Twenty-three miles north of Sun Valley, tucked at the base of Galena Summit and nestled beneath the Boulder Mountains, sits a snow seeker’s manna. Constructed during the 1960s using vestiges of the property’s nineteenth-century mining colony, the Galena Lodge is a valley favorite for those wishing to escape “the big town” for a day of peace, beauty, and scrumptious food.
From skate skiing to snowshoeing, to access to some of the best backcountry powder in the Wood River Valley, the Galena grounds offer it all. Their famous cross country trails, which utilize the area’s old mining and logging roads, welcome all levels of skiers. And if you’re in need of a lesson, or just a rental and a few tips, there’s no friendlier place than Galena’s ski shop.
We were welcomed by owner Erin Zell, who took over management of the Lodge with her husband Don Shepler seven years ago after they saw a job posting for the position in the Idaho Mountain Express. Don claims that they hadn’t really expected to take over the historic spot, but with their combined knowledge and passion for the area, there’s no better pair to be guardians of the land. “For us, it’s been a really unique experience and a chance to be part of the community,” says Don. “It’s a place for people to step back, to come unplug.” And come unplug, we did.
As a Heli repeller, Jon takes his cross country skiing very seriously. And Lauren and I always arrive in style.
After a rough couple of hours of skate skiing (and only two falls for me), the Galena kitchen staff, featuring the famous Vagabond Chef, cooked us up a few delectable dishes. The Lodge restaurant strives to feature the best of Idaho food products, and obtains a large portion of its food through Idaho’s Bounty or directly from the farm. Our feast began with the day’s special: Lava Lake Lamb Gyro—ground lamb, baba ghanoush, chopped lettuce with a tart yogurt sauce and feta on pita. And if those words alone aren’t enough to leave you salivating, we were then gifted with Idaho trout and braised greens, smoked sturgeon (farm-raised in southern Idaho), a Euro platter, and pear compote with a trio of truffles. We were the luckiest skiers in Idaho.
The Vagabond Chef Matt Welsch shows us what has been prepared, as Honeybee and Don prep more food and the next day's pastries.
Or, if you're heading up the pass and just need a beer, Galena has a number of them–including local brew River Bend Ale, served up by the lovely Katie Welsch.
Don adds the finishing touches on the pear compote, as Honeybee weighs out loaves of bread (Galena makes fresh bread daily). On the far right is our sturgeon waiting to be devoured.
The best thing about Galena? “Don,” replies kitchen supervisor Matt Welsh (the aforementioned Vagabond Chef). For baker Mac "Honeybee" Miller, it’s “living up here in the woods . . . away from town, but close enough.”
This year, the Lodge is open through April 7, and will reopen for the summer season on June 15. In the coming month, you can join the Galena crew for a Wine Dinner with Steve Thies (March 22), and for their famous Full Moon Dinners (March 25, 26, and 27th). For more information, visit: http://www.galenalodge.com/
And to follow the adventures of the Vagabond Chef–cooking for the world, one kitchen at a time–visit: http://thevagabondchef.tumblr.com/, @TheVagabondChef, or https://www.facebook.com/thevagabondchefrides