Pass Day

A Sun Valley boarder fills out paperwork at River Run Lodge

Step one: fill out the form

At our house, “pass day” is an annual rite of passage. We make the pilgrimage to the River Run Lodge, ready to embrace the change of season that securing our ski passes signifies. In the 15 minutes or so it takes to process all of us (paperwork, photos, handover of finished pass on its Sun Valley lanyard), we officially put summer behind us and stare longingly through the huge floor-to-ceiling windows at what will soon become a busy pastiche of skiers and boarders at the base of the mountain.

River Run Lodge

River Run Lodge is open for business

Getting our passes means it’s time for other annual rituals, too. We clean out the garage, put the bikes in the corner and put ski equipment front and center.  Ski edges and bases are checked; helmets are fished out of storage; clothing, mittens and socks checked to see who has outgrown (or lost) what.

As the weather finally shakes off any vestiges of Indian Summer and commits to cold, snow-making nights and fat clouds ready to drop some winter magic, there is much to look forward to.  Thanksgiving is right around the bend and Sun Valley is a lovely place to spend it.  The Resort is offering great room rates, a lavish buffet and both Bald Mountain and Dollar will open on Thanksgiving Day. I enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner at the Lodge Dining Room two years ago. It was the most elegant and delicious I have experienced in a long time. And the best part?  No clean up! Early season prices and packages continue through December 20 so get those ski passes ready.

A young skier takes her pass picture

Step two: take a photo in front of the mountain map

The mountain will open for a pre-season race camp even earlier than Thanksgiving. Kicking off the Resort’s 77th ski season, young alpine and freestyle skiers from all over the west will convene on the hill from November 17-21, taking advantage of Baldy’s perfect pitch and great training conditions.

Preparations for a new Winter Wonderland at Sun Valley Village are well underway – a festival of sights, sounds and tastes that will combine to create a memorable, magical holiday. Think of the most iconic, beautiful holiday story you can, imagine it coming to life, and you get the idea. Come and stay and remember what the season is really about.

And don’t forget your ski pass.  Whether it is for one day or a full season, when it is scanned for the first time this winter, I bet you will be as excited as I will. When I was a part-time Sun Valley resident for 20 years, I kept my ski tags on my coat for months after my trip ended – a proud badge of honor and a daily reminder of the amazing ski vacation that was.

In minutes, the pass is finished

Step three: get your pass

My children’s ski passes from years past have become a nostalgic display of sorts – five years of memories hanging on hooks in my home. They were all so young during that first season in 2007-2008. That was a good year.  They have all been good ones, actually, as the children grew in size, confidence and ability and I carved out (no pun intended) time almost every day to take advantage of at least a few runs on our mammoth backyard playground.


Pass creator Kitty's enthusiasm is infectious

Smiles all around

A young skier takes her pass picture

More smiles all around








Dala Delights

On Thursday night, a large, appreciative audience at the Sun Valley Opera House was treated to a night of beautiful music, courtesy of the award-winning Canadian duo Dala. Comprised of best friends Amanda Walther and Sheila Carabine, and armed only with guitars and a piano, Dala wowed with intricate harmonies and angelic melodies.

Dala during the sound check

Dala during the sound check

Dala came to the Wood River Valley courtesy of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts’ performing arts series. The Center’s Kristine Bretall, Director of Marketing and Performing Arts, said their artists really enjoy playing the historic Opera House. “The acoustics are very good and the room has a lot of personality,” she explained.

The sound for the concert was rich and round, so much so that when Amanda and Sheila started to play during their sound check, I literally held my breath. Their gorgeous voices and authentic lyrics go straight to your core.

For sound worthy of the musicians’ talent, thank members of Sun Valley’s Entertainment division. Jay Cutler and his team spent three days getting ready for Dala’s performance. “The Opera House is a multi-use theater,” explained Jay. “But the sound systems are entirely separate for films and for live performances. For concerts, the acoustics are outstanding and the room is tuned for low frequency. It really is state-of-the-art.”

Jay Cutler manning the sound check

The view from the sound booth

The Opera House, built in 1937, is a 340-seat venue, offering an intimate, unique experience.  From the high ceilings to the one-of-a-kind waterfall curtain, the theater is anything but a cookie-cutter auditorium.

Dala talking to a group of high school students

Dala talking to a group of high school admirers

When it is only two voices on stage and storytelling is of utmost importance, as was the case with Dala, sound matters – a lot. Their music is very intimate and they use what they call “every tool in their arsenal” to create it.  This includes a lot of dynamics, eye contact with the audience and plenty of collaboration. The young women shared their process prior to last night’s concert with a vocal class at Wood River High School during a workshop that was a part of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts’ education and outreach programs. Students were treated to a private performance of numerous songs and asked the singer/songwriters many questions.  The overriding message to the class was “take risks.” The artists used their song Levi Blues to illustrate the discussion.

Friendship, family and heritage featured heavily into the evening performance and the audience hung on Amanda and Sheila’s every word — words made crystal clear by the hard work of the behind-the-scenes Entertainment team.

Opera House facade

The historic Sun Valley Opera House

If you have never been to a concert at the Opera House, put one on your schedule.  Sit back, close your eyes, appreciate the great acoustics and the wonderful old-school ambience.

Sun Valley Center for the Arts will present Matt Andersen, blues man extraordinaire, at the Opera House on January 23, 2013.  He is sure to rock the house.




Men On the High Wire

This is the face of Sun Valley Ski Patrol you probably recognize — one of uniformed, highly capable men and women keeping you safe on Baldy and Dollar. Ski Patrol boasts a team of more than 50, including firefighters and paramedics, explosives experts, mountaineers and some of the fittest, most determined, most amazing skiers on the map. I love seeing Ski Patrol on the hill, which I do numerous times each day I am up there. Just a glimpse of their jackets makes me feel safe and cared for.Members of Sun Valley Ski Patrol on duty

Here is another face of Sun Valley Ski Patrol, one that makes me feel safer yet. Yesterday, under a typical Idaho bluebird sky, three weeks before the slopes officially open to the public, members of Ski Patrol were preparing for any and every inevitability. Like the safety announcement made before a plane taxis down the runway, Ski Patrol has to consider many “in the unlikely events,” including gondola evacuation.

The methodology? Climb a tower carrying a 10-pound titanium “cable glider.” Position the wheels of said cable glider onto the high wire. Clip in and attach yourself in about 20 different ways. Do not tangle your ropes. Swing your body onto a small bike seat. Release the brake and “ride” down the cable to the first gondola car. Unhook. Evacuate occupants. Repeat.

Whiz McNeal climbs the tower, ready to rideWhiz McNeal about to disembark onto the roof of a gondola

When Mike Lloyd and Mike Davis of Ski Patrol explain the process, they make it sound quite matter-of-fact. From below the tower, looking up to the platform dozens of feet overhead, surrounded by the stunning panorama of mountains, to me, it looks intimidating at best. But that’s why they are the pros.

The pros featured in these photos are ‘Whiz’ McNeal and Troy Quesnel, who both look forward to this training.  “The Patrol does this drill a few times each year and they like to get as many ‘touches’ on the equipment as possible,” said Lloyd. “Everyone gets to practice riding, belaying, climbing, opening the doors. It’s a great time to get hands on and make sure it becomes second nature.”

Rest assured, all these skills do become second nature to Ski Patrol. The gondola training exercise is only one of many that go on year-round. Ski Patrol’s motto is “Haulin’ the Fallin’ since 1936.” I guess a list of all the other things they do doesn’t rhyme.

When you see a Patrol member on the slopes, be sure to give him or her a big smile. They are there for you and are, collectively, some of the nicest people in Sun Valley.

And they know how to evacuate you from a gondola – bonus!



Ski Patrol teamwork and expertise at its best

Ski Patrol teamwork and expertise in action