Alturas Lake trails

Alturas Lake trails, groomed by the Sawtooth Ski Club, offer easy snowshoeing and Nordic skiing through pristine alpine terrain.

With its frequent sunshine and soft powder, the Wood River Valley boasts exceptional winter trail conditions for Nordic skiers, snowshoers and bikers.

    (Yes, bikers—those riding wide-tired “fat bikes” built for snow.)

    Every year, the Blaine County Recreation District and Sun Valley Resort maintain and groom more than 200 kilometers of Nordic trails from Quigley Canyon in the Hailey area to Alturas Lake south of Stanley. All valley trails are managed by the Rec District except those maintained by the resort.

    “We’re looking forward to another great year, and we have a lot of partners—from Quigley Farms to the SNRA—to help make that happen,” district Communications Manager Morgan Buckert said. “We’re lucky to have a world-class crew grooming the trails every day with our PistenBullys, and we’re hopeful more snow is in the forecast.”

    Buckert had two recommendations for cross-country skiers right off the bat.

    “If I could highlight two key areas for skiing, those would be Quigley Nordic in Hailey—there’s about 15 kilometers of groomed Nordic trails there, and it’s convenient for folks in the south valley—and another area I’d recommend would be the 50 kilometers of trails surrounding Galena Lodge,” she said.

    Twenty-five kilometers at Galena—north of Ketchum—are dedicated entirely to snowshoeing.

    “Snowshoe trails mess up the grooming of Nordic trails, so they’re kept separate,” Buckert said.

    She added that the best ski trails for fat-biking would be the Durrance Loop near the Sawtooth National Recreation Area headquarters or the Dog and Fat Tire loop at Quigley Canyon.

    All Nordic trails are rated for difficulty like downhill ski trails, she said, with green circles, blue squares and black diamonds.

    “Maps may be helpful in understanding how complicated the trail system is,” she said. “If you look at the Winter Trail link on our website, every trail is given a level, designated as snowshoe or ski-appropriate and says whether dogs are allowed or not.”

    The district’s website, bcrd.org, also lists its trail pass options. Kids under 17 can ski free, though a pass is required, and an adult can expect to shell out $215 for a Nordic season pass or $65 for a snowshoe pass.

    The day rate for skiing is $18 and for snowshoeing $5; anyone bringing along a dog pays $5 per day per animal.

    On Nov. 21, the district an-nounced that it will open up all trails to the public for free access on two Sundays—Dec. 1 and Jan. 12.

    To help commemorate Ski Free Day on Dec. 1, Galena Lodge will offer free Nordic ski clinics from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the hour. One week later, Nordic Demo Day will welcome representatives from top-rated Nordic brands—like Alpina and Rossignol—to Galena Lodge.

    “Demo Day is a great chance to try out new gear and all sorts of fun products from leading brands,” Buckert said.

    To get to Demo Day, a free Ride ’n’ Glide shuttle will run from Ketchum to Galena Lodge. (The normal rate for the bus is $5 for one way and $8 for round-trip.)

    Mountain Rides’ bus service from the Limelight Hotel in Ketchum to Galena Lodge will begin Nov. 22 and run through March, making stops at Baker Creek and Prairie Creek for easy trail access.

    Here’s a rundown of the valley’s winter trails, broken down by location, to help you start off the season on the right foot.

North valley to Alturas Lake

    North-valley trails include Lake Creek, Billy’s Bridge, North Fork and more.

    Across from the North Fork Campground on the east side of state Highway 75, Durrance Loop is an easy 7.2-kilometer ski trail that allows dogs.

    For more challenging ski terrain, try the Coaches Climb black-diamond trail. Intermediate-level trails include North End and Titus Creek.

    For those who prefer long, easy-to-moderate trails, ski the 31-kilometer stretch from the SNRA headquarters to Galena Lodge, making stops at Cathedral Pines and Prairie Creek.

    Looking for easy snowshoeing in the north valley? Try the North Fork snowshoe trail up to Murdock Campground. (As a rule of thumb, all BCRD snowshoe trails allow dogs.)

    Farther up Highway 75, stop at Galena Lodge for more than 50 kilometers of groomed Nordic trails and 25 kilometers of snowshoe trails.

    Galena truly has something for everyone—advanced skiers can hit the Rip-and-Tear trail and experienced snowshoers can tackle the Tilt-a-Whirl or Psycho Adventure trails. Beginning skiers can try the Horse Creek Loop, and beginning snowshoers can give the Pioneer Cemetery Trail a try.

    Some 43 miles north of Ketchum, the Alturas and Park Creek trails offer varied snowshoe and skiing experiences through dense conifer forests.

    All BCRD season passes can be bought at the BCRD Community Campus, Galena Lodge, Backwoods Mountain Sports and the Elephant’s Perch. Day passes can be purchased at all those locations in addition to Sturtevants in Ketchum and Hailey, the Limelight Hotel, SNRA headquarters and various trailhead fee boxes.

Sun Valley trails

    It’s worth noting that Sun Valley Resort runs its own Nordic program through the Nordic & Snowshoe Center, at the Sun Valley Club on Trail Creek Road.

    From the White Cloud golf course area up to Trail Creek, the resort maintains more than 40 kilometers of ski and snowshoe trails.

    For a challenging ski experience in Sun Valley, try the Diamondback, Sidewinder or Hyndman View trails. The aptly named Dog Loop trail (which allows dogs) delivers more moderate terrain, and the Fox Run Trail is ideal for beginners.

    To use resort trails, kids 12 and up pay $10 for a Nordic day pass or $50 for a season pass, and adults pay $30 per day or $209 for the season. Passes can be purchased online at sunvalley.com.

Wood River Trail and Hailey

    For those looking to save some money, the 20-mile Wood River Trail between Bellevue and Sun Valley is free to use for all Nordic skiers, bikers, snowshoers and walkers.

    The BCRD will host its annual Ski the Rails cross-country ski tour along the Wood River Trail from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Feb. 8. The free tour starts in Ketchum and ends in Hailey, with water and snack stations along the way.

    “It’s a great time to take out the family to ski, and a shuttle service will make it easier to do that,” Buckert said.

    In Hailey, Quigley Nordic ($10 per day) is a popular community gathering spot that offers about 20 kilometers of groomed Nordic trails, dog-friendly terrain and a warming yurt.

    The 5-kilometer Dog and Fat Tire Loop—prized for its thrilling hairpin turns—welcomes dogs, fatbikers and skiers alike for a fun ride through the canyon.

    For a longer, gentler ski trail, try Hailey’s Main Loop or Winter trails.

    More information about BCRD and Sun Valley Resort’s Nordic trails and season passes can be found at bcrd.org and sunvalley.com.

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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