The sheep are making their way to town for a weekend that's all about them
It is officially October in Sun Valley, and that can mean only one thing: the sheep are coming! The countdown has begun to the 17th Trailing of the Sheep Festival that kicks off October 10. This wild and woolly weekend has been called one of the Top Ten Festivals in the world by MSN Travel, one of the Top 200 U.S. Festivals by Amazing Festivals and one of the Top 100 Festivals in North America by the ABA. Around here, we just call it a beautiful fall weekend that provides a wonderful glimpse into our region’s rich history. And the parade of sheep down Main Street in Ketchum is pretty entertaining, too.
It is believed that John Hailey first brought sheep into the Wood River Valley in the 1860s. They soon became a source of fiber and food for early settlers. As the mining industry became less important in the region’s economy, the role of sheep increased. For decades, the sheep population in the state of Idaho greatly outnumbered the human population!
All eyes are on the region's rich history during this festival
The Trailing of the Sheep Festival celebrates this heritage in a very colorful, flavorful, hands-on way. The four-day event kicks off on Thursday, October 10, and continues through the Trailing of the Sheep parade that runs down Main Street at noon on Sunday, October 13. In between, events up and down the valley entertain and educate.
One of the Festival highlights (among many) focuses on food. If you are a lover of lamb, you truly don’t want to miss opportunities to taste and savor this delicacy in countless incarnations. All week, even before the official kick-off of the Trailing of the Sheep Festival, foodies can enjoy a lamb dine-around in Ketchum. Local chefs are offering all kinds of lamb specials — from a modern take on the traditional herb crusted rack of lamb with red wine and rosemary sauce at B. Restaurant in Ketchum, to lamb sliders with Lava Lake lamb on Big Wood bread buns at the Cellar Pub, to slow roasted lamb tacos at Despos. Many of your local favorite eateries are offering new takes on lamb so be sure to reserve a different table each night of the week.
Lots of tasty lamb treats are available to sample at the Folklife Fair
Sun Valley’s historic Trail Creek Cabin is on the sheep celebration, too. The talented chef Wendy Little is sure to have an innovative take on incorporating lamb into her fall menu. Please call 208.622.2800 for more information.
Other eating (and drinking) opportunities are abundant, as well. Cooking classes featuring lamb and a course in pairing wines with lamb are scheduled for October 10. A barbecue on Irving’s Hill and Main Street Market in Ketchum will be available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Demonstrations show that not every process need be automated
My family’s favorite event of the weekend is the Folklife Fair that takes place in Hailey on Saturday, October 12. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Roberta McKercher Park, enjoy the spectacle of Boise Highlanders’ bagpipers, drummer and dancers; Peruvian dancers and musicians; Oinkari Basque Dancers; Polish Highlanders and dozens of exhibitions featuring sheep shearing, wool spinning and sheep herding, as well as countless booths showcasing fiber art, face painting, crafts, and, of course, lots of lamb-inspired food.
The colorful Trailing of the Sheep parade caps off a fabulous weekend on Sunday, Oct. 13
Then there’s the parade that you have to see to believe. Hundreds of sheep racing and jumping down Main Street preceded by wonderful musicians and dancers is a sight you won’t see anywhere else.
For a full schedule for the weekend, please click HERE.
Sun Valley Resort is offering special incentive to come, stay and enjoy all the weekend has to offer with room rates starting at $159 for single or double room. Mention Trailing of the Sheep Festival when you make your reservation.
Think sheep, think fall and I’ll see you at the Festival!
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 (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
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
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.
You don't need to go far from town to enjoy a fall hike complete with golden aspens
Ah, September in Sun Valley: Cool mornings and evenings; warm sunny days; the always-evolving alchemy of aspen leaves as they turn bright gold. Though each season here certainly has its merits, there is something truly spectacular about autumn.
And with the children back in school, the booked-to-the-minute fun of Labor Day weekend behind us, it’s time to get out there and take a hike. Though many local trails were temporarily closed in August due to the Beaver Creek Fire, right now, local hiking is at its peak.
The Hemingway Memorial is a beautiful tribute to the author and a gateway to terrific local hikes
Whether you have lived in Sun Valley your entire life or are just visiting for the weekend, a great place to start a September hike is at the Hemingway Memorial just east of the Sun Valley Lodge on Trail Creek Road. The memorial features a likeness of the legendary writer who completed For Whom the Bell Tolls in suite 206 at the Lodge, and is tucked beneath shady trees on the banks of Trail Creek. Stone benches in the shape of a half moon offer a place to sit and reflect on the inscription that reminds Hemingway is laid to rest in the Ketchum Cemetery:
Best of all he loved the fall
The leaves yellow on the cottonwoods
Leaves floating on the trout streams
And above the hills
The high blue windless skies
Now he will be a part of them forever.
From this very unique, and very nearby, trailhead, miles of beautiful single track wend through Proctor Mountain. For the novice, gentle walks lead along the creek and east. Craving more vertical? Numerous trails climb to the saddle of Proctor, offering fantastic views in every direction, including one of the best ones around of Baldy. If you’re up for a challenge, the Ruud Mountain trail cuts steeply right to the more traditional Proctor Mountain trails, leading to, and beyond, one of the first chairlifts in the world.
Bald Mountain in the warmer months offers stunning vistas and great exercise to those on foot
Also “in town” are popular hiking and biking trails near the White Clouds golf course across from Sun Valley Resort. Don’t forget Bald Mountain offers a great cardiac workout, terrific views and the possibility of a fabulous lunch to reward you for your efforts. Start at the River Run side of the hill and bear right to the Bald Mountain Trail. This leads, in switchbacks, both to the Roundhouse Restaurant (offering a fabulous barbecue deck lunch through September 8), and all the way to the summit. If you want to channel your inner local, head straight up the Warm Springs or River Run ski runs to the top. It’s an unbeatable workout and who knows, maybe you will want to take the Baldy Hill Climb later this month.
Slightly further afield, but still a very short drive from town, the Adams Gulch trailhead just north of Ketchum provides many trail options for hiking and mountain biking, as do Chocolate Gulch and Fox Creek. To the east, a hike to the historic Pioneer Cabin (there are three different routes up) is one of the most beautiful in the area. In the fall, this very popular hike is more lightly traveled and it is the perfect time to go.
The walk up to Pioneer Cabin is beautiful, but the real payout is cresting the final ridge
For all these hikes, remember, even if the trailhead is right up the street, you are in altitude and the autumn weather can be variable so be prepared. Bring plenty of water and a light rain shell, layers, wear comfortable sturdy shoes, bring a snack or lunch and sunscreen is a must.
For a full list of current trail conditions, please click HERE.
September is the most beautiful hiking month in the Wood River Valley, at least by my account. Take some time for yourself, get out there and hit the trails!
The 55th Wagon Days parade takes place tomorrow, Saturday Aug. 31 at 1 p.m. In honor of the event, The Valley Sun’s guest blogger Jennifer Tuohy digs into the history behind the centerpiece of the parade, The Big Hitch, also known as the Lewis Ore Wagons, the only wagons of their kind in existence today.
The 2013 Wagon Days poster by Ketchum photographer Steve Snyder showcases the majestic beauty of the Lewis Ore Wagons. Click on the poster to purchase a copy.
On August 15, 1958, Katherine Lewis rode down Ketchum’s Main Street as the Queen of the very first Wagon Days Parade. It was her 85th birthday, and the town she had called home for seven decades was honoring her in a way only this town could. Behind her snaked a line of seven unique ore wagons that had been pulled out of storage especially in honor of Ketchum’s grande dame.
As Kate, as she was known, watched the giant wagons rumble through town for the first time in over a decade her thoughts likely travelled back through the years to the story behind this remarkable sight. A story that began, as many stories of the Wild West do, with the quest for gold.
In May of 1879, David Ketchum arrived in Idaho’s Wood River Valley searching for metallic treasures in its mountains. Although he discovered the first lead and silver deposits in the area, Ketchum left a few months later. But many came behind him, chasing the same dream, and on August 2, 1880, the town of Ketchum was born.
One of those who followed in Ketchum’s footsteps was Issac Lewis. But he didn’t come just to mine, he came to build a community. Hailing from Butte, Montana, Lewis was a banker and a businessman and – as many businessmen did in those days – he saw an opportunity to create a community out of this town of dusty mining tents and dirty miners. He quickly invested in real estate, opened the town’s first drug store, helped build the Gueyer Hot Springs Resort, purchased the weekly newspaper, and constructed the town’s first bank. In his own words he “virtually made the town.” The effort Issac put into building Ketchum is still visible in the form of the First National Bank building which still stands on Main Street.
Issac’s son, Horace, soon joined him from Montana, along with his wife, Katherine. They settled on the brand new Lewis Ranch, which extended from just east of what is now Spruce Avenue in Ketchum to the mouth of Trail Creek Canyon. Horace, looking out at the daunting mountains surrounding his new home, spied another investment opportunity for his family: transporting the lead and silver from the valleys beyond into the new railroad-town of Ketchum.
The Lewis Ore Wagons remain a centerpiece of the valley's history. Alongside Bald Mountain they are one of the most recognizable features of the former mining town of Ketchum. Photo courtesy Sun Valley Resort.
In 1884 he formed the Ketchum & Challis Toll Road company to construct a road over the precipitous Trail Creek Summit and built a chain of massive wagons known as the Ketchum Fast Freight Line. A testament to human engineering and masterful animal husbandry, these giant wagons carried between 18,000 and 24,000 pounds of ore along a road no wider than a wagon. They careened around hairpin turns and teetered along sheer ledges on giant six-foot wheels, covering 12 to 14 miles per day. Built to withstand the stresses of traversing the summit loaded with ore, the wagons were daisy chained together and powered by a team of draft mules, chosen for their temperament, strength and stamina. This awesome combination of metal, wood and beast was masterfully controlled by a unique craftsman, the mule skinner. Using a jerk-line, a rein approximately 100 feet long attached to each member of the team, the mule skinner controlled as many as 20 mules at a time through a series of distinct whips and jerks.
This video demonstrates the skill of the mule skinner, showing how each mule in the team of up to twenty, must be commanded to perform a different task. (Not displaying? Click here.)
At the height of the mining activity in the Wood River, Big Lost, and Salmon River valleys the Ketchum Fast Freight Line employed 700 mules and 30 wagons to haul 700,000 pounds of ore to the Philadelphia Smelter on Warm Springs Road annually. There it was turned from raw ore into precious metal and shipped down the Oregon Short Line railroad.
Between 1880 and 1885 approximately $12 million worth of lead and silver left the valley. By 1902, when rail service to Mackay and Challis arrived, the Ketchum Fast Freight Line became obsolete and in 1909 the wagons were retired for good. Two years later Horace passed away.
For a couple years, the wagons sat sadly in a barn on the Lewis Ranch. Then, in 1911, Horace’s widow, Katherine, sold the ranch to Ernest Brass, moving down the road to a house in town. Her home is also still standing, currently occupied by the Elephant’s Perch sporting goods shop.
Kate Lewis's moved into this home in Ketchum in 1911. It is now the Elephant's Perch sporting goods store. Photo from Google Maps.
Connoisseurs of the history of Sun Valley Resort will have already made the connection in this story. That ranch between Ketchum and Trail Creek, which Kate sold to the Brass family, had a grander future in store.
For the next 20 years Ernest Brass and his large family struggled to get by. In January 1936, after losing half his herd to an appetite for the poisonous purple larkspur, Brass met a handsome foreigner named Count Felix Schaffgotsch. Schaffgotsch was on a scouting mission for Averell Harriman, searching for the perfect spot at the end of a railroad track on which the president of Union Pacific Railroad could build a luxurious ski lodge. Brass Ranch was that spot. In April, Ernest Brass sold his 3,888 acres to Union Pacific for $39,000. That December the Sun Valley Lodge opened its doors. Among the names on the guest list for opening night was Katherine Lewis.
The wagons on the other hand, were not invited to the party. Mining had long since been replaced in the valley’s economy by sheep, who had no need for breakneck rides down mountain sides. These giant emblems of Ketchum’s past sat in a rapidly crumbling barn along what is now Sun Valley Road until 1925 when one of the valley’s last teamsters, Sam Sanders, brought them out for the Fourth of July parade, and then one more time in 1940 for the Sun Valley Rodeo. For the next 15 years the wagons were left silent and forgotten. Then, in 1958, the city of Ketchum was looking for a way to honor its founding mother Kate Lewis’ 85th birthday. What better way to do that than to resurrect the source of her family’s fortunes, the Lewis Ore Wagons, and parade them through town, in what became known as the first Wagon Days parade.
In October 1958, two months after riding triumphantly through Ketchum, Kate Lewis passed away. Her nephew Palmer G Lewis, donated the wagons to the city on the condition that they be displayed once a year to commemorate Idaho’s mining heritage, and so the annual event that is Wagon Days was born.
In 1985 the wagons were given their very own home, a museum designed and built especially to house them, and allow them to be on display year round. The city has kept its promise to the Lewis family, and trots out these massive symbols of American history annually (barring wildfire and city politics) for the grand finale to the Wagon Days Parade. Held Labor Day weekend, the event has extended into a 5 day festival celebrating the area’s heritage, but the Saturday parade at 1 p.m. is still the centerpiece, and the Lewis Ore Wagons’ hair-raising trip down Sun Valley Road and around the corner onto Main Street is still the highlight. If she could see what “her town” has become, and the smiles of joy the parade brings to the thousands who gather to watch the largest non-motorized parade in the West, Kate would be so very proud.
Preserving this unique and irreplaceable relic of history is a costly effort. As the Lewis Ore Wagons near their 130th birthday, the Wagon Days Committee is looking to raise $10,000 to help maintain the wagons through an indiegogo campaign. Donate to the campaign here.
For a full schedule of events this Wagon Days’ weekend go here. For a list of the 100 unique wagons from across the West participating in the 2013 Wagon Days’ parade click here.
Walking into Sun Valley’s indoor skating rink last week to pick up my daughters from their lessons, I noticed a change in the air. On the ice were the regulars — working hard on their jumps and spins — but out of the corner of my eye came a blur of speed that ended in a back flip. I did a double take. That was Ryan Bradley, 2011 US Gold Medalist, US Silver Medalist and the headliner for the first Sun Valley on Ice July 4. The skaters were back in town!
Ashley Clark, a core skater for the past eight summers said that the tight-knit group looks forward to this reunion every year. “During the winter, we all go our separate ways and it is always terrific to show up to that first rehearsal,” she said. “On some level we all consider Sun Valley home, so it is a homecoming for sure.”
“We join Darlin Baker and Natalia Zaitseva, who are in Sun Valley year-round, as well as Jozef Sabovcik and it’s game on! Usually, whoever is in town gets together for dinner and drinks even before the first rehearsal and it’s great to catch up on what everyone’s been up to,” Ashley said. “And this year, three new skaters are joining the show, including Ryan, which is exciting. Everywhere we go we hear, ‘the skaters are back!’”
Though dispersed nine months of the year, Sun Valley on Ice remains on the performer’s minds. For instance, during her time in California, Ashley worked diligently on this summer’s programs including one based on the fire dancing lessons she took over the winter. Yes, you read that correctly, fire dancing… on ice.
Consummate performer Craig Heath puts a smile on everyone's face
Overall, the theme of this year’s production is based on Broadway hits and will appeal to everyone in the audience. Choreographer Lori Benton has been hard at work creating eye popping, memorable numbers that will most likely leave you humming long after the show.
Tickets are available online, at the Sun Valley Recreation Office in the Village (208-622-2135 or toll free 888-622-2108) and at the box office the night of the show based on availability.
I have probably attended more than 30 Saturday night ice shows over the years, and it is still a thrill to be so close to the world’s best figure skaters, beneath a broad canopy of stars. There is something magical about Sun Valley ice shows, something singular, something that can only happen in Sun Valley. Whether you are here for a week, the summer, or forever, no visit to Sun Valley is complete without spending a Saturday night at the rink.
In order to make your experience the best it can be, here is Sun Valley on Ice 101:
• If you purchase bleacher seats, bring a blanket or extra jacket to sit on.
• Layer up! When the sun sets the temperature really drops.
• For a sneak peek at the show, grab lunch on the Gretchen’s patio on a Friday. Chances are, you will see members of the show practicing.
• The pros are all very gracious and love to sign autographs and chat with fans following the show. Be sure to stay if you’d like to say hello to your favorite skater.
• Clap loudly and smile broadly. The performers in Sun Valley on Ice say one of the reasons they so enjoy this show is that they are so close to the audience. They feel and feed off of your energy and enthusiasm.
• If children are coming to the show (which they absolutely should!), a nap earlier in the day is a good idea. Shows begin at dusk, which early in the summer doesn’t fall until 9:30 p.m. or later. The shows last about an hour. Napping on show nights was always a ritual for everyone at my house!
• An extra special way to enjoy Sun Valley on Ice is to make a reservation for the lavish dinner buffet on Gretchen’s terrace before the show.
• Up the ante even further by enjoying a special Sun Valley room package the night of the ice show. You will receive tickets to the performance and a wonderfully comfortable bed, all while remaining at the center of the action.
Headliners, like Sasha Cohen, are usually happy to meet fans after the show
If you or your children are inspired by the ice show, most core performers, as well as Sun Valley’s other accomplished pros, are available for private lessons. Many also teach clinics that run throughout the day and are appropriate to many abilities. A few laps around the iconic outdoor rink is de rigueur no matter what. Skates and helmets are available to rent and general sessions, open to all, take place throughout the day. There is no cooler place to spend a hot summer day.
In Part 2 of Stories From The Staff, a series highlighting stories of former Sun Valley Resort employees, guest blogger Jennifer Tuohy discusses celebrities, Hollywood action flicks and meeting his wife on the Snowball Special, with former Sun Valley photographer turned Hollywood cinematographer John M. Stephens. Read Part 1 “Marilyn and Me, John Stephens on filming Bus Stop in Sun Valley”here.
Jan McCloud, left, posing in front of the first Snowball Special. She met and married Sun Valley publicity photographer John M. Stephens on the famous train.
As the 1958/59 ski season in Sun Valley came to a close, John M. Stephens left behind his role as the resort’s photographer to pursue his dream job as a cinematographer. But he didn’t leave the mountains of Idaho empty-handed. Alongside a burgeoning Hollywood career, Stephens also picked up a wife.
“Do you remember the Snowball Special that came into Ketchum from L.A.?” Stephens asked. “They sent me down to pick up the first train in, I guess it was Twin Falls, and take pictures of the Snowball Queen. I rode up in the boxcar. Man what a party. And they’d been partying all the way from L.A.”
The Snowball Special was a dressed up Union Pacific train providing service from Los Angeles’ Union Station to Ketchum. Outfitted with a dance floor with bar cars on both sides and two dining cars, the Snowball was a non-stop party train, entertaining its celebrity passengers for the entire 1,100-mile, 26-hour trip to Sun Valley. It was once called “the world’s biggest sanctioned wingding.”
“Anyway, I met the Snowball Queen,” Stephens said. “Her name was Jan McCloud. I took pictures of her and we got married and have two beautiful children.”
Clearly, Stephens made the most of his time in America’s Shangri La.
John M. Stephens worked from 1955 to 1959 as a Sun Valley publicity photographer before embarking on a hugely successful career as a Hollywood cinematographer
Once in Hollywood however, Stephens was able to fully embrace his passion for adventure. “There’s more than one way to shoot a bull,” said John M. Stephens in this interview with the Los Angeles Herald Examiner in 1967 titled John Stephens Makes Danger His Business. “Over the horn or under the stomach.”
This theory proved to be correct, propelling Stephens into the realms of Hollywood legend over his 5 decade-long career in movie-making. If you’ve ever watched a golden oldie on Turner Classic Movies and wondered how on earth they got that shot, the chances are, it was first shot by John Stephens. In the golden age of filmmaking, before CGI and green screens, Stephens was the man directors sought out when they needed unusual and exciting action sequences.
His big break came on the Oscar winning Grand Prix. “The picture won an Academy Award for its special effects and it was the electronic pan and tilt head camera I invented that got those close ups of James Garner driving around the track at 160mph.”
It was 1965 and the director John Frankenheimer refused to shoot slow cars and speed the film up, as had been the norm. He approached Stephens and said “How would you like to be the cameraman going 180 miles per hour in a specially built camera car while photographing the actual drivers on the Grand Prix circuit?”
“It would scare the hell out of me,” replied Stephens. Instead he devised the first radio-controlled remotely operated camera head, which captured the thrill of the race from inside the race, capable of producing never before seen shots, such as panning from James Garner’s face to Brian Bedford’s coming up right behind him while speeding along at close to 200 mph. All the while, Stephens was able to view the footage via a remote monitor in the relative safety of a helicopter hovering a few hundred feet above the racetrack.
It’s hard to describe just how breathtaking those hair-raising race scenes are, and you’ll just have to check out the movie (available here) to appreciate the full extent of Stephens’ ingenuity. It’s easy to connect the dots between Stephens’ time on skis barreling down Bald Mountain with camera in hand, to the incredible action shots he devised.
Stephens posing with one of the special cameras he rigged up to catch the thrilling race shots in 1966's Grand Prix starring James Garner.
“It was totally a new process and it turned out very well,” Stephens said. “They did a lot of stories [on the new technique]. Popular Mechanics wrote a story about it, I was in all the magazines and I started to get more publicity than the director.”
After Grand Prix and all its related publicity Stephens was in hot demand, an Arctic action flick with Rock Hudson followed and Stephens’ Hollywood status was set in stone.
50 years and over 100 films later, 80 year-old Stephens is slightly overwhelmed by his resume (here‘s the full list). When I ask for some favorites, he replies, “You’ll have to remind me of some of the names!”
“Six Days and Seven Nights, one of the last before I retired – with Harrison Ford and Anne Heche – that was a favorite. We shot a lot of the pictures up in Hawaii for the plane crash, it was a great location. Harrison Ford was great to work with.”
He had worked with Mr. Ford previously, on the classic action flickIndiana Jones and Temple of Doom. “I did all the ski action shots. When the life raft came of out of the airplane and they jumped out and landed in the snow, racing down through the trees and off a cliff into the water. I photographed that. It was about a 6 rating in heavy water. That was quite a challenge, trying to get those pictures in the boat. It was quite a bumpy ride.”
Speaking of water and boats, there’s a little film on his resume that stands out to a history, disaster-loving, romantic such as myself. “There’s a movie called Titanic on there,” I said. “That must have been quite the experience.”
“Yes,” he chuckled in remembrance. “I had just got back from Europe where I had been shooting commercials for Mercedes Benz. It was about midnight and I get a phone call from the production manager of Titanic. He asks what I was doing, I said ‘Sleeping.’ He said ‘Well get dressed and join us down in Mexico we need you on Titanic.’ James Cameron, the director, had been called back to Fox because the studio had pulled the plug on him and he wanted me to finish up for him.
“I get down to Rosarito beach at 6 a.m., half asleep. Jim came out and shook my hand. ‘Hi Mr. Stephens, I’m glad you’re aboard with us. I’ve been through all the film clips of the shots you’re going to pick up and finish for me.’ And that was it. That was my meeting.”
He worked on the multi-Oscar-winning flick for 5 weeks, shooting over 160 sequences, mostly concentrated around the famous ship submerging beneath the icy water. Which wasn’t icy, he pointed out. “It was a big heated swimming pool, the size of two football fields, down on the beach. It’s still there.”
“At the preview, Jim came up to me and thanked me for my work. Never heard from him again. When I heard about Avatar I sort of wondered…”
Stephens on the set of A Fine Madness with Sean Connery, the first movie he did after Dr. No. The inscription reads "To John, For the one shot you got right. Sean." "We played pool all the time on set," Stephens said, referring to the dedication. "He was quite the practical joker, he always had fun on set."
Speaking of working with groundbreaking directors. What was it like working with Steven Spielberg on E.T.?
“Spielberg was very adamant about the particular type of shots he wanted and we’d have to stick exactly to the storyboards,” Stephens said. “There was this one scene where the kids were being chased by the police, they had E.T. in a basket and they were on bicycles going off these plateaus. I figured out, well maybe I could do something a little extra.
“I had my small camera and I thought I could fasten it to the back of the bicycle, right behind where the kid pedals. So I’m building this mount, and I’m down on my knees attaching it to the frame and this gentleman is looking over my shoulder. He says ‘Hmm. That’s an original idea. I don’t remember putting that on the storyboard.’ It was Steven Spielberg.”
“He looks at me and says, ‘That’s a very good idea, I’m anxious to see what it looks like in the dailies.’ And well, we went ahead with the shot. It turned out to be a very exciting shot and he used it in the picture. Later he told me he appreciated what I was able to add over and above what the story boards called for. That meant a lot to me.” He went on to work with Spielberg on other movies, including the first Indiana Jones.
Stephens carved his career out working in the 2nd unit cinematography (traditionally the unit dedicated to high-speed action sequences or other difficult location shooting). He constantly strove to go over and above what the storyboard called for, get something just a little more exciting, something more unusual.
“I really loved doing 2nd unit work, because it’s where most of the excitement is,” Stephens said in a 1995 documentary by Jeff Coffman about his career. “It was the opportunity for doing the type of filming I used to do in the Navy. We do dangerous things, that’s part of our business. 2nd unit photography is very exciting. You never know what’s going to happen.
“I’ve been in this business quite a few years and its been very good to me. I’ve been on many, many major motion pictures, the credits are quite exciting. It’s been a good career.”
After Titanic came Bandits with Cate Blanchett and Bruce Willis (I wonder if they chatted about Sun Valley?), Conspiracy Theory with Mel Gibson, The Peacemaker with Nicole Kidman and George Clooney in Slovakia, and many more. “I was mostly brought in to do the special shots,” he explained. “When they needed something unique.” One such assignment was Field of Dreams. “I just did the final scene,” he said modestly. Arguably, the most famous shot in the whole movie, the camera does a gravity-defying sweep from watching Kevin Costner pitch a ball to a ghostly Shoeless Joe Jackson, to seamlessly panning out and high up into the sky above the farm-turned-baseball field to reveal a line of cars snaking off into the distance.
For the farm boy from Boone Grove, Indiana, the shot was a fitting tribute to his origins. And speaking of origins, he did manage to make it back to the place he credits for his long and successful career.
“I took Barbara [his second wife] to Sun Valley on our honeymoon. We wanted to retrace some of the steps I had taken. It was incredible going back to where it all started. All the memories. To see some of my pictures hanging on the wall there in the Lodge. It was quite an experience.”
The Valley Sun introduces a new series from guest blogger Jennifer Tuohy. In Stories from the Staff, she highlights the stories of former employees, talking about their time at Sun Valley and where their Sun Valley experience has led them. In this two-part opener she profiles John M. Stephens, a famed cinematographer who worked as a photographer for Sun Valley from 1955 to 1959. His groundbreaking career included such movie classics as Grand Prix, South Pacific, Titanic, ET, Field of Dreams and Indiana Jones.
John M. Stephens, the famed cinematographer who got his start in Sun Valley.
One evening in 1956 a 24 year-old kid found himself sitting in The Ram drinking with the cast and crew of a big Hollywood motion picture. One of his companions, chatting and laughing along with the grips, gaffers and cameramen of Bus Stop, was Marilyn Monroe.
Since the moment The Lodge opened its doors in 1936, Sun Valley has welcomed countless Hollywood stars. But stories of the ski resort launching Hollywood careers are few and far between. For the young John M. Stephens, sitting in The Ram that night was not only a dream come true, it was the start of a long, glittering and hugely successful career as a celebrated cinematographer. And it all began in Sun Valley.
A few months earlier, Stephens had been just another kid fresh off a Navy ship looking for a job. He knew what he wanted to do, he wanted to shoot pictures. The Navy had given him a valuable skill, the ability to shoot pictures in extreme, hair-raising conditions. So far, he had been able to apply that skill to the sport of skiing – photographing his pal Doug Pfeiffer at the ski resort he founded in Southern California, Snow Summit. But it wasn’t Hollywood.
After being unceremoniously booted out of the Motion Picture Cameraman Union office, with the words “You’ll never work in this town” ringing in his ears, he joined Pfeiffer on a trip to Sun Valley, Idaho, where the skiing legend wanted to shoot pictures for his new book Skiing With Pfeiffer.
“I went up there with him,” said Stephens, now 80, from his home in Laguna Niguel. “And while Doug went off skiing I went to the publicity department.” He met with Sun Valley’s publicity guru Dorice Taylor and showed her his book of ski action photography. Within hours he was hired.
“They gave me a room in the basement of The Lodge and tried me out that winter.” he said. “I took a lot of publicity pictures of the socialites that came up, Hollywood people, shooting pictures to send to hometown papers. I’d follow guests around and do a ski action book for them of their vacation. Skiing all the time with a camera.”
Stephens spent a spell in the Sun Valley hospital after breaking his leg during one of the 3 winters he spent photographing for the resort.
After a few weeks of shooting the likes of Gary Cooper, Leif Odmark and Sigi Engl on skis, opportunity came barreling over the mountain. “When the production crew for Bus Stop came up to Sun Valley to shoot, I was sent up to North Fork to take publicity shots of the production,” Stephens said. “I took a lot of pictures of Marilyn up there around Galena Summit and at the North Fork gas station. One day an assistant cameraman took sick and they asked me if I’d help them out for a few days. Dorice said it was okay, as long as I could still shoot pictures for Sun Valley, so I ended up working for them as a cameraman, holding the slate.”
Stephens captured this iconic image of Marilyn Monroe while she was shooting Bus Stop in Sun Valley. "We got to be friends on the set," he said. "She'd come up to talk to me, she was very friendly and very nice."
While the job wasn’t particularly glamorous, it opened up the closed world of the Hollywood studio system to Stephens. The crew took him under their wing, showing him how to operate the equipment and teaching him the basics of a cameraman’s job.
When another production crew rolled into town a few weeks later, Stephens was ready for them. They were looking for someone skilled and fit enough to ski with a new 70mm widescreen camera that weighed 25 lb, to shoot a promotional film for the first widescreen picture of its kind, Oklahoma. The shots of skiing in Sun Valley feature Trail Creek Cabin, Lookout and some excellent slope and tree skiing down Baldy in the 50s, all filmed by Stephens.
The first 4 minutes of this clip from The Miracle of Todd AO show off Spring Skiing in Sun Valley in 1956, all shot by John Stephens during his first full-time Hollywood gig. Right around minute 3 you can see the shadow of the 25lb camera rig Stephens was skiing down Bald Mountain with, in some cases, backwards. (Video not displaying? Click here.)
With two Hollywood flicks under his belt, he headed back to the union office and walked out with his coveted card. His next stop was to look up his Bus Stop friends at 20th Century Fox. They introduced him to the head cameraman who hired Stephens as 2nd assistant cameraman on South Pacific.
He went back to Sun Valley for two more winters following his Hollywood breakthrough, and today he says he owes it all to the little mountain town. “It was in Sun Valley that it all got going, Got me into the union and started a career that has been spectacular,” Stephens said.
One of Stephens' skiing action shots for Sun Valley.
“John Stephens has gone where the action is,” said the Society of Operating Cameramen in 1994 when it gave him the Technical Achievement Award for developing the first remotely controlled pan and tilt head camera on the Oscar-winning Grand Prix. “A top second unit cameraman and director he has photographed some of the most exciting images ever recorded on film. From breaking new ground on Grand Prix to the exciting bicycle chase in Steven Spielberg’s ET, John has photographed the action from virtually every kind of vehicle, from lear jets to helicopters. (He has survived three helicopter crashes).”
The summer after his final Sun Valley ski season, he was hired to work on Lets Make Love. On his first day on set he was standing behind the camera when a pair of hands slipped over his eyes. “Well, well,” an unmistakable voice said into his ear. “Now what are you doing here?” It was Marilyn.
In Part 2 of Stories from the Staff Jennifer talks to Stephens about his extraordinary career post-Sun Valley and what it was that brought him back here 30 years ago. Among other tidbits, he discusses stepping in at the last minute to help on James Cameron’s Titanic, working with Steven Spielberg and developing that groundbreaking cinematography in Grand Prix. Read the post here.
Take a guided hike up Proctor Mountain -- the view is worth the effort
Sun Valley lies pretty much at the geographical and spiritual heart of Idaho — the wildest state outside Alaska, with four million acres of designated Wilderness. While this is wonderfully inspiring – think of all the possibilities — it can also be a little intimidating. Visitors might be uncertain which hiking, mountain bike and road bike trails are appropriate to their fitness and interest level. Are the trailheads easy to find? Are the trails well marked and easy to follow? What is the best, safest and most enjoyable way to get out into all that Wilderness?
The Adventure Center at Pete Lane's in Sun Valley Village is your starting point for big fun in the outdoors
One ideal way to begin to enjoy our vast outdoor playground is through the new Adventure Center located at the Sun Valley Village location of Pete Lane’s Mountain Sports. With the introduction of this new resource, novice and experienced outdoors people, adults and families alike, will have easy access to expert advice. Even more importantly, enthusiasts will also be able to step up to the desk, located just inside the shop’s front door, and sign up for guided Sun Valley hikes and bike rides.
Choose a free “Welcome to Sun Valley” hike — a wonderful introduction to the area — scheduled daily during the summer months. Not only will you enjoy a pleasant hike, you will learn the basics of hydrating and exercising at altitude – two very important components of enjoying all the area has to offer.
For more acclimatized or ambitious adventurers, new this summer, are guided White Clouds bike rides and hikes up historic Proctor Mountain (home to the world’s first chairlift, still visible from the trail). Hiking Proctor takes approximately three hours and leads explorers through aspen groves, across wide fields filled with wildflowers and offers a pretty spectacular view of Bald Mountain and the Valley at the summit. Biking the White Clouds takes approximately two hours and wends on single track out toward Trail Creek, providing challenging uphill and exhilarating downhill.
If all of this sounds a bit too strenuous, stop by the Adventure Center to book a spot on a Wheels and Wine Tour. Focusing on Sun Valley’s rich history and traditions, your guide will lead you on a gentle one hour ride with numerous stops covering historical points of interest and highlights of the resort. The capper? The tour concludes at the Inn Lobby Lounge with a hosted wine tasting. Cheers!
Need anything for your adventure? No worries, Pete Lane's carries a wide range of gear
These experiences provide an enjoyable way to enjoy Sun Valley by foot or by bike while offering peace of mind. On these adventures, we will pretty much guarantee you won’t get lost and that you will have the proper gear and guidance necessary for an optimal experience. In fact, if you need a new hydration system, sturdy hiking shoes, a bike helmet or appropriate layers for the active Sun Valley summer lifestyle, that too, is all available at Pete Lane’s, steps away from the Adventure Center desk.
Your only question following your bike ride or hike will be, what’s next? Don’t worry. There are 3,990,000 more wild acres to explore.
Saddle up! The White Clouds are calling
The fine print: the Adventure Center is scheduled to open on June 15 and will offer guided hikes and bike rides every day through September 15. A guided hike up Proctor costs $29 while the White Clouds bike ride is $39. If you are drawn to Wheels and Wine, the cost, including the wine tasting, is $39. If you wish to rent a bike, it will be an additional $10.
This week the second annual Sun Valley Film Festival comes to town. In honor of the event and the enduring bond between Hollywood and Sun Valley it represents, The Valley Sun blog is running a series of movie history posts by guest blogger Jennifer Tuohy. For more on the festival, which ends tomorrow, March 17, visit sunvalleyfilmfestival.org.
“Sorry to hear you are still set on ‘Sun Valley.’ I am not sure whether Irene wired you her latest suggestion – ‘Ski Haven.’” David O. Selznick to Averell Harriman, November 4, 1936
David O. Selznick was a unique figure in the golden Hollywood studio era. Producer of arguably some of the greatest movies ever made – from Hitchcock’s Hollywood debut, Rebecca, to the enduring classic, Gone With the Wind - Selznick was a force to be reckoned with. A close friend of Sun Valley’s founder Averell Harriman, Selznick responded with his usual gusto when his buddy asked him to help sprinkle a little star dust on the opening of his grand palace in the snow.
As reams of telegrams and letters between the two friends attest, Selznick set to work immediately, “producing” the arrival of a trainload of celebrities at the resort for New Year’s Eve. Varied reports from the time indicate that the “Sun Valley Special” carried with it an assembly of Hollywood’s shiniest stars. The celebrity choo choo was an inspired idea, agreed Harriman. “This expedition should have good publicity value and help to keep the place full for the rest of the season.”
Arguably the origin of the type-A-Hollywood-producer stereotype, Selznick was anxious to control tightly the publicity generated by his scheme, and consequently drove Harriman’s publicity guru Steve Hannagan slightly mad with his customary pages of memos, including this one sent in early December 1936:
Dear Steve,For the love of Pete please don’t let anyone send out anything about Sun Valley Special without my first seeing and initialling it for if wrong thing goes out I will have to leave town. Am confident wide publicity can be obtained indirectly counting on your good taste to see to it this isn’t handled like a Billy Rose special to the Dallas Exposition but rather as casual photographs of stars en route and at American St. Moritz etc. Not trying to tell you how to run your business but am trying arrange this as favor to Averell and I must be careful it doesn’t boomerang at me or Sun Valley.
Selznick had good reason to be careful about his image, as he was in the early stages of producing what was to be the defining motion picture of his career, a little movie named Gone With The Wind. Just a few months earlier he had picked up the rights to the sumptuous Southern novel set in the midst of the civil war, and it’s hard not to deduce that Selznick’s little trip had some business motivation behind it. In fact, many of the Hollywood power players he rounded up for the 26 hour train ride to central Idaho had key parts to play in his plan for Wind: Samuel Goldwyn, who “owned” Gary Cooper, the star strongly rumored to be Selznick’s first choice for the role of Rhett Butler; George Cukor, Selznick’s first director for the film; and Errol Flynn, also on the list to play the roguish Charlestonian Butler. In the end Goldwyn point blank refused to loan out Cooper, and Warner Brothers terms for the use of Flynn were unappetizing to Selznick. Perhaps to throw a bone to his disappointed pal however, Goldwyn sent the recently widowed Norma Shearer a request to come join them all at Sun Valley shortly after arriving. Shearer was one of many actresses considered for the role of the film’s heroine Scarlett O’Hara. Shearer eventually declined, joking, “Scarlett is a thankless role. The one I’d really like to play is Rhett Butler!” Shearer’s visit to Sun Valley was not fruitless however. She fell in love with the area and returned year after year, eventually marrying one of the resort’s ski instructors, Martin Arrouge.
In 1940, shortly after Wind was released featuring Clark Gable (another star to frequent Sun Valley) and Vivien Leigh in the lead roles, Selznick pulled hard on some strings to arrange to screen the movie at Sun Valley. “At my request,” he wrote to Harriman in February 1940, “[we will] work something out for Sun Valley on ‘Wind’ even though it is a complete violation of our policy.” Sun Valley was considered rather too small and too short an engagement to waste a print of what was fast becoming the biggest movie in Hollywood’s history.
Selznick and his party arrived in Sun Valley on December 31st, 1936, himself and his closest friends occupying rooms 206, 207, 306 and 307 for just four days. According to the account of Felix Schaffgotsch to his boss Harriman (who was unable to attend the opening of his pet project due to the “coming out” of his eldest daughter Mary), the “Hollywood crowd” were “crazy about the place.” They spent their evenings dancing to the orchestra, being entertained by the Austrian ski instructors, playing ping pong, and frolicking in the pool. “Madeleine Carroll and party went swimming last night at six below,” reported Schaffgotsch.
“The warm water swimming pool is obviously a sensational success and quite a novelty,” wrote Selznick to Harriman in a lengthy letter following his stay. He did complain however, about “how easily pneumonia was obtained after hopping out of the pool and running indoors.” “It is pretty cold in Ketchum, believe it or not,” he wrote, “all your advertisement to the contrary notwithstanding, I believe we hit zero a couple of times.”
The much-publicized lack of snow at Sun Valley’s opening has long been proclaimed as a disaster, however for parties unaccustomed to the thrills of winter sports, it was barely an annoyance. With his accustomed foresight, Hannagan, who despised the cold, had arranged for a slew of entertainment and activities to be on hand, and these kept the celebrities and other guests happy. The ice-skating rink was a particular hit. Selznick actually lamented the fact there was any snow at all, “There wasn’t supposed to be enough snow but there was enough for me to make a monkey of myself on skis and skates, and enough for the rest of the party to go wild about winter sports and spend a fortune at the Saks shop…” he said in his letter to Harriman.
The only major blip in the Hollywood crowd’s Sun Valley vacation, where otherwise they had had “a perfectly magnificent time,” and were “simply heartbroken that we had to leave,” was at the big New Year’s Eve bash. Before Selznick left Hollywood for Ketchum, he had received a wire from screenwriter Sidney Howard, who was working on the script of Wind. Howard had wanted Selznick to meet a friend of his named Morgan during his stay at the resort. He duly accepted the introduction, and while Selznick would live to regret the meeting and its tarnishing of his precious image, for Sun Valley it led to the best publicity the resort could have hoped for.
Morgan insinuated himself into the Hollywood party, following them everywhere, stealing dances with the ladies and securing a spot at their table for the New Year’s Eve dinner. During the evening he brought over a banker from Chicago, Charles F. Glore. Presumably somewhat inebriated, Glore approached the table, pushing Selznick out of the way, and plopping himself down next to Lili Damita. When the producer protested, Glore stormed off, sweeping Selznick’s wife, Irene, out of the way, and swiping Selznick on the arm. Selznick, infuriated, demanded an explanation from Morgan as to his friend’s behaviour. Morgan, unruffled by the incident, ignored Selznick’s fury and calmly turned to Claudette Colbert requesting a dance. Selzinck, not known for his calm and restrained personality, screamed at Morgan that he “did not care to know him” and ordered him from the table. Morgan obliged, joining Glore at the adjoining table where the two started stage-whispering about Selznick, with heavy emphasis on the word Jewish. Enraged, Selznick abandoned all pretense at civility, walked over to the gentlemens’ table and planted a punch on the unsuspecting banker, leaving him with a split nose and two black eyes.
Lloyd Castagnetto, a bridge and building supervisor for the Union Pacific Railroad, later recalled “[there] was blood all over everything that night.” According to his account, the first person to throw a punch was Errol Flynn. Regardless of the facts, the story of Hollywood celebrities spilling blood in Sun Valley was too sensational to ignore. When an employee called Steve Hannagan lamenting the turn of events, he shouted back down the line, “What do you mean your party’s ruined? Not an editor in the country can resist this story!” Then he sat down and penned what became the memorable party headline for the ages: “Sun Valley Opens With a Bang.”
Arguably the most famous movie star to shoot a film in Sun Valley, Marilyn Monroe is pictured here at the North Fork store just north of Sun Valley, where she filmed scenes for Bus Stop.
From standing in as the mountains of Europe to being celebrated as a character in its own right, Sun Valley’s role as a favorite Hollywood shooting location often had as much to do with the stars’ and producers’ wish to ski there as it did its suitability for filming. Following the opening in December 1936, a total of 32 Hollywood movies have been shot in and around Sun Valley. Over 300 have been shot across the great state of Idaho (for that list click here), but for the sake of my sanity I focused the following chronological list solely on Hollywood movies shot in Sun Valley and its surrounding mountains. I also chose to excluded TV specials (such as Lucy Goes to Sun Valley and Raquel Welch’s variety show), promotional videos, documentaries, and independent movies shot in the southern Wood River Valley. I also left out the unique genre of Ski Films, which is a whole blog in itself – for another day perhaps. The resulting list reflects the birth, intense early passion, slow burn phase, and eventual break up of Sun Valley’s relationship with Hollywood location scouts (Shredder? Really?). Hey Hollywood, maybe it’s time to make up and give it another shot? Jennifer Tuohy
1937 I Met Him in Paris Claudette Colbert, Robert Young, Melvyn Douglas. Dir: Wesley Ruggles The first Hollywood flick to be shot in the newly-christened Sun Valley-area was filmed at Baker Creek in the Smoky Mountains, where a Swiss village, complete with its own grand lodge, was created. Filming began as soon as Sun Valley Lodge opened, with the stars staying in Sun Valley and the crew finding lesser accommodations in the town of Ketchum. (For more on I Met Him In Paris’ Sun Valley connection click here.)
1939 Stanley and Livingston Spencer Tracey, Walter Brennan, Nancy Kelly, Richard Greene Dir: Henry King, Otto Brower The head of Twentieth Century Fox, Darryl F. Zanuck (also responsible for Sun Valley Serenade), was a frequent guest at Sun Valley. He arranged for the opening sequences of this movie to be shot in the Boulder Mountains just north of town.
1938 Everything Happens at Night Sonja Henie, Ray Milland, Robert Cummings Dir: Irving Cummings Scenic shots of the area were used in this Swiss-set comedy/drama. Ice-skating star Sonja Henie wasn’t to come to Sun Valley until her next Hollywood movie in 1941.
1940 The Mortal Storm Margaret Sullivan, James Stewart, Robert Yong Dir: Frank Borzage Sun Valley’s mountains stood in for those of Austria in this WWII film.
This clip featuring the signature song of the movie, “It Happened in Sun Valley,” and showcases Sun Valley Lodge in all its 1940s glory. (Video not displaying? Click here.) While the principle sets for the movie were filmed in Hollywood, the skiing and scenery was all Sun Valley, earning this crowd-pleasing flick almost daily showings at the Sun Valley Opera House, straight through to today.
1941 A Woman’s Face Joan Crawford, Melvyn Douglas Dir: George Cukor Sun Valley just provided the snow for this melodrama.
1942 Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood No. 3 Hedda Hopper, Anna Boettiger, Ronald Colman, Gary Cooper, Martha Gelhorn, Ernest Hemingway Dir: Herbert Moulton
“Newsreel-style accounts of the Hollywood Dog Training School where Carl Spitz trains stars’ pets and dogs for films; a hunting party in Idaho with Ernest Hemingway hosting Gary Cooper, Anna Boettiger, poet Christopher LaFarge, and others.”
1942 Northern Pursuit Errol Flynn, Julie Bishop, Helmut Dantine Dir: Raoul Walsh
“A Canadian Mountie of German descent feigns disaffection with his homeland in hopes of infiltrating and thwarting a Nazi sabotage plot.” The landscape around Sun Valley stands in for the Arctic. Watch the trailer here.
This trailer for Duchess showcases Sun Valley Lodge and a snippet of Connie Haines singing the praises of Idaho. (Video not playing? Click here.)
1949 Mrs. Mike Dick Powell, Evelyn Keyes, J.M. Kerrigan Dir: Louis King A Canadian Mountie marries a Boston-bred heiress, uniquely unprepared for the hardships of life in the Great White North. Mrs. Mike nonetheless perseveres through minor inconveniences and major tragedies. Based on a true story and a bestselling book. Sun Valley pretends to be the “Great White North” in this biopic.
1948 That Wonderful Urge Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, Reginald Gardiner Dir: Robert B. Sinclair
“When an heiress finds out that the friendly young man she’s met at Sun Valley is really an investigative reporter, she ruins his career by falsely claiming they’re married.” Another Darryl F. Zanuck movie, shot in his favorite ski locale.
1952 The Wild North Stewart Granger, Wendell Corey, Cyd Charisse Dir: Andrew Marton Filmed in the Boulder Mountains, along Trail Creek and on Galena Summit.
1952 The Big Sky Kirk Douglas, Dewey Martin, Elizabeth Threatt Dir: Howard Hawks
Rock Hudson, Marcia Henderson, Steve Cochran Dir: Joseph Pevney
“In a small village in the icy wilderness of Alaska Captain Peter Keith has to defend himself against two especially mean villains, who are after his wife Dolores and a boatload of precious hides.” Background shooting took place in the mountains around Sun Valley.
1955 The Tall Men Clark Gable, Jane Russell, Robert Ryan Dir: Raoul Walsh Once again, Sun Valley provided the scenic snow shots for this flick.
1955 Storm Fear Jean Wallace, Cornel Wilde, Dan Duryea Dir: Cornel Wilde The movie was shot on location in Sun Valley.
1956 The Miracle of Todd-AO “A short film demonstrating the new 70mm widescreen Todd-AO system. After a prologue that shows all that the eye can see through the Todd-AO wide angle lens, we take a ride in a roller-coaster, fly over the canyons of the Grand Teton Mountains, ski in Sun Valley, and follow a motorcycle chase through the San Francisco.” Catch scenic shots of the Sawtooths and the Wood River Valley in this clip.
1956 Bus Stop Marilyn Monroe, Don Murray, Arthur O’Connell Dir: Joshua Logan “A naive but stubborn cowboy falls in love with a saloon singer and tries to take her away against her will to get married and live on his ranch in Montana.” The scenes of the couple stranded at a bus stop in a blizzard were shot at the North Fork store, north of Sun Valley, which still stands. Watch the trailer here.
1957 Ten North Frederick Gary Cooper, Diane Varsi, Suzy Parker Dir: Philip Dunne Location shots only for Sun Valley in this Cooper vehicle.
1965 Ski Party Frankie Avalon, Dwayne Hickman, Deborah Walley Dir: Alan Rafkin
Great shots of Baldy and Dollar mountains to be found in the trailer for this raucous ski flick. (Click here for the video.)
1977 The Deadly Triangle (TV movie) Dale Robinette, Taylor Lacher, Geoffrey Lewis Dir: Charles S. Dubin
“A former Olympic ski champion, now the sheriff of a ski-resort town, investigates the murder of the member of a skiing team that came to the resort to train.” Filmed entirely in Sun Valley.
1978 Crisis in Sun Valley (TV movie) Dale Robinette, Taylor Lacher, Bo Hopkins Dir: Paul Stanley
“Semi-follow up to “The Deadly Triangle” dealing with a sheriff and his deputy in a sleepy ski town involved with a group of urbanites planning a dangerous mountain climb as well as investigating sabotage in a condominium development.” Filmed entirely in Sun Valley
1980 Swan Song (TV movie) David Soul, Bo Brundin, Jill Eikenberry Dir: Jerry London
“A champion skier who pulled out of the Olympic games because of a mysterious illness decides to make a comeback.”
1980 Powder Heads David Ferry, Catherine Mary Stewart, William Samples Dir: John Anderson, Michael French
Filmed in Sun Valley, Edmonton and Jasper.
1985 Pale Rider Clint Eastwood, Michael Moriarty, Carrie Snodgress Dir: Clint Eastwood
Pale Rider revived the both classic Western and Hollywood’s romance with the majestic mountains surrounding Sun Valley. The film crew constructed an entire mining village in the Boulder Mountains, and the opening credits capture the drama of the Sawtooth Mountains. (Video not displaying? Click here)
2001 Hemingway, The Hunter of Death Albert Finney, Paul Guilfoyle, Fele Martinez Dir: Sergio Dow
“During the Kenyan struggle for independence from the British in the late 1950′s, a scientific safari led by Ernest Hemingway undertakes the ascent of Mount Kenya.” Filmed on location in Sun Valley and Kenya.
2001 Town & Country Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Nastassja Kinski Dir: Peter Chelsom The last big budget movie to be made in Sun Valley provides plenty of glimpses of town and slopes. Unfortunately, when the crews arrived there was no snow on the ground and several scenes were filmed with manmade snow. As luck would have it, a foot of the real white stuff arrived the next day, so some of the scenes were re-shot using the “natural” background. But the movie was cursed with bad luck from the get-go and went on to be one of the biggest box office disasters of all time.
2003 Shredder Scott Weinger, Lindsey McKeon, Juleach Weikel Dir: Greg Hudson The Tamarack Lodge on Sun Valley Road in Ketchum provides some interior scenes in this ski horror flick set in Kellog, Idaho.
Read the first post in the Sun Valley Movie History series “The Hollywood Connection” here. Coming next, a look at Sun Valley’s Hollywood Godfather, David O. Selznick.