After more than 20 years in business, what began with one aircraft shepherding fishers through the Idaho backcountry has blossomed into a gleaming six-Cessna fleet offering charter service deep into the wilderness. Overseeing the whole operation is SP Aircraft’s founder, Scott Patrick, a charter-industry veteran with many close contacts in the backcountry-outfitter, river-guide, and tour-company arena. The outfit’s trip packages dispense wild majesty and creature comforts in equal measure, much like receiving a foot massage from a grizzly bear. The Sawtooth Air Tour and Backcountry Brunch, for example, begins with a 90-minute flight over the Sawtooth Range, Dagger Falls, and the Deadwood Reservoir and culminates in a multicourse brunch. Meanwhile, the Mackay Bar Overnight Steelhead Fishing on the Main Salmon River trip invites travelers to try their luck on the “River of No Return”—so-called because, unlike most rivers, it only flows one way.
Ponderosa Aero Club has sent Boise residents skyward for more than 35 years and acquaints aspiring pilots to the blue beyond with discovery flight lessons. A licensed flight instructor first debriefs students on the fundamentals of taking off, maneuvering, landing, and using radio equipment to order a frisbee-tossed pizza. Attendees then approach the club's fleet of Cessna and Piper Cherokee Archer aircrafts for a preflight inspection. As guests climb into the cockpit alongside their aerodynamics mentor, they can enlist the help of a camera to keep midair memories intact. Planes soar over Boise during a 30- or 60-minute scenic flight, the latter of which includes a tour of Snake River, Swan Falls, and Lake Lowell before a complimentary lower view of a cloud's reproductive system. Patrons can shoot postflight pictures upon their return to earth while staff members award them a logbook and certificate of completion.
As the early-morning sky lightens and the sun paints the horizon in purples, blues, oranges, and yellows, a fleet of balloons takes flight. These are Boise Hot Air Company’s balloons—colorful inflated vessels bedecked with purple and yellow stripes, red checkerboard patterns, and the stars and stripes of the American flag. Captains take groups aloft at 30 minutes before official sunrise in baskets equipped with seats and dividers for added safety. Flying only in fair weather and usually at speeds of no more than 8 miles per hour, the captains pilot leisurely flights low over the countryside of rolling hills from March through November.
Piloted by a professional driving staff, Boise Party Bus's fleet whisks between 16 and 24 clientele away on celebratory jaunts customized for special occasions and tours. Each non-smoking ride arrives equipped with a full bar, hardwood dance floor, and miniature water park built into the tire rims as a driver accommodates requests you make throughout the trip.
Alongside services for private parties, Boise Party Bus's passengers charter the fleet for the Best of the Northwest Wine Tour or Snake River Valley Vineyard Tour to sample boutique wines at five local destinations. Guests on The Great Idaho Brew Tour make pit stops at up to six of the state's best brewers for pours of craft brew on a voyage that Boise Weekly lauds as "a genius idea."
A fully operational winery since 1987, Sawtooth Winery was once under the care of the Pintler family, who had used their parcel of land as pasture for years. But the rolling, south-facing hills were a bit too robust to be limited to one use, and in 1982 15 acres of grapes were planted. Today, Sawtooth is one of the largest vineyards in Idaho, and those same vines produce the plump grapes destined become one of the eight wine varietals crafted onsite. Those wines have garnered Sawtooth a variety of honorable accolades and press, including a Winery of the Month designation from the Idaho Wine Commission.
Nestled on a sloping, well-manicured hillside, Ste. Chappelle Winery transports visitors to a gothic chapel in France. Rows of grapevines intersect with the stout, picturesque building, which houses a tasting room equipped with tall archer’s windows on all sides. There, 20 varieties of wine are uncorked by resident oenophiles, splashed into awaiting glasses for sampling or dyeing mismatched neckties. In the warmer months, crowds gather with blankets and bottles on the lawn for live music events, held as part of a summer concert series.