Though most golf courses in colder climates simply lie dormant during winter months, Sun Valley Golf Course is transformed into the Nordic Center. According to Ned Wheeler, Nordic Center manager, sometime around November and again in May, the sign is flipped to reflect the season: either Sun Valley Resort Golf Club or Sun Valley Nordic Center. Though you pay upwards of $130 for a round of golf during peak time, a trek on snowshoes over the same terrain covered with snow costs nothing—and the pristine view is priceless.
Situated at 6,000 feet above sea level, Sun Valley is guaranteed a certain amount of snow each year, which is why the Nordic Center was opened in 1970. According to Wheeler, there are 41 kilometers of groomed cross-country ski trails, along with an additional eight kilometers of designated snowshoe trails.
A day on the trail
Donning your snowshoes and heading out from the Nordic Center, you’re greeted by a slab of stone announcing the first hole of the golf course: par 4, 363 yards. As you progress along the trail, you encounter several other stones marking holes. Slow play is rewarded with spectacular views of the surrounding area; you’ll want to stop to take in the views of Bald Mountain and Dollar Mountain, and the serenity of the snow-covered golf course.
The treasure that awaits you at the end of this snowshoe trek is Trail Creek Cabin, a landmark and part of the Sun Valley Resort since 1937. Constructed of logs and brick, the cabin continues to offer the warm and cozy rough-hewn atmosphere of the area’s early mining and ranching days. On more than one occasion, novelist Ernest Hemingway and other famous personalities celebrated New Year’s Eve at Trail Creek Cabin. The house specialty is barbecued ribs, and the menu includes other western fare like steak, prime rib, roasted chicken and Idaho mountain trout.
If getting to the cabin on snowshoes doesn’t appeal, then try the sleigh ride. Horse-drawn sleighs that can carry up to 18 visitors depart Sun Valley Inn nightly during winter months. The rides last about a half hour, and can get very chilly at this high altitude. Fortunately, blankets are provided, along with starry, starry nights. An added treat is the accompaniment of resident foxes that run alongside the sleighs in search of food. The rhythmic chiming of the bells worn by the horses serves as a dinner bell for the local critters.
Whether it’s a snowshoe trek or sleigh ride, the golf course is the venue that connects the Nordic Center with Trail Creek Cabin. And, in a few months when the snow is but a memory, golfers will once again tee it up at Sun Valley Resort Golf Club.
This venerable golf course was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. It’s rugged and spectacular, and is a part of the elite nine-member Idaho Golf Trail. Golf Magazine last year designated Sun Valley Resort Golf Club as the number one golf course in Idaho. The 6,892-yard, par-72 course has 18 signature holes and crosses the beautiful Trail Creek seven times on the front nine alone.
It doesn’t matter when you visit Sun Valley. Be it summer or winter, you’ll be assured of two things: sun and fun. You won’t be disappointed. For those driving an RV, there are a few RV parks in and around the area. In Sun Valley, there’s The Meadows RV Park, which offers 45 spaces. Riverside RV Park & Campground in nearby Bellevue offers 38 sites, while Smiley Creek Lodge—35 miles north of Sun Valley—has 25 spaces.
The 19th Hole (and a few chip shots)
Parking lot appeal—Even though there are more than 16,000 campgrounds in the U.S., some RVers simply prefer staying at parking lots; hence the number of RVs that can be seen parked overnight at Wal-Marts across the country. Last year, professional golfer John Daly chose to spend two weeks in the parking lot behind the TaylorMade Golf building in Carlsbad, California, camping out in his RV that sports the license plate “91 PGA.” After competing in the Skins Game in La Quinta, he stayed in Southern California to play in the Target World Challenge. Daly, who has an endorsement contract with TaylorMade’s Maxfli brand, chose the parking lot over the many fine RV parks available in that part of the country. Perhaps John Daly might want to consider an endorsement with Wal-Mart.
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Rick Stedman is an avid RVer, golfer and writer who lives in Yakima, Washington. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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