Friday, November 23, 2007

It?s not all downhill

Non-alpine activities are plentiful in the valley

Express Staff Writer

For those who don?t ski, ice skating at the Sun Valley Lodge is an excellent alternative for getting outdoors. Photo by Mountain Express

Many, many people moved here for the winter. And then, as the saying goes, stayed for the summer. Some of us, as much as we love to ski, did the opposite. For those people winter means being creative with one's free time. So, what do you do when skiing is not your thing?

In the Wood River Valley there are fortunately a myriad of activities.

If ice sounds nice, there are three places to skate each winter. At the Sun Valley Ice Rink (622-2194) one can rent skates, take lessons or just free skate. Professional skater and Olympic silver medallist Linda Fratianne heads a staff of skating professionals for group and private lessons. In Ketchum, Atkinson Park, next to the Hemingway Elementary School, is turned into a rink each winter. In Hailey, Roberta McKercher Park also has a similar temporary ice rink. At both locations there are skates available to borrow.

Maybe just watching is more your style. If that's the case check out our own men's senior elite hockey team, the Sun Valley Suns. The team's regular schedule will begin Friday, Dec. 14, at the Sun Valley Indoor Ice Rink. (788-5377). As well catch the action of the female teams: the Sunsets, the Fury and the Twisters.

Here's a little known fact: Idaho has more groomed snowmobile trails than any other Western state. Snowmobilers can take advantage of a vast network of groomed trails and thousands of acres of off-trail riding in the nearby Sawtooth Valley and Stanley Basin. There are also trails closer to Sun Valley up major drainages in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. About 40 miles north of Ketchum snowmobiles can be rented at Smiley Creek Lodge (877-774-3547) and further north in Stanley at Valley Creek Motel and RV (208-774-3606).

Of course, snowshoe and cross-country skiing possibilities are plentiful. The Sun Valley Nordic and Snowshoe Center (622-2250) maintains trails near the Sun Valley Resort, while the Blaine County Recreation District maintains the 35-mile North Valley Trail System. Trailheads include Lake Creek, just north of Ketchum, the 19-mile Harriman Trail and the North Fork Loop, both of which start at the Sawtooth National Recreation Area headquarters, eight miles north of Ketchum.

Quigley Nordic is a 6-mile trail system on the east side of Hailey, where cross-country group or private lessons for all ability levels are offered through the rec district. Mandatory trail passes are available for the season or day from the rec district (788-2117).

Galena Lodge rents equipment and also holds weekly tours and classes, as well as an all-inclusive private day tour with lunch, a guide, rental and pass.

Whether you make the hike to Galena or simply drive to this historic lodge, operated by the rec district, a visit should be required at least once during the season. During the winter months Galena Lodge has a cozy fire, fresh baked goods and hot drinks as well as lunch served daily. There are special-event dinners such as the monthly Full Moon Dinners.

One can also rent one of overnight yurts through Galena (726-4010), and Sun Valley Trekking (788-1966).

Besides Galena, the historic Trail Creek Cabin in Sun Valley is another fun dinner destination. Take a round-trip scenic sleigh ride from the Sun Valley Inn directly to Trail Creek Cabin. Reservations for dinner and the sleigh ride can be made through the Sun Valley Sports and Recreation Center (622-2135).

For swimming, try the indoor pools at Zenergy Health Club & Day Spa and the new Wood River Community YMCA. The Y also has an extensive climbing gym, exercise facilities and a Spirit Room for various types of mind/body work. Speaking of the more eastern arts—Pilates, Yoga, Tai Chi and various forms of martial arts—there are several places where one can find instruction, including the Gateway in Hailey (726-2959) Zenergy (725-0595) in Sun Valley and Innerflow (72602458) in Ketchum.

In Hailey, the (still being constructed) Club at Copper Ranch has three championship indoor tennis courts with ongoing leagues, lessons, and clinics available. Zenergy also has squash and tennis courts available to members and their guests. Other places to work out include High Altitude Fitness in Ketchum as well as Hailey locales: Curves, Paradise and the Blaine County Fitness Center.

Sore muscles from all this activity? Relax at Easley Hot Springs 12 miles north of Ketchum. The outdoor pool is open on Saturday and Sundays all winter (726-7522). Or head to a day spa. At Il Sogno, Tru, Jennifer's of Australia, Sun Valley Lodge and the health clubs there are various forms of massage therapy, facials, steam rooms and more.

Sports, of course are hardly the only thing going on in the valley. The mind needs to be exercised once in a while too. Hence, there are art galleries—and a monthly Gallery Walk—live theater, at both the Liberty Theatre in Hailey and the nextStage Theatre in Ketchum, as well as school productions, music in restaurants and other venues.

Less known are several museum-type spaces. Established in 1962, the Blaine County Historical Museum (788-1801) in Hailey is a quaint place from which to explore the Wood River Valley's (non-Sun Valley Resort) past.

The Ketchum Sun Valley Historical Society Heritage & Ski Museum, in Ketchum's Forest Service Park, displays exhibits on ski pioneers, mining, railroad, sheep ranching, as well as some archaeological finds connected to the Shoshone Indians (726-8118).

Even in winter it may be fruitful to take a gander at the Sawtooth Botanical Garden (726-9358) just south of Ketchum on Gimlet Road. There is a high-altitude/steppe zone botanical garden and an educational center with classes offered year round, as well as a Garden of Compassion featuring a huge custom-made Tibetan prayer wheel personally blessed in situ by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 2004.

Libraries make exceptional places to relax, hide and read on a cold or rainy day. Both the Community Library (726-3493) in Ketchum and the Hailey Public Library (788-2036) have children's sections, commodious reading areas and feature regional history information. The Community Library also offers regular book readings and signings and events such the annual gala, Our Movable Feast, in March.

Along with the many art galleries in the valley, the Sun Valley Center for the Arts (726-9491) hosts public events, art classes for children and adults and a gallery with multimedia exhibition. The center also has a location in Hailey where a new barn was built to specifically cater to art classes. This winter look for the multimedia exhibition, Trabajo Mexicano/Mexican Work, which will open Dec. 14.

Dancers take note. The valley is full of free-wheeling, music-centric folks like you. On any given week you can find Tango at the Golden Elk in Hailey, classes through Footlight Dancer Centre and visiting instructors. As well, through the winter there are special-event performances such the Sun Valley Ballet School's original version of "The Little Mermaid," Dec. 7 through 9, and the Boise-based Ballet Idaho's performance of "The Nutcracker," which will feature some 40 Wood River Valley children at the Community Campus Theatre on Dec. 11.

Offering another kind of indoor diversion is Boulder Mountain Clayworks (726-4484) in Ketchum. The studio has 12 wheels, plenty of room for handbuilding and a large kiln. Clayworks offers classes for children and adults and often brings in special clay artists for workshops.

If that all sounds a bit high-falutin', consider one of America's favorite indoor activities: bowling. One of the Pacific Northwest's oldest bowling alleys happens to be in the Sun Valley Lodge (622-2191). It features six bowling lanes, video games, a snack bar and pool table. In Bellevue a bigger bowling alley, Mountain Sun Lanes, (788-2360), is home to men's and women's leagues, lots of high-energy action and a snack and drinks bar.

So if you find yourself worn out or simply not willing to take on the speed and action on Bald Mountain, consider the expansive offerings available in the valley. It's all just icing on the cake of life, folks.

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