Wood River Valley mountain bikers are reveling in a fat-tire nirvana, thanks to the opening of 47 miles of new trails at Galena Lodge and a couple new trails constructed this past summer on Sun Valley’s Bald Mountain.
Now, there’s news of yet more trails in the pipeline at Soldier Mountain ski area, 11 miles north of Fairfield.
Matt and Diane McFerran, formerly of Bend, Ore., who bought the ski area two years ago, recently received approval from the U.S. Forest Service to build 7.7 miles of downhill, lift-serviced trails.
The trails will complement a couple rudimentary trails and the Lodge Run-Out Trail on the north side.
The plan, as approved, will comprise two beginner trails, three intermediate trails and two advanced trails: one-third of a mile of 10-foot-wide beginner trail; 5.7 miles of 6-foot-wide intermediate trail; and 1.7 miles of 8-foot-wide advanced trail.
The trails will be sprinkled around the mountain, which boasts lots of treeless meadows with magnificent views of the Camas Prairie and a vertical drop of 1,425 feet. The Mom and Pop-type ski area, which started with two used rope tows in 1948, features 36 ski runs, bowls, glades and a terrain park during winter.
Sawtooth National Forest Supervisor Kit Mullen said concentrating the new trails within an existing ski area like Soldier Mountain makes both economic and environmental sense. It will help Soldier Mountain become economically viable year-round. And it will confine trails to an area that’s already developed for recreational use.
The McFerrans made a move toward turning Soldier Mountain into a year-round playground by hosting Soldier Mountain’s first archery shoot in mid-July. The Soldier Mountain Showdown 3D Shoot was put on by the Rock Creek Archers, a new and fast-growing archery club out of Twin Falls. It included a campout and other family-friendly activities.
Soldier Mountain ski area offered Pilates classes at the lodge during August.
The biking will give outdoor enthusiasts one more reason besides hiking to visit the mountain during summer and fall, said Diane McFerran.
That suits outdoor adventurers like Ketchum resident Muffy Ritz, who is always game to try new trails.
“I would absolutely take the hour-plus drive to Soldier to try them out,” Ritz said. “We have amazing trails here in the Wood River Valley, and more are being created all the time, like the new Galena trails. However, given a new trail system nearby, I would definitely check them out with a group of riders so we all have the same experience and could compare notes.”
Ritz said she likes trails that flow and offer some challenges with great views.
“It’s always fun to do the chicanes and flow trail-type riding, so I hope the new trails will include that,” she said. “I also like trails that have plenty of vertical climb in them, thus ensuring some fun downhills. And, of course, a big draw for me is being able to have lunch and a beer after the ride in the lodge below.”
That said; don’t expect the new trails too soon. The McFerrans also got approval from the Forest Service to build a shop to accommodate its ski operation and forthcoming mountain bike operation. “And the shop is the immediate priority,” said Diane McFerran. “We’re not sure when we get started on building the trails.”