Mountain Rides offers historical tours

           The history of Ketchum and Sun Valley is as rich as the silver-ore stashes that were once scattered throughout the local mountains. From silver mining and sheep ranching to celebrity skiers and the haunts of one of the world’s best writers, the area has a lot to offer history fans—and the Sun Valley Story Tour shares it all.

            The free bus tours are provided by Mountain Rides and depart each Friday at 10:15am from the Visitor’s Center on Sun Valley Road in Ketchum. They are offered from July through August as a way to not only get more people to take advantage of the free Town Bus Routes, but also to help share some of the rich Western history Sun Valley is home to.

            Jim Jacquet helped found the tours seven years ago. He’s one of a half dozen different folks who guide the bus trips, which follow the Blue Route from downtown Ketchum through Sun Valley, and Elkhorn, over to Warm Springs and back.

            “People get to experience how easy it is to get around Sun Valley and they get a sense for the community,” Jim said. “Folks like it and it’s great to get to share the really interesting local history.”

            Jim said the tours follow the three economies of the area: mining, sheep herding and tourism.

   Mining in the 1880s first drove waves of folks to the Wood River Valley. The tour passes by the site of an old smelter and covers the same history that is relived each Labor Day weekend during the Wagon Days festival.

  Once rivaling Australia in sheep production numbers, sheep herding is still a part of the local culture. The Sun Valley Story Tour passes by the former sheep shipping hub of the Union Pacific Railroad Depot. It also shares stories that the annual Trailing of the Sheep Festival celebrates during the second week of  each October.

   Many of the shepherds gave way to celebrities after Averill Harriman and his public relations guru, Steve Hannagan, created America’s original mountain destination resort in 1936. The Sun Valley Resort has gone through some major remodels over the years, but the original walls of the Lodge still stand and the stories never get old. Sun Valley has managed to keep its charm and unique Idaho character while the Holding family has steadily added and improved all kinds of areas,  from the Sun Valley Inn to the Pavilion to the Clubhouse. “They’ve done a first class job,” Jim said.

   Of course, no historical tour of Sun Valley is complete without visiting some of Ernest Hemingway’s haunts. From his grave to his favorite watering hole, the Sun Valley Story Tour offers a healthy serving of Papa’s local lore.

To sign up for the free, hour-long Sun Valley Story Tours, please go to the Sun Valley Visitor’s Center in Ketchum by 10:15am on Fridays through August. For more information about the local bus services, please go to MountainRides.org.

By Mike McKenna

This story originally appeared in the Weekly Sun.

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