Grateful for the Original

Sun Valley's red barn

Home sweet home

“Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go. The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifting snow, oh!” Or so goes the old ditty sung by generations of school children as they prepared for Thanksgiving break. At least that’s what we sang back in the proverbial day, images of family, feasts and a sense of belonging percolating with each verse.

In this season of giving thanks, for me, over the river and through the woods took the form of a 10-hour road trip to my brother’s house, through some fiercely beautiful terrain and a lot of scrubland. I was surely thankful to arrive. I was thankful for the hugs from my nieces and nephews. I was thankful for my brother and my sister-in-law and their hospitality. I was really thankful for a washing machine and some Lysol wipes.

I was also thankful, after driving by dozens of ski areas, that I ski in Sun Valley. Very thankful. Just like many of America’s suburbs are indistinguishable, strip mall by strip mall, many ski areas also look like some mountain version of Levittown. A gondola or two and lots of lifts sprawl over runs that look like they never really reach their full potential. Short steep-ish slopes are intersected by roads and funneled into other runs. Many ski areas are only minutes from the highway and stretch one after the other after the other. Buildings eight stories high huddle with their bland edifices and cookie cutter balconies and pools. Luxury homes line the edges of runs, condos dot the hills. Base areas are built up and lifts are accessed by concrete walkways.

Sun Valley is an original. In my travels, I have yet to see any resort that looks anything like it. From our opulent day lodges to our mountains whose slopes are untouched by driveways and homes, Sun Valley looks like I think a ski resort should: a touch European, elegant, unique, family-owned. I love skiing to the base of River Run or Warm Springs, or over to Roundhouse, and gathering in a central location with my friends. Our mountain was not conceived in a corporate office and you can tell. I know I am biased. I decided to make Sun Valley my home and raise my children here – of course I am captivated by our style of charm. I learned to ski in Sun Valley back in 1983 and have yet to find another ski area that equally appeals. Getting a glance at other ski resorts during our epic road trip made me even more grateful for what we have.

Sometimes you have to leave, to travel over the river and through the woods, to really appreciate from whence you came. I am grateful for my hometown, my ski resort and the season that lies ahead. From my people to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.