IN THIS SECTION
Backyard ice rinks rule [pg. 2]
Backyard ice rinks rule [pg. 2]
FULL MOON NIGHTS
From Galena Lodge and Trail Creek
to adventuring on your own [pg. 3]
Rebuilding the lodge after the fire [pg. 4]
Left Nothing beats a nighttime game of broomball at the Lees’ rink.
Right Eva Carlson and friend on her family’s homemade ice rink.
Right Eva Carlson and friend on her family’s homemade ice rink.
BACKYARD ICE RINKS
Bragging rights are on the line
Ideal ice thickness? Optimal temperature? The latest in resurfacing technology?
No, these are not conversations that will be taking place in NHL locker rooms this season, but rather as part of the ongoing debate that rages throughout the Wood River Valley every winter regarding backyard ice rinks.
While the concept of laying down some freezing water and plywood might strike most as an elementary affair, the truth, as told by practitioners and experts, seems closer to quantum physics than simple arithmetic.
“It’s all about the Visquene,” says John Lee, a Board Ranch resident and contractor who will be erecting a rink for the third year in a row as soon as the temperature drops.
Lee explains that the plastic sheeting used as the base of the rink must be greenhouse grade; otherwise, the water will leak out and create an uneven surface as it freezes.
Of course, like all aspects of backyard rink building, one person’s necessity is another’s extravagance. Just ask Dates Fryberger, a Minnesota native and member of the 1964 U.S. Olympic hockey team. He’ll be helping his daughter, Stephanie Carlson, build a rink in their
Ketchum backyard for the third year this winter.
“This is the old-timer’s way of doing it,” Fryberger says of his simple method of clearing snow off of the most level piece of ground, using the snow to build a border, and then flooding the interior.
The border also allows for variance and interpretation, with Lee recommending 2×6” or 2×8” boards to set the perimeter of the rink, with adequate depth to support an ice sheet several inches thick.
Both agree, however, that the creation of the ice surface is a process that requires care and preparation. Fryberger notes that beyond the seemingly obvious need for freezing weather, it’s imperative to flood the rink numerous times in order to ensure that each layer is completely frozen. If too much water is laid down at once, the result is what Fryberger describes as “shell ice,” with a thin surface of ice above air pockets and unfrozen water.
Lee learned this the hard way during an early attempt, ending with an ice sheet that had buckled in the middle as water pushed its way up through the bottom.
The work doesn’t end once the surface is laid, however, lots of maintenance is required. For, in the absence of vigilance, all the initial effort could end up for naught.
“If it’s snowing, you’re going to be in trouble and scraping off dog prints,” says Lee.
The continual shoveling led Lee to break down and purchase a snow blower to keep his sheet smooth. He also created a homemade Zamboni, constructed out of copper tubing, a hose for hot water and a towel attached at the back to sweep along the ice.
“It’s kind of a competition to see who has the best ice,” says Lee, who also plays on the backyard Valley rinks of both Pete and Gunnar Whitehead.
And while the rinks ostensibly cater to children learning to skate and play hockey, there is no dearth of entertainment for the adults.
Lee and his wife, Tracy, host an annual “broom ball party,” which attracts such an enthusiastic crowd that helmets must be provided to prevent (any more) concussions.
Of course, with the winter sun disappearing by mid-afternoon, Lee and many others have taken steps to allow the fun to continue into the evening; namely, the installation of floodlights, giving the rinks the appearance of baseball stadiums during night games.
It’s clear from Lee and Fryberger—along with a seemingly infinite number of plans on the Internet—that there is no one “correct” method for building an outdoor rink. But for those looking to construct some homegrown fun of their own this winter, make sure to include some unique extravagance. Bragging rights are at stake, after all.
Photography Craig Wolfrom
WEB EXTRA: Photo Gallery
Top Left The glorious glow of a full moon during winter. Top Right Christopher Cook skinning up Dollar Mountain for a full moon ski (Photography: Craig Wolfrom); Bottom Left Lunar Eclipse Rail Jam at Dollar Mountain (Photograph: courtesty Sun Valley Resort); Bottom Right Galena Lodge lit up during a winter evening for their Full Moon Dinners (Photograph: Paulette Phlipot).
FULL MOON NIGHTS
Seeing snowscapes in a different light
Sun Valley is known for its scenic winters. But once a month, you can see the snowscapes in a different light. When the full moon reflects off the snow, winter nights become bright enough to cast shadows. With some warm layers, a Thermos full of your favorite hot winter beverage and a sense of adventure, you can take to the snow with moonlight as your guide and see the Valley as you never have before. Here are some fun things to do on a full moon night:
Sun Valley’s Trail Creek Cabin
For a magical and memorable moonlit dinner for the whole family, take a horse-drawn sleigh ride to Trail Creek Cabin. Sleigh rides begin December 17, and run three times a night, Tuesdays through Saturdays, throughout the season. Bundle up, grab a hot toddy from the bar at the Inn and enjoy the ride. Due to the wild popularity of the sleigh ride dinners, reservations are required.
Full Moon Dinners
Take a moonlit drive up to Galena Lodge for a fabulous and unforgettable five-course meal. The dinners do not include any group excursions on the snow, but visitors are welcome to go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing under the moonlight before or after dinner. Reservations are required, so give them a call to assure your seat and hear the menu for the month.
Snowshoeing, Cross Country Skiing, Sledding, Ice Skating and Snowmobiling
Wood River Valley
If scheduling a full moon outing ahead of time is too much work, don’t be afraid to find a moonlit adventure of your own. There are plenty of reasons why USA Today named Sun Valley one of the Top 10 ski resorts in the world for non-alpine skiers.
The Wood River Trail System offers 30 miles of free, groomed trails for snowshoeing or cross country skiing. Snowmobiliers can ride the 500 miles of groomed trails north of Ketchum, or head over Galena Summit to ride some of the 170 miles of trails in the Smiley Creek/Stanley area, or head a little southeast to the 200 miles of trails near Fairfield.
You could skate on the same surface Olympian champions like Sasha Cohen and Brian Boitano do at Sun Valley Lodge’s ice rink. Rentals are available and skating is open until 8 p.m. nightly. There are also “natural” rinks at Atkinson Park in Ketchum or Roberta McKercher Park in Hailey.
Or, you could simply find a well-lit spot just outside your own neighborhood to go snowshoeing or sledding. If you do go on a trip of your own, please make sure you take all the proper safety precautions and always be sure to let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be returning.
Lunar Eclipse Rail Jams
February 5, 19 and March 19
This year, the new world-class Dollar Mountain Terrain Park will add even more features and Sun Valley Resort wants to show off the region’s best new park with the second Lunar Eclipse Rail Jam Series, running on Saturdays, February 5 and 19 and again March 19. Featuring PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon beer), brats, discounted burgers, a DJ, nighttime tubing, and scores of talented riders showing off their skills, the Lunar Eclipse Rail Jam Series is a must-see event.
Left Soldier’s newly rebuilt lodge (Photograph: courtesy Soldier Mountain); Right Skiing at Soldier Mountain on a powder day (Photograph: Craig Wolfrom).
SOLDIERING ON AFTER DISASTER
Ski lodge rebuilt after 2009 fire
Despite a devastating fire in late March of ’09 that burned Soldier Mountain’s ski lodge and shop to the ground, the family-friendly ski area has recovered quickly.
Originally opened in 1948 with a single rope tow, Soldier Mountain (60 miles southwest of Sun Valley, 12 miles north of Fairfield) has long been known for its homey, mom-and-pop feel. So there were undoubtedly a few faces wet with tears when news spread that the lodge at Soldier had burned down.
But from the ashes of the past has arisen hope for a better future.
Mountain manager Larry Davenport said the fire set back plans for any new programs or additions at Soldier, aside from building the new lodge, but that the new lodge is more eye-pleasing and efficient than the old one.
“We can feed people faster and help them get in and out of there a lot faster,” Davenport said. “The new lodge is great because everything is under one roof now.”
The new, single-story, 4,500-square-foot lodge is only a touch shy of doubling the size of the old lodge. Now, the lodge not only houses a dining area, but also the ticket booth, ski school, rental shop and administrative offices, which were all spread out before.
With full-day adult passes priced at only $36, Davenport said Soldier is one of the most affordable skiing experiences around. Soldier, owned in part by actor Bruce Willis, is open Thursday through Sunday and offers 1,150 acres of skiing. Soldier also offers central Idaho’s only backcountry snowcat skiing and claims to have the “best grooming in the northwest,” as well as some of the best powder skiing known to man.
Powder hounds, Davenport explained, are beginning to notice that Soldier not only gets incredible powder, but that it doesn’t disappear in the first hour (or sometimes even the first month) after it has fallen.
Davenport encourages skiers to come to Soldier to “experience skiing the way it used to be.”
Left The new and improved Roundhouse is making a comeback (Photograph: Bass Sears); Right The original Roundhouse, February 4, 1940 (Photograph: Regional History Dept of the Community Library).
New renovations put Roundhouse back on the map
This winter, skiers are sure to give the 71-year-old Roundhouse lodge, nestled mid-way up the River Run side of Sun Valley, a second glance. Built as an afterthought to the original three chairlifts constructed on Baldy in 1939, Roundhouse was the first lodge on the mountain. But with bigger, glitzier lodges built atop Seattle Ridge and at the bases of River Run and Warm Springs, Roundhouse eventually lost its place in the spotlight—that is, until recently.
there’s a huge emotional significance.” -Peter Stearns
With the new gondola, which opened last season and marches straight up the slopes to the entrance of Roundhouse, the Valley’s attention has been refocused. What has long been an oversight is now becoming a must-see. Located some 7,700 feet above sea level, the octagonal-shaped lodge, which is home to Averell’s Bar and Baldy’s first restaurant, is reclaiming its throne in the hierarchy of Sun Valley hangouts.
Although the most recent set of revisions to the lodge is nothing dramatic, mountain manager Peter Stearns said Sun Valley was concerned while planning the remodel. “Although there’s no particular cultural significance to this building, there’s a huge emotional significance,” Stearns said.
Sterns said they knew the community was attached to the feel of the old building and the original unique structure, so maintaining it during the remodel was important. The renovations included leveling the base of the building for the gondola landing, building a set of new steps to the lodge, adding a new décor, a fresh layer of paint and reopening Averell’s Bar.
The Roundhouse now offers the only sit-down dining service on the mountain, along with a “first-tracks” breakfast special that allows diners to watch the sunrise and get a head start on the slopes. Averell’s Bar, which had been closed for about a decade, offers stunning views of the Wood River Valley and Pioneer Mountains to accompany the tasty beer, wine and bar fare.
Now able to meet the needs of a functional and easily accessible lodge, while still preserving the memory of the Sun Valley of yesteryear, the Roundhouse is making a comeback as a destination spot in Sun Valley.