This section is intended to be used as a guide to our local flying sites and conditions. It is in no way intended to replace the need for a proper site introduction from a qualified local pilot. All visiting pilots are required to join the local club. Baldy is a P-3 site!! If you have never flown Baldy we recommend that you be accompanied by a local P-4 pilot. Any day it is flyable there is usually a local around, please talk to us we want you to enjoy your time here in Sun Valley and stay safe. The tandem pilots are usually at Baldy in the L.Z. most days of the summer flying season, starting as early as 7 am for the first drive up Baldy. The lifts open at 9 am. and operate until 3:45. The cost to drive up Baldy in a Fly Sun Valley rig is $10. This vehicle operates when the lifts do not, before 9 am and after 3:45. We usually leave the River Run L.Z. at 6 pm. for the evening flights. The cost of lift access is $25 for a single ride or you can upgrade to an all day foot pass for $30 dollars. The all day lift ticket is good if you want to take a sledder before your XC flight or you sink out on your attempt at XC. Again, all pilots are required to have a club flight card, you will not be able to purchase a lift ticket to fly without it.
Flying in Sun Valley is a amazing experience. Our main sight is Bald mountain set on the edge of the Great Snake River plain, and the densest and remotest mountains in the lower 48, the Central Idaho mountain complex. The launches are located off the summit at an elevation of 9100ft (2773.67m) A.S.L. , and 3100ft (945m) ft A.G.L. We have five launches each used for a variety of wind directions and flying conditions. Getting to launch via The gondola and Christmas lift takes about 20-25 minutes. There are Five star amenities at the Base of the Gondola in the River Run Lodge, at the top of the Gondola at Round House Restaurant, and up top on launch is Lookout restaurant, (Lookout has limited service during the summer months with access to everything except the food service)
The Launches are:
Double D or Christmas ridge launch
Ideal wind direction 140 degrees.
Double D ( DD) is short for Dust Devil, which is one thing pilots should be aware of on launch. DD is our primary Cross Country thermal launch. This broad south east facing launch starts to warm early in the morning hours. Cycles can start early on DD. We have turned in thermals as early as 9 am off of DD and it is not uncommon to climb above launch before 10 am, for a pleasant early morning thermal flight. Sometime shortly after this is when DD becomes what I have come to know as one of the Best Thermal flying sites on the planet. If you came to Sun Valley seeking the strong thermal climbs and big alpine cross country flying you heard about this is it. On good days you will find local XC pilots meeting in the L.Z. around 10 am (or maybe landing from there second round of tandems.) This allows time for some discussion of the day's conditions and a final check of ones kit before we load the gondola and head to launch. Once to the summit you can use the restroom in the lookout restaurant to fill your camel back or ballast and get a final drink of water before you go. The launch area is suitable for four gliders to lay out at a time but space is limited so please sort your gear uphill or to the sides of launch. This will win you the praises of locals and might get you invited along on their XC journey for the day, and beers after. It is recommended that you be on DD no later than 11 am ready to go. This is particularly important for intermediate or newer P-3s, as Baldy has the ability to really turn on and start producing VERY STRONG CYCLES after this time. It can turn on like the flick of the switch and produce conditions that are not for the faint of heart.
Ideal wind direction 170 degrees.
Launching from the top of the bowls is typically reserved for early morning, evenings or winter time. It proves to be an enjoyable evening sight with the right wind it can be good and soar able. If you are launching from the bowls you should have all your kiting skills sorted out, there are many man made obstacles near the top and someone could ruin a wing or themselves in a hurry. For XC flying if it is blowing light south on top in the morning you can almost be guaranteed that Double D will start working as the day heats up. Launching mid day from the top of the hill is not recommended as Large Dust devils kick off the top and could end your day before it gets started.
Ideal wind direction 350 degreees.
Limelight is primarily an early morning launch when the morning katabatic winds from the larger mountains pour down the Wood River Valley, and up the face of Baldy. Winds on Limelight are also an indication of the prevailing wind direction in the atmosphere, if the north wind persists or is strong on Limelight you can be sure a check of winds aloft will show north above. Be leery of the north winds while flying in Sun Valley although they may offer a gentle sled ride in the early morning hours (generally before 10 am) they can prove to be a turbulent Cross Country flight. This is due to the shear amount of terrain the air mass has to travel over to the north and the fact that this wind direction works against our normal valley flow. As local XC Guru Nate Scales will say North is BUUUMMMPPPYYY!!!
Ideal wind direction 320 degrees.
Heaven is used for northwest wind direction and is never considered a good XC launch. It usually means we are in a NW flow aloft which as we said of north can be bumpy. Advanced XC pilots may be able to make this launch work but it will most likely test all of their flying skills and leave them wishing they had gone mountain biking instead. Heaven can produce enjoyable evening flying when the tandem boys and girls go up, working the late evening lee-side thermals has proven on many occasions to be a treat for us all.
Ideal wind direction 270 degrees.
Alabama is typically used for evening glass off flights. The launch is on the back side of Bald Mountain and requires the pilot to fly around the mountain in order to land at the River Run LZ. Due to this Alabama is a P-3 launch. Alabama has never proven itself as a good XC launch.
This being said the evening glass off flying from this launch is SPECTACULAR. The conditions can be strong and elevations as high as 17,000 ft (5181m) have been reached at 7:30 pm. And when its smooth, it is so smooth. Sit back and watch the sunset and climb out over the town and boat around until you feel the need to land. Beers and a grassy L.Z. await you as most good evenings the locals are out for a flight, and the beer is always cold from the cooler:)
Be aware of objects that pose a potential hazard on our launches. Snow guns, lift towers, buildings, trees,etc..... Please use caution and exercise sound judgement when preparing to launch from Baldy. Interrupting operations of Sun Valley Companies equipment IS NOT AN OPTION! Doing so not only puts you in peril, but it jeopardizes our privilege of flying off of Baldy. As stated in the pilot waiver you signed please maintain 150ft (50m) from all Sun Valley Structures during your flight.
The Landing Zones:
The primary Landing Zone (LZ) is located at River Run Parking area. This is the main upper lot that you probably parked in. The LZ has a small grassy area that the local club maintains throughout the summer. It is not intended that you try to land on only the grassy area. The LZ is the entire five acre parcel that surrounds the grassy area, although a long toe drag through the grass and a proper show of spot landing skills will again win you the praises of locals and beers after. Most mornings the L.Z. is affected by the katabatic winds flowing down the Valley from the north. During summer flying months one can expect the valley flow to become anabatic switching up valley sometime between 10-11 A.M. You can expect the valley winds to increase during the day producing VERY STRONG VALLEY WINDS! It is advised that pilots stay upwind of the LZ, landing options north of the LZ are extremely limited. Please be on your toes and use your best piloting skills when landing at River Run, valley winds and thermic activity are common.
Cross Country Flying:
Check out xccontest.org for some of the big flights that have originated from Bald Mountain. Bob Drurys book Classic Routes of the World highlights one of these spectacular flights
Situated at the south end of the Smoky Mountain Range, Baldy sits perched on the edge of the southern Idaho desert and the Central Idaho mountain complex. From launch you can see four separate mountain ranges. The Smokys, The Pioneers, The Boulders, and the Sawtooths. Once airborne several more come into view. To the north, the White Clouds, and the White Knobs. To the east, The Big Lost, where King Mountain is located, and further the Lemhis, Bitterroots, and Yellowstone National Park! And we are stiil trying to find the line all the way to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Nate was on his way during the summer of 2011 but was stopped just short after 120 miles in the air, next time Nate! The terrain is limitless and many epic alpine adventures await here in Sun Valley. Most locals will agree we have barely even tapped the potential of our area. Won't you come help us try?