Sun Valley Salutes Herman Maricich

Showman and teacher, Maricich ushered in a whole new era in Sun Valley skating

Showman and teacher, Maricich ushered in a whole new era in Sun Valley skating

If you have ever enjoyed a summer ice show under the stars, skated a few laps around Sun Valley’s iconic outdoor rink or taken in a Suns hockey game, you have seen something Herman Maricich helped create. For decades, he simply defined skating in Sun Valley. This showman, technician, teacher, visionary and Sun Valley icon passed away peacefully in his sleep on January 4 from congenital heart failure. He was surrounded by family in his Sun Valley home and had recently reached the ripe old age of 90.

Programs like the Three Musketeers were crowd favorites

Programs like the Three Musketeers were crowd favorites

He may be best remembered as a daring barrel jumper, a skating polar bear or comic bull in the ice show, or as half of the elegant duo performing to “Singing in the Rain” clad in a tuxedo, but Maricich’s contribution to skating in Sun Valley goes much deeper.

Maricich arrived in Sun Valley in a roundabout way. He began skating in Oakland, California, his hometown, when he was 12 years old. His first laps on the ice were taken on speed skates that he bought for $7 with paper route money. He took to skating right away and trained in speed skating, figure skating and stunt skating; the genesis of acts that would captivate Sun Valley audiences for years.

"Everyone was young, it was a great time," Maricich said of skating in Sun Valley's storied ice shows.

"Everyone was young, it was a great time," Maricich said of skating in Sun Valley's storied ice shows

In 1942, just after the Resort opened its doors, Maricich heard they needed skaters for the show, then called the Ice Carnival. At the time, he was working in a shipyard and the lure of sunshine, clean air and mountains made it an easy decision to hop on a Union Pacific train to Idaho. During that summer, he lived in dorms in the Lodge basement, called the Lower Three, worked as a skating instructor and performed in the weekly shows. In a 2011 interview he said, “All the pretty girls in the show were college girls. They waited tables during the day and skated. The boys also worked at the Resort, as bellmen and waiters. Everyone was young. It was a great time.” He spent free time hiking, picnicking and falling in love with Sun Valley.

Training to be a fighter pilot took Maricich away during the war years. He was an officer in the Air Force, flying P47 single-engine fighter planes. After the war, he returned to California and earned a degree in business administration from the University of California at Berkeley on the GI Bill.

During this time, he kept skating and competing and became Pacific Coast junior champion and skated in two national competitions, taking third place in the pair skating Nationals of 1947. He returned to Sun Valley’s summer shows in 1947 and it was here that he was discovered by Sonja Henie’s producer. Maricich got a part in the Sonja Henie Ice Show and started a career touring the country skating men’s pairs and singles programs.

Maricich's bullfighter number was a huge hit at Sun Valley's Saturday night shows

Maricich's bullfighter number was a huge hit at Sun Valley's Saturday night shows

Sun Valley’s spell brought Maricich back to the Wood River Valley, however, and he settled among the mountains for good in 1953. Sun Valley’s Hans Johnson invited Maricich to come teach and skate at the resort full-time and the Maricich era began in earnest.

In the early 50s, the Resort had two outdoor seasonal rinks. One, a smaller precursor to today’s, had refrigeration system, and one relied on Mother Nature to stay frozen. In 1954, the Resort expanded the outdoor rink to the current size. But by 1962, maintenance of the outdoor rink in winter was proving expensive for the new president of Union Pacific who was trying to cut costs. “Sun Valley never paid for itself,” chuckled Maricich. “We had all these extravagant things going on.”

Maricich taught generations of skaters in Sun Valley and loved encouraging young talent

Maricich taught generations of skaters in Sun Valley and loved encouraging young talent

“I told them, “Why don’t you let me take this over? Clean the ice? Run it?” Maricich said. “I had an old cheap truck with a snowplow. I’d clear the snow and blow it off the end of the rink. I even had my own re-surfacer system.” This truck, called the Hermoni, was only retired last winter after 36 years of service. Maricich began to lease and run the rink in the winter.

When Bill Janss bought the resort in 1964, Maricich secured a year-round lease for the rink and was officially in charge. He said, “With that,” he said, “I changed the idea of the staff. I went out and got as many great pros as I could without all the hierarchy.”

Barrel jumping was a family act. Here, Maricich and son Nick practice this daredevil trick

Barrel jumping was a family act. Here, Maricich and son Nick practice this daredevil trick

The program gained momentum and credibility. “There weren’t as many skating schools back then. I could build the teaching program and get prominent pros on staff and they brought students with them as well as working with local skaters,” explained Maricich.

As head instructor, Maricich taught the famous and beautiful. He took Lucille Ball and her children for spins around the rink and had to keep reminding a gaggle of Kennedy kids that hockey was not allowed. During his heyday as manager at the rink and lead pro, he rubbed elbows with the likes of Ann Sothern, Leonard Bernstein and Gary Cooper. He took over the children’s skating program and directed their numbers in the ice show. Maricich went on to put together a skating school that has evolved into today’s Sun Valley Figure Skating Club that boasts more than 200 members.

Maricich skated with and taught many stars including Lucille Ball

Maricich skated with and taught many stars including Lucille Ball

Soon, the program that got so busy that it became evident that the resort needed an indoor rink. “Janss said it was a good idea, but he couldn’t finance it. He was investing in the mountain,” explained Maricich. “I thought about it for a few years and approached him again. I proposed trying to get it done privately with investors. Janss kind of laughed at the idea but wished me well.”

Maricich was determined. “I wrote up a proposal and presented it to about 100 people. Out of those, I got ten people to invest and I found financing for the rest.” He took over as the general manager of a project, paid rent for the land and secured a 15-year lease. Construction took a little more than a year and cost $450,000.

With the addition of the indoor rink, hockey was sure to follow. Bob Johnson came and ran a hockey camp while Maricich set the wheels in motion for a resort hockey team that evolved in the Suns. A strong junior and senior program quickly followed. Today, the Sun Valley Youth Hockey Association coaches almost 200 children every year and adult leagues are filled to capacity.

But even during this period of innovation and construction, Maricich continued to do what he loved to do: entertain. He performed in the ice shows for decades and was known for comedic and daredevil acts. Maricich would choose a theme for each summer season and help to choreograph all the numbers. “He was pretty much the dominant force in coming up with the acts,” said longtime friend and collaborator, Dick Haskell who started in the shows in 1957. He would also create intricate costumes for many of his roles: animal heads likes bulls and donkeys and bears that had moving tongues and tusks and eyes.
“Everything you see at the rinks today are just an extension of what Herman developed,” said Haskell. “He did an awful lot to keep it going.”

Maricich's second wife, Mariana, performed with him for 15 years as a Hermanette

Maricich's second wife, Mariana, performed with him for 15 years as a Hermanette

Maricich’s “Hermanettes” were also part of the glamor. The “Hermanettes” were beautiful ladies clad in figure flattering costumes who performed support roles in Maricich’s numbers. “We’d pop a bottle of champagne after the shows,” Maricich said. “We were one big family.”

Maricich came to Sun Valley to skate, and skate here he did, for a lifetime. Generations of locals who took their first turns around the ice with the Learn to Skate program, hundreds of pros, Olympic skaters and recreational enthusiasts alike have all benefitted by Maricich’s vision, passion and dedication.

A doting father, Maricich lifted young daughter Maria overhead

A doting father, Maricich lifted young daughter Maria overhead

On a personal note, Herman was my friend and my neighbor. He never forgot to ask about my two daughters who are figure skaters, wondering what jumps they were working on or what level test they were preparing for. He was charming, debonair, intelligent, perceptive … truly one-of-a-kind.

He will be missed by his five children: Nick, Maria, Tony, Alex and Stasha, grandchildren, Alexandra Maricich and Zac Siele, and the whole community to whom he gave so much.

–RES

A skater and a gentleman, the community celebrates this life well lived

A skater and a gentleman, the community celebrates this life well lived

Build Skills, Catch Air

Skiers and snowboarders spent a beautiful Sun Valley weekend trying out Dollar's newest skill-building terrain park

Skiers and snowboarders spent a beautiful Sun Valley weekend trying out Dollar's newest skill-building terrain park

“Dropping in!” This delighted cry rang out time and again on Dollar Mountain’s new skill-building terrain park that officially opened for the season on Sunday. Designed for beginner and intermediate skiers and boarders, the new features, located skiers’ right on Quarter Dollar, is not only big fun, it enhances the learning curve exponentially.

Children's SnowSports Director Shannon Price thinks this park is fantastic for both fun and learning new skills (and, yes, she is always this happy!)

Children's SnowSports Director Shannon Price thinks this park is fantastic for both fun and learning new skills (and, yes, she is always this happy!)

According to Shannon Price, Director of the Sun Valley Children’s SnowSports program, this progression park is a wonderful addition to Dollar. Kids will automatically be drawn to it and they will have so much fun they won’t even know they’re learning! For those with big dreams of big air, this is the perfect place to start.

The park is built with “soft” features, including rollers, a mini Halfpipe and a family cross course. There are no “hard” features like rails. And everything is designed with young athletes in mind.

“The gentle pipe actually improves children’s skills and form,” explained Shannon. “The layout lets a child who is snowplowing to drop in, and by using the curvature of the pipe, their skis automatically become more parallel. It’s amazing how quickly beginning skiers improve when they use this feature.”

The mini-pipe help skiers get parallel and is good practice for everyone

The mini-pipe help skiers get parallel and is good practice for everyone

The park is open to everyone on Dollar and on a stunning Sunday morning it was getting a lot of use. SnowSports School children’s group lessons explored every foot of the available terrain, yelping with delight the entire way down. Parents and children took to the mini-pipe together and laughed over the rollers on the way back to Quarter Dollar lift.

Skills built on this gentle park will transfer easily to Dollar’s more challenging features that were also getting quite a work out this weekend. Visitors, recreational skiers and snowboarders and members of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation freestyle team flew, jumped, flipped and spun over jumps, jibs and boxes, having the time of their lives.

Local athletes train on jumps on Dollar Sunday, showing how it is done

Local athletes train on jumps on Dollar Sunday, showing how it is done

No matter if you are an absolute terrain park beginner, have a child who has dreams of back flips or cross course racing or just want to try something new, the new terrain park at Dollar has your name on it. Be sure to head to the mountain during your Sun Valley holiday vacation and take a run, or three or four. Make a day of it by enjoying a fabulous lunch at Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge.

If you think your child will want to spend the entire day – or week – trying out everything Dollar offers, book a group or private lesson at the SnowSports School by calling (888) 490-5950 or click HERE. The highly trained, amazingly enthusiastic instructors are sure to make your child’s experience one to remember!

Getting ready to drop into the park!

Getting ready to drop into the park!

Christmas is here and we wish you and yours a spectacular holiday in Sun Valley! Don’t forget the Nutcracker on Ice this evening followed by the Torchlight Parade and fireworks. Then after Santa visits in the morning, be sure to get out onto Baldy and Dollar and don’t miss this wonderful new place to play.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

–RES

Edward Villella Takes to the Ice

The strains of Tchaikovsky’s Elegy drift from the speakers high above Sun Valley’s outdoor rink as a dozen skaters, members of Ice Theatre of New York, mark a new piece in their repertory. Couples stand face-to-face, shoulder-to-shoulder, hands on each others’ waists and backs, moving arms and legs slightly to the strains of the music and listening to the corrections and notes given by an elegant man, dressed casually in jeans and a New  York University sweatshirt, leaning on the rail.Edward Villella, Douglas Webster, Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre take a short break from rehearsals for Ice Theatre of New York

Edward Villella, Douglas Webster, Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre take a short break from rehearsals for Ice Theatre of New York

At the edge of the rink, Douglas Webster, the artistic director of Ice Theatre of New York, confers with this man, the legendary Edward Villella who is overseeing the rehearsal with laser-like intensity. “Do you like the arms here, or here,” Webster asks, demonstrating two possibilities. In response, Villella who is considered the most celebrated male dancer of his time, the greatest produced in America, responds by showing the port de bras he prefers. Even in that tiny gesture, Villella’s tremendous grace, passion and power, the hallmarks of his storied dance and choreography career, are apparent even to the untrained eye.

Villella joined the New York City Ballet where he became a soloist in 1958 and principal dancer in 1960. He is perhaps best known as the original male lead in many important ballets, especially a revival George Balanchine’s exquisite 1929 masterpiece, Prodigal Son. He left New York to found Miami City Ballet in 1986, bringing that company to international acclaim. He is a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors and was awarded the National Medal of the Arts by President Clinton. In the rarefied world of ballet, he is royalty.

Villella is accustomed to working with the best ballet dancers in the world but, in Sun Valley, turned his attention to ice dance

Villella is accustomed to working with the best ballet dancers in the world but, in Sun Valley, turned his attention to ice dance (photo: Villelladance.org)

Transferring a lifetime of working with prima ballerinas en pointe and danseurs in soft shoes to dancers laced tightly into skate boots with sharp, inflexible boots on their feet is a challenge Villella said he is enjoying. “The flat foot is where it is hard for me to translate,” laughed Villella at a rehearsal at the outdoor rink earlier this week. “But the arms, they are universal.”

Reveries is a special piece Villella is choreographing for Ice Theatre of New York’s Gala, a tribute to Kurt Browning and Sonia Rodriguez, a ballerina, in New York City on October 25. Villella describes Reveries, an 11-minute work featuring five couples, as a “lush romantic ballet about unattainable love.”

Ice dancer Kim Navarro said it’s been an honor working with the ballet great. “A door has been opened to this rich and historic ballet world and it is an honor to get to peek through it,” she explained. “It feels like we get to peer into a world that is something much greater than us, just skating. Just to be in Edward’s presence is a great honor that has not been lost on any of the skaters. May I also say how humble he is? He keeps thanking us for being willing participants of his work. Amazing!”

Sun Valley favorites Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre rehearse Elegy

Sun Valley favorites Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre rehearse Reveries

Sun Valley’s audiences can enjoy a performance of the piece set to Elegy and see Villella’s signature style, as well as the well-known ice dance company’s other repertory for the upcoming season at a special show on October 2. The show is free and features skaters from all over the globe, as well as Sun Valley On Ice dancers Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre, Joel Dear, Ty Cockrum and Natalia Zaitseva.

In the meantime, Villella, who is in Sun Valley with his wife, Linda Carbonetto, is enjoying fall in Idaho. Villella said he hasn’t been here in 30 years. “It is the most serene place I have been in a long time,” he said in his soft voice. He added that he is truly enjoying working here amid our spectacular fall scenery at the iconic rink. Linda, a former Canadian Olympic figure skater, is also relishing fall in Sun Valley, even finding time to skate.

The legendary Edward Villella works with his dancers on the ice

The legendary Edward Villella works with his dancers on the ice

For me, who seriously studied ballet throughout my childhood and became a fervent (fanatical?) fan of the New York City Ballet, meeting Villella left me speechless. It is always interesting, how in this little rural corner of Idaho, so many of us have the chance to meet or see our heroes, whether they are ski racers, actors, cellists, mountain bikers, pop stars, figure skaters, or in my case, a ballet dancer.

Be sure to come out on October 2 to enjoy a gorgeous night of ice dance and to get a glimpse of the greatness that is Edward Villella.

–RES  

Reaching Higher Ground at the Rink

What do you get when you mix a special performance by the Ice Theatre of New York, one of the world’s most famous ballet choreographers and Higher Ground of Sun Valley? You get a very special ice show coming our way on Wednesday, September 18.

Come out and enjoy a fall evening with a fantastic ice show -- all for Higher Ground, an organization that changes lives

Come out and enjoy a fall evening with a fantastic ice show -- all for Higher Ground, an organization that changes lives

Ice Theatre of New York, under the artistic direction of Douglas Webster, has made Sun Valley’s beautiful two rinks its home since September 11, bringing a three-week residency to our figure skating Shangri-La. Working with favorite Sun Valley on Ice show skaters like Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre, Joel Dear, Ty Cockrum and Natalia Zaitseva, and other professionals from all over the country and the world, the residency is preparing the renown skating company for a special performance in New York in October. In the works are rehearsals on existing and new repertory pieces. Swing by the Sun Valley outdoor rink between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. and, weather permitting, get a rare behind-the-scenes peek at how Ice Theatre of New York trains and prepares.

The one-and-only Edward Villella rehearses with members of Ice Theatre of New York

The one-and-only Edward Villella (right, with artistic director Douglas Webster) rehearses with members of Ice Theatre of New York

Now, cue the famous choreographer. The one and only Edward Villella, formerly of the New York City Ballet and founder of Miami City Ballet, is rinkside in Sun Valley lending his considerable talents to this project. To those of us who love ballet, he is a superstar.

Now, enter the excellent cause. All bleacher seats on Wednesday evening are being sold for a suggested donation of $10 to support the Higher Ground’s military programs. Higher Ground is a Ketchum-based non-profit that works with injured veterans and their families and loved ones. Men and women who have served and suffered physical injuries, a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and/or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD and/or MST) come to Sun Valley to participate in snowsports, fly fishing, whitewater rafting and other healing camps under the care and expertise of Higher Ground.

Higher Ground offers numerous programs throughout the year to veterans that utilize Sun Valley's amazing, healing outdoors

Higher Ground offers numerous programs throughout the year to veterans that utilize Sun Valley's amazing, healing outdoors

A special group that is holding a convention in Sun Valley this week reached out to Higher Ground, offering to help them fundraise for their vital projects. Erin Rheinschild, Director of Philanthropy at Higher Ground explained, “they had a ice show on their schedule this week, but planned to enjoy dinner at the Lodge and then watch the show from the terrace. That left the bleachers empty. They said they appreciate and value the work we do and would like, with Sun Valley, to offer those seats as a fundraiser for our military programs. Of course we said yes!”

So, on Wednesday night, come out to enjoy a sneak peek of the Ice Theatre of New York repertory, a headline performance by perennial favorite Jumpin’ Joe, the amazing core skaters of Sun Valley On Ice, all while supporting the life changing work of Higher Ground.

Expect some exciting extras, too. According to Rheinschild, a Color Guard from Mountain Home Air Force Base will be in attendance. They will also have a terrific silent auction and a pass the hat. “This event brings a great deal of awareness to everyone about our programs,” Rheinschild said. “We encourage everyone to come out, enjoy a fabulous show and learn more about Higher Ground.”

Tickets are available at the door for a suggested donation of $10. Seats are first come, first served and doors open at 7 p.m. For more information, call 208-726-9298 or click HERE.

Members of the Ice Theatre of New York look forward to showcasing their repertory for Sun Valley audiences

Members of the Ice Theatre of New York look forward to showcasing their repertory for Sun Valley audiences

Please check back to this blog for both a detailed look at Edward Villella and the Ice Theatre of New York in advance of their free performance in Sun Valley scheduled for October 2. Please also watch for a story on the tradition that Higher Ground continues – a long history of Sun Valley as a place of healing.

–RES

Fire, Now Ice

After the stress and uncertainty of the past two weeks, it is probably safe to say everyone in the Wood River Valley could use a little entertainment right about now — preferably something cool after all the heat generated by the Beaver Creek Fire.

Sun Valley On Ice is the coolest ticket in town and this week it's free

Sun Valley On Ice is the coolest ticket in town and this week it's free and for a great cause

Sun Valley has just the ticket and invites you to be their guest this Saturday night, August 24, for the spectacle that is Sun Valley On Ice. These ice shows are synonymous with the resort and have showcased the finest figure skaters in the world for more than 70 years. If you haven’t been to an ice show for a while, or even if you have, be sure to come by on Saturday night when general admission is free. Seating in the bleachers will be first come, first served and it promises to be a night to remember!

Best of all, not only will you enjoy a wonderful evening of excitement beneath the wide expanse of Idaho’s summertime, nighttime sky, you will be supporting a great cause. In lieu of charging for entrance Saturday night, Sun Valley is asking that patrons donate to the Wildland Firefighters Foundation. Without the bravery and dedication of more than 1,500 firefighters waging war against the flames up and down valley this month, much of what we collectively cherish could have been lost. This is one way Sun Valley is thanking the firefighters for their efforts.

More than 1,500 firefighters protected the Valley from the monster Beaver Creek Fire. We thank them and raise money for them Saturday night. (photo Great Basin National Incident Management Team #1)

More than 1,500 firefighters protected the Valley from the monster Beaver Creek Fire. We thank them and raise money for them Saturday night. (photo Great Basin National Incident Management Team #1)

The Wildland Firefighter Foundation, located in Boise, focuses on helping families of firefighters killed in the line of duty and assisting injured firefighters and their families. Head of Marketing Jack Sibbach said Sun Valley “honors and acknowledges past, present and future members of the wildland firefighting community,” and “wishes to bring recognition to wildland firefighters.”

We profoundly thank the wildland firefighters for putting themselves at risk day after day to protect this amazing place (photo Great Basin National Incident Management Team #1)

We profoundly thank the wildland firefighters for putting themselves at risk day after day to protect this amazing place (photo Great Basin National Incident Management Team #1)

 

Among Sun Valley’s core skaters, keep an eye on Joel Dear and ice dancers Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre who recently electrified the country with their eye popping Aerial Ice act on the television show America’s Got Talent. The threesome advanced to the final rounds with the rest of their ensemble at Radio City Music Hall before being told that they wouldn’t be moving on.

The only fire you will see Saturday night is in Ashley Clark's hot act (photo Bob McDowell)

The only fire you will see Saturday night is in Ashley Clark's hot act (photo Bob McDowell)

And you will see some fire Saturday night, but it will come from skater Ashley Clark. One of her solo acts this season incorporates her recent training as a fire dancer. It is truly mesmerizing.

Grab a blanket to sit on, come early for a glass of wine or a beer and be sure to bring a jacket for cooler evening temperatures. The suggested donation is $20, but that is by no means a requirement for attendance. The evening’s entertainment begins at dusk (around 9 p.m.) and doors open at 7 p.m.

If you’d like to make a real night of it and celebrate the growing containment of the fire, dinner and show tickets are available for purchase for $99 and include a wonderful buffet at Gretchen’s Restaurant terrace and a great view of all the action on the ice.

Sun Valley On Ice is one of the Resort’s longest-running traditions and a big part of what makes Sun Valley, Sun Valley. Come to the rink Saturday night to honor the firefighters, cheer on the skaters and enjoy what is sure to be a spectacular, and relaxing, late summer’s night. Once again, thank you firefighters.

–RES

Let us entertain you. The cast of Sun Valley On Ice performs beneath the stars earlier this summer.

Let us entertain you. The cast of Sun Valley On Ice performs beneath the stars earlier this summer.

There’s No Place Like Home

The view out Greenhorn last Wednesday, preceding Thursday evacuation of the area

The Beaver Creek Fire gears up for its devastating assault on Greenhorn Gulch Wednesday of last week

Dramatic, uncertain, awesome (in the true sense of the word): It has been a week to remember in Sun Valley. As the Beaver Creek wildfire took control of the topography surrounding our beautiful valley, bending residents and visitors to its will, more than 100,000 acres were engulfed in a week’s time. Upwards of 2,000 homes were evacuated and close to 1,800 fire personnel from all over the nation and all over Idaho stepped into the flames and smoke. Fire visible from the State Highway 75 ran up and down mountains while the air traffic overhead, comprised of attack helicopters, small planes and even DC-10s, worked to beat it back.

And while this crisis isn’t over, when I returned to the Wood River Valley and to my home on Monday, after three days away, things were definitely looking up. Through the valiant efforts of firefighters, many residents this week were allowed back into their homes. In Ketchum, though quiet for August, people enjoyed lunch outside beneath increasingly blue skies, shopped great sales and a few friends I know even enjoyed a round of golf Tuesday morning. In true Ketchum spirit, people were out running and biking the local paths.

While the crisis is not over, Ketchum, Sun Valley and Hailey are showing signs of normalcy

Though the crisis is not over, Ketchum, Sun Valley and Hailey are showing signs of normalcy

While it is crucial to emphasize that this fire is only about ten percent contained and the most important thing we can all do is stay out of the way of emergency responders, listen to law enforcement and let everyone do their job, I have to admit, I was thrilled to be home. With my evacuated parents taking up residence with us for a time, Monday night we settled back in, thankful and humbled by the events swirling around us.

Sun Valley is place that breeds fierce loyalty. Very few people simply ‘end up’ here. The vast majority of residents, second homeowners and visitors very deliberately choose Sun Valley for everything that makes it unique. We choose to raise our children amid peace and security. We choose to retire in a place where there is a close-knit community. We choose to vacation amid some of the most spectacular lands in the country offering unbeatable skiing and snowboarding, cross-country, fly-fishing, mountain biking and on and on. We choose Sun Valley.

This isn’t just a place. It is a way of life. It is a valley personified by exactly the type of behavior seen during this fire – that of open invitations to guest rooms, couches, transportation, information. It is a place where neighbors take care of one another; where a familiar face spotted when away from town feels like a member of the family.

Fighting fire -- ski resort style

Fighting fire -- ski resort style. The snow guns on Leigh Lane on Baldy's Seattle Ridge pumped water to keep slopes damp in case embers hit

Sun Valley Resort is also an exceptional neighbor. This week, many evacuees chose to move to safety and comfort at the Resort, taking up residence at the Lodge or Inn. The company worked closely with firefighters and emergency personnel in helping to protect all that is sacred here, including a symbol of what we value the most — Bald Mountain. Snowmaking guns were turned on full force to protect Seattle Ridge and the area below and everyone fought together, and continue to fight together, to make sure Baldy comes through this unscathed.

In addition, the Resort will offer its popular Sun Valley On Ice show general admission tickets free to the public on August 24. There, they will collect donations for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.

Show your support for Sun Valley over the Labor Day weekend and enjoy Wagon Days -- one of the most popular events of the year

Show your support for Sun Valley over the Labor Day weekend and enjoy Wagon Days -- one of the most popular events of the year

As it becomes increasingly safe to return to a more normal routine, my suggestion is that everyone eat at our wonderful local restaurants, shop at the Sun Valley Village and Ketchum and Hailey’s one-of-a-kind boutiques and galleries, frequent our local markets. Stay for Wagon Days over Labor Day weekend — it’s on – and enjoy the most memorable parade you will ever see as well as many other surrounding events. Supporting local businesses might be the most important thing we do once this blaze is contained.

From the ashes will come some spectacular wildflowers, an embarrassment of morels and, probably, some fantastic new backcountry skiing. After the Castle Rock fire, the ski season on Baldy was especially good. Next summer, Sun Valley will be in bloom and Mother Nature’s unbelievably violent housecleaning will inevitably produce new opportunities in and around the Wood River Valley.

Fire teams from Ketchum, Hailey, Wood River and Bellevue all staged outside St. Luke's Wood River Hospital south of Ketchum on Tuesday afternoon while helicopters worked in the distance

Fire teams from Ketchum, Hailey, Wood River and Bellevue all staged outside St. Luke's Wood River Hospital south of Ketchum on Tuesday afternoon while helicopters worked in the distance

Thank you, firefighters doesn’t begin to express it. Thank you emergency services personnel. Thank you neighbors. Please stay tuned to this blog for more information about developments in the Beaver Creek fire, opportunities for the community to come together and opportunities for visitors to enjoy our amazingly special Valley into the fall.

As for me, September is always my favorite month of the year and I am very, very happy to be home.

–RES

The Sun Valley Lodge was calm and surrounded by pretty clear skies Tuesday afternoon

The Sun Valley Lodge was calm and surrounded by pretty clear skies Tuesday afternoon

Breaking Bread with Brian Boitano

Brian Boitano has a long history of headlining Sun Valley On Ice - now he returns to share his other passion, cooking

Brian Boitano has a long history of headlining Sun Valley On Ice - now he returns to share his other passion, cooking (photo courtesy Craig Heath)

Olympic figure skating legend Brian Boitano just looks like someone you want to have as a friend; someone with whom you want to share dinner, a cocktail and stories. Now is your chance! Brian is coming to Sun Valley to host a special cooking class and party on September 1 and you are invited.

Cooking you might say? Brian Boitano? Yes! As the 1988 Olympic champion, the 1986 and 1988 World Champion, and the 1985-1988 U.S. National Champion in figure skating, he is one of the most exalted skaters of our time. After turning professional following his 1988 season, Brian continued and continues to skate, entertaining countless fans in shows and television specials each year. He has headlined Sun Valley On Ice many times and is a local favorite. But he also found a second career about which he is equally passionate – cooking.

Boitano creates all of his own recipes and will share some of them with the lucky guests at his August 22 event

Boitano creates all of his own recipes and will offer tips and techniques to prepare them at home with the fortunate guests at his August 22 event

A self taught chef, Brian took his love of food and entertaining and parlayed it into a popular television program on both the Food Network and Cooking Network. In What Would Brian Boitano Make? the eponymous star of the series shares recipes, techniques and tips for entertaining with viewers, all with his signature style. From his television work came a cookbook by the same name, a collection of his best recipes that will help you look like a gold medalist in your own kitchen.

On September 1, 100 lucky people will gather at the spectacular home of Kim Selby in Ketchum to learn from Brian as he gives a cooking lesson and offers tips a la his popular television show.

The Valley Sun caught up with Boitano to discuss the upcoming event.

TVS: You have a long-standing connection to Sun Valley. Are you looking forward to returning next week?
BB: Sun Valley is near and dear to my heart and I always love to come back. Not only do I have wonderful memories of all the shows I’ve performed in, but I have good friends here.

TVS: But this time, you’re trading in your skate blades for knife blades. Tell us what people who attend the function on the 22nd might expect.
BB: Well, you can expect great food and drinks that you will be able to replicate at home. You can also expect to learn these recipes in one of the most beautiful kitchens in the Northwest. Kim’s house is gorgeous and is fully stocked with everything you need to make an unforgettable meal. She even has a pizza oven that we’re going to use.

TVS: Is this event for the seasoned cook or for anyone who is interested?
BB: My philosophy on cooking is that everyone can do it. You just need a plan. My cookbook, from which I will be choosing recipes for that event, lets you make delicious food in very few steps. It’s for everyone from the novice to the experienced chef.

TVS: You created all the recipes in your cookbook yourself, correct?
BB: Yes, they are all mine! Usually I follow something that interests me when beginning a new dish. I may not have used much allspice in cooking and would like to try it, so I think about what allspice would be good with. Rice? For sure! Let’s try rice. Then I lay out how I’m going to make a new dish. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t but if it doesn’t I can dissect what went wrong and learn from it. The dishes in my cookbook have gone through a lot of changes to get to where they are!

During all my travels for skating, I have been able to indulge my interest in food from many cultures and many different flavors. I also give a nod to my Italian heritage. It all comes through in my recipes.

TVS: Any ideas about what you plan to cook and teach the guests to cook?
BB: One of the things I’m making is southwestern sopapillas – a recipe in the cookbook that people just love and I love. Where sopapillas are usually sweet, mine are savory. They are little dough balls that puff up when you fry them. Then I poke a hole in them and stuff them with salsa and bean dip. They are absolutely delicious, easy to make and certain to impress dinner guests! I am also planning on a white wine sangria with fresh mint in it and pizza because when you have a pizza oven in the house, you have to use it!

TVS: Any plans to take to the ice while you are in town?
BB: I actually do plan to skate a little bit in Sun Valley to get in shape for my upcoming season. There are a lot of people at the rink I really appreciate working with and it’s a beautiful place to skate. I have two NBC shows coming up in the fall so I am ready to train for them.

TVS: This dinner benefits the Sun Valley Figure Skating Club. Do you have a special connection to the organization?
BB: Skating in Sun Valley is very special and I always want to support and encourage young people in the sport. When I was an up-and-coming skater I competed in the Club’s annual Summer Championships and I am happy to help this excellent program.

Boitano has a long history in Sun Valley. Here he enjoys time off with fellow skater and choreographer Gia Guddat

Boitano has a long history in Sun Valley. Here he enjoys time off with fellow skater and choreographer Gia Guddat (photo courtesy Craig Heath)

Tickets to this once-in-a-lifetime chance to break bread with Brian Boitano are available at www.sunvalleyfsc.com, by calling 208.622.8020 or at the Club office located behind the skate house. Very limited VIP tickets are available for $200 ($375 per couple) and include a private cocktail hour with Brian Boitano. Tickets to the cooking demonstration, that include signature cocktails and hors d’oeuvres are available for $100 ($175 per couple). Guests will also receive a signed cookbook. All proceeds benefit the Sun Valley Figure Skating Club, dedicated to skating excellence and making this lifelong sport available to children in the Wood River Valley.

I have my ticket and look forward to this amazing night! See you there.

–RES

PLEASE NOTE: DUE TO RECENT FIRES, THIS EVENT WAS RESCHEDULED FOR SEPTEMBER 1. TICKETS ARE STILL AVAILABLE!

 

The fundraiser benefits the Sun Valley Figure Skating Club and encourages children to pursue this lifelong sport

The fundraiser benefits the Sun Valley Figure Skating Club and encourages children to pursue this lifelong sport

Art for Every Aesthetic

The Arts & Crafts Festival hosted by the Sun Valley Center for the Arts brought the highest quality arts in every medium to town for the 45th year

The Arts & Crafts Festival hosted by the Sun Valley Center for the Arts brought the highest quality arts in every medium to town for the 45th year

Sun Valley’s reputation as a destination for art collectors and those who simply appreciate objects of beauty is well deserved. With dozens of local galleries exhibiting works produced in every medium from some of the most important artists of our time, this is a sophisticated arts scene. The Sun Valley Gallery Association hosts nine gallery walks each year that are free, open to the public, and extremely popular places not to only enjoy exhibition openings, but to see and be seen. The next walk will be held on Friday, August 30, and is sure to be one of the highlights of the summer social calendar. Grab a group of friends, reserve a table for dinner and plan to enjoy a wonderful evening on the town, all while enjoying world-class culture.

Another marker of area’s commitment to the arts took place over the weekend as the Sun Valley Center for the Arts (SVCA) held its 45th annual Arts & Crafts Festival in Ketchum. From August 9 to 11, nearly 150 painters, sculptors, jewelry makers, metalworkers, photographers, printmakers, glass, fiber and wood artists (among others!) set up their tents and shared their talents with the steady crowd of browsers and buyers.

The annual SVCA Festival is a feast for the senses

The annual SVCA Festival is a feast for the senses

This juried show accepts more than 500 artist applications each year. The Larry Harris List of the Nation’s Best Art Festivals ranks the Sun Valley Center Arts & Crafts Festival among the top 20 in the Pacific Northwest and California. The quality of the work is evident in even a cursory browse through the field of fine art. Artists from Minnesota, Oregon, New Mexico, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana and many of the other 50 states deserve their spot at the Festival.

Local artist Alison Higdon shares her talent for encaustic painting with the crowd

Local artist Alison Higdon shares her talent for encaustic painting with the crowd

But like most things in Sun Valley, what is perhaps most appealing about this Festival is its lack of pretense; its welcoming atmosphere. A true community event, the weekend attracts serious collectors and neophytes alike. Children are invited to enjoy the arts at an activity tent and everyone is encouraged to watch local artists at work during daily demonstrations. A wide range of live music, good food and lots of places to sit and chat help keep the event casual and inviting.

Though not a gallery per se, the Sun Valley Resort is also a treasure trove of art. Their specialty? Thousands of archival black and white photos depicting nearly a century of the area’s rich history. Stroll the hallways at the Sun Valley Lodge for a glimpse of the glamorous Union Pacific era when celebrities frolicked in the area’s fresh air and sunshine. Pop by the Sun Valley Inn to peruse their exhibition. The collection extends from the Gun Club to Roundhouse Restaurant; from the Sun Valley Club to Trail Creek Cabin and is definitely worth a lingering look.

Enjoying a live concert outside at River Run is one of the joys of summer

Enjoying a live concert outside at River Run is one of the joys of summer

Next up for the SVCA is a concert by Josh Ritter & the Royal City Band on Wednesday, August 14, at River Run Lodge. Known for his distinctive “Americana” style, Ritter is a successful songwriter, guitarist and author. An evening spent listening to live music beneath the summer shadow of Bald Mountain is an experience that can’t be replicated. Buy dinner from the grill or grab a picnic and find your spot on the lawn. Tickets are now on sale for this event, as well as for what promises to be a truly memorable night at the Sun Valley Pavilion when megastar Clint Black brings his extremely popular brand of country music to the Valley on September 12.

Special room and ticket packages at Sun Valley Resort are available for the Josh Ritter and Clint Black concerts, as well as the Huey Lewis and the News concert that takes the Pavilion by 80s storm on August 21.

Not bad for a little mountain town, eh?

–RES

And another type of artistry is on display this week as three show skaters from Sun Valley On Ice continue their quest for the million dollar prize as they compete Tuesday night on America’s Got Talent. Their act, Aerial Ice, features Joel Dear, Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre with three others and moves to Radio City Music Hall this week. Tune in from 8 – 10 pm on NBC and be sure to vote them on!

Sun Valley Skaters Win at National Showcase

Idaho's Famous Potatoes took Figure Skating Showcase Nationals by storm

Idaho's Famous Potatoes took Figure Skating Showcase Nationals by storm

The headline could read: Famous Idaho Skating Potatoes Mash Competition at Nationals. Or perhaps: Skating Idaho Potatoes Too Hot to Handle. But no matter how you say it, ten figure skaters from the Sun Valley Figure Skating Club took the highest honor given in the Production Ensembles category at National Showcase – a contest in theatrical skating. Sun Valley’s young competitors, ranging in age from 10 to 16, beat eight other clubs that had qualified to travel to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, from all over the country for the event that lasted from August 1 to August 3.

When the skaters first took to the ice, the large audience was, well, baffled. The girls, wrapped in huge “aluminum foil” suits found their mark, and to the music from 2001, A Space Odyssey, emerged from the silver ovals into full Idaho Famous Potatoes glory. What followed was six minutes of synchronized jumps, hip hop dance moves and high energy skating set to songs including My Own Private Idaho, Couch Potato, Hot Potato; even Madonna’s Like a Prayer (not potato-themed, but very funny). Wearing potato ‘sacks’ replete with eyes and roots (sewn with love by skating mom Lucy Bourret), the skater taters soon had the audience on its feet, cheering and howling with laughter.

Sun Valley Figure Skating Club members Alexandra Harten, Joyce Chan and Blake Letourneau are national champions

Sun Valley Figure Skating Club members Alexandra Harten, Joyce Chan and Blake Letourneau are national champions

“For better or worse, Idaho is associated with our potatoes,” laughed choreographer Gia Guddat who created the award-winning program with input from Sun Valley’s very own favorite show skater Craig Heath. “We decided to embrace the potato theme in a funny, kind of twisted way. The girls loved it. I loved it. The audience loved and obviously the judges loved it!”

In a competition where show tunes reigned and many programs were beautifully executed but tended toward the traditional, Idaho’s Famous Potatoes mash-up couldn’t have been more unexpected.

World-famous skater “Mr. Debonair” Richard Dwyer, who starred in thousands of shows including Ice Follies and Ice Capades during his long and storied career and who started National Showcase, said the judges were shaking with laughter during the number. He came into the stands wanting to know who choreographed the piece. When he was told Gia Guddat, his response was a simple, “of course!” Later, he told Gia he wanted to visit Sun Valley to see what was inspiring that level of creativity on the ice.

Joyce Chan practices her award winning performance to Skyfall

Joyce Chan practices her award winning performance to Skyfall

The winning group was comprised of: Antonia Avery, Isabella Bourret, Joyce Chan, Sage Curtis, Alexandra Harten, Blake Letourneau, Lane Letourneau, Katie Peters, Alex Stuessi and Emma Stuessi. Coaches Holly Wheeler and Guddat traveled with the group providing not only coaching, but all costuming, hair, makeup and moral support. Many parents also traveled to Cape Cod to cheer on the girls.

The rest of the weekend offered individual and duet competitions at which Sun Valley skaters shone. Blake Letourneau, 12, dominated at the Pre-Juvenile level, becoming the Light Entertainment National Champion with a routine that featured a mannequin male partner with whom she wasn’t seeing eye-to-eye. At the Intermediate Level, 16-year-old Joyce Chan won the national title in Dramatic Entertainment with her stunning interpretation of Adele’s Skyfall. Alexandra Harten, also 16, won the Novice Light Entertainment division with a self-narrated comical piece about choosing music to skate to.

Alexandra Harten and Joyce Chan made the podium -- placing them ahead of more than 100 skaters and declaring them the best of the best

Alexandra Harten and Joyce Chan made the podium -- placing them ahead of more than 100 skaters and declaring them the best of the best

All three skaters were then invited to be judged one final time against the other winners. Blake moved to the Junior Parade of Champions and Joyce and Alex the Senior Parade of Champions according to their levels. Here, Blake ranked fifth overall in the competition against 236 other skaters. In the Senior Parade, both Alexandra and Joyce made the podium with Alexandra taking fourth and Joyce taking second, placing them in the top four skaters from 125 competitors at Nationals – the best of the best. All three girls are coached by Wheeler and Guddat and attend the Community School in Sun Valley. Guddat choreographed all of the winning individual programs.

The other athletes from Sun Valley also skated strong among tough competition. Skaters who advanced to the finals were: Lane Letourneau (Light Entertainment and Duet), Katie Peters (Light Entertainment), Emma Stuessi (Duet) and Alex Stuessi  Duet). Alex Stuessi also won the bronze overall in Pre-Juvenile Dramatic Entertainment.

“The girls represented Sun Valley, our club and Idaho beautifully,” said Wheeler. “We couldn’t be more proud of all of them.”

Way to go, Idaho!

–RES

Sun Valley’s Got Talent

The Sun Valley Pavilion became a rehearsal space this week for Aerial Ice, a skating act electifying America's Got Talent and starring skaters from Sun Valley on Ice

The Sun Valley Pavilion became a rehearsal space this week for Aerial Ice, a skating act electifying America's Got Talent and starring skaters from Sun Valley on Ice

Anyone who has attended a world-famous Sun Valley on Ice show in the past few years knows that ice dancers Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre and cast member (and skating aerialist) Joel Dear have talent. And they have it in spades. Now the rest of the country will know it, too, as our three skaters, along with aerialist Angela Kim and professional pairs skaters Tosha Hanford and Chris Trefil electrify the country with “Aerial Ice.” During tryouts in Los Angeles, Aerial Ice debuted on America’s Got Talent to a standing ovation from the judges and audience alike. America’s Got Talent, or AGT for short, is one of the most popular programs on television. Each season, AGT invites singers, dancers, magicians and acts of any and all persuasions to compete to win a cool $1 million prize.

Until this year, AGT had never had a skating act. Now they have one no one will ever forget. Aerial Ice, led by artistic director Jill Schulz, received a unanimous “yes” vote from judges Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, Mel B. and Howie Mandel to move through to the second phase of the competition in Las Vegas. Klum said the act was “nerve wracking, it was exciting, it was dangerous, it was spectacular. I loved it!” Click here to see the audition performance.

Though his preferred aerial apparatus is a hoop, Sun Valley on Ice skater Joel Dear makes easy work of the silks, too

Though his preferred aerial apparatus is a hoop, Sun Valley on Ice skater Joel Dear makes easy work of the silks, too

Skating to Krewella’s hit song “Alive,” the troupe performed on a large sheet of synthetic ice while Joel and Angela “flew” above the stage, performing beautiful choreography on dramatic “silks” that hung from the ceiling. During the audition it was hard to know where to look — every member of the group was so, well, talented.

During the Las Vegas week on AGT, the six skaters appeared onstage before the judges unsure of their fate as one-third of the acts that made it through the first round were sent home, one-third had to audition again and one-third were told they were going directly through to the big show – the stage at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. Aerial Ice heard those magic word, “We’ll see you in New York!” —  one of 60 acts to make the finals. For the next few weeks about 12 acts will perform live during each episode that airs on NBC Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Aerial Ice was not at liberty to reveal the date of their performance, so we will all just have to stay tuned!

The Sun Valley Pavilion provides a pretty nice space for rehearsing and planning

The Sun Valley Pavilion provides a pretty nice space for rehearsing and planning

This week, however, the six performers have been practicing right in our backyard, in what Brent calls the “most beautiful rehearsal space in the world.” With Sun Valley’s support, Aerial Ice took over the stage at the Sun Valley Pavilion, working for eight hours a day on the program that will bring New York to its feet. A huge sheet of plastic ice dominated the Pavilion stage and technical experts rigged silks and other flying apparatuses from the rafters. The entire team, that also includes highly accomplished skaters Karen Kresge and Lisa Navarro, and everyone else that helps make the magic happen, came to Sun Valley. 

During long days of Aerial Ice rehearsals, Kim, Brent and Joel still found the time to walk a few hundred yards to the Sun Valley skating rinks to give a lesson or rehearse for this week’s highly anticipated Sun Valley on Ice show featuring Olympic Gold Medalist Evan Lysacek.

For Kim, the support of the skating community for Aerial Ice has been amazing. “So many accomplished skaters are on board, Tweeting about Aerial Ice and sharing their enthusiasm,” she said. Her ultimate goal with this project is to increase viewership of the sport and this evolving genre that is so beautiful and that she is so passionate about — to connect with the audience in a whole new way.

Two-time US Bronze Medalists Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre bring grace, elegance and daring to each performance

Two-time US Bronze Medalists Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre bring grace, elegance and daring to each performance

Be sure to buy tickets to Sun Valley on Ice to see all this talent for yourself, as well as the rest of the supremely wonderful, entertaining cast. Then, tune into AGT, call in your vote for Aerial Ice and cheer on the home team!

Congratulations to Brent, Joel and Kim for taking Aerial Ice all the way to New York! Stay tuned to this blog for updates on their progress.

–RES