Lift-served biking on the Warm Springs Trail – Sun Valley/ Ketchum, Idaho


Lift-served biking on the Warm Springs Trail – Sun Valley/ Ketchum, Idaho

August 1, 2009

Words and photos by Lee Lau unless otherwise noted.

BALD MOUNTAIN – the Sun Valley ski hill

On a one week road-trip through Idaho and Montana, Sharon, Tyler and I took advantage of an offer to sample some lift-served biking off Bald Mountain in Sun Valley/Ketchum, Idaho. We are no strangers to lift-served mountain-biking. Sharon patrols at the Whistler Bike Park. I rode those same trails before there was even a bike park and Tyler’s been riding downhill, freeride and XC most of his adult life.

First some clarification. I had always thought of this entire area as “Sun Valley” – such is the power of marketing. There’s actually a resort village known as Sun Valley. Adjacent to the resort is the town of Ketchum. There are actually two ski hills. One is Bald Mountain (operated by the Sun Valley resort and branded as “Sun Valley”) which has more terrain and vertical then the sister operation of Dollar Mountain , which has more beginner friendly terrain. Suffice it to say that if you’re going to bike the lifts or ski at Sun Valley it’s likely that you’ll be using the lift system at Bald Mountain. More details on the history of Sun Valley is documented here.

Lift-served biking at Sun Valley is no adrenaline junkie thrill-craft type of ride. Rather it’s a rather pleasant ramble down super-buff trails that are not overly technical, are approachable by people of all different skill levels and indeed, can be (and often are) ridden down hill and uphill. That this is lift-serviced is more a pleasant convenience then an implication that you will find big technical features on these trails. Instead of jumps, skinnies, step-ups or step-downs or big berms you will find flowy, fast singletrack that winds through the woods. This is not to say that you can’t push yourself or have a lot of fun on Warm Springs railing downhill at speed – which we did whenever we had clear sightlines

Main office building at the Bald Mountain base

Secondary office building. From the lack of crowd you can get the picture that lift-serviced biking isn’t a big draw … yet

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About the author: Lee Lau

Lee Lau calls North Vancouver and Whistler BC home. He's had over 15 years experience riding bikes mainly in western North America and in Europe. Unlike many people who learned to ride bikes on North Shore trails, he actually enjoys riding (and sometimes bushwhacking) uphill.

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  • sv biker says:

    A couple notes for those who have never been but read this. There is not overly technical aspects on the trail, but it is very fast, and a lot of times cutting on a slope of 35+ degrees. This means if you fall off you are falling far. There are many adrenaline seeking bikers that his this up because of the high speeds, fun rollers, and the fact you have to be ON IT every second otherwise you will end up like others with broken collarbones, busted up knees, arms, whatever else.

    Also, the lift biking isn’t as big of a draw as skiing, where is it? The last picture caption is pretty dumb considering you don’t buy your tickets at the door anyways. you walk all the way inside to the back of the building to buy your tickets. Also, the first picture says ‘main office building’ where that building isn’t even open in the summer. Duh. Too bad there wasn’t a picture of all the rental bikes and shop tent set up outside.

    Plus side, if people write articles like this, the crowds will continue to stay away.

  • leel says:

    wow – sorry you seemed to take the trail descriptions personally.

    I mentioned many times throughout the article that this is a fast trail. Perhaps you didn’t click on subsequent pages? That might explain the confusion.

    Finally I have no idea what you mean by the comment: “Also, the lift biking isn’t as big of a draw as skiing, where is it?” – Could you clarify?

  • Moses Mexia says:

    After living in SV for 20 years and making probably 100 laps on the resort, I couldnt agree more with the review. Its fast, smooth and pretty fun. But there really isnt anything that could be categorized as techical. The views are spectacular and it is just one of the many sweet XC oriented rides in Sun Valley. I know there is dialogue to create a more progressive scene there and that would certainly draw more people. Lets all hope it happens.

  • julian tyo says:

    Whoa there, sv biker.

    First, I suggest you read the rest of the article.

    Next, ditch the old school, locals-only, keep-the-crowds away attitude.

    If that’s how you’re going to roll Buzz Killington, you shouldn’t be anywhere near the Baldy trails anyway.

    I know a nice ride out Long Gulch where you won’t see a single person.

    Third, if you’d like to talk any more about this article, I’d be more than happy to discuss in person.

    My name is Julian, and I work at Pete Lane’s up at Sun Valley.

  • pf says:

    Just thought I’d add an interesting ‘local’ person ‘of note’ to your list of celebrities — namely, our friend and world-renown author, Ridley Pearson — who has, throughout his career, written extensively about Sun Valley in his best-selling mystery novels!!!
    He lives here part of the year and writes using local people and places known to him in our City, and in our State.
    Just wanted to round out your ‘list’ a bit…..:-)
    Enjoyed your article, by the way!! pf

  • sv biker says:

    I apologize for a ridiculous post. I read it in a different light. this is actually a great review, and well accurate. I apologize to MTBR, to Sun Valley, and all the locals. Mr Moderator, It would even be appreciated if you could delete my first comment. MTBR, Lee, I apologize. Thank you for coming to our hidden treasure, I hope you enjoyed your stay and hope to have you guys back again.

  • leel says:

    hey no problem. I actually thought for a horrible second that i goofed and wrote something that slandered all the trails. I can’t edit the comments but will ask Gregg if he can do something. Thanks and no worries

  • eg says:

    First off, I believe you put together a great article.
    I would just like to say that for the most part this discussion seems rider-biased. I am not a Bomber by any means, but i do like to Go. I would consider parts of Warm Springs & Cold Springs quite technical, most curves/corners need to be taken carefully with any speed. There is a lot of loose, sharp shale and random roots that can throw you off the side. While it is a gorgeous ride, you do have to be on your game.
    Side note, watch out for hikers.

  • leel says:

    eg – Absolutely. I mentioned it in the article but it bears repeating. You might encounter uphille riders and hikers on both Warm Springs and Cold Springs. Manage your speed accordingly.

    Sidenote – there’s lots of places on these trails where there’s long straight sightlines. If it’s clear then you can let the brakes go. But do that when you can see ahead

  • local sv says:

    i think the article shouldve mentioned more about sun valley itself instead of just baldy or at the very least mention the other trails. There are so many awesome trails there… i prefer Adams Gulch.. more technical uphill and a gnarley ride down towards hulen meadows.

  • leel says:

    Hi local SV – we did ride local trails and I mentioned it but it’s buried in a link. Most people won’t read long stories unfortunately so I kept it short. – is the Mountain Fairy shuttle to Fox Peak – Adams Gulch trails – is when we did Pioneer to Long Gulch the same day we did Warm Springs.

    We definitely need more time here.

  • julian tyo says:

    trails are prime as of now.

    come join the fun!

  • Susan from St. Paul, MN says:

    Just visited SV for the first time and loved it! As a middle aged mountain biker from the midwest, where I am used to dirt, sand, roots, logs and love our urban trail system, I found the rocky terrain EXTREMELY out of my comfort range. The trails and views were gorgeous! I found myself knowing that if I picked up my speed, I would probably fly through the rocks easier, but I felt too unstable on the surface, so walked around many of the curves and through alot of the rock. It wasn’t until I hit the woods, with the lucious smell of pine and saw the lovely flowers, that I felt most at home and could relax a bit. Of course, my shoulders and right arm hurt the next day from the hold on that brake.
    Don’t regret a bit of it.
    Spent some more time up near the Lodge and loved that, too!

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