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.
Searching for Sun Valley
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.
Dear Young Folk of Sun Valley, Can’t afford a daily lift ticket (or has the corporate pass already been snagged)? Feeling confused about what to do on a beautiful Saturday? Even if hitting the slopes or the backcountry tracks isn’t an option, there is always something fun to do in Sun Valley. To prove our point, we gathered some of our craziest friends for an afternoon and evening of free fun around town. Five activities . . . 5 Free in 5B. Our first stop was to the legendary Gold Mine—the world’s greatest thrift store—where you can often find a brand new Spyder jacket or perfectly decent food processor for pocket change (Sun Valley pocket change, at least). Grazing the racks for wacky finds is fun whether you need them or not, and fashion showing to your finds to friends is simply a bonus, and free until you find that 15 dollar Bogner. Look at all this goodness… Cheap. Always free to look! The Gold Mine is located at 331 N. Walnut Avenue in Ketchum (Right off Sun Valley Road). You can find just about anything here – for cheap. It's profits go to benefit the Ketchum Community Library, …
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.
Most of the time it’s hard to forget we live in a ski town, but once a month we are invited to indulge and be surrounded by the mad and creative folk of this mountain community. And tonight is my favorite type of Friday night: Gallery Walk–an evening of sipping wine and chatting about art all over town.
The mountain comes to life around here with a thousand hands lifting and pulling. With the largest automated snowmaking system on the planet and one of the most insane grooming operations in the industry much has to go right in the lead up to the season. Mother Nature notwithstanding the mountain comes to life to make dreams of 3,300 vertical foot laps a reality.