It’s so easy to fall in love with Sun Valley in the winter. The stoke starts to build right before the opening day of Bald Mountain in November, and lasts right through the final chair ride in the spring. While it’s tempting to think of ski town life as one endless loop of ski runs, followed by après drinks, and back to the ski runs with brief stops for sleep and food, locals know that even in the winter it’s good to mix up the routine.
Whether you’re in town for a month or weekend, check out these unique winter experiences that showcase some of the magic of a Sun Valley winter.
Test Your Aim with Get Your Shoot On Idaho
Firearm sports may seem like a far cry from the ski slopes, but here in Sun Valley, they are closer than you think. For a memorable experience book a shoot with Jeff Kreyssig, owner of Get Your Shoot On Idaho. Jeff is a National Rifle Association certified instructor and range safety officer who offers shooting packages for individuals, families, and groups at the Hurtig Shooting Center in Hailey.
Whether you’re interested in firing a cowboy-action Colt Cattleman or an AK-47, Jeff’s thoughtful instruction, attention to safety, and encouraging words will ensure that even first-time shooters will feel comfortable at the range. On a recent winter morning at the Hurtig Shooting Center with Jeff, he took this rifle-shooting newbie from being terrified to aim an AR-15 to hitting a metal target 225 yards up the snow-covered hillside.
In addition to “fun shoots,” Jeff offers long range rifle instruction, target shooting lessons, and custom packages. All packages include instruction, firearm use, safety gear, and ammunition.
Extreme (and Not-So-Extreme) Skijoring
Have you ever clicked on skis and hitched yourself to a sled dog? How about a horse?
The term skijoring comes from the Norwegian word skikjøring,which translates roughly to “ski driving.” Whether you’re attached to a dog, a horse, or a car, skijoring is the act of strapping yourself — literally — to a moving object that pulls you along behind it.
Skijoring opportunities in Sun Valley range from the adventurous to the downright extreme. On the adventurous side, you might try skijoring with your fit, active dog on the Wood River Trail. Groomed in the winter and free to use, the Wood River Trail’s flat, wide surface is a great place to dip your toe into skijoring. Purchase a skijoring setup that is safe for both you and your dog (like the Ruffwear Omnijore Joring System) and head out on a sunny day. Don’t expect your dog to pull your weight — you’ll have to ski along behind him! — but do expect to get a great workout for the both of you.
On the more extreme end of the spectrum, check out the annual Wood River Extreme Skijoring competition in Bellevue. Each team consists of a skier being pulled behind a horse and rider. Three levels of teams — Pro, Amateur, and Beginners — compete on a closed course that includes gates, jumps, and rings. If that sounds a little intense…it is! Spectators are welcome during the event, which happens each February.
Engage Your Cat-Like Reflexes at Gelande Quaffing
If your winter interests range more toward après than being pulled over ski jumps by an equine, check out the burgeoning “sport” of gelande quaffing. Reportedly invented by a group of skiers called the “Jackson Hole Air Force” while they were waiting for the lifts to open on a powder day, gelande quaffing involves teams of five, a ten-foot table, and plenty of beer.
One team member slides a full beer down the table, while another team member stands two feet from the edge on the opposite end. The catcher must grab the beer after it leaves the table but before it hits the ground and guzzle it promptly. The role of pitcher and catcher rotate constantly between four of the team members, while the fifth acts as a “beer monkey,” filling mugs with beer. Points are added for tricks such as spins and freestyle catches.
The Sawtooth Regional Gelande Quaffing Championships takes place in April at Apples Bar & Grill in Warm Springs Village, Ketchum, and each year the money raised benefits a local non-profit.
Enjoy Fondue Lunch at the Roundhouse
The great part about a fondue lunch at the Roundhouse is that the fondue doesn’t care if you’ve earned it or not. Sure, it’s a great reward for a morning of skiing 10,000 feet of vertical, but those who hop on the Roundhouse Express Gondola only for the bubbling cheese dish are welcomed with open arms, too.
Roundhouse is perched on the side of Bald Mountain at 7,700 feet elevation. The restaurant serves lunch daily during the winter, and dinner on Friday and Saturday nights. While there are other items on the menu, the “Fondue for Two” is the classic choice. Made of melted Gruyere, the fondue is served with bread, grapes, apples, and gherkin. Go all in with a bottle of wine to complement the cheese and try to get a table by the window to enjoy the epic views.
Winter in Sun Valley delivers the goods on the ski mountain, but magic exists off the slopes, too. For an unforgettable trip to Sun Valley, break out of your ski routine and try one of these unique winter experiences.