SKIING HERITAGE: Sun Valley Torchlight Parade

A Sun Valley Tradition

By Alec Barfield

Dollar and Baldy Mountain celebrate the season with Fireworks and a Torchlight Parade

The Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade on Dollar Mountain is one of Sun Valley’s most venerable traditions, dating back further than the memory of any living resident. More than merry exercise, the parade truly holds symbolic significance in the community–especially on this Anniversary year. Seventy-five years ago this Christmas season, the Sun Valley Lodge opened its doors to the world and our celebrated resort was born. By now we all know the "creation story" of how Averell Harriman and Count Felix Schaffgotsch, after combing the West, hand-picked Ketchum to be America’s premier ski resort, the next St. Moritz. With such a compelling narrative and host of characters – the railroad, the Count, the celebrities from Hollywood’s golden age – it is no wonder this town loves its heritage.

 

Tomorrow night that history will come to life in the form of lights and fireworks. The parade itself speaks to Sun Valley’s Swiss and Austrian predecessors, who pioneered the mesmerizing trails of fire that snake down the mountain. The location, however, alludes to the resort’s own uniqueness, as Dollar was home to one of the first two chairlifts in the entire world (the other being on nearby Proctor Mountain). While the East was using rope tows and Europe was still relying on funiculars and tramways, Sun Valley began moving skiers like hanging bananas on the novel Dollar Mountain "chairlift." The idea was a momentous innovation that would shape the skiing world forever, and Sun Valley was at the heart of it.

Yet the torchlight parade is a unique and festive Sun Valley time capsule, not only for its connection to this area’s earliest beginnings, but because its participants have been doing it for years. Historically conducted by the Sun Valley Snowsports School, the parade is a nostalgic event, providing an opportunity for friends and family to remember those torch bearers who are no longer with us as they watch the snaking line of past instructors, sweeping right and left, and sharing in the tradition once again. According to ski school director, Allan Patzer, the torchlight has become a truly spiritual event and an honor for present instructors. Not simply a performance, it is an opportunity for remembrance, in more ways than one, of everyone and everything that has contributed to the foundation of this incredible community.

Tomorrow night, after the Nutcracker On Ice Show, look towards Dollar. Rising nearly 630 vertical feet from the valley floor and bereft of trees, the mountain is the ideal host for the event, which will be followed, as always, by a show of fireworks. If you’ve never watched the parade before, this is your opportunity to take part in an elegantly poignant Sun Valley tradition. If you are a regular spectator, one familiar with that glowing stream of Christmas lights, then you understand, and have probably already set your clocks for six p.m.

>> Event Details: 

“Nutcracker on Ice” Holiday ice show begins at 5:00 PM at the Outdoor Rink, Sun Valley Lodge Terrace.

Torchlight Parade & Fireworks immediately following the ice show(usually around 6:00 PM)

Dress: Bundle up and look for hot chocolate and goodies on the Lodge Terrace (and maybe even a surprise visit from Santa after the “Nutcracker on Ice” Holiday ice show.

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