22 inches
59 cm = 23 inches
60 cm = 23 5/8 inches
Each month, a full moon reigns over the sky, lighting up Sun Valley in a whole new way. To make the most of out these bright nights–including the nearly as bright waxing and waning days surrounding the full moon–here’s a rundown of some fun stuff to do in Sun Valley when the moonlight is aglow.
Departing from the Sun Valley Club & Nordic Center and offering spectacular views of Sun Valley and the surrounding mountains, these cross country ski tours and moonlight dinners beginning at 6 pm. For more information about the skiing or the dinners, please call 208.622.2135.
Full Moon Dinners Galena Lodge
Take a moonlit ride up to Galena Lodge nor of Ketchum for a fabulous and unforgettable five-course meal. The dinners do not include any group excursions on the snow, but visitors are welcome to go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing under the moonlight before or after dinner. Reservations are required, so give them a call (208.726.4010) to assure your seat and hear the menu for the month.
For a magical and memorable moonlit dinner for the whole family, take a horse-drawn sleigh ride to Trail Creek Cabin. Sleigh rides begin December 17, and run three times a night, Tuesdays through Saturdays, throughout the season. Bundle up, grab a hot toddy from the bar at the Inn and enjoy the ride. Due to the wild popularity of the sleigh ride dinners, reservations are required. PLease call 208.622.2135.
Snowshoeing, Cross Country Skiing, Sledding, Ice Skating and Snowmobiling
If scheduling a full moon outing ahead of time is too much work, don’t be afraid to find a moonlit adventure of your own. There are plenty of reasons why USA Today named Sun Valley one of the Top 10 ski resorts in the world for non-alpine skiers.
The Wood River Trail System offers 30 miles of free, groomed trails for snowshoeing or cross country skiing. Snowmobiliers can ride the 500 miles of groomed trails north of Ketchum, or head over Galena Summit to ride some of the 170 miles of trails in the Smiley Creek/Stanley area, or head a little southeast to the 200 miles of trails near Fairfield.
You could skate on the same surface Olympian champions like Sasha Cohen and Brian Boitano do at Sun Valley Lodge’s ice rink. Rentals are available and skating is open until 8 p.m. nightly. There are also "natural" rinks at Atkinson Park in Ketchum or Roberta McKercher Park in Hailey.
Rubber meets the snow in three 600-ft. lanes at Dollar Mountain’s Snow Tubing Park. Fun for the whole family, the tubing park is open daily. For more details, check here
Or, you could simply find a well-lit spot just outside your own neighborhood to go snowshoeing or sledding. If you do go on a trip of your own, please make sure you take all the proper safety precautions and always be sure to let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be returning.
Learning to ski can be a lot of fun for kids, but it can also be a frustrating and mildly painful experience–especially for the parents. To help prevent any meltdowns or hissy fits (from either children or parents), here are some tips for sharing the slopes with young shredders.
Snow conditions, sunshine, a proper night’s sleep, world peace, even the entire cast of The Muppets showing up aren’t nearly as important to a successful ski day with a youngster than a simple cup of hot cocoa is–topped with whipped cream, of course. As luck and the Ski Gods (Thanks, Ullr!) would have it, most bars at ski areas serve hot chocolate, as well as the much appreciated adult beverages.
So it’s usually a good move to locate the closest hot chocolate spout and/or bar to the slopes as soon as possible. There’s a good reason why the tap beer selection at Dollar Mountain is located right behind the hot chocolate dispensers. It’s because Sun Valley didn’t become a world famous resort just for the skiing alone!
Pizza and French Fries
While pizza and French fries earn culinary silver and bronze medals, respectively, to hot chocolate’s gold in the Olympic podium of happy little skiers, they’re also the two key moves for shredders-in-training.
Lessons are, of course, highly recommended for any young skier over the age of four. But if the children are too young or a parent is feeling brave, pizza (wedging ski tips together like a slice of pizza to slow down or stop) and French fries (pointing skis straight like a pair of fries) makes sense to kids and comes in handy. As do ski harnesses usually referred to as "racer chasers.”
These devices are carried by the young skier like a backpack and include a handle and a leash of some sort. It really is a great product, but was obviously invented by chiropractors looking for more business. For there’s nothing like getting dragged down the slopes by a giggling three-year-old.
The Magic Carpet is a great place to start, too, as being dragged around is more prevalent there so people don’t laugh as loudly at you. It’s also free and an easy way to introduce future shredders to the sport.
Holding on for dear life!
Crash Test Dummies
Naturally, falling is a part of skiing. Every skier and snowboarder has fallen more times than they can count. Heck, it’s easy to mistake half the athletes at the annual Winter X Games for crash test dummies. So falling is nothing to be embarrassed about or too afraid of–it’s what helmets are for. After all, the sooner a child understands that skiing or snowboarding is all about having fun in the great outdoors during the cold winter months, the better off everyone is going to be.
Hops and Barley
Parenthood inherently forces its participants to deal in the art of handling small frustrations. Little things that add up, nonetheless, and can occasionally make even the mellowest parent nearly blow out a binding. A day on the slopes with some little ones is bound to provide such moments now and again: things like lost mittens or little shredders melting down while struggling to walk in ski boots or tired toddlers refusing to do anything other than turn left and crash.
To help avoid such moments, the experts suggest that it’s important to take regular breaks, especially on cold days. One of the big keys to helping young shredders develop a life-long love for alpine sports is that they enjoy their first few encounters with it. So stopping for hot cocoa before a child gets cranky or a pint before pop gets too POed is highly recommended.
Jack's favorite parts of skiing are "going fast, crashing and hot chocolate with whipped cream."
And always remember the old shredders’ saying, "If it isn’t fun, you’re probably not doing it right."
[For more tips about introducing kids to skiing or enrolling them in ski school, please check SV Shred's Ski School 101.]
Buses picking up skiers at the village, Winter of 1946.
Sun Valley Resort consists of three bases:
(1) River Run Plaza,
(2) Warm Springs at Baldy and
(3) Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge.
Each has its advantages, depending on personal preference (and mountain usage), and folks are split over where they like to begin and end the day. Proximity to one or the other, afternoon cravings for a hot dog at Irving’s (Warm Springs only) and one’s need for heavy-duty wagons to haul gear (River Run only) are just a few of the deciding factors to consider. But whichever base wins your profound yet seasonal loyalty, you must first make another choice: how to get there.
‘Tis the season of trains, planes and automobiles … and buses. Of course cars are welcome; there are well-marked and amply-spaced parking lots at both bases. Yet don’t deny Wood River’s public transit system, the ubiquitous Mountain Rides program, the opportunity to change your mind and routine. In terms of mountain access, there’s no better way to make your morning pilgrimage to the mountain than via one of Ketchum’s many buses.
Why Mountain Rides
Funding mass transportation is a no-brainer from the city’s perspective. Buses drive commerce by shuttling tourists and locals. Buses reduce traffic and congestion and, ultimately, buses help control local pollution levels. Financially and logistically it makes sense that the communities of the Wood River Valley committed significant resources to creating a free and easy-to-use transit system. The considerable environmental benefits of mass transit have only added value.
According to Treehugger.com, forty five million barrels of oil are saved each year from people taking public transportation, which amounts to one quarter of the energy needed to power American homes annually. Moreover if just 1 in 5 Americans used public transportation daily, this nation would see a 20% savings in carbon monoxide emissions. I could go on, but the environmental rewards of riding the bus are well-documented and the point is clear: The system merely requires the engagement of thoughtful citizens to keep the car in the garage.
Fortunately this argument doesn’t need to made often in Sun Valley, where open minds and a love of nature have always made public transit, once K.A.R.T. now Mountain Rides, a highly popular venture. Still what all types of riders quickly learn is that getting driven around and dropped off has obvious practical advantages. Some of my top favorites:
Don’t waste time circling the parking lot. Hop on the bus and ski sooner.
Don’t carry five pairs of sticks and poles from the car to the lodge. Hop on the bus and stop the whining.
Don’t drive home when you’re legs can’t move. Hop on the bus and stretch out.
When all is said and done, why not take the bus?!
Know Your Bus Driver (and the Rules & Etiquette)
Follow the rules of bus etiquette...or you may end up riding outside, like J.P. Morgan in this test of the first chairlift
Like the post office, the Mountain Rides buses are social. Riders share stops and routes, and bus drivers intentionally keep to the same schedules week after week.
In other words, making friends is common. My usual drivers are To and Rod (Rod being what I’d call my “regular”). Just like a lot of us: Rod wants to ski everyday–and so he works accordingly. He’s been driving the bus for years because it makes doing what he loves simpler.
I live in Warm Springs and need to get downtown. My options are the Blue and Bronze Routes. For no good reason I always take Blue, which departs from the base lodge (the Irving’s stop) on the hour and half past the hour. I show up on the hour, grab a hot dog from Irving’s Red Hots and hop aboard. Classical music is playing and my seat is warm. Four stops and ten minutes later, I finish my meal and say good bye. Free and easy.
In the course of my ride, I learn more about life than buses. And I realize that not many cities have drivers like ours … Friends driving friends sounds too good to be true–yet, in my experience, the Mountain Rides drivers have never been anything but friendly, funny and informative.
To help keep it that way, I’ve included a few basic rules of bus etiquette that every small-town rider should follow:
Bus drivers need to stay focused on the road (especially during busy holiday weeks and weekends), so before asking your driver for directions, consult the Mountain Rides pamphlets for color-coordinated, big font basics on getting around Ketchum.
Large maps are also located at the most popular stops (Warm Springs, River Run, Baldy Circle).
Don’t stand up before the bus comes to a complete stop. It’s dangerous.
Remember that others are riding with you and put the cell phone down or pause the iPod. (“Guys yelling into their cell phones is the worst” says Rod). Instead of jabbering on obliviously, hang up the phone and talk to the driver. Or talk to your friends (old or new-found)–buses here are communal and it’s fun to compare adventures after a day of skiing.
Getting to the Mountain (Schedules & Times)
Although Mountain Rides buses operate year-round, certain routes are seasonal, or "winter only." With the onslaught of winter tourism, it’s only natural that the system expand to accommodate increased traffic. Below is an overview of every route, year-round and seasonal (mountain access points are in bold). Visit the website for more time tables and maps.
Blue Route(all year) – Connecting the Warm Springs base, the YMCA, downtown Ketchum, Sun Valley, Dollar Mountain and Elkhorn. Times: 7:00 AM to 9:30 PM, year round (until 12:50 at night, winter only).
Red Route (all year) – Connecting Elkhorn neighborhoods, the River Run base, Christophe and downtown Ketchum (including Kentwood Lodge and Lift Tower Lodge). Times: 8:30 AM to 4:55 PM.
Green Route (all year) – Connecting downtown Ketchum, the River Run base, St. Luke’s and the Meadows. Times: 7:10 AM to 5:45 PM.
Bronze Route (winter only)– Connecting the Warm Springsbase and Sun Valley Village. (The Bronze Route runs from December 17th – April 1st.) Times: 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM.
Silver Route (winter only) – Connecting Sun Valley Village with Ketchum, the River Run base and Dollar Mountain. (The Silver Route runs from Thanksgiving through the end of the season.) Times: 8:00 AM to 5:56 PM.
Gold Route (winter only) – Connecting Sun Valley Club, Sun Valley, Dollar Mountain and Elkhorn Springs. (The Gold Route runs from December 17th – April 1st.) Times: 9:05 AM to 3:05 PM.