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What We're Made Of, Winter

What We’re Made Of: Sawtooth Mountain Guides and Sun Valley Mountain Huts

All manner of people have explored the Idaho wilderness, for as long as it’s been there, but two companies, Sawtooth Mountain Guides and Sun Valley Mountain Huts, are two of the longest-running backcountry businesses in the Wood River Valley. An accredited mountain guide service, Sawtooth Mountain Guides (SMG) has been around for over 30 years, providing summer and winter backcountry guiding services. Sun Valley Mountain Huts (SVMH), formerly known as Sun Valley Trekking, owns some of the country’s oldest and most diverse backcountry hut system, with six huts in five Idaho mountain ranges. Sawtooth Mountain Guides The History Founded in 1985, Sawtooth Mountain Guides is the brainchild of outdoor enthusiast Kirk Bachman, who began exploring local ski and climbing terrain in the area in the early ’70s. When Kirk started SMG in the mid-’80s, it was primarily as a climbing guide service, though he soon added ski guiding on to the company and also built and established some of the first North American yurts as backcountry ski huts in the Sawtooths. This included the Williams Peak Hut, which the company established in 1988 as a winter base for local at-risk youth programs and continues to operate today for both guided …

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Biking, What We're Made Of

What We’re Made Of: Wild Rye and Club Ride

Many outdoor brands have their origins in the Wood River Valley; the easy access to the outdoors in so many ways (biking, hiking, skiing) gets the creative juices flowing in terms of how to improve on those sports—and then gives you a big playground to test out those improvements. Outdoor apparel companies Wild Rye and Club Ride are no different, with both company’s founders being outdoor aficionados in the Wood River Valley who found themselves staring down a gap in their respective markets; for Wild Rye, that gap was an outdoor brand exclusively for women. For Club Ride, that gap was casual bike clothes that could be worn from the bike to the bar. Read on to learn the origin stories of these two local companies, who are helping maintain Ketchum’s status quo as an incubator for innovation. Wild Rye Wild Rye’s founder, Cassie Abel, has lived in and out of Ketchum since she was eight years old, but coming back full-time in 2012. Prior to launching her women-focused outdoor brand, Cassie worked in-house at Smith, learning all about the outdoor industry, its marketing—and its distinct lack of focus on women. “We were starting to see all these cool brands …

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What We're Made Of

What We’re Made Of: Chums

Referring to your eyewear retainer simply as “Chums,” like you might call tissue “Kleenex”shows just how much this global brand dominates its market. With humble origins that can betraced back to a guide on the Colorado River in southern Utah, Chums is celebrating its 40thanniversary this year. Chums came to Ketchum in 2002 after local Chuck Ferries purchased thecompany along with his son, Tom, and son-in-law, Mike Neary. Many of the company’sproducts are still made in the original Hurricane, Utah, facility and five employees hold downsales and marketing in Ketchum. How it Started In 1983 Mike Taggett was a dory boat guide on the Colorado River. Tired of seeing his clientslose their sunglasses to the water, he came up with the idea for what is now the Original Chumseyewear retainer, producing the first batch on a $60 sewing machine out of the back of his VWvan. Named for Mike’s yellow lab, Chumley, Chums has always been about those who feelcalled to the water: guides, river rats, dirtbags, anglers. As demand grew, Chums began mass-producing its retainers and selling to retailers nationwide, though the Original cotton eyewearretainer is still the company’s best-selling product (and is still made in the original facility …

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Innovation, What We're Made Of

What We’re Made Of: Sun Valley Bronze

When it comes to locally made hardware in the Wood River Valley, Sun Valley Bronze has you covered. This long-standing institution in the valley is an inspiration. Get to know them in this edition of, “What We’re Made Of.” Sun Valley Bronze What has now become a 30-plus-year institution in the Wood River Valley once had very humble beginnings, with founder Bob Commons starting Sun Valley Bronze (SVB) in his garage. Back in 1992, Bob was working in construction, building the high-end homes so ubiquitous in the area, while his wife, Debbie, drafted architectural plans. Frustrated by the lack of luxury hardware available for the jobs he was working on, and with 15 years of thoughts of starting his own business, Bob began experimenting with the casting process using old foundry equipment he purchased from the local high school shop department. Since then, the company has evolved into an internationally sold brand used by some of the top architects and designers in the world. What was once created in a garage is now operated out of a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility that utilizes robotics, CNC machines for patterning and machining, and 3D printing for prototyping. The luxury architectural hardware created by …

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Innovation, What We're Made Of

What We’re Made Of: Rocky Mountain Hardware

With a unique origin story and process for creating hardware, Rocky Mountain Hardware is a staple in the Sun Valley business scene. Get to know Rocky Mountain Hardware, from accessories and custom pieces to creating a life in the valley. Rocky Mountain Hardware Back in 1994, there weren’t many options for local hardware in the Wood River Valley. Mark Nickum ran a local door and window company in the Valley at the time and found he kept getting requests from clients looking for hardware for the doors and windows he was selling. Though there were a few options, there weren’t many. Luckily for Rocky Mountain Hardware, Mark decided to capitalize on this gap in the market and began messing around with metals on his own to create hardware for the doors and windows he sold. He landed on bronze as a high-quality metal and started working with a local friend at a foundry to create unique designs. As Mark received more and more requests, he realized he had something good going here and formed, along with his wife Patsy, Rocky Mountain Hardware (RMH). Next year will be RMH’s 30th anniversary, and while their offerings and operations have grown over the …

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Innovation, Skiing & Snowboarding, What We're Made Of

What We’re Made Of: Reflex Ski Poles

The epic skiing and snowboarding available in the Sun Valley area has inspired entrepreneurs in the area for decades, from the founding of Scott USA in 1958 to Smith Optics in 1965 to more modern brands like Wolf Ski, 5B Ski Factory, Mountain Approach, and Research Design Skis. Originally founded in 1979, Reflex Ski Poles has had a resurgence after the brand was reborn in 2020, helping to fill the void left by so many of these iconic Sun Valley brands either leaving the area or shutting down altogether. Reflex has taken the passion of the rowdy, local ski community and channeled it into making the best ski pole in the industry, in what they refer to as “the OG ski town for OG skiers.” The Beginning: 1979 The origins of Reflex lie in another Sun Valley-based company, Scott USA. It’s no surprise that Gus Verge, a Scott USA employee in charge of pole manufacturing, would find himself thinking about how to improve the ski pole. Though Scott USA founder Ed Scott invented the first aluminum ski pole and vastly changed the market, Verge saw a hole in the market for a ski pole that performed better and outlasted all others. He promptly left Scott and along with friends and …

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Fly Fishing, What We're Made Of

What We’re Made Of: Waterworks- Lamson

While some companies, like Smith, or Scott, are considered shining examples of entrepreneurs and brands coming out of the Sun Valley area, Waterworks-Lamson has been in business in the area (and beyond) close to 20 years. Created originally as a way to simply release fly-caught fish better, Waterworks-Lamson is now sold worldwide and has developed many more reels and rods than their original Ketchum Release tool innovated in its namesake town. How It Started The company that would become Lamson, and later Waterworks-Lamson, was started in 1996 by brothers Michael and Ryan Harrison and Michael’s brother-in-law, Mark Farris. The trio had moved to Ketchum in 1989 and were designing bike technology in the world of high-performance cycling, creating and patenting cutting-edge components like frame designs and mountain bike suspension systems. As outdoorsmen who loved skiing, biking, and fishing, Ketchum seemed the perfect place to live and test out bikes and, later, fly-fishing gear. The three men were avid fisherman who found themselves frustrated with the hemostat, the go-to at the time for releasing fly-caught fish, for the harm it caused the fish and the fly. With their product design background, they came up with a solution, an innovative tool that …

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Innovation, What We're Made Of

What We’re Made Of: DECKED

Local company DECKED has created a product that appeals to many of the kinds of people who call Ketchum home: outdoors people, tradesmen/contractors, and just about anyone who drives a truck. It was while innovating a way to organize a truck bed that DECKED founders, Jake Peters and Lance Meller, came up with the idea for DECKED’s drawer system, tapping into the market of truck accessories that few had or have since. In its almost ten years as a company, DECKED has grown from a small-footprint, servicing mom and pop accessory stores, to a multi-national company available directly from manufacturers like Ford and Chevrolet distributed into 27 countries on six continents. The Origin Story Like the origin of so many products, DECKED’s drawer system was the result of necessity. Ketchum local Lance Meller was a snowboard rep and pickup truck owner who built his own plywood drawer system for the bed of his truck, which allowed him to sleep in it while on the road while also storing his snowboard samples. After getting a new truck, Meller realized he would have to build another system from scratch, with no real roadmap for doing so. He partnered with DECKED founder, Jake …

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Skiing & Snowboarding, What We're Made Of

Racing ’round the World with Local Haley Cutler

Haley Cutler is making a name for herself, not only here in the Wood River Valley but also in the skiing world. At 25, Cutler has jumped back into racing and is competing around the world, from placing 1st in Giant Slalom in Jackson to traveling across Europe for the Europa Cup in the Super G discipline. However, racing isn’t anything new for her. Starting as a young skier, Cutler was a part of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF), went on to ski collegially at both University of New Mexico and Montana State University, and then became a coach for SVSEF.

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Skiing & Snowboarding, What We're Made Of, Winter

Sun Valley’s Next Generation of Skiers and Boarders

It would be hard for the town of Sun Valley, Idaho, not to be mentioned when talking about professional and Olympic skiers and snowboarders; the town is practically synonymous with greatness. With Bald Mountain as their training ground, ski greats from Picabo Street to Gretchen Fraser back in the day to more recent pros like McKenna Peterson, Wing Tai Barrymore, Lexi DuPont, Banks Gilberti, Colin Collins, Karl Fostvedt, Lucy Sackbauer have added to the legacy of the place. And snowboarders too—did you know there’s never been a U.S. Olympic snowboard team without a member from Sun Valley? Repping the boarders are Olympians Chase Josey, Kaitlyn Farrington, Graham Watanabe and a whole lot of other pros and amazing riders. The time has come for some of those same skiers and boarders to pass the torch to the next generation, which promises to bring it just as hard, race just as fast, jump just as high, and continue to put Sun Valley on the map for winter athletes. The Rafford’s “For me, skiing on Bald Mountain was a privilege that took me years to appreciate.” Toby Rafford Starting out the list of the new generation are brother and sister duo Addison (Addie) and Toby Rafford, both of whom are …