By OLIN GLENNE
I feel fortunate to run a business in Ketchum/Sun Valley and provide customers with the necessary outdoor gear and guided services to enjoy the legion of outdoor opportunities that surround us—hiking, biking, fishing, skiing and more, particularly in the Boulder-White Clouds.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the Boulder-White Clouds National Monument concept lately as numerous groups are jumping on board to support it. Sturtevants is a member of the Idaho Outdoor Business Council, and we, like many of the groups affiliated with the national Outdoor Alliance, feel that the monument is an opportunity that could help draw attention to the many world-class opportunities in the area.
One of those opportunities that is dear to my heart is mountain biking, particularly the day-long epic rides/trails such as Castle Divide, Ants Basin, Robinson Bar, Frog Lake, Germania and Bowery. These nationally unique—if not globally unique—mountain-biking experiences are low-impact outings through gorgeous big-mountain scenery and shimmering high-mountain streams and lakes. And, the user group consists overwhelmingly of people who want to preserve our natural areas such as the Boulder and White Cloud Mountains.
For local cyclists, these routes are cherished, and an important part of why many cyclists choose to live in the area. For the visiting cyclist, the rides are generally aspirational and rarely realized, however! Aspirational rides are a very important part of attracting visiting cyclists and marketing our challenged tourist-based economies. Local or visitor, these rides are self-limiting due to logistics, remoteness and difficulty and, therefore, will never even see moderate levels of cycling traffic.
Recently, the Idaho Outdoor Business Council released an economic study about the positive impacts that a Boulder-White Clouds National Monument would bring to our community and a four-county area in Central Idaho. The study forecasts a 10-33 percent increase in visitor spending, 47-155 new jobs and expanded economic output by $3.7-$12.3 million per year. The inclusion (or exclusion) of mountain biking in the monument would certainly play a large part in where those numbers truly fall.
The study also talks about a “second-paycheck” effect, in which the allure of people wanting to live close to the Boulder-White Clouds National Monument could help bring more professional business people to our communities. “Many are going to be those amenity-migrants who work in high-skill professions, whether that is business, law, technology or similar,” said economist Don Reading.
Of all the great recreation amenities in the Boulder-White Clouds, the mountain biking experience is the one thing that really stands out. The International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) lists the Castle Divide trail as part of its “Long Live Long Rides” campaign and lists it among the EPICS, a special honor for unique trails that mountain bikers truly respect and admire.
I could see business professionals wanting to move to Central Idaho to live closer to not only the White Clouds, but also the 400 miles of trails in the Wood River Valley, and
the classic rides in the greater Stanley area, not to mention the awesome outdoor activities available such as fly fishing, skiing, hiking and much more.
In my mind, a national monument offers much more management flexibility for the Boulder-White Clouds than a wilderness area because it could allow people to enjoy the existing mountain-biking opportunities and enhance our economy as a result. A monument allows the opportunity to redefine the low-impact user groups, tap the recreation potential of the area, while protecting (and hopefully enhancing) the ecological integrity of the resource.
If the proclamation for the Boulder-White Cloud National Monument is written with a modern vision for conservation, it’s the right way to go, and it strengthens our community for the future. Let’s work together in our communities to see that this happens. See more at www.idahooutdoorbusinesscouncil.org.
Olin Glenne is the managing partner, ski department buyer and guide for Sun Valley Mountain Guides and Sturtevants in Ketchum.