Steelies and Coulies: Idaho Style
This time of year in Central Idaho means corn skiing at Sun Valley Resort, backcountry touring in the Sawtooth Mountains, and Steelhead fishing on the Salmon River. We spent the week doing all three while testing gear from First Ascent and helmets and eyewear from Smith Optics. The trip was as good as they get. Check out our gallery here.
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The mission of the trip was to test out the latest gear from Smith Optics and First Ascent apparel while fishing and skiing in Central Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. We started the trip out in Sun Valley, home of Smith Optics. After a morning of getting outfitted with gear for the trip we hit the Smith offices for a quick tour. Pictured above are the original goggles developed by Dr. Bob Smith in 1965. [smithoptics.com; firstascent.com; sunvalley.com]
That afternoon we took the gear to the hill and skied Sun Valley Resort. The weather was full-on winter at the top and rain at the base—perfect weather for product testing. The gear did not disappoint us, and despite how it looks in this photo the skiing was actually damn good. We railed high-speed cruisers on Sun Valley’s Bald Mountain all afternoon.
That night we drove 40 miles north of Sun Valley over Galena Pass to Stanley to stay at the Sawtooth Hotel. In 2003 Tim and Becky Cron purchased the Stanley Baking Co., a bakery and café. Tim and Becky are great people and have done a beautiful job remodeling the Bakery. But most importantly, they are skiers. The food is awesome and the accommodations are more than adequate. [sawtoothhotel.com]
The next morning we got up early for a day of Steelheading on the Salmon River with Bryant Dunn of Silver Creek Outfitters out of Sun Valley. The weather was cold with everything from snow squalls and sunshine. Again perfect gear-testing weather. That’s Bryant on the right and our host Greg “Chopper” Randolph of Smith Optics on the left as we get rigged up to fish for Steelhead. Apparently if you’re from Idaho you’re required to wear some sort of ball cap/ski hat combo… [silver-creek.com]
It wasn’t long before we were getting on some Steelhead. What a privilege it is to see these beautiful sea-run Rainbow Trout on their magnificent migration back to their spawning grounds from the Pacific Ocean.
We stopped into the Hoodoo Saloon in Clayton for a whiskey or three. This is a must-hit bar if you’re in the area. Check out their bumper sticker collection for some classic Central Idaho humor.
The next morning we were back on the river early for what was a beautiful sunny day. This is Steven Krcmar with a beautiful 35-inch Steelie.
That afternoon we left the Sawtooth Hotel for the Bench Hut in the Sawtooth Mountains about five miles south of Stanley. The area we would ski is to the left in the above photo.
After a 3.5-mile skin we reached the Bench Hut, our home for the next two nights.
The food cooked by Don Shepler of Galena Lodge was outstanding. [galenalodge.com]
The night was spent getting creatively loose with plenty of tequila and beers in preparation for the next day of ski touring.
We awoke to a gorgeous morning for touring with corn on the south aspects and cold powder on the north aspects.
Vermont-based Skiing Magazine contributor Berne Brody gets her spring corn harvest in.
We skied the Thumb Line pictured here. Our guide Marc Hansleman of Sawtooth Mountain Guides set the beautiful skin track. Erik Leidecker was guiding the other group for the day. Both guides did a wonderful job managing the dynamics of our large and wiley group and led us to killer snow. [Sawtoothguides.com]
That’s yours truly sporting my spring gear-testing style complete with no gloves and backwards ball cap. Fun turns indeed.
This is the inside of the Bench Hut. For some reason there was a lot of blue going on this trip. The kitchen area is at the front. Bunks are behind.
The nights were beautiful. The Thumb Line pictured earlier is just barely visible at the center on the horizon.
The next morning we awoke at 5 to beat the heat for what would be a beautiful day of skiing. We would end up gaining the saddle to the left to ski a few cold north-facing pitches.
The skinning conditions were a breeze all day long. That’s Mount Hayburn in the background. Sawtooth Mountain Guides do rock climbing trips here during the summer.
That’s Skiing Magazine contributor Kelly Bastone finding some cold snow underneath the orange granite of Mount Hayburn.
The trick to backcountry skiing is getting higher. Heading back for more we couldn’t have asked for a better combination of snow stability and quality. High clouds kept the snow cold later than we expected.
Berne Brody dropping a knee showing that it is all about the down.
This shot pretty much sums up the trip. Spokane-based photographer Ben Tobin does the drinkability test with his Buff.
We’ll have much more coverage of the gear soon online and in the magazine next season.
Thanks to all those responsible for making this trip great:
Greg Randolph of Smith Optics
Jack Sibbach and Mike Fitzpatrick of Sun Valley Resort
Erik Leidecker and Marc Hansleman of Sawtooth Mountain Guides
Bryant Dunn of Silver Creek Outfitters
Tim and Becky Cron of the Sawtooth Hotel Don Shepler of Galena Lodge
Billy Olson of Powerhouse Bike Café