Just 37 miles from Sun Valley, ID, the 120-year-old mining relics of Vienna have found new life. Smith Optics operates a semi-private backcountry operation out of Smiley Creek with a sense of purpose. From tailing-assisted mega-booters to a support crew a half-dozen deep, this is Prospecting Idaho.
“They say our place used to be a brothel before they moved it from Alturus Lake,” explains Cory Smith as we turn off Idaho’s Highway 75 past Smiley Creek Lodge and the heart of Sawtooth City. The term “city” is an artifact of the area’s past—today, little more than a few dozen aging cabins sit amongst snow-covered fields beneath the Galena Creek drainage, backed by the towering spires of the Sawtooth Mountains to the west. In the late 1800s, the area was home to roughly 1,000 souls; miners and prospectors in search of silver ore. The quintessential frontier town, an assortment of local characters still lives there year-round alongside a seasonal influx of slednecks and steelheaders seeking a backcountry experience that stands in stark contrast to upscale Sun Valley just 37 miles south. It is here that Smith Optics produces their Prospecting Idaho webisodes, featuring a handful of riders airing snowcat-built wedges amongst 120-year-old mining relics. But the story runs deeper than the likes of Scotty Lago, Shayne Pospisil and Austin Smith’s exploits...
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