Adventure December 5, 2011

Local Buzz

From paragliding and speed flying Sun Valley to ski tuning, Nordic Town USA, Baldy's Big Mountain Skiers and this Winter's Art Scene.



Up, Up & Away
Get a different view of the Valley by paragliding off Baldy [pg. 2]

Speed Flying
Why walk down the mountain when you can fly? [pg. 3]

The Science of Tuning
Skis and snowboards have the same basic tuning philosophy [pg. 4]

Nordic Town USA
Sun Valley claims its rightful place in the Nordic ski scene [pg. 5]

Going Big
Why Baldy produces so many of the world’s best Big Mountain skiers [pg. 6]

On-Mountain Madness
Unique and classic on-mountain Sun Valley events [pg. 7]

Holiday Festivities
 [pg. 8]

Art Buzz
Winter Art Scene in Sun Valley [pg. 9]



Get a different view of the Valley by paragliding off Baldy

Garth Callahan flying high over the inversion. Courtesy Fly Sun Valley


Skiers talk a lot about “flying down Baldy.” But flying off Baldy? That’s the lingo of paragliders, lovers of a sport that’s less extreme than you might think.

“It does generate adrenaline, no matter how long you’ve been doing it,” says Chuck Smith, owner of Fly Sun Valley, which holds an exclusive permit to launch tandem paragliding trips off Bald Mountain. “Most people that we fly are people that don’t do any sort of extreme sports; maybe ski, or drive over the speed limit a bit.”

The tandem flights, which are offered during the summer and winter seasons, launch from the slopes at running speed, then glide and coast on air currents and thermals before landing gently in a field near the base of River Run. During the flight, clients are in an upright-seated position with the pilot just behind them—only a sail above keeps them afloat.

Unlike those used in hang gliding, a paragliding sail doesn’t have an internal frame, so they’re quite portable. And unlike parachuting, instead of leaping from a height, paragliders launch from gentle slopes, and by using up-drafting thermals they can stay in the air much longer than a BASE or plane jumper.

“When you do a tandem, it’s so quiet you can talk in a normal tone of voice to the other person,” says George Morgan, a retired airline pilot who lives in Greensboro, North Carolina. He fell in love with paragliding during a trip to Sun Valley in 2009, when he saw a glider come off the mountain, and immediately wanted to try it.

“I came down from that first flight, and I just knew it was something I wanted to pursue,” says Morgan, who has since purchased equipment and learned how to solo. “It lived up to everything I thought it would be and more. I’ve flown a lot of different airplanes, and there’s nothing like it.”

Most tandem flights stay under 14,000 feet (the launch points off Baldy are about 9,000), though paragliders are allowed to go up to 18,000 feet without getting prior permission from the Federal Aviation Administration. The most complicated—and potentially dangerous—part of paragliding is understanding and working with air currents, which are more difficult to anticipate in mountainous areas.

Few paragliders have the experience and credentials of Smith, 48, a Cape Cod, Massachusetts, native who has lived in Idaho for 11 years. He started using the equipment 25 years ago as a way to easily descend after mountaineering and quickly began competing. He earned the national championship in the sport in 1988, and has been instrumental in bringing paragliding competitions to Sun Valley. The mountain hosted the U.S. National Championships in 2006 and 2010 and in August will welcome the Paragliding World Cup—the U.S. has hosted the international event just once before.

It’s a coup for Sun Valley, but Smith is happy just introducing new people to the sport and estimates he has piloted more than 5,000 tandem flights.

“Being able to share that passion with people who haven’t done it before, that’s where I zeroed in on things,” he says, describing why he started teaching and offering tandem. It takes just a few sentences to learn all you need to know to be the passenger, but the rewards are, sometimes literally, breathtaking.

As Morgan explains, “I can’t tell you how neat it is to get into a thermal with a hawk or a buzzard. The view is unlike any other. You’re flying so close to the ridgetops and seeing a view of the mountains that so few people have ever seen. That’s the closest to being a bird
that you can be.”

And really, who hasn’t dreamed of flying? Fly Sun Valley can take that dream off your bucket list. -Ariel Hansen


Why walk down the mountain when you can fly?

Will Burks gets ready for flight. Photo Aaron Beck


For some adrenaline and speed junkies out there simply bombing down a mountain on skis or rising up above it while paragliding isn’t enough. So they’ve figured out a way to combine the two. Life-long local Will “Huck” Burks is one of the truly extreme athletes who participates in the growing sport of speed flying.

“You can fly the mountain, essentially,” he says. “It’s pretty incredible.”

The gist of speed flying is that a skier releases a much smaller version of a paragliding canopy and then starts carving turns and literally catching air, when terrain allows (or warrants) it, while descending the mountain.

“It’s about contouring the terrain,” says Burks, who earned his nickname for hucking huge air while skiing. He explains that a speed flyer can buzz just a few feet above the surface for hundreds of yards or soar as high as 1,800 feet above if the winds are right.

You can be as high as you want or you can barely touch the ground,” Burks says. “It appeals to sky divers, paragliders and BASE jumpers, but it’s also in the family of skiing. So it’s a sport that’s appealing to lots of people.”

Speed flying isn’t just limited to snow covered slopes. In the summer, a slightly different version of the sport referred to as ground launching allows participants to soar their way down almost any mountain.  

And since the canopies are much smaller than a paraglider and therefore weigh less, it allows speed-fliers to take their kits almost anywhere. Burks has flown off the Boulder Mountains, Hyndman Peak and even from the highest point in Idaho, Mount Borah (12,662’).

“It gives you the ability to hike wherever you want because it’s so light. You could hike any mountain in the Valley and go speed flying,” he says.

So the next time you see something flying down a local mountain and wonder, “Is it a bird? Is it a plane?” don’t be surprised if it’s just another speed and adrenaline junky like Will Burks getting a fix. -Mike McKenna


A Launch Box Film from Launch Box on Vimeo.


Skis and snowboards have the same basic tuning philosophy

Lexi DuPont perfects her planks. Courtesy Eddie Bauer First Ascent (Will Wissman)


Think you only need to tune your skis after hitting that rock in the Bowls? Think you can get by tuning your board only once a season? Or do you think that a weekly tune is just for racers? Think again. We talked to some local experts, Baird Gourlay of PK’s Ski and Sports and Tal Roberts and Erik Tiles from the Board Bin, about the art of tuning.


The first thing that we learned is that tuning isn’t just an art … it is definitely a science as well. From belt sanders, stone grinders, Wintersteiger “Green Machines” and ceramic disk grinders, to hand files, rotobrushes and more, tuning shops have plenty of tools and procedures that work to reproduce factory specs.

Techniques, applications and materials can differ from shop to shop but everyone agrees on one thing—tune well and tune often! “We invest so much in our skis these days that a $50 tune is critical to maintain our investment,” explains Baird Gourlay, an owner and operator of PK’s in Ketchum. Gourlay not only emphasizes the importance of a good tune, in fact, he tunes or touches up his fleet of skis every day. As he says, “In the early season, with our surplus of firmer, man-made snow, you should tune your skis every four days. And under normal conditions, you should never go more than seven days without a tune.”

Board Bin tuner Tal Roberts says the same thing applies to snowboards. He explains, “Getting your board stone-ground a couple times a season helps out quite a bit, especially in spring when it gets slushy. But you should definitely wax your board every two or three times you ride.” And if you can’t afford a weekly tune, Roberts suggests consistently waxing and de-burring your edges at home.

"Getting your board stone-ground a couple times a season helps out quite a bit, especially in spring when it gets slushy. But you should definitely wax your board every two or three times you ride." –Tal Roberts

In the PK’s tuning shop, a basement underneath their rental shop, three to four guys work every night, devoting 45 minutes to each pair of skis. For Baird and his crew, the bottom line of tuning skis comes down to two critical things: First, making sure each ski has a perfectly flat base with the correct structure for the snow conditions (this comes from the stone-grinding program). Second, a ski needs to have the correct bevels on its edges (Gourlay typically recommends from 1.0° to 1.5° for the average skier). From there, each ski is hand finished and the edges are polished with ceramic stones. Gourlay says, “If this isn’t done, the ski just won’t ski well.” Finally, each ski is waxed with the “wax du jour” and rotobrushed.

The Board Bin guys point out that the process of tuning a board is pretty similar to that of a ski. “We just have a bigger space,” Tal says. “It’s pretty much the same idea just on a larger surface. We do things a little different with the bevel and de-tuning of edges.”  

Walking around the tuning shop with Gourlay was a mix between taking a studio tour with an artist and a lab tour with a doctor. And even though the shop wasn’t completely set up for winter yet, we could almost hear the machines humming through the night . . . a skier’s dreams of big turns and face shots coming to fruition with every whirr of the grinder. -Katie Matteson

Sun Valley claims its rightful place in the Nordic ski scene

Skiers compete during last year’s Nordic Fest. Photo Nils Ribi


When the Sun Valley Nordic Ski Alliance, a coalition of local individuals and businesses, coined the term “Nordic Town USA” to describe the Wood River Valley a couple of years ago, their intention wasn’t to make the area sound self-important. It was simply to spread awareness across the world that the Valley holds more than 200 kilometers of some of the top Nordic skiing trails in the country.

The goal was also to help create enough interest in the local Nordic culture to sustain it in the future, according to Jim Keating, the co-chair of the annual Sun Valley Nordic Festival.

Along with taking on the name and brand of “Nordic Town USA,” the Alliance created the aforementioned Sun Valley Nordic Festival, which is a yearly celebration of both new and long-time Nordic races and events. With the consolidation of so many events into one week of Nordic festivities, Keating said the festival has seen an increase in 1,300 attendees from the first year in 2010 to the second, and that almost every event has seen an increase in participants.

This winter’s 3rd annual Sun Valley Nordic Festival will run Saturday, January 28th  through Sunday, February 5th. Keating said the week will build up to the 37th Annual Boulder Mountain Tour on Saturday, February 4th, which showcases world-class athletes racing side-by-side with Valley locals on a 32-kilometer trail north of Ketchum.

The week will begin with the Blaine County Recreation District’s (BCRD) annual Ski the Rails event, which encourages all-skill-level skiers to take to the old railroad from Ketchum to Hailey. Throughout the week, Keating explained, the festival will also showcase speakers discussing Nordic skiing-related topics at The Community Library in Ketchum and feature presentations by the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation crosscountry team’s head coach, Rick Kapala.

Keating said Galena Lodge will continue to offer their Twilight Ski Dinners, and will host the 16th Annual Galena Trails Benefit on Saturday, January 28th. The Downtown Nordic Night, which will offer circuit races and an evening block party at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts’ lot in Ketchum, takes place on Thursday, February 2nd. The week-long festival will close Sunday, February 5th, with the Ski Demo Days.

Keating said giving the Valley a new nickname has helped bring the awareness and attention that the local trails and Nordic community deserves. -Hailey Tucker


Why Baldy produces so many of the world’s best Big Mountain skiers

Chris Tatsuno shows off some Sun Valley  style. Photo Casey Day


When Lexi DuPont entered her first Big Mountain competition, she walked up to the judges and introduced herself. They asked where she was from and when she said Sun Valley, they broke out in laughter. They asked, “How does Sun Valley pump out so many good skiers?!”

Ask around and you’ll get tons of different answers. Maybe it is Baldy’s insane amount of vertical. Maybe it is because their racing coaches were also Picabo Street’s coaches. Maybe it’s the region’s renowned backcountry skiing, from steep Sawtooth couloirs to 12,000-foot descents in the Pioneers. Maybe it’s the non-stop bowl laps or the moguls on Upper River Run. Or perhaps it is the tradition of skiers like the Crist Brothers, Kent Kreitler, Will Burks, Lynsey Dyer, Dick Dorworth, Dick Durrance, Griffin Post … the list goes on. Or maybe, as Big Mountain competitor and born-and-bred Sun Valley skier Chris Tatsuno said, it’s that “the generational strength and fortitude to mold good skiers runs a little deeper in Idaho.”

Conor Davis at “Red Rocks” cliff on the backside of Baldy above the Burn. Photo


Whatever it is, it cannot be denied. When a list of competing freeskiing athletes includes Sun Valley prodigies DuPont, Post, Tatsuno, Bryce Newcomb, Conor Davis, McKenna Peterson, Axel Peterson, North Parker and Drew Stoecklein, it’s hard not to credit Baldy’s terrain, its thigh-burning vertical and the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (each of these athletes was once a member).

From Park and Pipe competitions to Big Mountain comps in places like Revelstoke, British Columbia, Crested Butte, Colorado, Argentina and Chile, skiers from across the world compete every year in the Subaru Freeskiing World Tour (FWT) and in sanctioned International Freeskiing Association events. Hundreds of guys and girls who think, breathe and live mountains huck themselves off cliffs, ski in less-than-ideal conditions, take their chances on new, huge lines, and push themselves to the limit in a sport where taking chances can be fatal and the rewards can be huge.  

“Everyone is stoked on everything all the time. This excitement and passion forces me to look at the mountain and my sport in a new way every day,” says Axel Peterson, explaining that his experience on the FWT has helped him develop as a skier, constantly challenging him with new variables and unexplored zones. His sister, McKenna, who is also on the tour, says, “We are a giant family of adventure-seeking kids with a shared love for skiing. I don’t ski on the tour for money or glory. There really isn’t much of it anyway. It is the experience that brings me back year after year.”

McKenna Peterson scopes out her line during the FWT comp in Crested Butte. Courtesy Mountain Sports International


Sun Valley may not have the most notoriously extreme terrain but don’t be fooled, our skiers can really ski. Conor Davis, a telemark skier who competes in both telemark and alpine Big Mountain comps, says there is more extreme to Baldy than meets the eye, you just have to know where to look. “If the Lower Bowls and River Run South Slopes are open, they’ll definitely surprise you. And there is always the Burn, as long as you have a buddy and the proper avalanche gear.” It’s our mountain’s terrain that has cultivated a love for skiing in these skiers—and the hundreds more just nipping at their heels—that is part challenge, part adventure and all about Sun Valley tradition.

And as for the notion that Baldy has nothing more to boast about than fast and well-maintained groomers? Well, these Big Mountain skiers are willing to just let that rumor slide. They’d like their short lift lines and secret spots to stay that way. And besides, we’ve got to keep the judges wondering—just how does Sun Valley keep producing all these great skiers? -Katie Matteson


Unique and classic on-mountain Sun Valley events

Photo Hailey Tucker

From professionals hucking big air to amateurs racing like the Olympians, there are plenty of on-mountain events this winter to either watch or be a part of.

Rail Jam Series

The Sun Valley Lunar Eclipse Rail Jam Series returns again this season even bigger and better. The winner of the three-part series wins a trip to Windell’s, one of the nation’s premiere free-skiing camps. The Dollar Terrain Parks boasted 40 features last season and were featured in this fall’s Level One ski film. This year, they’re adding a bigger cross course, and moving the half-pipe from Lower Warm Springs to Dollar. For more information on dates and locations for the Lunar Eclipse Rail Jam Series and other terrain park events check out the Sun Valley Terrain Parks Facebook page and visit

Sun Valley Town Series

Now in its 22nd year, the Sun Valley Town Series tears up the corduroy on Lower Cozy every Wednesday morning. Hosted by the Sun Valley Race Department, this annual racing series is a favorite among locals. It pits teams of four against each other in a competition for all the glory—and the chance at one of four grand prizes, a season’s ski pass. Every race is relived that evening at the après-ski awards party, hosted by rotating bars and restaurants around the Valley. The first race is January 25th at 10am, so sign your team up early and we’ll see you at the bottom—or at the bar. For more information call 208.622.6356 or email

Pro-Am Classic

One of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation’s annual fundraising events, the Janss Pro-Am proves that skiers know how to have a good time. This three-day annual event, taking place April 5-7th, teams skiers and snowboarders with former Olympians and professional racers, for a weekend of costumes, parties, races and classic Sun Valley festivities. This year’s theme is Vintage, so pull out your classic ski gear and sign up! Visit or call 208.726.4129 for more information.

Courtesy Danni Dean

The Kindercup

Professional skier-cross racer Langely McNeal lists the Kindercup as the most important win in her career. Olympic gold medal winner Picabo Street was a Kindercup champion. Take your little ones out to Dollar for the Papoose Club’s 56th Annual Kindercup on March 10th for all the fun. The free event is open to racers aged three to 13. For more information go to

The Oldest and Boldest

The longest consecutively running telemark series in North America, the Sun Valley Tele Series is back this year with three events: an all-terrain race, a giant slalom, and Hawaiian Nationals Dual Slalom. All events are open only to snowboarders and telemark skiers, so free your heel, grab your board and head out there. For more information about these events, dates and possibly a few surprises, be sure to check out -Katie Matteson



Courtesy Sun Valley Company

“It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio PLAY” by Company of fools

Sun Valley Resort proudly presents Company of Fools’ production of “It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” at the Sun Valley Opera House.  A treasure for the whole family to enjoy.  The setting is Christmas Eve 1946 at radio station WCOF, where several talented radio players bring you all the characters (yes, all of them!) in “It’s A Wonderful Life” plus commercials, sound effects and music.  Create a lasting holiday memory for your family and friends with George Bailey (the richest man in town). December 13-18. Sun Valley Opera House, call for showtimes 208.622.4111.

Sun Valley Holiday Tree Lighting

Ice and snow sculpture displays, Christmas caroling, free hot chocolate, cookies and Santa. Free event. December 21. Sun Valley Village, 5pm.

Silver & Gold Ice Show

Featuring silver and gold medalists Evan Lysacek, Sasha Cohen, Nathan Chen, Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre, and Irina Grigorian. Followed by the Torchlight Parade and fireworks. Meet and Greet autograph party after the show! Sun Valley Outdoor Ice Rink, 5pm. December 21. Tickets at the Sun Valley Recreation Center. Call 208.622.2135.

Christmas Eve Celebration at Sun Valley Resort

Join us for holiday fun at Sun Valley Resort on December 24. Festivities will begin at 5pm at the Sun Valley Lodge terrace and outdoor ice rink. Be sure to bundle up to stay warm for all the outdoor events! Visit for more details.

Christmas Brunch and Christmas Dinner at Sun Valley Resort

Indulge in the Lodge Dining Room and share in the tradition. Full brunch starting at 10am with music by Leanna Leach on piano and a la carte table service offered at dinner. Reservations required. 208.622.2800.

New Year’s Eve Bash at River Run

River Run Lodge on Saturday, December 31 from 9pm to 2am. Sun Valley Resort, in collaboration with The Sun Valley Center for the Arts’ Junior Patrons Circle, hosts a New Year’s Eve bash to benefit The Center. Dancing, music (including 80’s cover band Notorious), and much more! River Run Lodge, with optional four-course dinner at the Roundhouse and complimentary champagne (reservations required). Call 208.622.4111 for details.


Winter Art Scene in Sun Valley

White Valley by Anke Schofield and Luis Garcia-Nerey at Gilman Contemporary.

Although Sun Valley is best known as a destination for outdoor recreation, it also boasts a thriving and sophisticated art scene. This winter many local galleries will be featuring exhibitions that combine the two. Local and world-renown artists contemplate the relationship between man and his environment, or interpret the landscape through various creative lenses. Here we highlight a few outdoor-focused exhibitions in and around Sun Valley this winter. -Kate Elgee

James I by Erin Rachel Hudak at Ochi Gallery’s online shop.

“Young Collector Show”
Emerging Artists Exhibit and Panel Discussion
Featuring affordable work by both established and emerging artists for new collectors, this exhibition will also include a panel discussion for young collectors on January 4th with the Sun Valley Center. Featured artists include Alison Van Pelt, Erin Rachel Hudak, Gordon Stevenson, William Hutnick, Claudia Parducci and others.
Featured at Ochi Gallery (Walnut Ave. location)
November 25th–December 23rd

“Bosque IV”
Kollabs artist Anke Schofield and Luis Garcia-Nerey, who have been working together as professional artists for over 20 years, have teamed up yet again to present “Bosque IV” at Gilman Contemporary this winter. For this exhibition the pair moves away from their fascination with forest life and its inhabitants and moves towards emphasizing the parallels that exist within human society and the animal kingdom.
Featured at Gilman Contemporary Gallery
December 12th–January 30th

“BIRRKU: Treasures from a Distant Land”
This will be artist Buku-Larrnggay’s first exhibit of stunning ceremonial poles and bark paintings in the United States, held in conjunction with a series of community cultural events including film screenings and talks with visiting artist Wukun Wanambi. Using only natural materials, these Yirrkala artists take the ancestral designs of Australian aboriginal art to create enchanting pieces that historically challenged the colonial marginalization of their tribe.
Featured at Harvey Art Projects
Opening Reception on December 30th

“History of the American West through Art”
This exhibition will demonstrate various artists’ interpretation of the American West, dating back to 1844. From early explorers to contemporary artists, this show will map out the progression and artistic representation of the American West for the last century and a half. Featuring works by Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Moran, Olaf Wieghorst, George Catlin, Karl Bodmer and Edward Curtis.
Featured at Broschofsky Galleries
Opening Reception on December 30th

“Lands of Lore”
Shanna Kunz, Linda Tippetts and Seth Winegar Hailing from Utah, both Kunz and Winegar offer different interpretations of the landscape of their homeland; Kunz through the play of light and shadow and Winegar through vibrant color contrasts and a rich surface created by using multiple layers of paint and glaze. Tippetts is the recipient of numerous awards for her landscape works of the Rocky Mountains, including the National Arts for the Parks Grand Prize. Artists will be in attendance at the opening reception.
Featured at the Kneeland Gallery
January 27th–February 28th, 2012

Schemata ‘M’ by Kris Cox at Gail Severn Gallery

“Kris Cox”
Don’t miss the newest work of well-known artist Kris Cox whose meticulously layered and finely sculpted surfaces on panel provide a juxtaposition of calculated references mixed with metaphor and color. The images are produced with investigations of the potency of materials such as putty and glazes on underlying structures, grids, and wood. The end result is a subtle play between the polished, lush top layers and the exposure of deep, underlying patterns made up by traces of the artist’s process of adding and subtracting.
Featured at Gail Severn Gallery
Opening Reception on February 17th, 2012

"Papunya Tula Artists: 40 Years”
A special 40th Anniversary Exhibition by Papunya Tula Artists, Australia’s most historical and renowned Desert Art Centre. This exclusive USA exhibit begins right here in Sun Valley, Idaho—a world-premiere exhibit of 21 stunning new paintings that celebrates 40 years of the Western Desert art movement with a mixed selection of recent works by men and women from Kintore and Kiwirrkura. The show features established Western Desert artists. Proceeds of this exhibition will support the Papunya Tula Artists Aged Care Program. A special Collector Preview and Artist Aged Care Fundraising Cocktail Party to benefit the artists will be held on February 16th, with a intimate glimpse into the lives of works of these artists by Papunya Tula Manager Paul Sweeney.
Featured at Harvey Art Projects
February 17th–March 8th, 2012

“The Eloquence of Trees”
A group tapestry exhibition focused on the natural environment as subject where, as Marshall McLuhan says, “the medium is the message.” These works are not pigment on a ground; the ground is the image. Every color and detail is the result of the interaction of the colored threads which comprise the object itself, the vertical warp interlaced with the horizontal weft. Featuring the work of Squeak Carnwath, Donald and Era Farnsworth, April Gornik, Robert Kushner, Hung Liu, Andy Diaz Hope and Laurel Roth.
Featured at Gail Severn Gallery
Opening Reception on March 9th, 2012



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