Photos: Ray Gadd Nordic Town USA If there was a word to describe Sun Valley, it would have to be a compound word. Something like skiuntilipartymysoxoff might be a start. Most people think of the area in relationship to its alpine history and celebrity sheen, however that is but part of the equation. The blurry truth is most people here love it all andcan’t get enough of it in. It’s not because we don’t have a Burger King that everyone here looks like they skipped a meal, it’s because there is so much to do. One of these outlets for hyperactive kids and adults is cross country skiing. Sun Valley is known as Nordic Town USA with over 200 km of Type-A personality groomed trails and the kind of weather that led man to invent Nordic skiing. The claim is an understatement. The Sun Valley Nordic Festival with the crisp air, perfectly shaped tracks, and heavily breathing humans is a big part of winter in Sun Valley The Sun Valley Nordic Festival Each winter these hypoxic lungs with legs gather to celebrate their community, cramming more Nordic activity into a week than Ringling Brothers packs into the main tent …
It was 1998. He awoke to his beard on fire, his mangy head of hair smelling like a dog had been roasting in the oven. Running for the door he was greeted by an oppressive Appalachian mist hanging in the air as he exited into the yard. The ER mirror reflected a soot blackened face. His life had changed, and he would never return to finish his degree at Ohio State.
The saying, "my life is your vacation" gets thrown around a lot in ski towns far & wide. Many of us here in the Sun Valley area take that saying to heart on a daily basis. Whether you're here ski bumming it up or a working professional, the outdoor access right here makes it possible to live the dream. From November through April we're fortunate enough to have a winter wonderland playground right out the backdoor. Take your pick from meandering snowshoe paths, corduroy cross country and downhill trails, topped off with four mountain ranges offering up some epic backcountry riding.
Most great stories start out with “it was a cold day” which is precisely where this one begins. “It was so cold that….” typically comes next, but while it was cold enough to freeze the roots of your molars, it was not cold enough to deter a cadre of 80 plus snowboarders from lining up at the “Dollar Mountain Money Shot”, Sun Valley’s banked slalom race and qualifier for the hallowed Baker Banked Slalom. I sought to justify a balmy -10f as reason to go shoot photos (great light, lots of icy breath, crystals suspended in air) but honestly believed it might keep the riders home snuggled in bed. I was wrong.
The most electric mornings in a ski town are those which are pronounced by the percussive thumps followed with rattling windows of snow control bombs being set off on the mountain above. It's the orchestra of a powder morning conducted by the ski patrol; an early morning ritual which to witness in person is a bit like a coveted backstage pass to one of the most amazing sunrises on earth. In the pitch dark we load into the gondola and make our way to witness first hand what goes into making Baldy safe for the public on a powder day.
Sun Valley is in the heart of avalanche country and as more of us venture into the unknown beyond the area boundary, the more important knowing the conditions becomes. The Sawtooth National Avalanche Center works long hours during winter months to provide the backcountry traveler with a base of knowledge as to what to expect.
Photos: Josh Wells, Mark Oliver, Tal Roberts, Tim Carter The text came in late at night, intel from reliable sources that the Sun Valley Ski Patrol would be dropping the ropes on the Mayday Bowls. These are Baldy’s ungroomed in-bounds gems which had beckoned with their untracked spines and counters since the storm had abated. The line up at the Challenger base represented nearly every ripping skier and snowboarder in the area, some ski-lebrities past and present, and the unaware tourist who was about to get their socks knocked off. Approaching the summit, the chair became quiet, anticipation cooling the conversation when Tim said, “Remember to take a moment to enjoy the moment boys.” And we pushed off. Untracked and ready to go, The Bowls. photo: Tim Carter Like ants streaming into the nest, riders poured off the lifts and into the bowls yelping and hooting as they carved perfect turns blasting powder vapors into the crisp morning air. Collin Collins unleashes into Big Easter Bowl. photo: Tal Roberts Within a few hours Willy Wonka’s Powder Factory had churned out most of its treats for the day. The working class returned to their tasks with a certain gleam …
We all sat transfixed at our computers, televisions, iPhones or other preferred winter weather feed with jaws agape for three long days last week. Productivity was down. Stoke was conservatively up. Over of 48″ of snow was predicted in the coming 72 hours; something you just don’t expect the first day of December.
“My job is better than your vacation” says the sticker. “At either end of the socioeconomic spectrum lies a liesure class,” says a good friend. It’s true either way and in Sun Valley you find both ends of the spectrum passionate about the same thing: skiing/snowboarding. We all rise in the morning and look out the window, living the dream at the base of a ski mountain. Visiting this area is an experience in authentic mountain towns. Frequently found shocking to many, real people live here who exude a sense of warmth and hospitality that keeps people coming back. All it takes is one visit, and you are hooked. That’s how we all ended up here and we take pride in who we are and where we live, wanting you to appreciate it as much as we do. Sun Valley’s Bald Mountain is predictably ready to rip thanks to its ice-cream headache inducing cold air and a massive snow making system. In a year like last year we had great skiing even with the widespread lack of cooperation from Mother Nature. This year we have been blessed, conditions are ripening. Before the mountain opens, the itch needs to be scratched. Prior to work, at lunch and after work every nutcase with a leg to stand on is hiking to ride Baldy’s 3300 vertical. You see this place has addiction problems. This one is for exercise disguised as recreation.
Sun Valley offers something pretty unique. It’s one of the very few resorts where you can ski the resort and heli-ski all in the same day. Sun Valley Heli-Ski is right in Sun Valley Resort’s backyard with bumps off the summit available most of the year.