As part of the communities “Share the Spirit,” shop at Pete Lane’s, Panache or the Brass Ranch on these two days, and 10% off your purchase(s) will go to the local school of your choice and SVSEF. All day event, contact stores for hours. Gift your school while gifting family and friends!
“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.
I live, year-round, approximately five miles from the Sun Valley Lodge. While I am at the Resort almost every day, dropping my kids off at skating lessons or hockey; enjoying a meal; shopping or picking up my mail, this weekend I decided to treat myself to a night at the Lodge — the full guest experience — because, well, it is a terrible waste to live next door to a world-class resort and not check in once in a while. Enjoying turn down service is good for the soul.
It is amazing how, in those five short miles, my mind quickly turned from the never-ending “to do” list to a manicure, a glass of wine and a seat by the fire. By the time I parked and walked to the Lodge’s front door, overnight bag in hand, I already felt like a guest. The always handsome and polite doormen swung open the doors in tandem, welcoming me to Sun Valley. I made my grand entrance into the warm lobby that twinkled with lights and home felt like a continent away.
Be our guest
The pleasant women at the reception desk also welcomed me with open arms (though they probably wondered why I was so giddy at 3 p.m.) and gave me the keys to the kingdom – room 165. I have stayed at the Lodge a few times, but so far, room 165 is my very favorite. A corner King room, three large windows flood the space with light and look out over the Sun Valley Ice Rink, Bald Mountain and the Pavilion. A room with a view, indeed! But luxuriating in 165 would have to wait until later. My poor neglected fingers and toes demanded immediate attention.
I scooted down the hallway, surrounded on all sides by fabulous black and white photos chronicling the Resort’s storied story, and turned into the newly redesigned Salon and Spa. Soft lights, a spice colored carpet and gleaming surfaces greeted me, as did my nail technician, Christie. Christie is newly arrived in Sun Valley and her broad smile and sweet laugh made me forget to be embarrassed by my “mountain feet.” As I soaked in the hot rose-colored water and chatted with Christie, vacation-mode took over. An hour later, my feet were reborn. Christie provided the best pedicure I have had since I moved from New York City a dozen years ago. And that is no exaggeration and no small, um, feat. An equally transformative manicure followed. No question, I will be back for some pre-holiday pampering in a few weeks’ time.
Let the pampering begin
Next stop? The famous outdoor Sun Valley pool. This mammoth, steaming circle of water is really a soaking tub of epic proportions. It was raining steadily that evening, the cold mountain drops mingling with the very hot water. A group of locals, all staying at the Resort for the Firefighters’ Ball, chatted with hockey players in town for a tournament, everyone submerged and sipping drinks, seated on the bench that rims the entire inside wall of the pool.
The famous year-round outdoor pool
Later, the group reconvened at the Lodge’s Duchin Room, securing a cluster of high tables in the back and enjoying a light dinner. Then, onto the Ball at the Limelight Room for a great night of dancing and back to my very cozy room by the stroke of midnight. Eggs Benedict at Gretchen’s the next morning was the perfect ending to the stay.
Part of the joy, part of the fun, of living in a resort town, is the resort itself. Many locals enjoy a “staycation” in Sun Valley. One friend and his wife recently celebrated their 10-year anniversary with a night at the Lodge. Another gathers a group of friends for her birthday each year and checks into one of the spacious cottages for a getaway without the getaway.
Life in a small town like Sun Valley can get surprisingly busy and stressful, just like anywhere else. But with one of the most beautiful resorts in the world in our backyard, why not play “guest” once a in a while? When I awoke to a spectacular view of Baldy, covered in snow and gleaming in the sun, I appreciated Sun Valley anew and returned home truly grateful for where I live.
Being ready for an avalanche rescue takes lots of practice and expertise, even for Sun Valley Ski Patrol
We all know skiing and boarding are fun. Big fun, in fact. But the importance of knowing how to stay safe in the snow cannot be over exaggerated. While many love the idea of backcountry or “side-county” skiing (what until recently used to be called illegally ducking the ropes), not everyone who ventures off groomers understands how to prepare for potential pitfalls when enjoying winter activities.
Sun Valley Ski Patrol wants to help. In conjunction with many organizations and retailers in the community, Ski Patrol presented the Sawtooth Snow Safety Festival on Saturday. A large crowd came out, despite a light rain and the promise of snow (fingers crossed!) to check out the latest equipment, participate in demonstrations and get as much information as possible. Held at Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge (that, by the way, is already beautifully decorated for the holidays – kudos to this year’s designers!) the festival was a rousing success.
Avalanche beacons 101
According to Mike Davis, one of Sun Valley Ski Patrol’s outstanding supervisors, “it is crucial for mountain users who might be venturing out onto a powder day, side-country slope, or the backcountry (even if the backcountry is literally in your backyard), to be prepared. There are so many resources available to educate people and help them learn the essentials as well as really advanced skills.”
The past few years have seen a huge increase in people interested in “side-country” skiing on Baldy, especially after the Castle Rock fire in 2007 exposed what many saw as new ski terrain. But Davis said he cannot over emphasize that mountain users are on their own if they venture out-of-bounds. “There is no patrol, no sweep. Even if you know what you’re doing, someone above you may not,” he said.
That is why events like the Snow Safety Festival are so important. Local instructors, experts and merchants discussed all the equipment necessary to more safely explore off-piste (shovels, probes and beacons being at the top of the list) and the importance of knowing exactly how to use them. Many at the event also emphasized that using experienced guides like those at Sawtooth Mountain Guides or Sun Valley Trekking is a very, very smart way to go.
The newest generation of avalanche beacons
Shovels are a must-have safety item and were on display at the Snow Safety Festival
Part of the joy of living in or visiting Sun Valley is the vast outdoor playground that surrounds the Wood River Valley on all sides. There are limitless possibilities for exploration, adventure and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. But what the Snow Safety Festival emphasized is that information is key. Skiers and boarders on Baldy should heed all signs and advisories. Ski Patrol is there to keep you safe, not hinder your fun. Backcountry users should check conditions with the local Avalanche Center that updates information daily throughout the season. When in need of new information or a refresher, sign up for a course or clinic.
Slopeside life officially kicks off in Sun Valley on Thursday the 22nd. Let’s all have the most fun, safest season yet.
Backcountry adventurer Bob Rosso shows off the latest equipment during the Festival
It was music to my ears, a sight for sore eyes and every other applicable cliché when I pulled into the base of River Run just in time to see a ski racer swoosh to the end of the slope and jump onto a chairlift, ready for another go at it. Now, Bald Mountain doesn’t open to the public (a.k.a. me) until Thursday, November 22, but it is open right now for an early-season ski camp. There are racers skiing and training, right now, on the hill, as we speak. Oh! Joyous day!
The camp, organized by the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) in cooperation with Sun Valley Resort, provides five days of training on Lower River Run to local racers and teams from all over the northwest.
“The kids love this camp,” said Ruben Macaya, Alpine Program Director for SVSEF. “They get to ski the mountain first which is always exciting and Lower River Run is a really good place to train.”
As Ruben explained, the relatively gentle pitch on Lower River Run is perfect for teaching skills and drills. As part of this camp, aimed at skiers ages 8 to 17, drills include one-ski skiing, balance building exercises, gate training and gate running.
“Early in the season you don’t want the kids building up too much speed,” Ruben laughed. “It takes more skill to slow down and do it right.”
The camp runs through Wednesday and many families who participate chose to stay in Sun Valley for Thanksgiving and ski the mountain when it opens to the public. After enjoying Turkey Day specials and packages, they will join hundreds of anxious locals and visitors alike who cannot wait to get in their first runs of the season.
By all accounts, the snow, a mixture of Nature-made and man-made, is good and Sun Valley will open Dollar and Baldy for its 77th winter season as planned. There is great early-season pricing in effect so there’s really no excuse not to get in some turns.
Ski Patrol actually came over to politely ask if I was alright as I lingered at River Run, watching the chairs swoop up the skiers. Shaken out of my reverie, I replied that yes, I was great. I was simply counting the days until I was on the chair myself. He smiled. Somehow, he didn’t think that was odd at all.
In a week’s time, when Thanksgiving memories are still fresh and bellies are still full, Sun Valley Village will provide a wonderful opportunity to take a stroll, shop and turn your thoughts to the holidays. Next Friday, November 23, storefront windows in the Village will come to life with eye-popping, three-dimensional, beautifully conceived and crafted scenes depicting the “Language of the Holidays” throughout the world. The new Holiday Window Stroll is certain to be one of the highlights of the season and will hopefully become a Sun Valley tradition.
A transformation of Village shops is underway as Jonnie Hartman, a talented artist in her own right, is busy unpacking everything from bags of brightly colored gumballs, oversize glass jars and Chinese lanterns, to hand-crocheted flowers and huge silver ornaments. Spread carefully around a staging room in the Village, 13 window-size panels in various pieces, are quickly taking form into a whole.
Holiday window scenes awaiting installation
The panels, created by four international illustrators, Danielle Davis (United States), Ben Javens (England), Miguel Ornia-Blanco (Argentina) and Janine Rewell (Finland), are whimsical, bright and detail-dense. According to Jonnie, the artists create the scenes digitally and then transfer images onto enormous, flexible panels – something akin to supersize foam core board but with a waterproof and durable surface. Layering is crucial to the designs. A sophisticated laser-cutting machine creates lattice borders, drifting snow and hundreds of other details you will have to see for yourself to fully appreciate.
Jonnie Hartman plans the best way to begin work on a China-themed window
The holiday window dressings are rich in breadth and depth. In the Sun Valley Signatures & Gift Shop this morning, Jonnie was busy measuring and centering the background panel for a display depicting holidays in China. Drill in hand, she readied to hang the panel a foot or so back from the front window of the shop. Once the picture is secured, Jonnie’s next step is to bring the scene to life. In this case, that means layering a serpentine dragon across the backdrop, hanging paper lanterns and adding dozens of unique touches to the life-size diorama. Stunning.
Throughout this week, installments will go up throughout the Village, as well as in the Sun Valley Inn and Lodge, creating a temporary gallery that encourages a free and interactive self-guided stroll. Starting on November 23 and continuing through January 4, 2013, participants will receive “passports” at any window location. Visit each one to receive a stamp bearing a holiday greeting, then enjoy a special treat at the end of the stroll
The windows are a part of Sun Valley’s Winter Wonderland Gala. On December 1, join in the festivities at Sun Valley Village to kick-start the season. Free and fun for all, activities include cutting the ribbon at the Gingerbread Village in the Boiler Room, a scavenger hunt, wagon rides, great food, a special visit from Santa and, of course, a look at those windows. Festivities begin at 1 p.m and last into the early evening.
Sun Valley’s new window displays promise to fulfill that universal yearning for simpler, more meaningful holidays. The vibrant colors, exquisite details and evocative images will transport you around the world and serve as a reminder of what the season is truly about: friends, family, giving and sharing. Take a moment to stop, stare and appreciate the season in front of these gorgeous works of art – a gift to the community from Sun Valley!
This window-in-progress sums it up
Crochet flowers will lend texture and color
Bright gumballs add to the whimsical feel of a display
The Limelight Room at the Sun Valley Inn has a great deal in common with the Room of Requirement at Hogwarts Castle (for all you Harry Potter fans out there): it can be transformed into virtually anything you need. Hosting a conference? Easy. Staging a benefit gala for 200? Got it covered. Need a space to feature a special speaker? Done. This room can provide a perfect setting for just about any occasion.
This weekend, the Limelight Room assumed one of its myriad personalities: that of a beautiful venue for and evening of dinner and dancing — all for a great cause. On Saturday night, it was the backdrop for the always-popular Fall Game Dinner sponsored by the non-profit Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation.
The Game Dinner is only one of many parties that take place each year in the Limelight Room.
Set up was in full swing in the Limelight Room Saturday afternoon
With its beautiful crystal chandeliers and rich color palate, the room provides a canvas that can be painted countless ways. I have been to events at the Limelight Room where the space is divided into two intimate areas – one for cocktails and one for dinner. I have enjoyed a mock casino night there, when it is jammed with “blackjack” and “poker” tables. I have listened to great speakers in that room (David Sedaris being my favorite) when rows of gold chairs faced the podium. Other events, like the upcoming Firefighters’ Ball, another local favorite, don’t require much more than a few bars, some cocktail tables and great music to morph the space into a nightclub. Each summer, the Limelight Room becomes HQ for the world’s media moguls. Within those four walls, deals are made that make history.
The auctioneer encourages the crowd at the Game Dinner
On Thanksgiving Day, the Limelight Room will once again be transformed, this time into a lavish holiday all-you-can-eat buffet. Families and friends will gather to enjoy a home cooked meal with all the fixings that they did not have to spend days preparing. It is worth checking out the terrific room packages and early season ski specials available for Thanksgiving. Imagine taking a few opening day runs on Baldy or Dollar, eating until you can’t move and simply walking down the hall to your room for a much-needed nap and perhaps some football on television. Pretty great.
Chances are, if you visit Sun Valley or live here, some occasion will bring you to the Limelight Room. It is quintessential Sun Valley and a place where memories are made.
The view from the Inn's terrace is pretty tempting indeed
If you are a parent who has ever stared down the long tunnel of unstructured hours on a rainy day when your kids are home, then this is for you! It is also for parents who may have spent a busy day skiing or sledding; fishing or hiking or biking, and want an easy family activity to wind down. What could this amazing solution be? Why, bowling of course!
Many people do not know that in the lower level of the storied Sun Valley Lodge, there is a Bowling and Game room. This full-service facility rents shoes and lanes and features a small arcade that kids just love. In fact, children’s birthday parties at the bowling alley are a locals’ favorite.
This vintage pinball machine from 1957 is one of the hidden treasures at Sun Valley's Bowling and Game Room. It isn't available to play, but it sure looks great!
On a rainy, chilly transition-weather kind of day this week (that just so happened to be the day there was no school due to parent-teacher conferences), I took my two favorite second graders to the bowling alley to blow off some steam. With me loudly whispering, “Walk! Walk!” we quickly made our way down one of the Lodge’s plush hallways, surrounded on both sides by wonderful black and white photos documenting the Resort’s rich history and celebrity clientele. Then, with the Salon and Spa just ahead (what a perfect day it would be for a massage and a facial, but no!), we veer down the stairs to the Bowling and Game Room.
Jeremy, whose patience makes bowling with children a pleasure
The boys, who are repeat customers, make a beeline for the counter, or a beeline of sorts that includes a quick lap to see what video games are new. Finally, Jeremy helps me lace fidgety feet into bowling shoes and get the boys to our lane: lucky number six. They laugh so hard they can’t breathe as they try to hoist heavier balls in search of one that is the perfect weight. Without even needing to be asked, Jeremy throws up the bumpers, ensuring a successful and enjoyable bowling experience. Endless gutter balls really aren’t fun. Before it is my turn to throw a strike (ha!), I return to Jeremy once again. If I can’t have a massage, I can at least have a beer.
The Bowling Alley and Game Room isn’t just for kids, though. I went on one memorable date there that was book-ended by drinks in the Duchin Room and dinner at the Ram Restaurant, and my friends and I gather in the brightly lit space a few times a year to enjoy a variation on dinner and a drink or dinner and a movie. Something about hurling a ball down a polished lane while wearing what are perhaps the ugliest shoes ever invented, encourages camaraderie, laughter and a chance to just relax. No bowling skills required.
When we re-emerge into the dusk and drizzle after a few games, I decide to treat the boys to the perfect ending to the afternoon. We stroll through the Sun Valley Village to the Chocolate Foundry, a confectioner that looks and smells exactly like you hope it would. The old fashion store creates handmade treats certain to please everyone in your group. After much debate, my group decides on truffles and fudge, smiling from ear-to-ear.
The Chocolate Foundry feeds every child's sugar fantasy
Whether you are a local or a guest at the Resort, be sure to spend some time at the Bowling and Game Room. It will remind you that sometimes the simplest things are the most satisfying, and sometimes a rainy day is a gift.