Christmas Eve on Ice

Backstage at teh Christmas Eve Ice Show

Backstage at the Christmas Eve Ice Show, party scene girls are ready for their spotlight

It’s hard to remember the exact year, but two or three holidays ago, while I helped backstage at the highly anticipated Christmas Eve Ice Show, it started to snow. The grand production was well underway and dozens of talented skaters spun and leaped around Sun Valley’s famous outdoor ice rink (the largest year-round outdoor rink in the world). Spotlights captured the falling snowflakes as they began to land on the skater’s lashes and vintage costumes, on the hats and scarves of the full-to-capacity audience. Quickly, the pace of the storm increased, and thick, heavy flakes, that looked like they might have been created in Hollywood (cue the snow), began to fall in earnest. The skaters were veiled in the snowy mist, their jeweled dresses sparkled in the lights, skate blades cut through the accumulating powder. It had been a light early snow season that year and this gift on Christmas Eve was on everyone’s wish list.

Some of the older members of the Sun Valley Figure Skating Club rehearse their number

Members of the Sun Valley Figure Skating Club practice until it's perfect

The Nutcracker on Ice is a tradition that always has an element of magic, whether it comes in the form of snowfall, the appearance of an Olympian among the local skaters, a shooting star streaming across a crisp Idaho holiday sky. It is a tradition that my family has embraced now for six years. As the mother of two figure skaters (and their little brother who always got the role of a mouse because I needed them all in the same place), I have enjoyed the pleasure of a behind-the-scenes perspective on this show – a favorite of guests and locals alike.  When the girls were little, I volunteered backstage, as the “quick-change” helper. This meant I was supposed to assist the skaters out of one costume and into another for the next scene. Allow me to tell you, though, there is nothing “quick” about changing little girls who are in ice skates out of their party scene dresses and into a candy cane costume, but these nights were filled with camaraderie, high excitement and a great deal of fun.

Skaters with props

Local skaters practicing with their props

Two years ago, I moved out of my role of backstage mom and watched the production in full for the first time. Seated shoulder-to-shoulder with the entire Wood River Valley and guests from all over the country and the world, I happily sipped cocoa, waved to friends and was amazed by the skaters I see every day performing the charming choreography professionally and flawlessly. They practice a lot and it shows. When the Sun Valley Carolers arrived by sleigh, setting the performance in motion, the large crowd collectively inhaled before bursting into appreciative applause.

From this vantage point in the bleachers (which are unreserved and first-come, first-served for this show), I was again able to enjoy the traditional torchlight parade featuring ski school instructors, torches held aloft, navigating the face of Dollar Mountain. As far back as 1987, my family drove up a nearby hill and watched this stunning parade of fire before we went home to open gifts. Oh, and did I mention the fireworks that follow? Spectacular! As much as I liked being in the skate house, taking in the entire experience from the vantage point of the audience was magical, indeed.

The kids cast of the Christmas Eve Ice Show

The children's cast for this Monday's performance

The Christmas Eve Ice Show is something that all members of the Sun Valley Figure Skating Club and local skating community look forward to each year as much as the audience does. As the children grow, so do their parts and responsibilities. My little girls of six years ago are now the big girls, helping the little ones navigate their first ice show. The show’s choreographer, Gia Guddat said she loves to watch the skaters grow from party scene girls, to Candyland sweets, to snow angels. And everyone involved enjoys performing for the huge audience, giving this gift to the community.

At 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve, the place to be in Sun Valley is on the Lodge Terrace enjoying cocoa and a snack, then onto the bleachers (bring a blanket to sit on and bundle up) to enjoy the sights and sounds of a Sun Valley Christmas on Ice. The show is sure to become a tradition for your family, too.


From my family to yours, Merry Christmas!

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas!

My daughter as a cake

My daughter's smile says it all at the end of last year's show. It is a wonderful night

A Midwinter Night’s Dream

The performers perfected the show during a rehearsal

A rehearsal on Thursday allowed the performers to perfect the show

On this, the shortest, darkest day of the year — the Winter Solstice — rich sounds of traditional Christmas carols and holiday favorites will enliven the long night. This evening’s fifth annual Classical Christmas Concert will showcase stirring melodies and soaring voices, transporting audience members into a peaceful reverie and setting the tone for the coming weeks of celebration.

For many, measures of Christmas music strike (pardon the pun) a chord deep within. The first bars of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, the opening notes of carols that have been sung for hundreds of years, a chord from modern favorites, bring a flood of memories and emotions. For instance, for me, Away in a Manger, places me right back beside my grandmother’s upright piano in upstate New York. Her home is decorated with traditional, colorful handmade Norwegian tablecloths and flickering candles. Fresh cookies cool on the rack. Despite the frigid weather, all is merry and bright, secure and safe.

This evening at the Sun Valley Opera House, John Mauldin’s evocative tenor will surely stir your own memories. His sister, Leslie Mauldin’s soaring soprano, will take your breath away. The talents of the Hatvani Chamber Ensemble and of pianist and baritone Jed Moss will weave together bits of memory, feeling and meaning to create an unforgettable evening of live music. Add the festive and popular Sun Valley Carolers and I dare you not to lose yourself to the mood.

It takes a crew a full day to assemble the winter wonderland on the Opera House stage

It takes a full day to assemble the winter wonderland on the Opera House stage

The stage in the Opera House has been transformed for the night and mirrors the winter wonderland outside, bringing evergreens, white lights and everything but the snow, indoors. As the two violins, cello and piano play the first strains of music, close your eyes and let the holidays begin in earnest. But don’t get too lost in the moment – a very special guest is expected to take the stage along with the featured performers.

The sun will set today at 4:32 p.m. Before the doors to the concert open at 7 p.m., enjoy the brisk winter evening in the Sun Valley Village. Bundle up and take a walk through the Village Light Festival, where thousands of twinkling lights mimic the stars overhead. The Holiday Window Stroll leads through whimsical depictions of holidays around the world, Norway included. Visit the Gingerbread Village, a 20-by-30-foot scale replica of Sun Valley’s charm. Enjoy a drink or a bite at a Village restaurant or bar. Then make your way to the historic Opera House, take your seat, and surround yourself with the sounds of the season.

Tenor John Mauldin rehearses a favorite carol

Tenor John Mauldin rehearses a favorite carol

Historically, in the northern hemisphere, the Winter Solstice has been a time of celebration and gathering. In different cultures throughout the ages, Yule logs have been burned to light the long, dark night. Neighbors gathered and feasted. This pivot point from which days will again grow longer and warmer has always been a time of renewal, ritual and reflection.

What better way to spend this night than by enjoying your favorite music, performed by consummate professionals and wonderful entertainers? Settle in and enjoy this midwinter night’s dream.

Tickets are now on sale at the Sun Valley Recreation Center, by phone at 208-622-2135 or 888-622-2108, or at the door based on availability. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m.



Chef John Murcko and Sun Valley General Manager are all smiles

John Murcko,Director of Culinary Operations, and Tim Silva, Sun Valley General Manager, could not be more pleased with the new Konditorei

The completely reinvented Konditorei Restaurant in the Sun Valley Village will open Saturday, December 22, and all the amazing culinary and creative talents behind the project are in a merry mood. As I happened by the bustling scene Thursday morning, I had to pop in to preview the progress.

Simply put, the new Konditorei is stunning, cozy, charming. From the open pastry kitchen, laden with sweet delights of every imaginable variety, to the comfortable couches surrounding the fire, the Konditorei promises to be the new hot spot at which to gather, eat and relax.

Here is a sneak peek at the great, and delicious, things to come!


Baking is an around-the-clock pursuit in anticipation of the opening

Baking is an around-the-clock pursuit in anticipation of the opening

Have a seat, relax by the fire

Take a seat, relax and warm up by the fire

Details like the hand-painted ceiling add charm

Hand-painted flowers on the ceiling show an amazing attention to detail

Banquettes provide a cozy spot

Banquettes provide a cozy spot to enjoy the new breakfast and lunch menus or a sweet treat

Some of the baked treats at the Konditorei

"Konditorei" is German for amazing pastries and the new restaurant lives up to its name

Nordic Nirvana

The Sun Valley Club is open for winter sports and dining

The Sun Valley Club, home to full service cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, dining and retail

All it took was one good snowfall Monday for the Nordic & Snowshoe Center at the luxurious Sun Valley Club to turn the welcome sign to “open.” And reports from the trails indicate some of the best early conditions in recent memory.

For those who aren’t aware of the importance of cross-country skiing to Sun Valley’s mountain culture and lifestyle, it is worth noting that we have been christened Nordic Town USA and the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation was recently designated as a U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Site. Many around these parts take their Nordic pursuits very seriously because there is no better place to get outside and embrace winter.

Some of the 40km of track at the Nordic & Snowshoe Center

The skiing is great at the Sun Valley Nordic & Snowshoe Center

But you need not be a world-class athlete or serious enthusiast to enjoy Sun Valley’s magical terrain. The Nordic & Snowshoe Center and Sun Valley Club offer something for everyone. For a low impact, no-instruction-needed way to take in the scenery, many guests and locals alike enjoy snowshoeing. All that is required are some decent, weatherproof boots, a few sensible layers, and sunscreen. For a twist on this activity, the Center offers weekly historic snowshoe hikes. Sun Valley’s rich story and landmarks, from the first chairlift, to the Hemingway Memorial, and everything in between, come alive during this entertaining and informative two-hour tour.

If you are interested in cross-country skiing, many opportunities exist to learn basic technique or to move to the next level on the 40 km of trails. Each day of the season at 10 a.m., the pros at the Nordic Center offer an introduction to classic skiing, a great way to get started. At 2 p.m. daily there is a class in the popular skate ski technique. Those interested should register at least a day ahead and each group has a two-person minimum. Private lessons are also available by appointment.

The Nordic trails are groomed daily for optimal conditions

Nordic trails are groomed daily for optimal conditions

Instructor Steve Haims addressed the “intimidation” factor of the sport. “You don’t have to love cardio to love cross-country skiing,” he explained. “You can go your own speed and people can enjoy classic skiing from day one.  Come in, rent your gear, chat with us about the different trails, take a lesson. Chances are, you will love the peace and beauty.”

And during your Sun Valley stay, it is absolutely possible to enjoy both alpine and cross-country skiing. In fact, according to Ivana Radlova, Nordic Director at Sun Valley, it is fun and beneficial to intersperse both. “If your legs are tired from skiing powder, it is a great day to do some classic or skate skiing,” she explained. “You will recover much more quickly than if you sit on the couch.”

The restaurant at the Sun Valley Club

The lovely restaurant at the Sun Valley Club

The Sun Valley Club is also for those who would like a day to simply relax. Serving one of the tastiest and most popular lunches in the Valley, and offering a full bar, the gorgeous Club invites all to eat, drink and enjoy the unmatched views. From the inviting fireplace in the lobby, to year-round virtual golf, to a shop that offers not only sports gear, but clothing and accessories of all kinds, a trip to the Sun Valley Club will please everyone in your group.

Call (208) 622-2250 for more information, or just drive a half-mile east of the Sun Valley Lodge to enjoy everything offered by this world-class facility.


The skiing Tuesday was great

Another day in paradise. Courtesy photo from my father, a truly enthusiastic cross-country skier



Meet the BEAST

Charlie Kucher, groomer extraordinaire

Meet Charlie Kucher: groomer and tour guide extraordinaire

I must admit, “pulling up” in front of Roundhouse Restaurant in the world’s biggest snow cat, “the BEAST,” is as close to feeling like a rock star as this forty-something mother of three has gotten in a long, long time. When we parked near the stairs leading up to the famed restaurant, the door swung open and I stepped, drenched in spotlights and dusted with a light flurry of snow, onto the mammoth treads. I paused for a moment taking it all in: the brightly lit restaurant festooned for the holidays, Ketchum’s lights twinkling far below, the massive and alien-looking snow cat beneath my feet. I extended my hand, reaching for that of the gracious gondola greeter and, I hope, leapt gracefully to the ground. What a ride.

The modern day grooming caravan heads up River Run

This modern day caravan heads up River Run

The experience began hours earlier, before evening fell like a blanket over Baldy. At 4 p.m., I reported to the daily groomer’s meeting as one of the first lucky people this season to get a ride on the fabled BEAST. You, too, can partake of the story you are about to read by entering your name for weekly raffle drawings that allow guests to watch the country’s best grooming team at work, all from the driver’s vantage point.

At the meeting, I began to understand why our mountain has a reputation for the best grooming anywhere. The swing shift, on duty from 4 p.m. to midnight, is comprised of seasoned pros who work the seven cats. The graveyard shift takes over from midnight to 8 a.m., ensuring the best snow surface possible for the 9 a.m. open. The group, all men, spoke in a dialect with which I am not familiar, discussing feathering, tilling, pushing and winching.  Foremost on the mind of Grooming Manager Kerry O’Brien, however, was the huge winter storm expected to hit Ketchum Monday.

Looking the BEAST in the eye

I look the BEAST in the eye

The light decorative flurries falling Saturday afternoon may have been a portent of great things to come, but for me, they set just the right mood for my adventure. I met Charlie Kucher, a grooming supervisor and my driver/confidante for the evening, right before I met the Prinoth BEAST. I liked both right away. As Charlie advised me to (not so gracefully) hoist myself into the BEAST’s cabin, I was immediately impressed. That cat is huge. Weighing in at a few mature elephants, and featuring a back tiller that is four-feet wider than traditional cats, this 520- horsepower, half-a-million dollar machine is a sight to behold. Once Charlie switched her on and maneuvered out of the oversized garagery at the bottom of River Run, the BEAST began to climb the mountain like it was taking a leisurely stroll.  No gasping for breath here.

Control central

Control central

Seated comfortably in the space-age cockpit, Charlie worked the levers and buttons that raise the blade (the plow-looking grill in the front that cuts the snow), and the tiller in the back (that processes the surface and leaves nice lines of corduroy), like the conductor of a large orchestra. We traversed the mountain on the aptly named cat tracks until we reached the top of Warm Springs. There, we (not really we, Charlie) dipped the blade of the Beast over the edge of the trail and off we went, pointing straight down Warm Springs, as the lights below began to flicker on.

Driving down Warm Springs

Driving down Warm Springs

As we chatted about family, Charlie’s past life (commercial fisherman, chef), his passion for skiing and why he loves his job (teamwork among all the mountain operations departments), tempus fugit. Up and down Warm Springs we journeyed, from I-80 to the Lodge where Charlie showed off some pretty sweet u-turns. I knew on Sunday I would be proud to ski the run I watched Charlie so meticulously and lovingly groom.

Then it was off to Roundhouse – a vintage jewel tucked into snowy folds of fabric at 7,700 feet above sea level. I intended to hop on the gondola and return to my non rock-star life, but Roundhouse beckoned. Saturday was the first night dinner was being served and the restaurant was full and festive. Not needing much convincing, I grabbed a seat at the new rustic wooden bar and soon had the distinction of being the first guest to be served dinner there. The food, the bartenders Mike and Matt, and the ambiance were the perfect nightcap to an amazing afternoon.

Mike and Matt will welcome you to the Roundhouse's new bar

Mike and Matt, the welcoming committee at Roundhouse's new bar

To enter the raffle so you, too, can have this once-in-a-lifetime experience, you need only fill out a free entry form on Ipads available at the Sun Valley Recreation Center in the Village or at the River Run Ticket Office. One winner will be chosen to ride every Friday and Saturday night throughout the season and dinner at Roundhouse may be combined with the ride, space permitting (and with L’Addition the guest’s responsibility). Winners are announced a day prior and must be 18 years old. Please call 622-2135 for more information.


The answer? Hot Cocoa: 16 ways

An artist's rendering of the completed Konditorei

An artist's rendering of the completed, reinvented Konditorei

The question? What is perhaps the most compelling reason to visit the newly reinvented Konditorei Restaurant, Short Line Deli and A La Mode cocoa/ice cream parlor in Sun Valley Village next week? Sixteen varieties of hot chocolate, for starters.

But there are many other reasons not to miss the grand re-opening of the Konditorei. General Manager John Gaspa, taking a short break from preparations, explained all the new opportunities for gastronomical joy in the Village. His excitement and commitment to the project was infectious.

“We are adding beautiful, fresh, locally-sourced food to a classic institution in Sun Valley,” he explained. “We are paying tribute to the Resort’s European heritage, with a nod to the Alps, while offering some of the best food in the Valley.”

John Gaspa shows off the space that will next week be A La Mode

John Gaspa shows off the space that will next week be A La Mode

The Konditorei anchors what is sure to be a culinary crossroads in its stunning new space, the result of a massive facelit and reconstruction that has been underway all fall. An iconic new clock tower will be a focal point of the exterior and the interior’s inviting space will focus on a roaring fireplace. Menu items pay homage to Sun Valley’s European roots offering gourmet Belgian waffles, croque monsieur, crepes, bratwurst and spatzle. But there are also vegetarian options, salads and many delicious sides and smaller plates. Of course, there will also be pastries, hand-crafted in the European tradition (hence the name, “Konditorei” – German for a pâtisserie and confectionery shop). Pastries, many menu items and hand-crafted coffees will also be available to grab and go. The Konditorei will have a “soft” open on December 20 and 21 and will serve lunch only. Breakfast and lunch will be served beginning on December 22.

Next door, the new Short Line Deli will offer fresh sandwiches made with the best ingredients (including the “Earl Holding” – layered with house-made hot corned beef, coleslaw and Swiss cheese) and will also open on the 22nd. The prepared food at the Deli will be a great choice for an active Sun Valley day or even a quick workday lunch. John said come Symphony season this summer, gourmet baskets will be the envy of the picnic grounds.

Last, but certainly not least, is A la Mode. This fantasy cocoa parlor in winter/ice cream parlor in summer (though all items will be available year-round) will appeal to the inner child in everyone. The cocoa menu is a dream. Specialties include the Peppermint Patty (milk chocolate cocoa, white chocolate whipped cream, crushed peppermint with a peppermint stick); the Cinnamon Swirl (dark chocolate cocoa, cinnamon whipped cream, cinnamon stick); and the truly decadent Banana Split (milk chocolate cocoa, strawberry and banana whipped cream, candied pineapple, marshmallow). There’s Huckleberry, Orange Dreamsicle, Rocky Road, Sea Salt Caramel – cocoa at its most imaginative. There are also sundaes, shakes, root beer floats and other tasty treats.

The Konditorei will be the perfect place to eat while exploring the Village's Winter Wonderland

The Konditorei will be the perfect place to eat when exploring the Village's Winter Wonderland

John thinks big and plans to “bring life to the Sun Valley downtown Village.” He explained, “It’s going to be a highly interactive project. A La Mode will offer candy and hot cocoa making classes. If there is a new fabulous children’s book, a must-read, we will bring the author to Sun Valley. Music will be a vital part of the project.  Over the holidays, we will be serenaded by carolers, entertained by one of the world’s best Zither players. Come fall, expect a beer garden on the patio, wine tasting – the possibilities are endless.”

John’s overriding theme for the restaurants is quality, quality, quality. All Sun Valley culinary properties are moving toward a reliance on locally-sourced food, a close relationship with Idaho growers, food crafted from the very highest caliber ingredients. The emphasis is on healthy, fresh and packed with flavor.

Stay tuned for a review of the Konditorei next week and make sure to put a visit to the Village, and a stop at the Konditorei, Deli or A La Mode, on your holiday calendar.


Workers are busy putting the finishing touches on the complex

Workers were busy putting the finishing touches on the restaurants on Friday

Construction was well underway in October

Construction was well underway in October

Beacon Hill

The sign at the beginning of the beacon park explains how it works

Welcome to the Beacon Training Park on Baldy

If you stand in front of the Ski Patrol hut on Baldy (which can be found tucked under the mountain’s chin and is easily identifiable by the many white crosses it flies), and orient your skis straight down the hill, after a few turns, you will end up at the new avalanche beacon practice center. Delineated by an oversized wooden gate and marked on either side with stakes, this is an area in which five transceivers or beacons (the oversized-cell-phone-looking equipment that transmit an electronic “beep” and should be worn by all back and side-country skiers) are buried. The practice arena opened for the season on Tuesday and is free to use.

“We invite the public to come with their beacons and hone their skills,” Skooter Gardiner of the Sun Valley Ski Patrol explained as we side-slipped down to the field. “It’s open when the mountain is and it’s an excellent resource.”

Ski Patrolman Skooter Gardiner demonstrating an avalanche probe

Ski Patrol's Skooter Gardiner demonstrates how to use the park

The beacons are buried beneath the snow on the unofficial run “Christmas Bridge,” that spans Christmas Ridge and Christmas Bowl above the trees. A special dial affixed to the vertical beam of the gate allows users to customize their experience. Dial in how many transmitters you want to search, set your beacon to receive, and follow the signal. A sign next to the dial explains exactly how the system works and how best to use it. The equipment was a gift from Dr. Rick Moore, an orthopedic surgeon who is an avid skier and good friend to Sun Valley Ski Patrol.

As I am a novice at beacon training, Skooter dialed up two transmitters on which to practice. Given today’s user-friendly equipment, it is not hard to get the basics of beacon use, but it is obvious that practicing with one is the only way to get good at using one. The basics are: hold the beacon parallel and flat to the snow’s grade and point it downhill. An arrow on the screen points toward the beeping transceiver and indicates how far you are from your target. A “bull’s-eye” appears on the screen and the beeping intensifies when you are very close. Then it is time to mark a probable area and search with an avalanche probe until you hit the steel plate that lets you know you found your mark. The exercise reminded me a sophisticated game of “hot and cold” played by children.

Using the beacon to find a signal

My beacon's "bull's-eye" indicates that I am close to the buried transceiver

But proper training for snow emergencies is no game. “Ski Patrolers often come out here three or four times a week to practice,” said Skooter. “It’s like anything else, the more something becomes second nature, the more successful you will be in a real-life situation.”

If you ever go into the backcountry or have children who do, the new beacon practice center on Baldy is an easy, interesting and readily accessible way to practice vital skills. Having the equipment isn’t enough. Taking a basic avalanche course isn’t enough. Practice, practice, practice.

Rest assured, even if you keep to the groomers, it’s good to know that our already highly-qualified Ski Patrol (filled with EMTs, Paramedics, explosives experts, firefighters and some of the best skiers on the hill) are also out there regularly and rigorously doing their beacon homework.

Member of Ski Patrol prepare for their shift

Members of Ski Patrol prepare to keep the mountain, and our guests, safe


Full Moon Dinner, Nordic Ski & Snowshoe

Full Moon Dinner, Nordic Ski & Snowshoe

Guided ($15/person) or self supported ski or snowshoe on the moon-lit trails.

Sun Valley Club Restaurant will be open for a special full moon dinner.

Reservations recommended.  Call 622-2800

Full Moon Nordic Ski & Snowshoe

Full Moon Nordic Ski & Snowshoe

Guided ($15/person) or self supported ski or snowshoe on the moon-lit trails.

Starts at 8pm

Santa Claus is Coming to Breakfast

Little boy sitting on Santa's lap at the LDR

Santa, I have been a good boy this year ...

For generations, having your picture taken with Santa has been a much-anticipated annual event. I remember as a child standing shyly in line and concentrating, eyes squinched shut, on exactly what I would say when my turn arrived – it seemed crucial to get it just right. Even in today’s fast-moving, digitally-driven world, a glimpse of Santa still propels little ones into awed, reverent silence.

Sunday morning at the Sun Valley Lodge, the scene could have just as easily been from 1952 as 2012 as Santa made his appearance at breakfast in the Lodge Dining Room. Gorgeous little girls in holiday plaid with their hair meticulously combed sat on one of Santa’s generous knees, politely taking turns whispering their wishes to him and smiling for the camera. Two little boys in matching turtlenecks and perfectly pressed pants were next. Parents and grandparents, whose smiles stretched as wide as the children’s, surrounded Santa for a keepsake photo with the festive Lodge Dining Room as the backdrop.

Little girl in holiday plaid

Nothing says Christmas than a little girl in a plaid dress

Wishes duly noted, families (and couples) then enjoyed a bountiful buffet breakfast filled with options to please every palate. After telling Santa what they would most like to see under the tree, my children made a beeline to the made-to-order omelettes and loaded their plates with fresh fruit, French toast, breakfast meats, yogurt and pastries. Our servers treated us like the most important people in the room. Each child’s hot chocolate arrived in a personal silver pot with fresh whipped cream poking out the top. Fresh squeezed orange juice poured in crystal stemware made even my youngest feel very grown up. Santa smiled and ho, ho, ho’ed. The Christmas lights twinkled. Gigantic metallic ornaments festooned the ceiling. The food smelled and tasted delicious.

A chef prepared made-to-order omelettes

Made-to-order omelettes are a Breakfast with Santa favorite

Breakfast with Santa in Sun Valley provides the antithesis of what Santa pictures have become. Just before we left the East Coast, I packed up my three little ones for a trip to the local mall to visit the elaborately advertised “North Pole.” There, we waited in lines that serpentined through the mall’s furthest hallways. By the time we reached Mrs. Claus (the point of entry), my children were cranky, hungry and in a very humbug kind of mood. My mood was humbug, too, as we exited past the Santa gift kiosk and photo gallery (20 different packages at exorbitant price points).

Hot chocolate is poured from silver pots

An elegant way to serve hot cocoa

While Santa photos can be sweet, touching and even downright funny (I, like everyone, have a few where my precious child is simply wailing and clawing at Santa to be PUT DOWN!), in aggregate, they tell a story.  I will add this year’s photo to (gulp) 13 years of memories, this time, standing next to my daughters who are now nearly as tall as I. I will remember the laughter and conversation generated by gathering around the table on a sunny Sun Valley Sunday morning to share a wonderful meal and the joy of the season.

Breakfast with Santa is a part of Sun Valley’s Winter Wonderland celebration and will be offered Saturday and Sunday December 15th and 16th and 22nd and 23rd. Reservations are recommended and may be made by phoning 208.622.2800.  The buffet is served from 8 until 10:30 a.m., leaving lots of time for some ski runs, sledding or holiday shopping!

It really isn’t Christmas without a visit to Santa. I’ll take this one, away from the madding crowd and corporate North Pole, any day.


My family poses with Santa

Breakfast's main attraction? Santa himself