Adventure December 5, 2011

Get Out There

From Snowshoeing, Yurting, Fishing on the Big Wood to The New Ski Academy, Idaho Pond Hockey and more.






















Walking in a Winter Wonderland
Snowshoeing around Sun Valley [pg. 2]

Home Away From Home
The Hows and Wheres of Yurting around Sun Valley [pg. 3]

Winter On the Big Wood
Fly fishing’s most poetic practice [pg. 4]

Alpine Divas
Building Confidence, Skills and Friendships [pg. 5]

SV Ski Academy
A New Style of Ski School [pg. 6]

Old School Hockey Ketchum’s Annual Idaho
Ketchum’s Annual Idaho Pond Hockey Classic [pg. 7]

Ice, Ice Baby
Local ice skating options [pg. 8]


Snowshoeing around Sun Valley

Get some fresh tracks of a different sort.


There is no learning curve with snowshoeing. Grab some shoes or boots, strap on your snowshoes and put one foot in front of the other. Look Ma! I’m snowshoeing! Kids, adults, seniors, even attitude-stricken teenagers can snowshoe (so long as none of their friends see them).

It’s a relatively inexpensive sport, provides a good cardio workout and is a great way to re-connect with nature. So give your board or skis a rest for the weekend, grab (or rent) some snowshoes and see the trails you love to hike in the summer in a whole different light. Here are some of our favorite local treks:

SNRA // North Fork Loop
Length: 2.5 miles
Level: Easy
The North Fork snowshoe loop is eight miles north of Ketchum at the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) headquarters. Parking is plentiful and groomed trails are yours for the tromping. The fee is $5 for snowshoers. The North Fork loop is an easy loop that follows the creek and has spectacular views. It’s a great trail for beginners, and perfect for out-of-town guests who want to take a break from the slopes and enjoy some striking scenery in a peaceful atmosphere.

Billy’s Bridge// Billy’s Bridge Loop
Length: 2.5 miles
Level: Easy to Moderate
Out of town, but not too far out of town, Billy’s Bridge is located 16 miles north of Ketchum. Parking is at the trailhead on the east side of Highway 75. The Billy’s Bridge snowshoe loop starts out with vast open spaces and works its way walking through stands of Aspen trees. It’s a great trail, with lots of space to go off on your own, especially on a powder day. Fee is $5 for snowshoers. Fido walks for free on this, and all Blaine Country Recreation District (BCRD) trails.

Sun Valley // The Bridges Trail
Length: 2.25 miles
Level: Easy to Moderate
Sun Valley has a fantastic selection of pristine trails that are perfectly groomed. Gradual slopes morph into steep hills as the trail network leaves the Sun Valley Club. The Bridges Trail is one of our favorites. Start off meandering through the trees and then pick up some speed through open spaces (fairways) on the Trail Creek golf course. The trail crosses Trail Creek itself several times and is beautiful in its quiet intimacy (this trail could be made a little longer if extended to the Hemingway Memorial). Just as with skiing, après snowshoeing is something to always look forward to. Treat yourself to a delicious lunch or hot beverage served daily at the Sun Valley Club. Day pass is $8 and snowshoe rentals are $18 for adults. Ample parking.

Adam’s Gulch // Sunnyside, Lane’s Trail
and Adam-Eve Loop
Length: 3.78 miles
Level: Moderate to Difficult
Adam’s Gulch is a mecca for mountain bikers (located only 1.5 miles north of town). It’s also a great place to snowshoe. Adam’s Gulch trails are all “locally groomed”—so if you get there first on a powder day, you’ll be cutting the trail yourself. The full loop encompasses three trails—Sunnyside (heading right from the parking lot through some Aspen trees), Lane’s Trail (past the picnic table at the top) and the Adam-Eve Loop (the old road that brings you back to the trailhead). Blake Everson, trail crew foreman for the Ketchum Ranger District of the Sawtooth National Forest, believes it’s one of the best trails around. “While Baldy and Dollar certainly steal the winter spotlight here in the Valley, recreationists looking for a close-to-town adventure where they can enjoy the crystalline silence of a winter afternoon, must check out Adam’s Gulch,” he said. No trail fee and Fido is welcome, but please pick up after your pooch. Easy access parking lot.

Galena Lodge // Psycho Adventure
Length: 2.5 miles
Level: Difficult
Galena Lodge (located 24 miles north of Ketchum) offers a plethora of groomed snowshoe trails (more than 15 miles!), but Psycho Adventure is the featured trail. On this trail, you’ll trek though open spaces, steep inclines and heavily treed areas before meeting up with North Wood Trail on the last part of the loop. Erin Zell, Galena Lodge proprietor, confirms its difficulty. “Psycho Adventure trail is advanced terrain due to its length, steepness and the need to break trail sometimes along the ridge lines. The views off Psycho Ridge and North Wood of the surrounding snowy peaks are amazing,” she said. Trail passes are $5 and your dog walks (or runs) for free. If you don’t have a hound of your own, loaner dogs are available at no charge. Galena’s ski shop has snowshoes ($13 for a full day), poles and over-boots for rent, plus all the advice you’ll ever need. -Julie Molema


The Hows and Wheres of Yurting around Sun Valley

Senate View Yurt—walking distance from Galena Lodge. Photo Kevin Syms


A few hundred years ago, the word “yurt” was heard in only one hemisphere. With roots that extend back to the steppes of Central Asia, the yurt, or ger (Mongolian for “home”), has since been transplanted with popularity to the North American continent, particularly in the Northwest United States.

This tradition has become particularly prominent in the Sun Valley area because it allows for an outdoor experience that is halfway between the hardcore and the comfortable—that is, a yurt is not quite a lean-to and it’s not quite a cottage . . . it’s juuuuust right.  
Depending on your choice of company and add-on amenities, you can make the experience as harrowing or as handfed as you like –with options like door-delivered gourmet meals and pack-toting snowmobiles, it’s not just something for the extreme outdoor enthusiast to enjoy anymore.

With other yurts scattered around the Pioneer, Sawtooth and Smoky Mountains, Sun Valley has plenty of options available. Here’s a rundown of some of the local yurting options.

Sun Valley Trekking
If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, consider Sun Valley Trekking Company. They boast of over 30 years experience in the backcountry business and are rated “one of the top hut-to-hut ski operations in North America.” With six yurts available all over the mountains of Central Idaho, each equipped with the usual firewood supply, bunk beds, and cooking utensils (as well as wood-fire saunas and hot tubs), they can definitely dial you in. They provide both private and guided tours with a daily rent-a-guide on standby. Recommended for intermediate yurters and big groups. For more information check out

Galena Lodge
Galena Lodge provides three different “semi-backcountry” yurts within walking distance of the parking lot, including a Honeymoon Yurt (wink, wink) and they even offer gourmet food delivery from their tasty kitchen. If the trails are snowed over, you can ski, snowshoe or telemark for the roughly 15-30 minute hike, nestle into a bunk bed and wait by the fire for your sautéed Shrimp Scampi to be delivered to the door. This excursion is highly recommended for first-timers and families. For more information check out

Sawtooth Guides
Just 60 miles north of Ketchum, you’ll find the Williams Peak Yurt, perched some 8,000-feet in the sky and overlooking the small town of Stanley, Idaho. With aerial alpine views of the surrounding rugged terrain and over 2,000-feet of vertical descent to point your skis and boards down, this is a paradisiacal playground for backcountry skiers. Tours can be booked for 3-5 days as either a fully-guided, semi-guided or private tour. Recommended for advanced yurters and backcountry thrill-seekers. For more info check out

Don’t forget…
As with all yurt expeditions, be sure to plan at least one month in advance as they tend to fill up quickly and require deposits. But no matter when you go, it’s guaranteed to cap your winter adventures. -Kate Elgee


Fly fishing’s most poetic practice

It’s during the cold and quiet days of winter when fly fishing on the Big Wood River is its most poetic. Snow falls, silence reigns, feathered hooks gently float, fishermen are few and far between, trout are hungry, insects bounce about, the wind shows its strength, eyelets freeze, fingertips numb, the river keeps on flowing.

Certainly, winter fishing on the Big Wood is by no means easy. Nor is it as celebrated as its fellow seasons, especially the autumn around here that Hemingway made so famous, “and best of all he loved the fall … leaves floating on the trout streams and above the hills the high blue windless skies.”

In the winter, the leaves give way to falling snow and drifting ice. The skies can sometimes be high blue, but are rarely windless. Winter fly fishing in the chilly heart of Idaho usually requires the angler to pack on more layers than a walrus, and some fishermen—just like the aforementioned sea mammals—may have icicles freeze to facial hair.  

It also means that outside of local tackle shops and Grumpy’s in Ketchum, most folks will look at you as if you’ve just escaped from a loony bin if you tell them you just went fishing on a day when the temperatures barely hit double digits. And skiers or snowboarders will treat you like you smell funny if they find out you went to the river instead of going up on the mountain (if you’ve had any success angling, however, you’ll happily smell a little fishy).

But that’s okay. Let them think what they will. They just don’t get it anyway. They can’t hear the lyrics of the wintry river or feel the rhythms of the cast. They don’t notice the verses of the rainbows or the tempo of the stoneflies, midges and nymphs. As Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver so brilliantly asked: “And when has happiness ever required much evidence . . . ?”

Ed Northern is the president of the local Hemingway chapter of Trout Unlimited. A retired fire captain and paramedic originally from Southern California, Ed seems far too sane to ever be caught wading into an icy river to cast for trout. But the winter is his favorite time to fish the Big Wood.

“You can cross-country ski or get on the slopes and still get some time to fish for big, healthy, beautifully colored fish and you have the solitude and the beauty of winter here. When you combine all these things together, it’s just magical,” explained Ed, who also does some guiding for Silver Creek and is a published poet.

Poetry and fly fishing do, naturally, have a few things in common. In their truest forms (like winter casting on the Big Wood or the works of Mary Oliver), both are essentially philosophical and downright spiritual practices—art forms if you will. Still, those who don’t fish or only cast in pleasant weather often look at us winter anglers not as if we’re artists, but more like we’re deranged finger painters. They obviously think of fishing in terms of prose, not poetry.  

So our response starts and ends with a couple of quotes from an essay on the matter by arguably the best fishing prose writer there is, John Gierach. First, “Fishermen openly enjoy being thought of as crazy.” And finally, “Any idiot can fish in the summer.” -Mike McKenna

Tips from the trade

ı. Winter conditions are hazardous and even in its mellow off-season flows the Big Wood River is more powerful than any person. Always err on the side of safety. The river isn’t going anywhere. There’ll be other days to fish.

2. Wading boots must have good soles and be able to handle slick rocks and slippery snow and ice.

3. Always tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be returning.

4. Keep the fish in the water as much as possible. As Tim Alpers, whose family has been farming their famous “Alpers monster trout” in California’s eastern Sierra Nevada for three generations, once explained there are two main concerns when handling trout in winter: The first is that handling trout, especially with dry or gloved hands, removes the protective slime layer (a fish’s insulation in the winter); And prolonged exposure to cold air can freeze a trout’s gills. “Winter can be hard on trout,” he said.

5. Pick the right flies Dave Faltings from Silver Creek Outfitters in Ketchum is what you’d a call a professional trout bum. Dave has a passion and knowledge for fly fishing that runs stronger than the Big Wood during a monstrous spring run-off. So naturally, he loves to fish in the winter.     

 “The winter is a great time to fish around here,” Dave said as he opened his fly box atop the counter at Silver Creek. “It’s mostly a midge time of year. The bugs are really small in the winter.” Dave has three favorite winter flies for the Big Wood River:
Rubber-legged Stoneflies range as large as sizes 6-8.  
Trailing Shuck midge is a small dry fly, ranging in size from 20-22.
Zebra midges in assorted colors and sizes.

Even the coldest winter days have midge hatches.


[Get the basics of winter fly fishing by taking advantage of Silver Creek Outfitters’ special winter guide rates: just $300 for one to two people a day, including all the gear right down to the flies.]


Building Confidence, Skills and Friendships

DIVAS Stephanie Carlson  perfecting her form on Dollar. Photo Elevation Imaging


Interested in skiing Baldy with a group of ripping women—carving turns from top to bottom, experimenting with bumps in the bowls and occasionally racing gates on Dollar or running the ski cross course? If the answer is yes, then you should sign up for the DIVAS ski group next season—and do it quick, it sells out every year.

Founded in 2010, DIVAS stands for “Die Incredible Vimin Alpine Shredders” (best uttered, according to Sun Valley SnowSports instructor and DIVAS founder Danielle Carruth, with a heavy Austrian accent). “The idea for the program has been in the works for about five years, but the timing was finally right and we are thrilled with the incredible turnout,” says Carruth.

Modeled loosely on the success of VAMPS, which is Muffy Ritz’s Nordic program taught by women for women (and with a nod to the spirit of VAMPS through the name as well), DIVAS is a women’s ski group taught by a core team of all-women coaches who focus on improving technical skills over varied terrain. You don’t have to be an expert: The only requirement is that you can comfortably ski any run on Baldy, from top to bottom. DIVAS meets one-day per week for 2.5 hours on Baldy, although many DIVAS continue to ski together after class.

“Muffy had success with her program because there was a need for women athletes to ski with and learn from other women,” says Carruth, who adds that most of the DIVAS are working women and working moms. “We are all juggling very busy lives,” she says. “DIVAS provides an outlet for many of these women to take time out for themselves and just get out there!”

“We focus on a new theme every week, with very targeted instruction to help improve skills,” says DIVAS coach and co-founder Nicky Elsbree, who asserts that breaking into small groups of five or six skiers ensures that the instruction is personalized to each woman’s individual needs and learning style.

One week the theme may be balance, with instruction on hip position, proper upper body stance and weight transfer. Another week the DIVAS may run gates, focusing on the finish of the turn and angulation, as opposed to taking on a bump run in the bowls, which is more about the top of the turn, initiation and transfer of weight.

“We try to make all our learning fun,” says Carruth who recalls when the DIVAS ran the ski cross course on Dollar last season. “Everybody had a blast, and I don’t think anybody even realized that they were working on things like how to ride a flat ski or how to absorb the terrain,” she says. “They might not know they are working on skills that will apply later in the bumps, but they’re doing it and having fun at the same time.”

“Building confidence is important,” adds Elsbree. “Essentially, we are teaching each skier how to make subtle changes in their skiing depending upon the terrain that they are about to enter.” The goal is to ensure that no matter what conditions they encounter—whether entering steeps, or harder snow, or bumps—DIVAS will have the eye and the technique to handle whatever is below them.

“That is what makes skiing so fun,” adds Elsbree. “It is never the same, so it is always challenging.” -Laurie Sammis


A New Style of Ski School

Ski Academy students warm up during training. Courtesy Sun Valley Ski Academy


When Olympic skier Jonna Mendes was growing up, she longed for a program like Sun Valley’s brand new Ski Academy.

“It offers a more traditional high school experience. Kids can still race and train at a high level but can also be part of the Drama Club or attend proms, play other sports and be part of the community. The kids can have a ‘normal’ high school experience,” Jonna said.

While coming up through the skiing ranks, eventually winning four National Championships, claiming a bronze medal in the Super G at the 2003 World Championships and competing at the Olympics in Nagano and Salt Lake City, Jonna felt that despite all her success, she was missing out on some of the more important aspects of growing up—like a regular education and all it entails. After retiring from racing, the California native was offered a chance to help create a one-of-a-kind ski academy in Sun Valley and she jumped at the chance.

“These kids deserve and need other opportunities besides just racing and this academy provides that,” said Jonna, who now serves as the school’s director for recruitment.

The Sun Valley Ski Academy is a unique program that offers high school-aged winter ski sports athletes (including freestylers, snowboarders and cross-country skiers) a chance to train with some of the best coaches on the globe while studying at one the nation’s finest college-preparatory schools, all set amidst the breathtaking backdrop of the Wood River Valley.

Unlike other similar (usually skiing-only) programs, the Sun Valley Ski Academy, which is a marriage between The Community School and the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, doesn’t simply focus on skiing or racing.

“No one else is doing what we’re trying to do,” explained Jessica Wasilewski, the program’s director of residential life. The first year includes students from as far away as Connecticut and an equal number of boys and girls from freshmen through seniors.

“We want our focus to be on education through skiing. We’re not going to compromise the education or the connection to the community,” she said. -Mike McKenna


Ketchum’s Annual Idaho Pond Hockey Classic

2010 A-Division Champions, the McGoo’s Mulies, after being awarded the Golden Shovel.


It’s hockey the way it was meant to be played: outdoors, with a couple of sticks, a few friends, beers, brats and a bonfire.

For all those New England or Midwest transplants to the Gem State, the Idaho Pond Hockey Classic (IPHC) is a trip down memory lane.

 “My first memory on the ice was playing pond hockey with my dad when I was three,” says local resident and 2010 Idaho Pond Hockey Champion team member Steve Morcone. “I grew up outside Milford, Massachusetts, and we had neighborhood teams that would travel around playing games on each team’s ‘home’ pond. We would be out there all day, playing hockey until dark and some of those kids never even saw a commercial ice sheet, it was all on ponds.”  

And while there are no natural ponds to skate on here in the Wood River Valley, there are plenty of backyard rinks that spring up with the aid of some boards or packed snow, a hose, a fair amount of ingenuity and a lot of determination.

Cody Proctor, Taylor Rothgeb, Chad Levitan, Ivars “Muzzy” Muzis and Sean Rynes defining crowd involvement.


“A lot of kids and NHL players started on backyard rinks or ponds,” says Ketchum Parks Department director John Kearney, who adds that the best part of the tournament is watching all the age groups skate together.

“It is the most fun, and most sore, I have been playing hockey. Ever!” says 2010 IPHC champion team member and Hailey local, Pete Whitehead, who grew up playing on the ponds and lakes of New Hampshire.

Played at Christina Potters Ice Rink in Atkinson Park, the IPHC has two divisions, an advanced A-Division and an intermediate B-Division open to all players, which means that men play alongside women and 16-year-olds play on teams with 50-year-olds.

“Everyone is there to have fun!” says Wood River Valley native Piers Lamb, who co-founded the tournament with Kearney and Dave Keir (Director of Recreation at Blaine County Recreation District). The tournament has pretty much sold out every year since its inception in 2008 and features 30 teams of six players who travel from all over—including Boise, McCall, Missoula, Salt Lake City, and even from as far away as California. Around 300 fans come out to watch the excitement as well and to enjoy the free beer and brats (offered on a donation basis).

The idea for the Idaho Pond Hockey Classic started essentially as pond hockey itself does: with a couple of guys playing pick up games in Hailey who wanted to develop it into something more. “We were skating around Roberta McKercher Park every night for fun, playing hockey and having a bonfire at the end of the night,” says Lamb. “More guys kept showing up and it was so much fun, it just evolved into the idea for a pond hockey tournament.”

The IPHC is run as a 4-on-4 double-elimination tournament played with no goalies. Each team is guaranteed at least two games, but you play more games if you win. All the proceeds benefit youth programs in the Valley and, in a nod to the National Pond Hockey Championship held every year in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the grand prize is, what else—a golden shovel. -Laurie Sammis

Players watch Whitehead Landscaping’s Ryan “Rico” Enrico on a breakout pass


Local ice skating options

Courtesy Sun Valley Resort

If you have an itch for ice, there are a few different options up and down the Valley where you can break in your blades, show off some old skills or possibly even learn some new ones.

Hailey: Located at the south end of Hailey, Roberta McKercher Park is converted, by way of hoses and an old Zamboni, from a grassy field into a local’s outdoor ice rink. It’s a great place to come in your jeans, bring some old skates and a hockey stick or, more commonly, tennis shoes and a broom. The only amenities provided are two goals at each end of the field, so bring your own hot chocolate (and try to stay away from the edges as they tend to sprout grass and get bumpy).

Ketchum: The Christina Potters Ice Rink is located at Atkinson Park in downtown Ketchum and, during regular business hours, the Recreation Center offers free skates, helmets, pucks and sticks. This rink is popular with everyone from local businessmen on a lunch break to little ones pushing chairs around. This is also where the annual  Idaho Pond Hockey Classic takes place every Martin Luther King weekend, with the requisite beer, brats, and music. For more info call 208.726.7820.

Sun Valley: At the other end of the Valley (and spectrum) is the Sun Valley outdoor ice rink. Open year-round, this upscale arena provides a full-service Pro Shop with skate rentals, group and private lessons and the finest in figure-skating apparel. It is also home to Olympic skaters during the seasonal Sun Valley Ice Shows. There’s also a full-size indoor ice arena at the Sun Valley Lodge, which provides stick- and-puck skating and open hockey all year, as well as the extremely popular Sun Valley Suns hockey games on most winter weekends. For more info call 208.622.2194. -Kate Elgee



This article appears in the Winter 2014 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.