On my first trip back to London after moving out to Idaho, I took my husband on a bus tour. How silly, I thought to myself, being a tourist in my own hometown. But that tour showed me a side of my city I had never seen before. It opened my eyes to just what an exceptional place I had grown up in. In a similar fashion, the Wheels & Wine Tour on offer at Sun Valley is a real eye-opener. Just as the bus tour was for my husband, this bike tour is a great orientation for any new visitor to Sun Valley, but it is also a perfect peek into the history and wide-variety of activities on offer here at the resort for anyone with an interest. So, whether you’re a longtime local, a Sun Valley sophomore or a first-time flyer, the Wheels & Wine Tour is a great pit-stop during your time in Sun Valley.
Last Thursday, Mr. Sun and I ditched the little ones to head out on the tour and get a taste of Sun Valley history, as well as a decent look at a few bottles of Northwest wines (this was in fact the motivating factor for our outing, and an ideal carrot to dangle in front of any reluctant party.)
First off, a disclaimer, this is not a strenuous bike ride, no headers down Baldy here, it is all flat, gentle riding around the resort and along some of the paved bike path to take in the outer-lying reaches of Sun Valley.
The tour began in front of Pete Lane’s Mountain Sports in the Sun Valley Village with an introduction from Mark Blaubach, who was to be our guide. Mark developed the tour, which is in its second season. An impressive figure, Mark was clearly built for serious bike riding, so it’s a little comical to see him puttering gently around the resort on a town bike stocked with wine bottles and a checkered picnic basket.
Mark and his wife, Faye, who also works at Pete Lanes, found Sun Valley a few years ago, after they had quit their high-powered executive jobs and sold everything to travel around the country in an RV. They happened upon the Wood River Valley and quickly figured out a way to stay here all summer long.
Once assembled, our little group – Mr. Sun and myself, plus the delightful Elissa from California – then proceeded to the first stop on the tour, The Sun Valley Lodge.
I won’t go into all the history and anecdotes Mark shares on the hour-and-a-half trip, you’ll have to get out and experience it for yourself. Being something of a connoisseur of Sun Valley’s history (I’ve written a few articles on it, including this one on the building of the resort and this one on Count Felix Shaffgotsch, who discovered Sun Valley), I was familiar with most of his stories, but the revelation that the famous Sun Valley Lodge swans share their home with The Pioneer Piranhas was news to me. Apparently, the pond is chock full of what Mark describes as “the most obese rainbow trout in the world,” courtesy of their high-carb diet, which consists of copious amounts of leftover bread from The Konditorei Cafe. Mark demonstrated how they will eat straight out of your hand (the fish that is – don’t try this with the swans!). Lots of fun for the little ones.
The tour also takes in the Opera House, Inn, ice rink, pavilion, White Clouds trails, club house, Trail Creek Cabin, gun club, Hemingway memorial, the world’s first chairlift and of course, Bald Mountain. At each stop Mark offers up tidbits of history as well as highlighting the different activities at the resort, a handy thing as, honestly, despite living here for 9 years I only discovered the Olympic pool and tennis courts this summer!
Following the obligatory snapshot in front of (a smoke-obscured) Baldy Mountain, which Mark dutifully posted to Pete Lanes’ Facebook page, we headed in to the Lodge’s Duchin Room to meet Paul Johnson, the resort’s assistant beverage director. Here we were greeted with a generous tasting of five Northwest wines from the resort’s cellars, accompanied by detailed tasting notes courtesy of the very knowledgable Paul.
All in all, a lovely afternoon’s activity.
Details: The tour is $29, including bike rental, and wine tasting. Head over the Pete Lanes’ Facebook page for pictures of previous tour groups. Wheels and Wine runs every Thursday at 4 p.m., throughout the summer, ending Labor Day. If you fancy something a little more low-key, the resort also offers a free hour-long, guided hike, leaving from Pete Lane’s every Friday at 10 a.m. This covers similar topics, such as local history and activities and places to go during your stay. Call 208.622.2279 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.