In 1938 Sun Valley began cutting the first ski run on Bald Mountain, the first step leading to what would become a world-class ski resort.
But when the snow melts, Baldy becomes a summer playground, as well.
Mountain bikers cruise along the Lupine Flow Trail from the Broadway Trail down to the Roundhouse. Hikers view the town of Ketchum and surrounding Pioneer Mountains from an overlook perched above the Big Wood River. Paragliders soar on thermals, while wildflower enthusiasts tromp through fields thick with pink crazyweed. Yoga enthusiasts do sun salutations on the patio outside River Run Lodge, while youngsters shoot for the stars on the Spider Jump Bungee trampoline. And lovers ride the gondola to the Roundhouse Restaurant to enjoy the fondue.
Buzz and Luanne Mandeville like to ride the chairlift to the top of the mountain and picnic there. “It’s a great place for people watching,” said Luanne. “Mountain bikers stop and chat, and you can watch the paragliders take off.”
Gina Poole prefers to hike up the mountain, her favorite go-to trail in the Wood River Valley being Bald Mountain Trail, a five-minute walk from her home in west Ketchum.
“Often, I’ll hike the trail with our McNab collie, Scout, in the early evening hours as summer temperatures abate,” she said. “There are fewer hikers on the trail that time of day, and I often see deer as they come out to browse or, if I’m lucky, a pileated woodpecker. It’s quite lovely during the hours before sunset when the light gets softer and you can hear the river below.”
Those who hike to the top of the mountain on Aug. 21 will have an unobstructed 360-degree view of the total solar eclipse. Not only will Sun Valley offer lift service to the Roundhouse and top of Bald Mountain, but the resort is planning several activities accompanied by live music and food and drink.
Until recently, mountain bikers had to crank the pedals to ride up and down the perimeter of Bald Mountain via the Cold Springs and Warm Springs trails. That changed in 2014 when Sun Valley opened the first of several flow trails. Today, the mountain sports 34 miles of biking trails—many of them accessible by lift for those who would prefer to let gravity take its course. And the resort is adding more this summer.
The resort hopes to begin work in June on the already-existing River Run Trail, which follows a myriad of switchbacks to the historic Roundhouse Restaurant at mid-mountain. It will close the trail for four weeks beginning June 1. Then on July 1 it will begin building a completely new black diamond trail from Roundhouse to the top of the River Run lift and down to the base of the mountain. The project, which is pending a study, is expected to take 10 weeks with the trail open in 2018.
“We have plans to revamp the Cold Springs trail, as well, to make it a more enjoyable experience for mountain bikers,” said Kelli Lusk, the resort’s public relations manager.
Sun Valley plans to crank up the gondola, offering rides to the Roundhouse and the elk burgers at Averell’s Bar on June 24. Mountain biking will begin July 1 with some of the nation’s top bicyclists poised to take part in the two-day SCOTT Enduro Cup race beginning that day.
Those who prefer putting on some nylon and strings to soar through the air can fulfill their wish through Fly Sun Valley, which offers tandem rides off the top of Baldy. Sun Valley has become as renowned for its flying as its skiing, according to Fly Sun Valley owner Chuck Smith.
The reason: challenging topography, consistent weather patterns and good thermals—columns of rising warming air that allow paragliders to soar. These things have also made Bald Mountain the launch pad for paragliders wanting to set cross-country records flying as far away as Montana.
Back on the ground, Cathie Caccia and Katherine Pleasants offer complimentary Yoga on the Mountain sessions on the River Run Lodge patio on Saturday mornings during the summer.
And on Aug. 1, the Sun Valley Center for the Arts will bring back Pink Martini to play its Cuban jazz and other rhythms outside River Run Lodge. The Center has presented more than 40 concerts at River Run during the past 20 years featuring such world-renowned performers as James Taylor and Carole King, Bonnie Raitt, Keb’Mo’, Buddy Guy, Lyle Lovett, Arlo Guthrie, Steve Martin and the Neville Brothers.
“River Run at the foot of Bald Mountain is really a favorite for performers and audiences alike,” said Kristine Bretall, director of performing arts for The Center. “It has a gorgeous lawn, perfect sight lines and easy free parking—it’s a dream venue.”
More Get Out There: Baldy Zip Line?
Bogus Basin ski area near Boise plans to spend $4.3 million from the record $12 million it made this winter on a rock climbing wall, summer tubing, expanded mountain biking trails and a mountain coaster.
Could an alpine ride be in Baldy’s future? There are no immediate plans, said Sun Valley’s general manager Tim Silva. But, he said, resort officials are reviewing the Master Plan, “and I’m sure we will look at things like a zip line. Whether we decide something like that fits remains to be seen.”