It’s our second morning in Sun Valley. I don’t sleep well at elevation—we’re at about 6,000 feet—but I’m sure the open bar last night has something to do with it. We were celebrating the kick-off of Rebecca’s Private Idaho, running into a surprising number of familiar faces, with a few beverages to wash down a meal prepared by celebrity chef Chris Cosentino. With the race not until tomorrow, I am up before dawn for some last-minute training on the slopes of Bald Mountain, where we’ll catch the first rays of sunshine above Sun Valley. Let me check the temperature before heading out: 31 degrees Fahrenheit. Yikes!
Eric Chizum meets me once again. Bald Mountain (or Baldy as it is referred to around here) is under the jurisdiction of the Sun Valley Resort. And in the months that the white stuff is not falling from the sky, the mountain sees plenty of use for its system of downhill mountain bike trails.
We meet Nate, another member of the Sun Valley Resort crew. Nate, who regularly rides the Baldy Bike Park, is a perfect guide to the best spots on the mountain. We hijack a pickup truck and head up the mountain along a service road, passing a few hikers. Along the way, I ask to pull over to take a photo of the town of Ketchum in the valley below. Another pickup passes us, carrying a group of paragliders heading even farther up the mountain. That seems like it would be a fun activity—for at least the first five minutes.
We are high now. I know this, because when I take a running jump over a berm on the MTB trail, I feel like I’ve just run a mile. We’re at around 8,000 feet with nothing but ridge upon ridge of mountains as far the eye can see. Below us, the miniature houses of Ketchum have yet to receive their first rays of sunshine, which have just crested the peaks to the east. The sun quickly starts to warm this fall-morning air—no, wait, it’s still August!
Nate starts gearing up for his ride and to my surprise puts on a full-face helmet. This is going to be fun! For the next half hour we gradually make our way down the hill, with Nate contentedly riding and re-riding sections of the trail so I can take a handful of photos. I spend a lot of the time cataloguing the exact locations of all of my potentially epic wipeouts along the way. Which makes me respect Nate’s riding skills even more.
We stop and look down at Ketchum. We’re surrounded by nothing but early-morning sunshine, dust from our wheels and silence. The sunrise has reached the town. It’s time to head back. Coffee awaits!