Backwoods: Fairfield, Idaho
By Andrew Goldman/Snowkite Solider
Originally Published in the December 2007 Issue of The Kiteboarder Magazine
The Camas Valley is a snowkite area close to Fairfield, Idaho, that spreads over several hundred square miles and includes Sun Valley. Riders will find diverse terrain with some launch areas on expansive flats and others nestled into humbling mountain basins. Easy kiting access and consistent wind make this area a premiere snowkite location. Riders can create their own kite experience and need only climb one mountain to see two different worlds. Large cliff bands litter the valley floor and make for great launching pads when a storm leaves fresh snow in its wake. Snowy rolling hills give way to large peaks. Eventually fresh tracks in the mountains will persuade anyone who comes here to think three-dimensionally.
What is the official site name?
Most people refer to this site as Fairfield, but it is actually called the Camas Valley.
What is the best time of the year to hit this spot?
December through March is our typical season.
How do I get there?
Camas Valley is 50 minutes from Sun Valley and 1 hour 20 minutes from Boise, so check airfares for the best deals to either city. From Sun Valley, take Highway 75 South and turn onto Highway 20 West towards Fairfield. From Boise, take I84 towards Salt Lake City and turn onto Highway 20 towards Fairfield. When you come to a summit marked by the Sawtooth National Forest sign, you’re almost there! Stop and kite here on east winds. Located 16 miles west of Fairfield and two miles west of Hill City is the snowmobile parking lot, marked by a snowmobile sign on the north side of the highway. It has a bathroom, a warming hut, plenty of parking and great snowkiting.
What is the best wind direction?
Any west direction works great and is typical for many of our kite areas. East winds vary in frequency and strength but create steady wind on the mountain passes. If you’re staying in Sun Valley, look for southeast winds in February and March to produce excellent riding at Phantom Hill. South winds are rare, but make for excellent kiting in the town of Fairfield.
What gear should I be sure to pack?
Warm gloves, a good jacket, thick socks and your 7-14 meter kites (your 12 meter will be your go to kite). There is nowhere to buy food or drinks for miles around so pack your own lunch and bring water. Bathrooms are at the launch spot.
What conditions should I avoid?
Wind can build throughout the day. When kiting in east wind directions, be aware that these winds build towards the top of mountain peaks. The kite size you start with may not be the same size you end up on. Make sure you kite within your ability level. Kiters who choose to explore should not kite alone and should always have a cell phone (Verizon works well here) or radio contact. Deep snow is fun to kite but not fun to walk through so only venture as far as you’re willing to hike back.
What is the launch/landing like?
The highway runs down the middle of the valley so kiters have many options for launching; just don’t park on the side of the road or else you will get ticketed. Historic landmarks have ample parking and are found on both sides of the road. For early season kiting with good access, parking and snow coverage, go to Feather Flats on the corner of Highway 20 and the turn off to Featherville. A wind sensor and two cameras are stationed here.
What are some of the best places to eat?
Soldier Mountain Brew Pub has great sandwiches, a relaxed atmosphere and if you like your lattes, try the Nutty Irishmen. In Sun Valley, go to the Rickshaw. Chef Andreas Heaphy has created a harmonious
restaurant with an intimate but relaxed dining atmosphere. You can’t go wrong with any of the Asian tapas or salads.
Who are the local schools and shops?
Snowkite Soldier www.snowkitesoldier.com, Gear Daddy (208) 863-6966
What is the nightlife like?
Fairfield is not a resort town and only has a few bars, so those looking for a movie theater, nightlife and people watching should head to Sun Valley.
What else is there to do if I get skunked?
Soldier Mountain Ski Area is a great resort for the $20 lift ticket price. Bruce Willis owns and operates a snowcat operation and the mountain. Snowcat skiing is a unique backcountry experience for under $250. Look for epic powder on the weekends due to the fact that the mountain closes Mon-Wed. World class conditions can be found at Sun Valley Ski Resort, home to the world’s first chair lift.
Is there anything else I need to know about riding this spot?
Kiting in and around Sun Valley can also be very good. Eight miles north of Sun Valley on highway 75 will take you to a kite area called Phantom Hill. The backdrop alone is worth the trip. Surrounded by the Boulder Mountain Range, this kite area has plenty of parking and great west winds in the morning, switching east in the afternoons. Highway 20 divides much of our kite area in half; beginners will feel more comfortable on the north side but there is something for everyone – just take a drive and pick a spot.
Are there any safety issues or rules I need to know about?
Camas Valley shares some areas with snowmobiles, so keep a lookout on the weekends and holidays for traffic.
Are there any interesting bits of trivia about this spot?
The area is about to blow up with lots of snowkiters so get here before the crowds do!
The Camas Valley currently has 12 riding spots and more are being discovered every season. www.snowkitesoldier.com/maps
Wind sensor, webcams and forecast (look for Pine Turnoff RWIS): http://itd.idaho.gov/Apps/RWIDS_Public/default.asp?display=currentWeather&view=statewide
Direct webcam links that show two of the most popular kite spots in Camas Valley: the Big Easy and Last Resort): http://itd.idaho.gov/Apps/RWIDS_Public/pages/cameras/_127.htm
(Economy) Prairie Inn is centrally located to restaurants and the grocery store (from $55) www.theprairieinn.com
(Economy/Medium) Snowkite Soldier Lodge has several 2 bedroom/2bath cabins for $150/night. This is home to the Flexifoil Test Center and the base camp for Snowkite Soldier. Bed space in the lodge is $45/night. All guests have access to a hot tub, perfect for soaking in after a long day of snowkiting. (208-484-1620) www.snowkitesoldier.com
SUN VALLEY AREA
(Economy) Tamarack Lodge has large, open beamed rooms with fireplaces (from $79) www.tamaracksunvalley.com
(Luxury) Sun Valley Lodge was a celebrity getaway for movie stars in the 30s. Drenched in history and newly renovated, this lodge offers the ultimate getaway (from $149) www.sunvalley.com