Shreddin' Pow: A Skier's/Snowboarder's Guide to Bald Mountain
Maybe you’re visiting Boise and want to check out this Sun Valley place you’ve heard about — or maybe you’ve lived and skied in Boise for years and have just never driven up to Baldy to get on some skis or a snowboard. Whatever the reason, there are always newcomers to Bald Mountain each winter, wondering about the best way to get down the mountain for their skill level as well as other information like how to buy lift tickets and where to have a little après.
With more than 3,400 vertical feet, Baldy has tons of varied terrain as well as 13 chairlifts and 65 runs. Read on for the best runs to get down the mountain for beginners, intermediates, and experts.
Beginners, don’t fret. There are plenty of green circles (the symbol for the easiest runs) across both the Warm Springs and River Run sides of the mountain, meaning there’s a way down no matter which side you come up.
Hit Warm Springs from top to bottom for a smooth transition from top to bottom. The upper half is actually a blue square (the symbol for intermediate runs) but the middle and bottom are green circles and the terrain is very manageable.
On the River Run side, mountain favorites Upper and Lower College are easy beginner runs that will take you all the way down the mountain with plenty of stops to veer into new territory if the mood strikes. For the complete beginner, stick to Lower River Run. That terrain is almost flat and can be lapped over and over, riding the River Run lift.
For more than a top-to-bottom run, head over to Seattle Ridge, a fully beginner ski area within Baldy. To get there, either take the Lookout Lift at the top of the mountain and follow the cat track or take Gun Tower Lane from the bottom of the Christmas Lift over to the Seattle Ridge lift which accesses all of the runs. Seattle Ridge is comprised of four beginner runs: Muffy’s Medals, Christin’s Silver, Gretchen’s Gold (all named after local Olympians), and Broadway.
Each run ends back at the Seattle Ridge lift or you can go down the Cold Springs run to a lift that brings you back to the hub of Baldy at the bottom of Christmas lift. At the top of Seattle Ridge is the lodge by the same name, a perfect spot to cozy up by the fire and order a drink or grab a bite to eat.
Intermediate (blue square) runs abound on Baldy from powder runs to groomers to moguls, all within the limits of an intermediate skier or snowboarder. On the River Run side, take Ridge from the top to either Blue Grouse or Cut Off which both end at the Roundhouse Lane cat track.
This cat track leads you back to the Christmas lift to go to the top for several options. The best one for intermediate skiers is Upper and Lower Canyon which will lead you to the Lookout Express lift back to the top or to Lower River Run to come down to the bottom.
The Frenchman’s area is a pocket of intermediate runs, all of which can easily be lapped by riding the Frenchman’s lift over and over. The Frenchman’s area is accessed from the top of Lower College and has four intermediate runs: Can-Can, Janss Pass, Graduate, and French Dip.
Flying Squirrel is also a classic intermediate run, easily done by skiing Upper College and veering left rather than continuing to Lower College.
It’s common knowledge in the Sun Valley ski community that the grading system of Baldy is “relative” since many of the mountain’s easiest runs would be graded as intermediate elsewhere.
This means for those foraying into black diamond or double black diamond (the hardest runs on the mountain), the grading is even steeper (no pun intended).
The mecca of hard runs on Baldy is the bowls, treeless hollows between small ridges that make them the first spot to hit on a powder day. There are several bowls — Lookout Bowl, Easter Bowl, Mayday Bowl, Lefty’s Bowl, and Kaitlyn’s Bowl (named for Olympian Kaitlyn Farrington) — that end in Seattle Ridge at the Mayday Lift which can be used to lap bowls all day. There are a few other sporadically located bowls around the mountain, but this is the spot to get the most bang for your buck.
Holiday is a classic expert run from top to bottom on the River Run side as is International, an extremely short but fun black diamond on the Warm Springs side. One of the most notoriously difficult and steep runs in skiing is Exhibition, a black diamond run with an even harder sister run, the double-black diamond Inhibition.
There are two other double-black diamond runs on Baldy: Three Bears, accessed by Gun Tower Lane on the way to Seattle Ridge, and Fire Trail, accessed by the ridgeline of Gretchen’s Gold in Seattle Ridge.
Lift Tickets and Lodges
Lift tickets are available for purchase in person on the River Run or Warm Springs side of the mountain as well as online which can save you up to 20% on price. A calendar at sunvalley.com displays lift ticket prices for each day in the winter season.
Lift tickets are available for full day (9 a.m. - 4 p.m.) or half day (12:30 p.m. - 4 p.m.). One-day lift ticket prices run from anywhere between $131 and $165 during peak season to as low as $86 towards the beginning and end of the season.
When it’s time for a break or a post-mountain drink, head to one of the five lodges on the mountain: Seattle Ridge Lodge, The Roundhouse, Lookout Lodge, Warm Springs Lodge and River Run Lodge. Seattle Ridge Lodge is open from 9 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. daily in the winter season and specializes in wood-fired fare.
The Roundhouse is located at the top of the Roundhouse Express Gondola and has been offering gorgeous views and its famous fondue since 1939. The bar and restaurant are open daily from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. with dinner available as well on Friday and Saturday nights, if you want to see the views at night.
Lookout Lodge, located at the top of Baldy, is a more casual vibe with coffee, a taco bar, and cheap beers. For a taste of local flavor, stick around for “3:30 Club” on the back patio area where locals drink beer and socialize until ski patrol says it’s time to get off the mountain.
The Warm Springs Lodge at the base of the mountain is open from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily, 6 p.m. on weekends. Enjoy delicious food and cocktails in this recently upgraded lodge.
River Run Lodge, located at the base on the other side of Baldy, offers similar dining and drink options as Warm Springs, with wood-fired pizzas, grilled foods, deli sandwiches, salads, and hot wok items. Warm-up by the outdoor fire pit and enjoy live music throughout the season.
This article originally appeared in Idaho Press.