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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of February 13 - 19, 2002


Ski Baldy with a ranger

Learn Sun Valley’s history,
geography, geology

Express Staff Writer

If you have a hankering for history, trivia or simply a desire to be more aware of your surroundings, you could join the ranks of hundreds who have learned more about the Sun Valley area while skiing with a U.S. Forest Service ranger from Bald Mountain’s lofty summit.

From the top of Bald Mountain the history, geography and geology of the Big Wood Valley and surrounding region is laid out for all to see. Express photo by Willy Cook

Every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., a Forest Service ranger meets interested guests at a sign near Sun Valley’s Lookout Restaurant. The tour lasts a pleasant hour while skiing the mountain’s easiest ski run and making three stops for the ranger to give his talk. Topics covered include a wealth of interesting information about local history, geography, geology, Sun Valley expansion plans and local public lands.

"It was great," said Minneapolis visitor Dave Hutchinson. "This is my first time to Sun Valley, and this tour was great. I like history and learning about these places."

Hutchinson joined Sawtooth National Forest Ranger Chuck Lovely, while his wife took afternoon ski lessons. Lovely, a relatively new Wood River Valley resident, demonstrated an impressive grasp of local history and trivia.

As he began the tour from more than 9,000 feet above sea level, he said between three and 20 people usually join himself or other rangers for the tours.

He began by showing off Baldy’s impressive views.

"If you look to the south, you can see the Albion, Sublett and Bannock mountains," Lovely explained.

The Albion Mountains and Sublett Range are on the Idaho-Utah border, and the Bannock Mountains are near Pocatello. Ranger Lovely explained the names, not only of far off ranges, but of all of the surrounding mountains. He added some smidgens about the mountains’ geologic formation, too.

"Now you can impress your friends and families," Lovely said.

The information didn’t slow down there.

At the first stop, near the top of Upper River Run, Lovely explained much of Sun Valley’s early history, using the vast and varied geography around him to illustrate the story.

A man named David Ketchum built the northern valley’s first structure along Trail Creek and, though he did not stay long, the city was ultimately named for him, Lovely pointed out.

By 1884, Ketchum had 13 saloons and the town was booming as a result of mining, Lovely said. But by 1894 about 90 percent of the population left. In the early 1900s, sheep ranching took over the valley as its predominate industry. Ketchum shipped more sheep than anywhere in the world, except Sydney, Australia.

In 1936, skiing entered the scene when the Union Pacific Railroad and its president, Averell Harriman, opened Sun Valley lodge in December of that year.

But to offer a blow-by-blow of the entire tour would defeat the purpose of this article.

Grab your skis or snowboard and head to Baldy on a Tuesday or Thursday, and join a ranger for a free walk through Sun Valley’s past and present.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.