Alice of Wonderland

 

Alice Schernthanner, July 24, 1938 - July 23, 2012. “Alice does ski here forevermore in our hearts.”

Sun Valley can lay claim to many icons. From movie stars to literary giants, world-class athletes to world-wide leaders, hundreds of inspirational people have graced the hallways of Sun Valley Lodge since its birth.

But beneath the glamor and behind the facade of fame lies another legacy – an unforeseen outcome of Averell Harriman’s million dollar palace in the snow – that of the birth of a community in the heart of Idaho’s mountains; one with icons of its very own.

This past Sunday that community came together to celebrate one of those icons. Not an olympic skier or a nobel-prize wining author, but a woman whose life had a much greater impact on those who live in the Wood River Valley.

“The name Alice Schernthanner will remain on the lips of this community for a very long time,” Amy Federko said in her eulogy to Alice, reading from a letter written by Amy’s son, Josh.

A singular woman, Alice was both “famous and infamous, a legend in her own right,” Amy told the packed crowd at Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge, and there was not a murmur of dissent.

Alice’s legacy in the Wood River Valley community could be measured in the number of pancakes she’s flipped for the Papoose Club, which she formed in 1954 as a baby sitting co-op for skiers and went on to transform into a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting local organizations that serve children. Or it could be measured in the number of times she proudly led her Warm Springs Riding Club along the Wagon Days Parade route. It could equally be celebrated for the foresight she had in starting Blaine County’s recycling program from the back of a semi-truck, or for being a vocal and active advocate for affordable community housing – to the extent her and her husband, Andy, built some on their own Warm Springs property.

But it will be measured in the hearts and minds of the thousands of children she taught to ski both on Dollar Mountain as the children’s program supervisor for close to 30 years, and through her tireless promotion of the Blaine County School Ski Program.

Hundreds of those children, now grown up with children of their own, gathered at Dollar Mountain Lodge on Sunday to celebrate the life of this remarkable woman, who blazed a trail for modern homesteaders: building her own home from the ground up, skiing for a living and raising six children, all while living life on her own terms in the Wild West. The lodge she helped create was full to bursting on a sunny Sunday afternoon, the peals of children’s laughter emanating from the grassy knoll at the base of Dollar making a fitting tribute to the woman who helped create their perfect playground.

The lodge’s namesake, Carol Holding, wife of Sun Valley Resort owner Earl Holding, offered her thoughts on her friend and colleague Alice to the assembled community. “Listening today I was happy to hear she really had a happy life away from this cabin,” she said with a smile. “I’d been under the illusion all these years that she lived in this little cabin.”

Mrs. Holding went on to say how it was Alice’s persistence that brought this 26,000-square-foot state-of-the-art children’s skiing facility into being “When Earl built River Run, Alice and I were so upset with him. We tried everything we could think of to get him to build a children’s school there, but he wouldn’t. But she said to me, it’s ok – give it time, it’ll work. It took 15 years, but we got it. And this lodge here is Alice’s lodge as much as it is mine. It wouldn’t be here without Alice and through it all she suffered many hardships to get it here and changed so many children’s pants… .”

Local folklore has it that the lodge was almost named after Alice, but she wouldn’t have it. “I told them, if I don’t own it then I don’t want it named after me.”

Mrs. Holding’s touching and laughter-filled remembrances were followed by a free-for-all as friends, family and former students of Alice shared their memories. What emerged was a portrait of a strong-minded, high-spirited woman with fantastic earrings, who took life in her stride and always told the truth, whether you wanted to hear it or not.

Two of the many stories shared at the celebration of Alice’s life paint a technicolor picture of what was important to Alice: skiing, children and family.

“I would come here from Florida in the winter to ski with Alice,” said her friend Sherry. “One year she was pregnant, just starting to show, and she had the first daughter in a backpack on her back. As we came down the mountain we could hear people at the bottom whispering, aghast, saying ‘That’s child abuse!’ Alice looked at me, clearly baffled, and said ‘I don’t understand. They know I’m only skiing the groomers don’t they? I’m not skiing the bumps.”

Alice’s daughter Heidi shared a favorite story she had heard in the days following her mother’s death on July 24 (the day before her 74th birthday and 50th wedding anniversary).

“Alice was looking after a sick girl at the lodge, she had just come out of the bathroom with her when a grand woman in a mink coat swept in demanding service. Alice said to her ‘Let me just help this little girl lie down, she’s not feeling well.’ The lady replied, ‘Well, she doesn’t look sick.’ Then the girl projectile vomited all over her.”

Alice at home in Dollar Mountain Lodge ski school. Photo by Cody Doucette, courtesy Sun Valley Magazine

Rest in Peace Mrs. Schernthanner. In the words of the condolence book laid out for the hundreds of mourners to sign: “Alice does ski here forevermore in our hearts.”

Mrs. Sun

Share your memories of Alice and read other’s here. Read her obituary here.

Meet Sun Valley’s Summer Olympic Stars

This picture of Mr. & Mrs. Parry Thomas with Brentina, America's first World Champion and 2004 Olympic Bronze medal winner, graces the Sun Valley Lodge's Hallway of Stars. Brentina lives with the Thomas' at their River Grove Farm in Hailey.

There’s a little event going on right now in my hometown of London, England. In fact it’s about to kick off in a big way. Today, at 2 p.m. MT, the Games of the XXX Olympiad begins with what I am sure will be a spectacular opening ceremony (for us sequestered in the U.S. you can catch it tonight on channel 7 at 6:30 p.m.).

For obvious reasons, the winter Olympics is Sun Valley’s natural territory. However there is one local athlete whose claim to summer Olympic fame has landed her a prime spot in Sun Valley Lodge’s Hallway of Stars, where she stands shoulder to shoulder with Jackie Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Brentina, a Hanoverian dressage horse, is only the second animal ever to be bestowed with such an honor, the first were the Budweiser Clydesdales.

Brentina is the Wood River Valley’s hometown hero. Ridden by local athlete Debbie MacDonald to two Olympics (Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008) and one bronze medal, she is one of the most succesful  U.S. horses in history. Following surgery in early 2009, Brentina bowed out gracefully at the Las Vegas 2009 World Cup, and now lives a peaceful retirement at River Grove Farm in Hailey with owners Parry and Peggy Thomas. However, her stablemate Wizard may give Sun Valley residents the chance to cheer again this summer as he and his rider Adrienne Lyle prepare to take London by storm in the individual dressage competition. The competition begins Thursday and Friday (August 2 and 3) and concludes Tuesday and Thursday (August 7 and 9). Be sure to follow Adrienne and Wizard’s adventures in London here at her new blog.

For a sneak peek at the action you’ll see in the coming two weeks check out this video of Lyle and Wizard’s performance at the Grand Prix Freestyle in Devon, England last year:

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I know I’ll be cheering our hometown duo on as they prance and dance their way into international hearts, and who knows, after a stop on the podium, maybe a spot on the Hallway of Stars will be in their futures too.

Happy Trails!

Mrs. Sun

Recipe from the Resort: Gretchen’s Ribeye Steak

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Chef Derek Gallegos shows off his restaurant's house specialty.

Valley taste-makers will be familiar with Chef Derek Gallegos’ work, initially as the chef/owner at The Sun Valley Brewing Company and more recently at Three Ten Main restaurant in Hailey. Today, he is at the helm of Sun Valley Lodge staple Gretchen’s. Named after Sun Valley’s own Gretchen Fraser, the family restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of the year.

For a taste of Gretchen’s goodness at home however, I talked with Chef Gallegos to get you a step-by-step guide to the perfect ribeye, one of the restaurant’s newest specialties.

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Ribeye Steak with Gorgonzola Butter & Zinfandel Syrup, served with Idaho Mashed Potatoes and Asparagus

Gorgonzola Butter
Ingredients
1/4 lb. gorgonzola cheese room temperature, 1/4 lb. unsalted butter room temperature, 1 yellow onion, finely diced and caramelized in 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 dashes tabasco, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
Directions
Process all ingredients in food processor until smooth. Place on plastic wrap or parchment and roll into log shape, Place on cookie sheet and chill in fridge until firm.

Garlic Confit
Ingredients
1 lb. garlic cloves, peeled, 2 cups extra virgin olive oil, good quality, but not your best. Or just enough to cover the cloves.
Directions
Put garlic in small thick-bottomed sauce pan and cover with oil. Bring to boil, turn down to simmer and cook until garlic is soft and just beginning to brown, about 15-20 minutes. Stir every few minutes while cooking. Cool in oil. Will keep refrigerated for 1 month.

Mashed Potatoes
Ingredients
4 medium Idaho russet potatoes, about 3 lbs., 1/4 lb butter, 1/2 cup heavy cream
Directions
Cook peeled and cubed potatoes in water on low boil until easily pierced with fork, drain and save cooking water. In same pot lightly crush potatoes, add melted butter and warm cream, whisk potatoes until smooth, add some cooking water to potatoes if too stiff, add salt and white pepper to taste.

Zinfandel Syrup
Ingredients
1 bottle inexpensive, fruity zinfandel, 1 cup inexpensive balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce, 1/2 cup meat glacé (heavily reduced beef/veal stock), optional
Directions
Reduce all ingredients in thick bottomed sautee pan over medium heat to about 1/2 cup or until syrupy. Let cool.

Steak Salt
Ingredients
1 tablespoon sichuan peppercorns, 1 tablespoon rose peppercorns, 1 tablespoon allspice berries, 1/2 cup black peppercorns
Directions
Grind all above ingredients in spice/coffee grinder then mix with 1 lb. kosher salt and 1 oz. brown sugar. Put in jar with tight-fitting lid. Use on steaks, chops, ribs and fish throughout summer.

Don’t want to cook? Head to Gretchens and let Chef Gallegos and his crew cook this for you to perfection.

Happy Trails!

Mrs. Sun

Call 208.622.2800 or email restaurantreservations@sunvalley.com

Room from the Resort: A Lodge Apartment

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Welcome to the second installment of Mrs. Sun’s Rooms from the Resort series. Each week I’ll take a peek inside one of the rooms on offer here at Sun Valley Resort, and provide you with a traveller’s-eye-view; meaning totally spontaneous, no pre-prep or fancy lighting, just exactly what you’ll see as you open your door to your Sun Valley vacation.

This week we’re going inside a Lodge Apartment. Lodge apartments are condominiums situated next door to the Lodge, so have all the amenities of a Lodge room. The main advantage is space, and lots of it, making it perfect for families or groups of friends vacationing together. I especially like the available outdoor space of the ground-floor apartments, ideal for just pulling up on your bikes after a leisurely mountain bike ride through the White Clouds Trails. So come on in and take a look:

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Lodge Apartments run from $249-$549 a night for a one bedroom suite ($339-$659 for two bedrooms, $429-$769 for three), prices vary according to season and day of the week. The individual room (with no suite) is also available from $149-$229. For more details call 1.800.786.8259, or click Reservations

Happy Trails!

Mrs. Sun

The symphony is back in town

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If there is one thing synonymous with summer in Sun Valley it’s the Sun Valley Summer Symphony. It is a Sun Valley original. There is no other place in the world where you can lie on a lawn surrounded by the peaks of the Pioneer, Smoky and Boulder mountains and soak up the sounds of a world class orchestra serenading you.

The symphony has been running for 28 seasons and is the largest privately funded free-admission symphony in America. It gathers together some of the best classical musicians in the country for two weeks every summer. There’ll be oboists from the Omaha Symphony, bassoonists from Baltimore, violinists from Des Moines, cellists from Fort Worth, as well as a slew of guest artists and soloists.

For me, the symphony is an annual must-do. Years ago, before Little Sun and Baby Sun were in the picture, I used to head to the lawn behind Sun Valley Lodge most every night for two glorious weeks in July and August. After a long day in the office, relaxing on the cool grass with a simple picnic garnished from Bald Mountain Pizza moments before, was simply heaven.

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Mr. Sun, who in our early days in the valley was a wildland firefighter, was always off protecting our forests during the summer months, so it wasn’t until last year that he finally got to share in my favorite summertime activity. We took the whole family along to the Pops evening on the first Saturday of the season. As with many musical events in Sun Valley, the symphony is very child friendly (if they get too rambunctious, an impromptu playgroup tends to form just out of earshot on the lawn). But on this evening my 3 year-old and 9 month-old were transfixed (probably all that classical music I played to them in the womb). Baby Sun was clapping and squealing along with the audience and Little Sun sat blessedly still for almost 15 whole minutes.

This year, I vow to try at least one night inside the Pavilion itself, I’ve always been reluctant to give up my much coveted spot on the lawn, but after my experience at the San Francisco Ballet’s performance earlier this month, I’m beginning to see the light.

Of course the lawn experience has been enhanced in recent years, with a large LED screen displaying the action inside for all the concerts, apart from the Edgar M. Bronfman In Focus series (which begins this Sunday). The season officially begins however, on Monday July 30 – and I’ll be there to cover it. See the full schedule here, but some highlights include Saturday, August 4th for Pops Night and the family concert the following Saturday that features the world premier of a Sun Valley Summer Symphony Commission, Cowboy Bill by Alex Orfaly. The performance also includes narration by writer Ridley Pearson. For the one night I may squeeze in up there without the children, my pick is Thursday, August 9, Musicians Choice Chamber Music, featuring Mozart and Brahms

Happy Trails!

Mrs. Sun

Orchestra concerts begin at 6:30pm, unless otherwise noted, and last 60-75 minutes. The Pavilion opens for concerts at 5:30pm. Pavilion seating is available from the East Entrance (West Lake Road) for each of the nine evening orchestra concerts. Ushers will direct the line for seating inside the Pavilion. Reserved seats will be released for general seating at 6:15pm.

A Hero’s Journey Fundraiser for SVAS

A Hero’s Journey Fundraiser for SVAS

Special Guest Speaker:

William “Bill” Baker

Bill Baker is the Former President and COO of the Motion Picture Association and former Assistant Director of the FBI

5:30 pm Cocktail hour followed by Dinner

Presentation by Bill Baker

Auction and Inspirational Opportunity

Dance the night away to the Straight Up Band

For more information, contact

tyra@svasp.org | 208.726.9298 ext. 115

www.svasp.org

 

There was a little conference in Sun Valley last weekend….

Annual reporter conference by the Sun Valley Lodge Pond

In a previous life I was a big-city journalist, so once a year when a cadre of big-city journalists descend on Sun Valley to cover some sort of secretive conference, I like to pop up to the resort, introduce myself, and live a little vicariously as they dish on their busy lives and glamorous careers.

During my last sojourn I met the delightful Peter Lauria (then of The Daily Beast now of Reuters), Michael de la Merced of The New York Times, Kenneth Li and Yinka Adegoke of Reuters, and Georg Szalai of The Hollwyood Reporter. This year there was a bonanza of broadcast journos, including CNBC’s Mary Catherine Wellons and Kayla Tausche and Fox Business News’s Dennis Kneale. Reuters and Bloomberg were also well-represented in the form of Lisa Richwine and Liana Baker, and Edmund LeeBetty Lui and Jon Erlichman. The “traditional” print media was here too, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and New York Post all had representatives, with a lone dash of new-media blogger in the form of the delightful Alexia Tsotsis of TechCrunch.

This influx of some of America’s finest business, media and technology journalists to Sun Valley each July produces reams and reams of copy about this low-profile conference. However, there doesn’t seem to be much room in the reporters’ dispatches to discuss how they feel about their Idaho vacation. Judging by their twitter streams, instagram feeds and Facebook profiles, when they do get a little downtime (which is rare), these journos seem to really enjoy being in Sun Valley. We hope this means that they’ll come back one day, off the clock.

I collected a handful of the journalists’ social media posts about their time  in this storify feed, which gives a small taste of their impressions of our humble hometown. From our conversations I think it’s clear that while their assignment is a tough one, the fresh air, spectacular surroundings and healthy dose of outdoors they get to experience more than makes up for all that hard work.

Mary Catherine Wellons, Social Media Director of CNBC, produced a stream of scenic images on instagram during her brief visit, commenting on one view that “this never gets old.” The reporters also took in some local sights (including a visit to Ernest Hemingway’s grave), sampled the local fare (a steak and Jim Spud at the Pioneer, a light meal at the Sun Valley Wine Company), and threw back a few cocktails at Boca and The Cornerstone (one CNBC photographer was particularly impressed by the “old guy playing guitar, and even older guy playing bongos,” in Ketchum’s newest nightspot).

What? You wanted to know about that secret little conference they were covering? Well, I couldn’t possibly comment. But Mary Catherine may have whipped up her own storify summing-up some of the highlights of her and her colleagues’ working hours in Sun Valley. There also may be some pictures on the Financial Times’ site, which strangely didn’t send a reporter this year. When I asked media editor Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson why not, he tweeted me “Not this year. We assumed @rupertmurdoch would just live tweet it all and save us the bother.”

Happy Trails!

Mrs. Sun

Skippy the stone skipping robot takes Sun Valley by storm

A robot, a lake and a whole world having fun

Something strange happened in the mountains around Sun Valley last week. Thousands of desk-bound, city-dwelling workers from across the globe descended on a small alpine lake and threw stones in it. Apparently the number one thing these people want to do with their time is indulge in a somewhat frustrating childhood game that is probably the leading cause of concussion among river otters.

For residents of and regular visitors to the Wood River Valley and its surrounds, this is a somewhat baffling concept. Why would you want to skip a stone across a pond when you could be mountain biking, hiking, white-water rafting, enjoying a schooner at Grumpys or throwing flies at unsuspecting trout? It appears that these thousands of stone-skipping aficionados don’t know what they are missing; they don’t know about Sun Valley. Because they aren’t actually here standing by this picturesque lake in the middle of … (nope – not saying), they’re sitting behind a computer screen in Philadelphia, Chicago, London, Berlin, Bangladesh and over 93 other countries worldwide.

Enter Skippy, the stone-skipping robot. Dreamt up by creative agency, Eleven Inc., Skippy is a marketing initiative that plans to sting those workers bees till they just have to scratch that itch by packing their bags and heading to Sun Valley.

While the number one question among locals was where in the world is Skippy (there really aren’t many lakes in Sun Valley Resort with Devil’s Bedstead in the background), the number one question on the interweb was – is this for real? Well, after some exhaustive investigative reporting, Mrs. Sun can assure you it was (Skippy has been retired for the season after his 5 days in the sun – and rain).

Skippy began life as a clay target thrower who was modified into virtual reality by Eleven Inc.’s resident engineer MDavid Low. See how he came to life in this video:

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The robot was loaded into an RV, along with about 2,000lbs of stones, and sent off on a road trip from his birthplace in San Francisco to his Idaho mountain vacation. During his sojourn in Sun Valley he was kept company by Daniel Murphy, director of Interactive Production at Eleven Inc., and his team.

Two guys from San Francisco and a robot in Sun Valley.

“We were on site the entire time,” Daniel said when I chatted to him on the phone yesterday. “One person was continuously monitoring Skippy, making sure he was full of stones and not jamming, that type of thing. Then there was a cameraman - the weather changes so rapidly that we would have to adjust the camera regularly to make sure we were getting the most beautiful views of the area possible. Then I was usually there monitoring the social feeds. People were very engaged, on twitter specifically, and also on Facebook and through email – we were going back and forth with them in real time.”

So what actually happened when someone skipped a stone? “Well it was all Skippy, it was all automated. We were just there to make sure it didn’t jam. The user would arrive at live video of the environment and sign-up to the queue. Then once it was your turn you could set your angle up or down and do a little gameplay to try and achieve maximum power, then you would see an animation of your settings and then watch your skip go live.”

So Skippy was doing all the hard work, while the team from San Francisco was just there to soak up the atmosphere, chat online (through a satellite system NASA would be proud of) and watch out for otters. “There were these river otters at the lake – it would have been a PR disaster if one got hit,” Daniel said. “So we would switch a lever whenever one swam by and the servers would put up a Wildlife Crossing error message until the coast was clear again.”

I’m actually speechless. But it looks like Skippy did his job, and then some. Daniel informs me Skippy went viral. Three thousand people skipped stones across the lake in the five short days Skippy was in situ.

“In terms of traffic it blew our minds,” Daniel said. “We’re coming up on close to 500,000 page views to the site, with over 200,000 unique visitors.” Clearly there is an appetite out there for stones in Sun Valley (imported from San Francisco). “When we first opened up the line on Monday morning at 9am there were already 5 people waiting. I knew in my heart after the first hour it was going to be a pretty big success. We watched exponential growth happen through direct referrals on Facebook. Within 10 minutes we had 30 people waiting and after an hour it was close to 200. The line was packed the entire time. I knew, having done this for a while, that once you have that much positive response it’s totally going to snowball, and it did.”

The online media-sphere got on board quickly too, spreading the word through blogging sites such as Huffington Post, MSNBC and The Verge. “One German site drove close to 20,000 visits on the second day alone, we got traffic from 96 countries.”

While the skipping is over, one part of Skippy’s mandate is still live, the chance to win a “Sun Valley summer escape.” Head to skiptown.visitsunvalley.com and pack your getaway car with the top 10 adventures you want to experience in Idaho, then wait until July 31 to find out if you’ll be heading on a dream vacation.

What is Skippy’s future? “He might have the desire to throw snowballs in the winter,” Daniel said. “You never know. We had a lot of people begging to see him again. The desire is out there.”

My advice to Mr. Skippy? No. 5 is alive. Run Skippy, run!

Happy Trails…

Mrs. Sun

“A League Of Their Own” Night with Geena Davis

“A League Of Their Own” Night with Geena Davis

Thursday, July 26

8:45pm

Sun Valley Pavilion

We’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of the hit film “A League Of Their Own”, based on the real women of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League of the 1940s and ’50s.

Join us for a FREE community screening of the movie under the stars and hear an introduction by Geena Davis

Don’t forget your picnic blankets and jackets.  Complimentary popcorn and drinks available.

 

Room from the Resort: A Lodge Balcony Room

The reason for a Lodge Balcony room: the best view of Baldy in town!

It may be just me, but one of my favorite moments of a vacation is when you open the door to your hotel room. It’s a moment of blessed relief that you’ve finally arrived, tempered by trepidation at what might be behind that door. The disappointment of a terrible room can completely destroy all the hopes and dreams you had for your vacation (not that that ever happens here!).

But in today’s age of the smart-phone and TripAdvisor, the traveler has a lot more recourse to find out what’s behind that door before they actually arrive, so I convinced Sun Valley to let me inside some of its rooms and provide you with a traveler’s-eye-view of the resort. The result will be a new Valley Sun blog series, Rooms from the Resort, featuring holiday-style snaps and quick hit videos from a selection of the abodes available to guests here. The content will be totally spontaneous, no staging or pre-prep just the god’s honest truth of what you’ll see when you open that door to your Sun Valley vacation. (And for the curious locals around here who’ve never stayed at the hotel in their hometown, such as myself, this is your chance for a free peek).

Here we go with our first room, A Sun Valley Lodge Balcony Room:

Background: This Lodge Balcony room is in the Sun Valley Lodge, the original hotel at the resort, and runs $339 a night for weekdays, $359 weekends. There are seven Lodge Balcony rooms that feature either a king bed or two queen beds in a medium size room with French doors leading to a balcony. The 148 room Lodge was built in 1936, and boasts the Duchin Lounge, Gretchen’s Restaurant, the ice-rink, a glass enclosed outdoor pool and the resort’s spa among its on-site amenities. Call 1-800-786-8259 or click here for more details.

If you’ve stayed at the Resort and have pictures or videos of your own in-room experiences, I’d love to see them – upload them here and then post a comment below. I’ll feature the most creative in a future Room from the Resort blog post and award my personal favorite with a prize.

Happy Trails!

Mrs. Sun
xoxo