My favorite run on Baldy is Warm Springs, top to bottom. Okay, so I live at the base. Bias established. But how can I deny Warm Springs the title? What’s not to like about being able to walk home after a day on the hill? No cars, no bus, no fuss. I love Warm Springs because the run, in its proximity to where I live, is a reminder of why I moved here. Live in the mountain’s shadow, watch the snowcats at night, ski it in the morning and go home.
That’s not to say Warm Springs gets my vote simply because it drains homeward. No, Warm Springs is still a solid 3,000 foot descent with some of Sun Valley’s best snow. North-facing, that’s just how it goes.
Technically, I’m speaking about Warm Springs the run. Warm Springs can also, however, be a connector, a faithful linker to the gems tightly sandwiched beneath the lowest ridge: Greyhawk, Hemingway and Cozy. So cozy. Often stitched with race gates, that trio undoubtedly sees the mountain’s fastest skiers.
Warm Springs base photo by Katie Matteson.
“Take it over to Hemingway,” patrol told me long ago, trying to get my friends and I off of College.
Well, I did.
… But not all the way. I ski Hemingway fast, but I ski Warm Springs the fastest. Even if it’s not as steep, Warm Springs is open and normally uncrowded. Let ‘em run, I say. The base is watching. Seriously, they are. The lodge’s long windows give a fantastic view of Lower Warm Springs, which becomes a show in and of itself, with skiers fast and slow meandering toward the bridge.
My second favorite run on Baldy? The trees off Fire Trail — and for entirely different reasons: Woods, silence, powder. Yet my answers are just that, my own. Anyone who spends time on Baldy, depending on their priorities, will tell you that this or that is best. They’re right because we’re all right. At Sun Valley there’s hardly anywhere to go wrong and you may as well ski the groomers, the bowls and the trees with the same lofty expectations.
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.
This is the time of the year when everyone’s favorite mountain, Baldy, gets packed! Lines are long, slopes are filled, it is hard to find a seat on the deck at Warm Springs Lodge and, suddenly, your friends’ red and blue jackets start looking just like everyone else’s red and blue jackets.
So just how are you supposed to find your friends in a sea of skiers, snowboarders, revelers, families, ski lessons and groups of ski-teamers? Not everyone has bright colored jackets like me (I swear, my favorite pink and green jacket can be spotted on Baldy miles away!), no one really uses walkie-talkies anyone (though if you did, we think it’s awesome!), and sometimes it is just too cold to take your gloves off and dig through your pockets for your cell phone.
So we have complied a few tips on just how to stay together on the mountain, the best places to meet on the mountain, and a few safety tips for skiing or boarding in groups.
1. Plan ahead. Knowing when and where you are going to meet your group is the first step towards success. Be specific in your planning. Instead of saying, "Meet you at the top around eleven," try something more specific (and less mainstream) like: "Meet you at the top of Seattle Ridge at 11:15."
Plan ahead with a specific time and location to make sure everybody meets up on top and in the right place
2. Watch the clock. There are several clocks strategically placed in every lift line. Watch for the big blue signs with maps on them, the clocks are on there too. There are also clocks at the top of the mountain and the top of Seattle Ridge. Being on time will help your group meet up easier!
3. Stand BELOW the slow sign. If you and your fam gets split up on a run, or if you decide to meet halfway down, the best place to wait for the slower part of the crew is right BELOW one of the big, orange slow signs. Most skiers and riders work to avoid those signs anyway, so you will be out of their way and it also provides you a little protection, just in case.
4. Move away from the lift! If you are meeting friends at the top of the mountain, whatever you do, DO NOT stand right where you got off. Many other skiers and riders will be getting off the lift before your friends get there, and if you are standing right in the way, it is a recipe for a disaster (or at least one or two pile-ups).
5. The best place to meet:Warm Springs Side: The Warm Springs Bridge (located right at the end of the Challenger lift line, just past Warm Springs Lodge). An old stand-by for groups of skiers and riders to meet up, the Warm Springs Bridge is almost a tradition of its own. Locals and tourists alike can be heard on a Friday night at Grumpy’s saying"Meet you on the Bridge at nine tomorrow." Just be sure not to confuse it with the River Run Bridge!
Looking towards the firepit at River Run Base Lodge
6. The best place to meet: River Run Side: The fire pit. River Run Lodge is huge and there are plenty of places to meet your group from the bear statue to the fireplace inside to the first ski rack, but our favorite place to meet, and warm up some chilly fingers, is the fire pit. Located right near the bottom of the gondola, you are sure not to miss this one and you can warm up and meet new friends while you wait.
7. If Meeting up enroute, stand BELOW the slow sign. If you and your fam (or larger group) gets split up on a run, or if you decide to meet halfway down, the best place to wait for the slower part of the crew is right BELOW one of the big orange slow signs. Most skiers and riders work to avoid those signs anyway, so you will be out of their way and it also provides you a little protection, just in case.
8. Move to the side of the slope! There are some long runs and some long cat tracks on Baldy, so if you and your crew get split up on Lower College or at the end of Hershey Highway and you are going to wait for them to catch up, be sure to move to the side of the run. Standing in the middle of any run can be dangerous for you and other skiers!
9. The best place to meet:Seattle Ridge. If your 13 year-old cousin doesn’t want to watch the Broncos game with you inside the Seattle Ridge Lodge while you wait for the rest of the family, the best place to meet on Seattle Ridge is outside the Lodge on the Lower Level. This not only keeps you out of the way of the lift and other skiers, but it provides easy access to the bathrooms and water, without going up or down any stairs!
10. The best place to meet:Top of the mountain. Lots of groups get together at the top and with the Lookout Lodge, three lifts and one cat track all converging in one area, it can get pretty hectic. Tell your friends to meet you by the big blue sign (the one with a map and a clock), or even a little lower, down by the Ski Patrol Shack. But try to stay out of the way of the snowboarder’s Strap-Up area.
11. Carry a map! Baldy can seem big and confusing, especially to a first-time visitor. So be sure to carry a mountain map with you at all times, that way if your group gets separated, at least you can figure out where you are and where you want to be! Also, the Sun Valley guest service folks (the friendly skiers and boarders in bright yellow jackets) are incredibly helpful; so don’t be afraid to ask. There are also some pretty sweet Smartphone apps with resort maps that can come in pretty handy!
Skiing and boarding is all about fun. Enjoying bluebird skis and hopefully some fresh powder with your family and friends. So be patient and kind to your fellow Baldy-lovers! A little karma goes a long way!
Bill Janss Pro-Am is a benefit race for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Athletes. This is a dual giant slalom team event. Racing begins at 10:30am on the Warm Springs side of Bald Mountain. For more information, contact the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation at (208) 726-4129 or www.svsef.org.
USSA J-4, J-5 and J-6 giant slalom race sponsored by the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation. For more information, contact the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation at (208) 726-4129 or visit their website at www.svsef.org.
Winter is flying by and the 2009/2010 Sun Valley Town Series is almost coming to a close. (Next week’s St. Patrick’s Day extravaganza will be the final race.) But local racers continued to enjoy the snow and the fun this week, Week 6 of World Cup Wednesdays. Lefty’s hosted this week’s afterparty with some great steak sandwiches and an all-around good time. Don’t miss next week’s sure-to-be-troublesome green festivities at Apple’s Bar and Grill.
As for the races that took place on a sunny Lower Cozy, Robin Sarchett was this week’s big winner, with Christine Cordeau finishing first for the women. Check out all the results below. And a big thanks again go out to Mike Wrobel and the rest of the Sun Valley Race Department!
Drawing heavily from the sunny So-Cal sound of acts like Jack Johnson and G-Love, and the roots, rock sound of Tom Petty, Ben Harper and others, the Matt Lewis Band has a full, relaxed sound. Their self-titled 2004 debut is marked by the easy grooves and rhymes of tracks like "Killing Time" and "Gravity," the punk-pop crossover of "Away From Myself," and the dorm room sound of "In For a Ride" and "River."
The Matt Lewis Band will play apres ski from 2-5pm at Warm Springs March 14-18 and apres ski at River Run March 19 & 20. You can also see them live in the Boiler Room on Friday & Saturday night, March 19 & 20. Doors open at 9pm after the comedy series. First 10 people at the door get in free. Comedy patrons stay for free. $10 cover charge.
Lip Service Band is performing apres ski from 2-5pm at Warm Springs Feb 27 – March 11. They will perform apres ski at River Run Lodge on Friday & Saturday, March 12 & 13. On Saturday, March 13, special local guests, The Disciples of Rock will perform with Lip Service.
You can also catch Lip Service in the Sun Valley Boiler Room Friday & Saturday, March 5 & 6 and on Friday, March 12. Doors open at 9pm after the comedy series. Comedy patrons stay for free, the first 10 people at the door get in free. Cover is $10. 622-2148