Skiing With The Sun Valley Gals

Sun Valley Gals, Yours truly and Sharon LaVigne on top of Bald Mountain, elevation 9,150 feet. There was plenty of Sunshine, blue sky and snow for us. A run from the summit to the base at River Run drops 2,400 feet. This year Sun Valley is experiencing record breaking snow depth!

 

by Amy Patenaude
Outdoor/Ski Writer

Sharon and I bought the Mountain Collective Pass last March. We went to Whistler, British Columbia, Canada the second week of December. We also made a day trip to Stowe, Vermont a few weeks later. By using our pass for these ski trips we received more value than if we had purchased lift tickets and every outing after that would be a bigger bonus.
The Mountain Collective Pass provides two day lift tickets at 24 resorts and since we signed up early we were given a bonus day (we used it at Whistler).
Charlie’s brother Billy lives in Sun Valley. Billy told us he has not seen this much snow in all the 30 plus years he has called Sun Valley his home.

Our outdoor/ski columnist Amy Patenaude poses with “the only celebrity we met at River Run Lodge. Do you think he really worked at Clark’s Trading Post?” River Run is in Sun Valley in Idaho where Amy went on her latest skiing adventure.

Sun Valley is part of the Mountain Collective.
My friend Sharon is a snow bird and leaves our beloved New Hampshire for the sunny golf courses and beaches of Florida. Sharon is an awesome skier and loves to ski. In her college days she was a ski instructor at the upside down mountain King Ridge (now a Lost NH skier area in New London).
Sharon had never skied Sun Valley. After Billy’s intel we got a good idea!
Sharon and I both were game to go and talking Charlie into coming along was easy. We met at the Avis car rental at the Salt Lake City airport and we were on our way by 11:30 in the morning.
The drive from Salt Lake was 5 hours. We lucked out with good weather and the posted 80 mph speed limit seemed rather reasonable with the straight pavement ahead of us as far as our eye could see.
As we entered Ketchum we could see Baldy’s slopes rising up from the River Run base. The snow banks were high and it snowed the day before we arrived.
Sharon stayed at the iconic Sun Valley Lodge and Charlie and I stayed with his brother a few miles away. We went out for a light supper but Billy wasn’t able to join us because he was busy with his new job as an Uber driver.
In the morning Charlie drove and dropped us off at the River Run base lodge. The lodge is absolutely magnificent with large log beams, wide open spaces and large crystal chandeliers that hang from the high ceilings. The staff is courteous and attentive—in fact when we asked an employee where the bathrooms were she insisted to show us the way. Even the wood panel door cubbies to store our boot bags were lovely.

 

Sharon on Bald Mountain’s summit ridge heading towards the bowls. Wide open snow filled bowls with some nice open tree skiing down lower made for some dreamy skiing

Lift tickets at Sun Valley are over a hundred dollars a day if you buy them at the window. Yikes! Happily we were armed with our Mountain Collective Pass!
We hit the snow big time at Whistler. On our day at Stowe we arrived to find 3 to 5 inches of sneaky snow—snow that was not predicted in the weather forecast. Now, at Sun Valley we hit the jackpot again! The snow was fresh and the skies were blue and we were the luckiest skiers in the world.
The high temperature for both days was 15 degrees. The snowstorm delayed some flights at the airport, the locals thought it was cold and we were skiing mid-week—a perfect storm for no lift lines and near empty trails
We were among the first in line to ride the Roundhouse Gondola and then we slipped onto the Christmas high-speed quad to the summit. On top of Bald Mountain, elevation 9,150 feet, we had a big panorama including the snow capped sharp Saw Tooth Mountains.

Yours truly popping out of Lefty Bowl. Sun Valley rarely has lift lines and there is so much terrain often I was the only one on the slope I was skiing.

We took a warm-up run on College, a long groomed run all the way back to the River Run Lodge, a 3,400 foot vertical drop. The squeaky snow made for soft turning fun.
For two days the snow stayed soft, the temperature stayed cold and the sun shined on us.
We had great days together on the slopes and in the bowls. On Seattle Ridge we skied Gretchen’s Gold, Muffy’s Medals and Christine’s Silver. Off the top of Bald Mountain’s ridge we skied Kaitlyn’s Bowl and near Warm Springs we skied Picabo’s Street. Yes, all these trails are named after the resort’s own Olympic Medalists.
Each of the lodges offer different food. We learned this too late to plan our meals. I did eat a giant Idaho baked potato with all the fixings and Sharon had a super deli sandwich on top of Seattle Ridge. While having coffee at the summit Lookout Lodge we took note that this little lodge specialized in Mexican Food.

The Roundhouse is perched high up on Bald Mountain with a grand view of Ketchum and Sun Valley. Since 1939 guests have been enjoying the view along with fine dining and good libations. Here we are with a couple of members of the Ancient Skiers, a group of skiers from the Seattle area, they were kind to share their table with us. Skiers and Non-skiers can take the gondola to reach the Roundhouse.

The skiing could not have been better and the miles and miles of trails and bowls are so much that it wasn’t possible for us to find and ski every trail. But we did try!
The long continuous Warms Springs Trail has to be one of the best trails top to bottom and then we found the steeper Limelight!
Meanwhile, Charlie was having fun on the cross country ski trails. He skied the Wood River Trail along the Wood River from Ketchum to Hailey and back. He also spent a day up at Galena Lodge. We were a couple weeks too early to race in the Boulder Mountain Tour—a XC ski race from Galena Lodge to Ketchum.
Two days passed too quickly. But we made the most of it and were too tired to ski more, almost making it until the lifts closed both days.
Apres ski we swam in the outdoor heated 102 degree swimming pool at the Sun Valley Lodge, went window shopping and had supper at some nice downtown Ketchum restaurants.

Sharon, Billy and Charlie enjoy 2,2,2 for breakfast–2 eggs, 2 French toast and 2 sausages at the Kneadery in Ketchum. We worked up an appetite skiing but it was too much.

Our second night Billy took us to the most popular restaurant on Main Street, The Pioneer Saloon. Decorated with stuffed local game trophies, old firearms and a long ago prospector’s fur coat this place is the real deal western saloon. The prime rib is famous.
On our last morning we all enjoyed a big breakfast at the Kneadery, which claims to feature the finest in Rocky Mountain rustic home style cooking. Sharon, Charlie and I all ordered the 2, 2, 2—two eggs, two French toast and two sausages. Good thing Billy showed up late since our breakfasts were also Too-much. Billy asked for an empty plate and we easily filled it for him. Charlie confessed with a big smile on his face that he had eaten breakfast here the previous two days.
The ride back to Salt Lake was uneventful and went by rather quickly since we all had great stories to tell.
Onwards to Alta and Snowbird to use two more days of our ski pass! Yes we did and we sure had fun hitting the jackpot again.
How’d we do it? We flew out early on Tuesday morning from Boston and returned the red-eye on Sunday night and made it back to work before 10 am on Monday. We missed 4 days of work total and I didn’t miss a night of ski racing at Pats Peak.
Have Fun.

Amy Patenaude is an avid skier/outdoor enthusiast from Henniker, N.H. Readers are welcome to send comments or suggestions to her at: amy@weirs.com.