Adventure October 2, 2013

Get Out There






In the Valley of Gear [pg. 1]
Giving New Life to Used Gear [pg. 2]









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Ideas For Storing Your Mountain Toys

Muffy Ritz’s garage gear storage is neat, clean and expertly arranged.

If you live in the Wood River Valley, it’s practically a prerequisite that you become some variation of a “gearhead.” Between the hiking, biking, skiing and fishing, and the virtually endless options available to us in this Mecca of outdoor recreation, the necessary gear begins to add up and soon needs some space of its own. A few local mountain-sport enthusiasts shared the creative ways that they store their precious and abundant gear.

Gear Organization by MuffyMuffy Ritz’s gear storage in her garage.

Muffy Ritz is a Ketchum sports legend. These days you’ll find her working at Glow Live Foods slinging kale and the like during the morning hours, and in the afternoons you’ll likely find her sweating it out on the trails, doing some sort of intense exercise that would put most of us mere mortal folk to shame. Muffy came to the Valley in 1990 to be an assistant Nordic coach for the Sun Valley ski team before she started VAMPS in 1996. VAMPS (which stands for “Vomen and Muffy’s Programs”) is considered one of the nation’s most successful cross country ski programs for women of all abilities and, between that and her passions for alpine skiing, epic mountain biking and camping, Muffy needed an organized space to house her surplus of gear. 

Muffy said that when she married her (now former) husband, who is a contractor, he wanted to customize the garage to hold all of her gear in an orderly and user-friendly fashion. So he created a custom cabinet that pulls out to store all of Muffy’s alpine skis and another one for Nordic skis. She has a dedicated area for bikes (Muffy has nine), a waxing bench and shelves for skis once they’ve been waxed. Muffy keeps the garage as clean as possible and makes sure to hang up bikes after she uses them and always puts her six pairs of alpine skis and 14 pairs of Nordic skis back in their cabinets after a ski, until they’re again ready to be ripped upon again.

Family of Five’s Geared-Out Garage

Clay and Stephanie Sammis have their hands full with three active and sports-inclined boys under the age of nine. Stephanie says in the summer of 2011 she and Clay decided to make a life change and moved from California. As Steph says about the move, “We thought, ‘Life’s too short, so why not?’ It was just supposed to be for one year, but now we are here indefinitely!”

Now permanent fixtures in a mountain town, Stephanie’s kids are serious gear aficionados and, between kid and parent toys, they have a full garage. Stephanie said that gear is “Clay’s department,” and that the family enjoys a variety of sports, including (deep breath): skiing, mountain biking, hockey, skateboarding, backpacking, camping, wakeboarding, paddleboarding, tubing, hiking, fishing, swimming, soccer, football and baseball. To indulge themselves in that unbelievable list, the Sammis family’s gear is stored in an incredibly organized system of racks, shelves and bike hooks—the only way to even consider finding the proper equipment for each sport. When asked about it all, Clay came up with an abbreviated list of gear that includes 13 bikes, nine skateboards, nine spinner rods, three paddleboards, 10 wetsuits, 14 life vests (he forgot to mention the 24-foot boat and trailer), 14 pairs of skis and three tool chests with around 1,500-pounds of Clay’s tools to keep all the gear in working condition—good luck with that! 

Fly-fishing Out Of A ’97 Suburban

Fly fisherman Jake Nelson has “chased the fish” since he was a child in western Washington. Jake said he really got into fly fishing during his college years in Pullman, Washington, where he met other “fishing psychos” and chased after his fair share of steelhead, trout and bass. Jake moved to Sun Valley in the fall of 2000 and, once he experienced a Wood River Valley summer, he was, literally, hooked on the place. As Jake explained about fishing in the Valley, “I treated my addiction to fishing as a hobby for as long as I could, but eventually felt happiest being on the river all summer and that’s when I got into guiding.” Jake now spends his summers as a guide for Silver Creek Outfitters.

Jake Nelson’s fly fishing storage is a ‘97 Suburban; Fly rods are stored in Nelson’s Suburban.


His gear is housed in a 1997 blue Suburban that he says has enough room to comfortably seat his guests and space in the back to keep “just-in-case clothes, rods, waders, tools, dirt, dog hair and whatever else people leave in it.” 

As Jake explained, “Anyone who fishes needs to be able to get their gear and drive to the water. For me it’s every day, so I have a system for keeping my fly rods strung up, ready to rock and inside my vehicle.” Jake’s set-up includes bungee cords to hold rods and chairs, which are in the “wading-boot zone” of the Suburban, selectively placed behind the left back door which Jake says hasn’t opened in three years. Besides his “miscellaneous tub” that houses back-up jackets and socks, Jake’s most important piece of equipment is his cooler, which he says he lives out of all summer. As Jake says about his Suburban, “I think it’s a lot like my life in general—a big pile of fun stuff, all the things you have to have somewhat organized— but if the ship ran any tighter it would take too long and things would most likely get lost.”-Margot Ramsay PHOTOGRAPHY BY David Seelig


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Two Local Shops Are Recycling Sports Equipment

Baldy Sports owners Sondra Van Ert and husband Aaron Blaker opened Hailey’s first gear consignment store.

If the good, albeit somewhat unreliable, people at websites like Wikipedia ever decided to give an example of the proverb “One man’s treasure is another man’s trash,” they’d be well advised to use a mountain sports mecca like Sun Valley.

Most ski towns are, after all, basically life-sized playgrounds and there’s no better example than America’s first such resort. The main reason people visit or move to Ketchum and the rest of the Wood River Valley is to play—to ski and hike, to fly fish, kayak and bike. And playing in the mountains, or even playing team sports, requires some serious gear.

Baldy Sports offers a range of items from clothing and shoes to hardgoods like snowboards and bicycles. So it’s only natural that all that gear will eventually get old or replaced by newer, nicer or more technologically advanced stuff. But instead of letting old or used gear rot away in the corner of the garage before it makes its way to the landfill, the idea to basically recycle the stuff to other sports lovers is catching on.

That’s why consignment-style sporting good stores are popping up around ski towns all over the country, from the White Mountains to the High Sierra to our idyllic Valley in the heart of the Northern Rockies. When it comes to mountain bikes, fly reels or ever kids’ soccer shoes, one man’s trash can definitely be another’s treasure.

There are now two such consignment-style sporting goods stores in the Wood River Valley, both owned and operated by long-time locals.

Baldy Sports

Sondra Van Ert knows a thing or two about recycling when it comes to alpine sports. After becoming a teenaged national champion ski racer, she was eventually told she was too old to keep skiing competitively. So the Wood River High School grad took up snowboarding and made the U.S. Olympic team when she was in her early thirties.

Sondra and her husband, Aaron Blaker, had been living in Montana and harboring a couple of dreams: to move back to the Valley and to open an outdoor sporting goods store.

Skateboards a-plenty at Baldy Sports

Aaron has long worked in the sporting goods world in the Northwest and even helped open a Play It Again Sports in Bozeman, a franchised national chain that buys, sells and trades sporting goods. He liked the concept behind selling both new and used items and they both thought the idea would work well locally.

Baldy Sports offers a range of items from clothing and shoes to hardgoods like snowboards and bicycles. “Ever since the economic downturn, things have changed a bit. More and more people are looking for a good deal on gear,” said Aaron, who has a gift for fixing up classic old bikes like vintage Schwinn cruisers.

The couple opened Baldy Sports in Hailey in July and have been pleased by the response of the community. They sell both used (on consignment or for store credit) and new (clearance and over-stocked items from brand names) gear of all kinds, everything from the “Wall of Cleats” to demo skis, mountain bikes, socks, team sports gear and lots of skateboard stuff. The latter has certainly stoked fans of Hailey’s world-class skate park.

1. They are environmentally conscious: It keeps one less thing from winding up in the landfill.
2. They’re compassionate: It allows someone else to find happiness and create great memories with something you no longer need.
3. They’re smart: It allows you to try new sports for less money, so you can decide if you actually like mountain biking, kayaking or skijoring before you invest heavily in it.
4. They’re kind: It helps support locals and a couple of local businesses.
5. They make financial sense: It can help you get the money you need to buy some brand new gear from your favorite local sporting good shop!

“We’re really trying to make it a family-friendly place,” Sondra said. “Not every family can afford to ski on Baldy. We give them some affordable options to still be able to get out there (to places like Rotarun in Hailey or Soldier Mountain in Fairfield) and have fun.”

“Maybe you don’t have quite enough money for that sweet new bike or snowboard at Sturtevant’s, but you probably would if you sold your old one,” Aaron said about the concept behind Baldy Sports. “So we can help you out and let someone else enjoy your old gear.”  “Instead of filling landfills you can let the next person play,” Sondra explained, adding that part of the appeal of this business model to many people is that it embraces the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” mentality.

“We realizing that we don’t have to be such a disposable community,” she said. “And that’s pretty neat.”

Terra Sports

James “Jimmy” Terra and his wife, Kirsten, knew that the idea of opening a consignment sporting goods store in Ketchum was a good one. The life-long locals had bounced the idea off lots of friends and the response was always positive, despite the fact that such a store had already recently failed to catch on locally.

There was a short-lived sporting consignment store in the Ketchum Industrial Park. But most folks felt the need for such a shop was there and that the location of the previous consignment shop in town is what did it in.

“It was all about finding the right place,” Jimmy said, “and we found it.”

Terra Sports on Sun Valley Road in Ketchum offers consignment goods and a way for folks to cash in their old gear. The unique building next to the Country Cousins Store in Ketchum was just what the Terras had been looking for. It gets great foot traffic and is big enough to display everything from kayaks to float tubes, snowboards to mountain bikes. Terra Sports is also an official Nova Disk Golf distributor and carries the Famous Idaho Potato t-shirt and clothing line.

“This town is flooded with retail sporting goods shops. We provide an option for people who maybe don’t have quite as much money to spend or are looking to get into a new sport without breaking the bank,” Jimmy explained, adding that they also help folks get money from their old gear, that can go towards getting new stuff to play with.

“We take away the stress of selling your old gear,” he said. “So you can start thinking about what you’re going to get next.”-Mike McKenna PHOTOGRAPHY BY Dev Khalsa

This article appears in the Fall 2013 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.