There were Moonbeams in the Snow…

Cuddle up in the sleigh, gitty up Nellie Gray, and away we go!

Cuddle up in the sleigh, gitty up Nellie Gray, and away we go!

On Friday night, I found myself in the pages of a storybook. The fairytale featured five sweet children, a favorite aunt, a cowboy, a horse drawn sleigh and a roaring fire. The main character of this meticulously illustrated tome was the fullest, most luminous moon imaginable. Gliding across the snow at 9 p.m. on the way to Trail Creek Cabin, it cast long shadows of tree branches against a white stage and shone so brightly we could clearly see the pattern of the woolen blankets, the tree knots on the wooden benches, the fabric of everyone’s caps.

As Jess gave our two draft horses an appropriate nudge, the regular world of the brightly lit Sun Valley Inn and Village blurred behind as we trotted into a land of white. Across the unrecognizable golf course we flew, down a steep embankment and to the side of rippling Trail Creek. Here, the book does not offer any dialogue of consequence. Laughter, hushed conversation and whispers were carried into the frozen night air and dissipated among the canopy of stars. Surrounded by a sky so clear and cold it felt like it could crack, chatter was secondary to simply feeling the sleigh move over the frozen ground.

The storybook Trail Creek Cabin welcomes you

Welcome to Trail Creek Cabin

Lights in the distance began to coalesce as we hurried toward the historic Trail Creek Cabin. Discarding the warm blankets and hopping off the back of the sled, we turned the page as we entered the cheerful, warm, log building and found our table beside a huge, roaring fire. Fragrant coconut curry soup awaited our arrival, as did the scones for which the restaurant is famous. Hats, scarves and gloves were peeled off as the fire quickly warmed us. With the return of the heat and light, dialogue flared with renewed energy.

Dinner at the cozy cabin

Warming our toes and indulging our inner foodies at the cozy cabin

Plates of flavorful salmon and steak and prime rib emerged from the kitchen, feeding ravenous late-night appetites. An accordion player serenaded our group, ending with a rousing rendition of “It Happened in Sun Valley.” Love was in the air, as a wedding reception (brought to the cabin by sleigh) celebrated in the attached yurt and at the adjacent table, a man dropped to one knee, proposing marriage to his blushing bride-to-be. She said yes and showed her stunner-of-a-ring to the room amid cheers and applause.

We sang that favorite Glenn Miller tune from 1941 as we bundled up and made our way back into the night. It was still relevant more than 70 years later. Feel free to hum along…

“Howdy folks, let’s go for a ride. Get your favorite one to sit by your side.

Cuddle up in a sleigh, gitty up, Nellie Gray, and away we go!

While you listen to the sleigh bells ring, you’re yodeling to your baby.

You’ll feel nice and warm, no matter how cold it may be….”

We cuddled up beneath the blankets, feeling nice and warm no matter how cold it may have been. With the moon striking midnight above, we turned the last page of this tale and set off in the direction of picture-perfect Bald Mountain, enjoying an experience that could only happen in Sun Valley.


A storybook-perfect Sun Valley sleigh

A storybook-perfect Sun Valley sleigh

Goodnight, moon

Goodnight, moon




Demo Day at Sun Valley Nordic

February 3, 2013

Sun Valley Nordic Center

Come test the latest Nordic gear from all the major brands.  Discounted $10 trail pass!


Galena & The Trails Winter Benefit


when: Saturday January 26, 5:30 -10:00 p.m.

where: Limelight Room, Sun Valley Inn

cost: Tickets $95 ($110 after Jan.13). Order your benefit seats HERE by Jan.13 and save.

what: A special fundraising evening to support Galena & the Trails. Celebration includes a three course dinner with wine, a silent and live auction and live music. Join us for this wonderful community event and help us raise crucial funds to support the maintenance, and future of Galena Lodge and all the trails.  A great way to kick off your 4th Annual Sun Valley Nordic Festival week!

Sun Valley Nordic Festival

The Sun Valley Nordic Festival is a week filled with nordic skiing, demonstrations, races, seminars, and activies all culminating with the Boulder Mountain Tour.

The schedule, thus far:

Ski the Rails..Ketchum to Hailey-  BCRD

Skin it to Win It A.T. Race-  Dollar Mtn
Local Stoker Ski Tour-  Alturas Lake

Guest Speaker-  Ketchum Community Libray
Local Stoker BC Ski Tour-  TBD

Twilight Ski/Dinner-  Galena Lodge
Local Stoker Ski Tour-  TBD

Masters Nationals Prologue-  Sun Valley Nordic
Nordic Hall of Fame-  Ski Hall of Fame

Masters Nationals 10K Classic-  Sun Valley Nordic
Downtown Races/Jam-  SVCA Field, Ketchum

Boulder Mt. Tour Expo-  YMCA
Banff Mountain Film Festival
Local Stoker Tour-  TBD

Boulder Mountain Tour Race-  North Valley Trails
½ BMT Race-  North Valley Trails
Banff Mountain Film Festival

Swix BMT Demo Day-  Sun Valley Nordic Center


Bounce Into the New Year

The action Monday night will be at the Inn

On New Year's Eve, the action for the young, and the young at heart, will be at the Inn

As the old adage aptly states: happy children, happy parents. And what could make children happier than a New Year’s Eve celebration tailored especially to their interests and tastes? On Monday, December 31, the Continental Room at the Sun Valley Inn will be transformed into a giant playground at which kids can count down to the New Year.  Pizza, chicken fingers, popcorn and ice cream sundaes will abound and dozens of age-appropriate activities will keep little partygoers busy and happy while mom and dad sneak out for a party of their own or stay to partake in the fun.

Kids have unspent energy? Let them work it out playing a hilarious game of Bungee Basketball. Participants are attached to a long bungee cord by a belt as they try to run down an inflatable court to dunk a basketball before the bungee bounces them back. Do your kids love the “gotcha” of Lazer Tag? They can slide into a vest, pop goggles over their eyes, grab a lazer “gun” and take part in this always-popular game. Giant boxing gloves are available to help siblings work out some of their year-end issues before the clock strikes midnight and an old-time midway offers games of all varieties. If the kiddos need some quiet time, a movie corner surrounded by beanbag chairs provides a peaceful oasis.

The event can be described as a “carnival” according to Lana Breazeale, Director of Recreation at Sun Valley. “There is a lot going on,” she laughed. “We will have a DJ playing popular music the kids know. There are contests and drawings for prizes all night long. At midnight, we have a balloon drop, noisemakers and hats. It’s really fun. It makes the kids feel special to have a party of their own.”

It also makes families feel relieved to have such a great option for what is always a nearly impossible night to get childcare. “Many parents may not have ‘big’ plans for a party or event, but want to toast the New Year,” Lana explained. “We have seen many go to the Ram for dinner or the Inn Lounge for a glass of champagne, staying close to their children, but still getting some grown-up time.”

The Ram is a lovely place for grown-ups to enjoy dinner while the children play

Enjoy dinner at the Ram or a drink at the Inn Lobby Lounge knowing the kids are happy and having fun

No matter if you’re down the hall or downtown, though, safety is of the utmost priority to Lana and her team. Children wear identifying lanyards and are even escorted to the restroom. The event is open to everyone, from Resort guests to locals, and reservations are greatly appreciated.

The fine print: the party is open from 7:30 p.m. until 1 a.m. The fun will be supervised by trained adults and you are welcome to drop off your child who is three or older.  Littler party-goers must be accompanied by their own grown up (a parent or care provider). Cost is $75 per child (a great value at just over $13/hour. Try to get that anywhere else on New Year’s Eve) and reservations may be made by calling 208-622-2135.

Happy New Year! Let the countdown begin!





Stock Your Cellar!

Premium Northwest Wine Tasting and Bottle Sale

Sun Valley Village:  Ram Room, located next to the Ram Restaurant

The Wine Cellars of the Northwest and Sun Valley Lodge invite you to this special event on:

Friday, December 28th



Sample premium wines from the Northwest including

  • Alexandria Nicole Cellars
  • Ramseyer Vineyards
  • Hightower Cellars
  • áMaurice Cellars
  • Bunchgrass Winery
  • Gard Vintners
  • Tero Estates

For more information, contact Diana of The Wine Cellars of the Northwest at

Holiday Family Fun

New Year’s Eve Party For The Entire Family!

Sun Valley Inn – Continental Room

December 31, 7:30pm – 1:00am

Youth and those young at heart are welcome to join in the fun!  Activities include Laser Tag, Bungee Basketball, Giant Boxing and a midway!

• $75/person

• Food & Beverages included

• Reservations:  208-622-2135

Silent Night, Torchlit Night

As the sun set on Christmas Eve, dozens gathered on Dollar for the Torchlight Parade

As the sun set Christmas Eve, only the silhouettes of dozens of Snowsports instructors were visible atop Dollar

Just after 5:30 on Christmas Eve, I stood atop Dollar Mountain, watching the lights from the Sun Valley Resort burn brighter by the minute. The winter sun retreated, leaving a fat, hay-colored moon in its stead. Behind me, in front of me, and on every side, congregated dozens of Snowsports instructors. For the most part, conversations were subdued as friends greeted friends and took a moment to survey the scene below, unanimously proclaiming it one of the prettiest Christmas Eve nights in recent memory. As this ever-multiplying group waited for the Torchlight Parade to begin, the quietude was interrupted sporadically by an impromptu Christmas carol or a shout of excitement.

Skis lined up, ready to go

Instructors' skis were lined up and ready to go at dusk

I took it all in from the front of a line that stretched, I am guessing, a few hundred people back. Beside me, stood long-time ski instructor Hans Thum, smiling his trademark kind smile. He promised that all would be fine – he had his eye on me. Coming from a legend who has skied the Sun Valley Torchlight Parade 44 times, I felt reassured and grateful.

Because truth be told, I had been nervous all day about the endeavor. Although I have watched this dazzling tradition many times, I always watched from a distance. I hadn’t an inkling of the level of expertise required to participate — something I failed to consider when I asked (begged?) to ski. But standing there, as the temperature dropped and it grew darker and darker, I worried. My worst fear, as a non-Snowsports instructor (not even close) was that I might ruin it for everyone. I fretted about not being able to see where I was going. I worried that I would catch my coat on fire. Most of all, I dreaded an ignominious tumble down Old Dollar that would disrupt the perfect slalom of the parade route and take out the skiers and snowboarders behind me. Or what if I missed a turn and sailed off course, torches illuminating my humiliation?

The gracious and charming Hans Thum, my guide for the night

The charming and gracious Hans Thum led me through parade prep and then down the hill

But once the end of the wildly popular Nutcracker on Ice was announced via radio, it was go-time. Positioned safely between two Austrians, both of outstanding skiing pedigree, the call came to light the torches. Plastic caps off, a torch firmly in each hand, we lit the overgrown matchsticks by striking them end-to-end. Suddenly, the black surroundings glowed red and a battle cry went up among the crowd.

Up close and personal with the makeshift torches

Up close and personal with the makeshift torches

“Stay right behind me!” Hans reminded as we pointed our skis down the slope and held the torches away from our bodies. As the line began to snake down Dollar, skiing became hypnotic. Ahead of me, I focused on the tails of Hans’ skis, working to stay in his perfect tracks. The rest of the torches blurred ahead of me and out of the corners of my eyes. The snow on Dollar was textbook-perfect soft corduroy that kicked tiny plumes of powder into the flames. Down we went, effortlessly. After a turn or two, I couldn’t remember what I had been nervous about.

About three-quarters of the way to bottom, the first fireworks exploded overhead and everyone in that long, long series of s-turns began to cheer. Instructors ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s, from “new hires” to seasoned pros, snowboarders and skiers alike, guests like me — held our torches high, all proud members of the Sun Valley family beneath that sparkling Idaho sky.

The view from the top of Old Bowl

Photographer Charlie Webster captured the view from the top of Old Bowl on Monday night

As the slope flattened and I approached the crowd standing outside Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge, the only thought in my head was, “I want to do that again.” As someone who is rarely at a loss for words, I could find none appropriate as I stood in my skis, beneath the firework finale. Magical is too trite. Inspiring isn’t quite right. I think I will go with transcendent and leave it at that.


Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night (courtesy Charlie Webster)

Sun Valley History: The Reindeer of Sun Valley


The Sun Valley reindeer forage for food by Trail Creek in 1937.

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen … but do you recall? Streamer, Liner, Clipper, Saint and Nick? Probably not. Their’s was a short and unhappy life in Sun Valley, as the resort’s first and only reindeer herd.

It was 1937, and in anticipation of Sun Valley’s second ever Christmas, marketing genius Steve Hannagan, the man who gave Sun Valley its name, convinced resort owner Averell Harriman that a herd of reindeer was an essential ingredient for a picture perfect Sun Valley Christmas. Hannagan tasked Andres Bango, a Laplandar whose father had brought the first reindeer from Siberia to Alaska in 1898, to round up 13 of the beasts from the tundras of Teller, Alaska and escort them by boat, plane and train to the heart of Idaho. Newspaper reports from the day indicate that Harriman and Hannagan had hopes this group may be the nucleus of a permanent stand of reindeer in the Sawtooths.

Once arrived in Sun Valley, the beasts were fitted with special harnesses and sleighs for ferrying guests from the railroad to the resort and, most importantly, to pull Santa’s sleigh. However, while every comfort was afforded the reindeer – including a special barn built just for them – Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, Streamer, Liner, Clipper, Saint and Nick had a difficult transition to life in Idaho. Reindeer are the only domesticated deer in the world (in the wild they are known as caribou), and in general they are  easy to domesticate, being naturally docile with a trusting disposition. But the 13 reindeer that ended up in Sun Valley were not so cooperative. They did not take kindly to being required to abandon their usual diet of tundra moss in favor of the more readily available alfalfa and by all accounts arrived from Alaska on the verge of starvation. A train load of moss was quickly dispatched from their homeland, but before it arrived the creatures had made the switch to alfalfa, refusing to return to their native diet.

By this point, the baker’s dozen were a nervous and ill-tempered bunch and when Bango hitched them up to a sleigh he couldn’t control them. To keep them running away or attacking passengers he had to hold their antlers until the sleigh was loaded and then release them and leap into the driver’s seat. According to his biographer Rudy Abramson, Harriman witnessed the creatures’ cantankerous nature first hand during the 1937 lighting of the Christmas tree. Santa Claus was delivered to the Lodge on his sleigh, but as soon as he stepped down, the reindeer charged at the jolly red man. The sight of a terrified Santa being pursued by angry reindeer in front of all his high-profile guests was enough for Harriman, and the reindeer were banished from Sun Valley.

Sun Valley's reindeer herd was replaced by this less aggressive breed.

But what became of the Sun Valley reindeer? While there is no record of exactly what happened to them, today caribou do exist in Idaho, although they are one of the most critically endangered mammals in the country. The last herd of Woodland Caribou in America lives in Selkirk Mountains of northern Idaho, eastern Washington and southern British Columbia and numbers just 34. It’s nice to think that maybe, just maybe, Streamer, Liner, Clipper, Saint and Nick led their brethren to the cooler, wetter climes of northern Idaho, where they lived out their lives as wild caribou. Perhaps, 75 years on, their descendants are still roaming that land.

Happy Holidays!

Jennifer Tuohy

Sun Valley History: The origins of the Torchlight Parade

Torches will glide down Dollar Mountain this Christmas Eve during Sun Valley's Torchlight Parade

Monday night members of the Sun Valley Snowsports School will gather with lighted torches to ski in unison down Dollar Mountain in the Torchlight Parade. This spellbinding trail of fire has snaked down the mountainside almost every Christmas Eve for the last 75 years, providing a unique spectacle for the crowds assembled below.

To get the scoop on this centerpiece of Sun Valley’s Christmas celebrations, I spoke with Nelson Bennett, 98, an early director of the Sun Valley Ski Patrol. Bennett arrived at the resort in 1940 and is one of the last people with memories from the resort’s infancy. “Friedl Pfeiffer was instrumental in starting the parade,” Bennett recalls. “I believe it was in his second winter season. It was something he brought from Austria. It occurred each Christmas on Dollar Mountain.”

A famed Austrian ski racer, Pfeiffer joined the Sun Valley Ski School in 1938, taking over from Hans Hauser as director later that winter. Pfeiffer left the resort in 1941 following the outbreak of WWII. While his Austrian origins initially aroused the suspicion of the FBI, he voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. army and fought with the 10th Mountain Division, along with Bennett and others from Sun Valley. After the war, Purple Heart in hand, he headed straight for Colorado to found Aspen ski resort.

Friedl Pfeifer, director of the Sun Valley Ski School from 1939 to 1941, brought the Torchlight Parade to Sun Valley from his home of St. Anton, Austria.

“It was sort of interesting to be watching [the parade] from the valley or the village,” Bennett continued. “Because every so often a torch would get out of line and you’d come to find out that the torch had an intoxicated skier on it,” he said with a chuckle.

After a few years as a spectator, Bennett came to participate in the tradition himself. “Yes, I skied in it eventually,” he said. “Led the damn thing down the hill in later years.”

This year the parade is dedicated to the memory of Andy and Alice Schernthanner, two local residents who passed away this year following a collective century involved in Sun Valley and skiing. It will be the first time the parade has been a dedicated event.

Happy holidays!
Jennifer Tuohy

The torchlight parade and holiday fireworks begin at approximately 5:30 p.m., December 24, following the free performance of Nutcracker on Ice at the Sun Valley outdoor ice rink, which begins at 5 p.m. Free hot chocolate, cookies, carol singing and visits from Santa round out the festivities along with free ice skating after the show.

For more reminiscences from Nelson Bennett read this recent interview in Sun Valley Guide magazine.