Sawtooth Area

[Image: Cross-country skiiers on Little Redfish Lake]

Cross-country skiiers on Little Redfish Lake

Another stunning winter location is found in the heart of Idaho. It’s the inspiring Sawtooth Valley where snowcapped peaks jut into chilly skies and the Salmon River struggles through the deep drifts of the season.

The Sawtooth Mountains are a grand winter destination. But you won’t be able to ride a snowmobile into these mountains because much of the range is part of the Sawtooth Wilderness area. Most travelers here use cross country skis or snow shoes.

Sun Valley Trekking operates several yurts in the area. One of the closest to the Sawtooth Valley is the Fishhook Creek yurt not far from Redfish Lake. To get to the Mongolian-style shelter you can either ski or snowshoe across Little Redfish Lake and then follow Fishhook Creek a few miles to the yurt. The scenery along the way is stunning but solitude is another reward for taking on the challenge of a winter journey into the Sawtooths.

[Image: Skiiers arriving at a yurt in the Sawtooths]

Skiiers arriving at a yurt in the Sawtooths

“The best thing about the Sawtooths in the winter as opposed to the summer is, not only do you have the incredible rare beauty that you have any time of the year, but you have it all to yourself. Nobody is out here in the winter time so it’s a really great way for people to get out and kind of escape the fast paced lives they are living in town and to leave the city and their home and get out with their families and friends. It’s just a great way to make memories with people.” --Francie St. Onge, owner Sun Valley Trekking

Having a refuge in the midst of the wild grandeur of the Sawtooth Mountains is one of the big attractions of a yurt trip. In a yurt you can get away from it all in relative comfort. In most yurts you’ll find a kitchen with utensils, a big table, beds and wood stove to keep you warm.

“The yurt is an ancient structure that was invented on the steppes of Mongolia over a thousand years ago by the nomadic people who would herd their sheep and goats around. It’s just a great structure because they are easily dismantled and easily put back up. It’s like a giant accordion that you stretch out and pull around into a circle, there’s a cable around the top that the rafters sit on for the cone-shaped roof and most of the yurts these days have a nice sky light on the top so you can see the stars and the moon light. They are really comfortable and in the winter time the snow gets so
[Image: Vintage Sun Valley photo of skiier exiting a chairlift]

Vintage Sun Valley photo of skiier exiting a chairlift

deep around the yurts that it provides great insulation and that helps to keep it warm and comfortable for people. It makes the winter backcountry accessible to people. You don’t have to carry a tent, you don’t have to carry your stoves and pots and pans and sleeping pads and all that stuff. Winter is six months long here in Idaho so a lot of people want to get out and enjoy nature and just be out in the wilderness and the mountains and the yurts just make it accessible to people who don’t want to winter camp and who want to have a longer term experience, really getting away from it all. --Francie St. Onge, owner Sun Valley Trekking

Just south of the solitude of the Sawtooths, is the bustling resort area of Sun Valley. While much of Sun Valley looks impressively new, the area boasts some notable history. It was the first destination ski resort in the entire country, beginning operations in 1936. And it was Sun Valley that invented the chair lift. The first two chair lifts in the world were constructed here and in 1939 of the ten chair lifts in the world five were at Sun Valley. The resort also claims the country’s first ski school. It started when six Austrians came to the resort in 1936 to teach people how to ski on Dollar Mountain. Today many beginners still learn how to ski on the mountain.

[Image: View from the top of Mt. Baldy]

View from the top of Mt. Baldy

“Originally the first mountain was Dollar Mountain, which is a treeless mountain at 685 vertical feet. It’s not a huge mountain but it’s a wonderful teaching facility, a teaching mountain to learn how to ski or nowadays you can learn how to snow board. But in 1939 we moved some lifts over to Bald Mountain across the valley; across the river and it is one of the best ski mountains in the world in terms of variety of terrain. It’s the only mountain I know that you get over 3,000 vertical feet of pitch with a constant pitch all the way down. We have bump runs; we’ve got glade skiing runs, tree runs, all kinds of different variety on Bald Mountain. It doesn’t have a lot of beginner terrain. If you are an intermediate or above skier you really enjoy skiing on Bald Mountain. --Jack Sibbach, Sun Valley Resort

In all there are 78 runs at Sun Valley on over 2,000 acres, making it the largest ski resort in Idaho. And when you get to the top of the 9100 foot Bald Mountain the views are fantastic.

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