Just when you think your Idaho vacation can’t get any better, it does. October in Sun Valley ushers in a mild chill as the vibrant colors of fall make themselves heard. Yes, you might get a few snowflakes …but, locals will tell you, hands down, that October is undeniably one of the best months to spend in Sun Valley, Idaho.

For the most part, high tourist season is over, and the town is relatively quiet. Even so, there is still much to hike, fish, do and see. October in Sun Valley brings two prominent festivals front and center. Whether the plan is to tap your feet to the boogie-woogie of the  Sun Valley Jazz Festival or to take part in the unique experience of the internationally recognized Trailing of the Sheep Festival, make sure to leave time for strolling through town, listening to live music, catching a movie, enjoying a warm afternoon hike, or taking a bike ride on the Wood River Trail system.  Wait – did we mention – and then skip over – Trailing of the Sheep? Of course, we did! Let’s fix that!

October’s annual Trailing of the Sheep Festival in the Wood River Valley is a 5-day celebration of the area’s rich, cultural history. With events and activities held throughout the Wood River Valley, the festival has been attracting and entertaining folks from around the world for over 20 years. It’s historical, cultural and educational. It’s interactive, creative, and tasty. It’s so extraordinary that it has been called “One of the Top 10 Fall Festivals in the World” by MSN Travel and has been included in USA Today’s coverage of “10 Best Fall Festivals in America”. It is so unique you will want to return year after year. But, wait…. sheep? Really? Why celebrate sheep?

Here is what we know….

Sheepherding is a large part of the Wood River Valley’s history. And, as a matter of fact, in 1860, the headcount for sheep in the Wood River Valley was about 14,000. As the population grew from mining, the role of sheep within the local economy became even more significant. With our harsh Idaho winters and limited access to this part of the country, you can imagine sheep were as an essential source of both food and warmth.

The industry thrived, and our Wood River Valley sheepherders supplied their wares to other areas. With the sheep count of 1890 at 614,000 increasing to 2.65 million head by 1918, it’s simple math that recognized Ketchum as second only to Sydney, Australia when it came to sheep.  We know – that’s impressive for a little Idaho mountain town in the middle of nowhere!

Wait, there is more….

Back in Ketchum’s early days, folks came from around the world planting roots in the Wood River Valley while pouring blood, sweat, and tears into sheepherding. Let’s do some namedropping. There were the Lanes, the Laidlaws, the Thomas family and, of course, the Peavys. In the mid-1850s, a Basque community made their way to Idaho. There were the Cenarrusas, the Etcheverrys, the Guerrysand, the Oxarangos, and many others. Time and life went on in what many called sheep country. It was a good life.

Much to the chagrin of the ranchers and sheepherders, the secret of the beauty and lifestyle of Sun Valley, Idaho was revealed. Development crept in as city folk moved into town. By the mid 1900s, many large land parcels were being sold off.  Hemingway arrived with his cronies as did trainloads of Hollywood celebrities, top business executives and politicians. Skiable terrain was developed, and lifts were built.  Life in Sun Valley, Idaho was changing with the rise of tourism, and an influx of newcomers.

To honor the old days and old ways, a plan was hatched for the first Trailing of the Sheep Festival in 1997. Designed to educate the newcomers of our rich shepherding and ranching history and cultural heritage, the Trailing of the Sheep Festival has been a favorite for years.

The 2018 Trailing of the Sheep Festival runs October 10-14th and includes events and activities for your whole family. Throughout the whole weekend, you’ll discover Sheep Tales Storytelling, multiple Farm to Table Dinners, and a unique local Sheepherders and Ranchers Q and A at the Community Library. There are on-going demonstrations of life in the old days, as well as films and documentaries specific to the festival. You can test your culinary skills with Cooking with Lamb classes. And, creative types can challenge themselves with a variety of Wool Fest classes. The opportunity to explore and discover is endless.

However, where do you start?  Friday evening kicks off with For the Love of Lamb, which is a must do and taste!  Local Ketchum restaurants offer their individual spin on hand-crafted, culinary delights or lamb bites to passersby in celebration of the weekend. It’s fun! It’s tasty! And, at just $20 per “passport”, it’s a lamb lover’s dream come true. If you don’t get enough to eat, the town’s restaurants will please your palate even more with their own special lamb inspired dishes spiced perfectly for this time of year. Can’t you taste the garlic and oregano?

Not to be missed on Saturday, is the incredible Sheep Folklife Fair at Roberta McKercher Park in Hailey, Idaho. Known as Lamb Fest, you’ll discover an abundance of activities, demonstrations, artists, and delicious foods inspired by our local heritage. Watch, listen and learn from the cultural music and Basque dancers performing in traditional dress. There are more wool classes and demonstrations including how to use a spindle!  There is a kid’s craft tent under the direction of our local 4H groups. There are wool and leather artists. Learn about felting and the many uses of wool. There is more storytelling about sheep and wool, and even a Make It with Wool Contest. There are Sheepdog Trials and Demonstrations, Sheep Shearing Exhibitions, and even authentic sheepherders’ wagons. Saturday finishes off with “Sheep Jam” featuring cocktails, a buffet dinner, and entertainment at Whiskey Jacques in Ketchum.

Sunday wraps up the weekend with a Sheep photography outing, and the cream of the crop (or flock), The Big Sheep Parade and Picnic. What’s that? So glad you have asked! Imagine, 1500 sheep making their way south down Main Street through Ketchum.  Yup! This is our version of an Idaho traffic jam! For an even more affect, the Big Sheep Parade is led by descendants of local sheepherding families. Before and after the parade, make your way to Ketchum Town Square for the Happy Trails Festival Closing Party, a free event with food, drinks and music.

Participating in Trailing of the Sheep always gives us a deeper appreciation of how the Wood River Valley was conquered and how it should be valued. We love our Idaho and want to share its unique qualities with visitors. Whether passing through or staying a while, we invite you to enjoy what the Gem State offers.  Take a moment to imagine yourself living in the 1850s. You’ll be impressed and grateful for the settlers of yesteryear. And, your family will have a fantastic time!

This winter has turned out to be one of the longest and snowiest yet. And as the snow starts to melt, and the temps start to get just a little bit warmer, the starting signs of spring are becoming welcome sights to the eyes of all Sun Valley citizens. For me, spring is my favorite time of the year. High School tennis starts, my birthday comes around, and every once and while there are those cozy and decadent rainy days where all you want to do is curl up inside next to the fire with a good book, or you’re favorite new series on Netflix. Plus, I mean, who doesn’t love everyone’s favorite holiday, Easter! Nothing means the coming of spring other than the bright colors and candy filled eggs of the Easter holiday. And, there is no better place in the whole world to celebrate Easter than the scenic Sun Valley, Idaho.

On Friday, April 14, various shops/ restraunts in the Sun Valley Village will hold Easter celebration events for the whole family. These include easter egg hunts around the village, train rides for all the children, and a very special visit from the Easter Bunny himself! On Easter itself, there is no better place to get a famous Easter Brunch than from the delicious, Austrian/German inspired Konditorei. The Sun Valley clubhouse will also be serving a delicious Easter brunch buffet. Some of the options will include Eggs Benedict, Brioche French Toast, Lox and Bagels, and my personal favorite, personalized omelet stations. The Konditorei will also be serving some delicious pastries to go along with all of the Easter fun! Plus, Easter Sunday marks the last day on Bald Mountain, and its famous end of the year celebration. Live bands will be playing at the Warm Springs Lodge, so that the skiers can enjoy their last day on the slopes.

Have a wonderful Easter celebration!

One of my earliest memories was that of attending a Sun Valley Suns Hockey Game. Bundled up in my snow pants and massive ski coat, sipping hot chocolate covered in a mountain of whip cream, watching the players skate by at speeds that do not seem humanly possible. The only bad part was that the rink always smelt like sweat, but that just added to the experience.

The Sun Valley Suns hockey team is one of the top attractions of our little valley. When the Suns play, the entire community shows up to cheer on their beloved semi-pro organization. In 1975, George Gund III, the father of Sun Valley Hockey, built the Sun Valley Ice Arena. From this historic building stemmed one of the longest standing semiprofessional hockey teams in all of North America. The Suns don’t only play in Sun Valley. They travel around the entire world to compete in places such as Japan and Europe. These teams come to our home arena as well. Even The USA Olympic Hockey Team has graced our humble stadium with their presence. Former NHL players have played for and against the Suns, and countless great college players as well.

Today, the Sun Valley Suns have been playing for nearly 41 years. In Idaho, we don’t have a lot of sports teams- there are very few college teams, and no professional teams to speak of. But when a town of 5,000 people has a team that they can call their own, it means a great deal to the valley and the people of it as well. What is truly awesome about these games is that everyone there knows each other. People are taking, sipping hot drinks, and enjoying each other’s company. Going to a Suns game is as commonplace for us as it might be for someone else to go to their local bar. It means a lot to the valley to have a place where we can all gather to share a steaming drink, a good laugh, and a hearty cheer for the team that you have come to love more than any other professional team. This team, this team is yours, this team, is ours.’

Fall in Sun Valley is a truly magical experience. The leaves turn to magnificent hues of red and yellow, traffic loosens up, trails are less traveled, and the world seems to slow down a bit. The Idaho wilderness becomes just a little more beautiful, if that were possible. While we adore winter and summer in Sun Valley, here are just a few of the reasons that fall is our best kept secret.

Fall in Sun Valley Offers Vibrant Colors

In Sun Valley, Idaho, as the weather changes, so do the leaves. Fall in Sun Valley is known for incredible and dramatic color changes that make nearly any outdoor activity not only surreal, but at times overwhelmingly enchanting.

When & Where to Catch the Fall Colors in Sun Valley

In order to optimize viewing of the beautiful aspens and cottonwoods, one of the best times you can visit Sun Valley is in early October. This is when the vibrant and colorful foliage begins to fall off the ends of the Aspen and Cottonwood branches. These leaves create an almost unimaginable wonderland filled with bright yellow and flaming orange that makes up the harmonious season of autumn. There are a number of incredible hikes around the valley which best enhance your intake of fall foliage. Some of these include Proctor Mountain, Chocolate Gulch, and Adam’s Gulch.

Fall Slack Season Means Great Atmosphere & Deals

What makes this season so special is not just the changing leaves, but the transformation of the valley itself. Early October is known in Sun Valley as the “Fall Slack”. The summer visitors have just checked out and skiing enthusiasts have not yet arrived to enjoy our skiing and snowboarding. It’s one of the only times throughout the year where locals can take some extra time off to enjoy their beautiful valley. There’s a sense of freedom and comradery in the air, and you will find excellent deals at the local restaurants and establishments.

The Celebrities Make Their Appearance in the Fall

It is also rumored that famous people who frequent Sun Valley come out during the fall. Maybe they’re buying a frap at the local Starbucks, or passing you as you ride down the bike path. Who knows, maybe that guy you saw the other day walking nonchalantly away was Bruce Willis. I myself just recently saw Mark Zuckerberg (Creator of Facebook) sitting outside one of the best Mexican places in town, Desperados.

Fall is the Most Magical Time to Visit Hemingway’s Memorial

A short drive east past the Sun Valley Resort will take you out Trail Creek. A turn off leads to a trail that opens up to a shaded, secluded paradise. Here lies the memorial of the great writer Ernest Hemingway. The babbling river pervades throughout the air, the wind subtly blows through the yellow leaves, and the rustling of the leaves creates a beautiful symphony. On the memorial below the bronze head of Hemingway lies a beautiful sentiment, “Best of all he loved the fall, the leaves yellow on the Cottonwoods, leaves floating on the trout streams, and above the hills the high blue windless skies. Now he will be a part of them forever.”

Hemingway's Memorial

Many people overlook fall in Sun Valley for the excitement of skiing in the winter, or hiking and biking in the summer. And while we agree that there’s nothing quite like apres ski in Sun Valley, those who never make it to visit in the fall are missing out on a truly special nature experience. So pack your mittens and don’t forget a camera, Sun Valley in the fall is waiting for you.

RESERVE YOUR VACATION HOME NOW

Although I am a resident of the valley, I have never been a huge mountain biker/hiker/skier or really anything along those lines. But I do love living here. So, I had to find something to that would let me be a part of some kind of community. Right? From that need to find a sports community, I landed at a sport that would turn out to be my one of my greatest passions: tennis. I first started playing tennis at around the age of eight, and was instantly hooked. Seven years later, it’s still one of my favorite pasttimes. The first time I ever picked up a tennis racquet was actually at a local summer camp here in Ketchum at Atkinsons Park, a summer camp run by the City of Ketchum’s Parks and Recreation Department where I am now a counselor. As I learned to play tennis, my dad, who had played in high school, rediscovered his love of the sport and a new love of playing it with his kids. But now I’m getting off track. The point of this post is not to tell my tennis story. Rather, it is to highlight the incredibly strong, and underrecognized community of tennis players in this valley. While tennis may not be as visible as skiing or hiking, it is a surprisingly popular sport, and competitive. Every summer, the Lyle Pearson Auto Show and Lyle Pearson hold two tournaments on the Fourth of July and Labor Day at Sun Valley Resort’s Tennis Center. They are both USTA tournaments and so open to a number of different skill categories for each event. Not only do locals participate in these tournaments, but people from all over the United States flock to the valley to celebrate the Fourth of July and hit the ball around. This summer, there were even some Boise State collegiate tennis players who attended, and of course, dominated the tournament.

The coolest part about the Sun Valley tennis community is not that everyone is a great player, or even that there are tournaments every summer. It’s that nearly everyone who plays tennis in this valley knows each other. Whether they belong to a country club or just play on public courts, tennis players in the valley are super friendly to each other and share friendly camaraderies. They enjoy each other’s company and playing the game that mutually binds them. And, even though I am significantly younger than most, I have been welcomed into all of their groups–from Monday night get togethers on high school courts to the local contingent who show up for every tournament, I have been welcomed into a community of tennis enthusiasts who just love playing the game.

This past weekend, I had the ultimate pleasure of spending a day in one of the most serene, transcendent, and delectable places on this earth: Redfish Lake. Now I am no huge outdoors person, never have been, probably never will be. So the fact that I was stunned by this place should say something to you. At first I was relatively skeptical, yet the first sight of the place changed my mind. Once we pulled in, we realized we weren’t the only ones who had the idea to come that day. There were a lot of parking spaces, yet the ones farthest away were a little bit of a trek. I recommend getting there early in order to get a good spot, or be prepared to take a walk with all of your things. After that, the day was in fact pretty great. The beach was a little small and the sand was a little rocky, but if you bring chairs or towels you should be fine. There are a number of boats and fun activities you can do while there. These include:

  • Renting paddleboats
  • Kayaks
  • Paddleboards
  • Motorboats

My favorite activity of all is renting a pontoon boat and driving it across the lake to the little known Redfish Rock. It is super fun to hang around it and even jump off of it (it’s about twenty feet tall). We then sat down on the lawn and ate a so-so lunch at their food stand. You can get burgers, hotdogs, philly cheesesteaks, and ice cream, and more! If you are looking for a higher quality option, you can get amazing food within the actual lodge. At the end of a wonderful day on the water and beach, on Sundays you can sit on the lawn and listen to some great live music. The sun setting behind the picturesque Sawtooth mountains is just the dessert to a fantastic day in the mountains.

A couple of observations about Redfish:

  • There is an amazing vibe
  • The parking is a relatively limited and far away from the lodge
  • Food is great if you go inside the lodge
  • For an awesome day rent a boat of some sort, or bring your own
  • Also, I would bring a football/Frisbee/ baseball/ something to play on the lawn when not in the water.
  • Have an amazing day!

Sun Valley Lake

You won’t find a hipper yet more welcoming coffee shop than Java nearly anywhere. What makes it this is that it was built upon the concept of being somewhere where the owner would like to hang out, and really where everyone wants to hang out nowadays. Todd Rippo created his ideal coffee shop in November of 1991, and hasn’t looked back. His small coffee shop has grown to a group of five restaurants spanning all across Southern Idaho. These locations include Ketchum, Hailey, Twin Falls and Boise. Famous for its vibe, rock music, and delicious Bowl of Soul, Java is one of the best shops around. The baked goods and food items represent Rippo’s roots and upbringing in Southern California to the fullest extent. Some of their most famous and delicious items include:

  • Bowl of Soul: One of the best cups of coffee you’ll ever have
  • Ham and Cheese Scramble
  • Breakfast Croissant
  • And the Dirty Hippie Burrito

These are just a couple of the delicious items that can be found on the menu and I highly recommend them to both locals and tourists.

Observations about the coffee shop:

  • The vibe there is amazing
  • Very friendly customer service who seemed genuinely happy to serve you
  • The shop uses nice coffee beans including fair trade beans which is very generous of them.
  • It is a little hard to find in Hailey and Ketchum but once you do you will definitely be happy you did.
  • Their baked goods seemed as if they just came out of the oven and were delicious!

Java lives up to their iconic slogan of “Wake Up and Live” and so should you!.

By Jack Keating

In 1879, Galena was originally founded as a mining town, looking for (you guessed it) the metal Galena. It became one of the largest establishments around, boasting 800 residents and a number of buildings that made it more than just simply a mining town. Yet when the flow of Galena went dry, it slowly died out and became a ghost town, lost deep in the mountains. The Galena Store, which was once part of the town, became one of the last trading outposts of the Wood River Valley in the early 1900’s. For nearly seventy years, the store was passed between various ownership until the Gelskys bought it and constructed what is now the Galena Lodge. Yet again, for a number of years, the Lodge was bought and sold, each owner renovating and improving the trails systems originally built as mining roads in the late 1800s. One man’s plan was very ambitious, but Galena’s remoted hindered that plan, and Galena was shut down for over a year with talks of potential teardown. This is where the interesting part comes in, for in 1994 the “Help Save Galena Campaign” raised nearly $500,000 to save Galena and donate it to the Blaine County Recreation District, who now successfully operates it.

This only further shows how integral Galena truly is to the valley. When you’re there, happiness pervades throughout the air. You can truly feel it. It is an escape for so many people and helps them forget the hustle and bustle of their daily lives while being truly part of nature. The ability for civilization and nature to coincide in harmony gives me faith that man really does have the ability to exist in our world. Whether you are Nordic skiing, mountain biking, hiking, snowshoeing, staying at the yurts, or simply coming for the food and atmosphere,  most people agree that Galena is truly a magical place, and I highly recommend going there, resident or not.