Before Count Felix Schaffgosch arrived in Ketchum and created “America’s First Destination Ski Resort,” the area had already experienced the boom and bust of a profitable mining settlement, the rise of sheep ranching, and the quiet days of the Great Depression. The Wood River Valley was settled in the 1860’s by a handful of mining prospectors, and by 1880 the area was on its way to being one of the richest silver mining regions. Mule and horse-drawn wagons transported ore between the mines and Union Pacific depots until the rail line extended into Ketchum. After the silver bust in the 1890’s sheep ranching in the area grew from the 1890’s to the 1920’s, when Ketchum became the largest sheep and lamb shipping station in the United States. Though the town changed with the creation of Sun Valley Resort, the past lived on in buildings, ranches, and colorful stories. Through activities like horseback riding, sport shooting, and festivals like Wagon Days and Trailing of the Sheep the story of the area is not being forgotten and you can still experience the Western heritage of this one-time mining town.
While Sun Valley may not flaunt its reputation as a part of the wild west, don’t be fooled. Horsemanship runs deep in the valley which was established by ranchers and miners nearly 130 years ago. Today, horses are found on nearly every trail and country road bouncing their cargo along as if time never progressed. Whether it’s a pony ride, a trail ride into the mountains, or a multi-day outfitted expedition you will find a capable and colorful group of outfitters in Sun Valley ready to let you ride off into the sunset.
Since the early days of Sun Valley Resort, sport shooting has been a part of the recreational attractions of the Sun Valley area. Ernest Hemingway reportedly shot clays off the deck of his Ketchum home, and a sport shooting range was one the original amenities offered when the resort opened in 1936. Sport shooting tests the shooters meddle in metrics such as accuracy, precision, and speed. Lessons and ranges are available for all types of firearms—from shotguns to pistols to rifles—and the sport welcomes experienced and newbie shooters alike. It’s also a popular activity for groups!
Ready to give it a try? Here’s where to start.
Whether it’s licensing, training, gear, or finding the best harvest, the easiest way to punch your tag in Sun Valley is with one of our local guides. If it’s upland birds or big game, almost year around there will be a season for these guides to put you on the hunt and fill your freezer.
Wagon Days is a massive non-motorized parade held annually on Labor Day Weekend. Not long after is another parade but this one is all sheep cruising down main street on their seasonal migration south. Both of these events tell a different story of Ketchum’s history and are much more than just a parade, and instead a weekend full of events.