If you don’t know the coach for the US Olympic Halfpipe Rookie Team, Ben Verge, it’s really no surprise. He for the most part has lived a skiing career in Idaho off the beaten path or radar of anybody looking for someone like Ben. Although he may have graced the pages of a few magazines over the years, his story is like that of many other skiers that chose where they want to ski over the best place for a ski career. Ben is one of those guys that likely stood a good chance of being a professional, but that just wasn’t his goal. The guy lives it. He skis every day despite conditions, and when they are unfavorable, chances are he knows every tree to bonk, every roller to butter, and every obscure stupid hit to have fun off of, and he will. In turn, if you are skiing with him, so will you. With parks and pipes spoiling freestyle skiers, it’s hard to find people with that much instilled creativity and the ability to make the best of any condition. Honestly, Ben does, and it wasn’t until years after being washed up as a ski bum construction worker he would finally find his professional career – as a Coach.
It’s the budding of spring and you can feel Sun Valley kickstarting back to life, switching gears, and you can almost hear the creative juices flowing. It’s not just the longer days and warmer temps, though. Within the heart of the valley a new bud is sprouting–the Sun Valley Film Festival: an extra long weekend of film, live music, seminars, and workshops which welcomes attendees in our customary fashion.
One way to get a spectacular view of Sun Valley and the surrounding mountains is to hike or ride the lifts to the top of Baldy. But an even better way, as we found out, is to run off the top of the mountain with another person strapped to your back as a big beautiful glider rises over your head and takes you soaring out over the valley.
Since most people still kicking today in Sun Valley can recall, the Kindercup has played a vital role in the ski and snowboard community. Each March every little grom who has been ripping around the hill all winter gets geared up for the “Big Race”. The valley comes out to enjoy a warm spring day and see what their little future Olympians are made of. It’s that one time each season that the dads actually take a few minutes to sharpen the edges and smear some wax on the skis which have bounced around in the back of the truck like cordwood all winter. Moms nervously skitter about trying to talk their kid into putting on the race bib, hoping little Jonny has brought his A-game.
Twenty-three miles north of Sun Valley, tucked at the base of Galena Summit and nestled beneath the Boulder Mountains, sits a snow seeker’s manna. Constructed during the 1960s using vestiges of the property’s nineteenth-century mining colony, the Galena Lodge is a valley favorite for those wishing to escape “the big town” for a day of peace, beauty, and scrumptious food.
While the Sun Valley Resort is well-known for its immaculately groomed runs and glitzy Hollywood skiing history, a lesser-known aspect of the area is the limitless access to backcountry skiing in the surrounding mountain ranges. As forecasted, clouds built on Saturday evening. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset on the White Cloud Peaks before preparing for the “40% chance of a trace.” After Sun Valley’s establishment in 1936, the burgeoning ski-school quickly developed a “ski-touring” arm to offer guests access to this winter wonderland of ski-terrain. Backcountry cabins were erected at the foot of the Pioneers Mountains (aka The Pio Cabin) and up Owl Creek in the Smoky Mountains to serve as base-camps for guided ski trips with resort guests. Today, two guide-services maintain backcountry huts and Mongolian style yurts nestled deep in the local mountain ranges. They offer both guided and non-guided groups a comfortable base camp from which to explore the backcountry ski terrain. The group breaks a fresh trail into the Marshall Lakes Basin, just an hour and a half from the yurt. We recently enjoyed a long Presidents Day weekend at the Williams Peak Yurt in the Sawtooth Mountains. (operated by Sawtooth Mountain Guides) We …