Torches will glide down Dollar Mountain this Christmas Eve during Sun Valley's Torchlight Parade
Monday night members of the Sun Valley Snowsports School will gather with lighted torches to ski in unison down Dollar Mountain in the Torchlight Parade. This spellbinding trail of fire has snaked down the mountainside almost every Christmas Eve for the last 75 years, providing a unique spectacle for the crowds assembled below.
To get the scoop on this centerpiece of Sun Valley’s Christmas celebrations, I spoke with Nelson Bennett, 98, an early director of the Sun Valley Ski Patrol. Bennett arrived at the resort in 1940 and is one of the last people with memories from the resort’s infancy. ”Friedl Pfeiffer was instrumental in starting the parade,” Bennett recalls. “I believe it was in his second winter season. It was something he brought from Austria. It occurred each Christmas on Dollar Mountain.”
A famed Austrian ski racer, Pfeiffer joined the Sun Valley Ski School in 1938, taking over from Hans Hauser as director later that winter. Pfeiffer left the resort in 1941 following the outbreak of WWII. While his Austrian origins initially aroused the suspicion of the FBI, he voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. army and fought with the 10th Mountain Division, along with Bennett and others from Sun Valley. After the war, Purple Heart in hand, he headed straight for Colorado to found Aspen ski resort.
Friedl Pfeifer, director of the Sun Valley Ski School from 1939 to 1941, brought the Torchlight Parade to Sun Valley from his home of St. Anton, Austria.
“It was sort of interesting to be watching [the parade] from the valley or the village,” Bennett continued. “Because every so often a torch would get out of line and you’d come to find out that the torch had an intoxicated skier on it,” he said with a chuckle.
After a few years as a spectator, Bennett came to participate in the tradition himself. “Yes, I skied in it eventually,” he said. “Led the damn thing down the hill in later years.”
This year the parade is dedicated to the memory of Andy and Alice Schernthanner, two local residents who passed away this year following a collective century involved in Sun Valley and skiing. It will be the first time the parade has been a dedicated event.
The torchlight parade and holiday fireworks begin at approximately 5:30 p.m., December 24, following the free performance of Nutcracker on Ice at the Sun Valley outdoor ice rink, which begins at 5 p.m. Free hot chocolate, cookies, carol singing and visits from Santa round out the festivities along with free ice skating after the show.
Meet Charlie Kucher: groomer and tour guide extraordinaire
I must admit, “pulling up” in front of Roundhouse Restaurant in the world’s biggest snow cat, “the BEAST,” is as close to feeling like a rock star as this forty-something mother of three has gotten in a long, long time. When we parked near the stairs leading up to the famed restaurant, the door swung open and I stepped, drenched in spotlights and dusted with a light flurry of snow, onto the mammoth treads. I paused for a moment taking it all in: the brightly lit restaurant festooned for the holidays, Ketchum’s lights twinkling far below, the massive and alien-looking snow cat beneath my feet. I extended my hand, reaching for that of the gracious gondola greeter and, I hope, leapt gracefully to the ground. What a ride.
This modern day caravan heads up River Run
The experience began hours earlier, before evening fell like a blanket over Baldy. At 4 p.m., I reported to the daily groomer’s meeting as one of the first lucky people this season to get a ride on the fabled BEAST. You, too, can partake of the story you are about to read by entering your name for weekly raffle drawings that allow guests to watch the country’s best grooming team at work, all from the driver’s vantage point.
At the meeting, I began to understand why our mountain has a reputation for the best grooming anywhere. The swing shift, on duty from 4 p.m. to midnight, is comprised of seasoned pros who work the seven cats. The graveyard shift takes over from midnight to 8 a.m., ensuring the best snow surface possible for the 9 a.m. open. The group, all men, spoke in a dialect with which I am not familiar, discussing feathering, tilling, pushing and winching. Foremost on the mind of Grooming Manager Kerry O’Brien, however, was the huge winter storm expected to hit Ketchum Monday.
I look the BEAST in the eye
The light decorative flurries falling Saturday afternoon may have been a portent of great things to come, but for me, they set just the right mood for my adventure. I met Charlie Kucher, a grooming supervisor and my driver/confidante for the evening, right before I met the Prinoth BEAST. I liked both right away. As Charlie advised me to (not so gracefully) hoist myself into the BEAST’s cabin, I was immediately impressed. That cat is huge. Weighing in at a few mature elephants, and featuring a back tiller that is four-feet wider than traditional cats, this 520- horsepower, half-a-million dollar machine is a sight to behold. Once Charlie switched her on and maneuvered out of the oversized garagery at the bottom of River Run, the BEAST began to climb the mountain like it was taking a leisurely stroll. No gasping for breath here.
Seated comfortably in the space-age cockpit, Charlie worked the levers and buttons that raise the blade (the plow-looking grill in the front that cuts the snow), and the tiller in the back (that processes the surface and leaves nice lines of corduroy), like the conductor of a large orchestra. We traversed the mountain on the aptly named cat tracks until we reached the top of Warm Springs. There, we (not really we, Charlie) dipped the blade of the Beast over the edge of the trail and off we went, pointing straight down Warm Springs, as the lights below began to flicker on.
Driving down Warm Springs
As we chatted about family, Charlie’s past life (commercial fisherman, chef), his passion for skiing and why he loves his job (teamwork among all the mountain operations departments), tempus fugit. Up and down Warm Springs we journeyed, from I-80 to the Lodge where Charlie showed off some pretty sweet u-turns. I knew on Sunday I would be proud to ski the run I watched Charlie so meticulously and lovingly groom.
Then it was off to Roundhouse – a vintage jewel tucked into snowy folds of fabric at 7,700 feet above sea level. I intended to hop on the gondola and return to my non rock-star life, but Roundhouse beckoned. Saturday was the first night dinner was being served and the restaurant was full and festive. Not needing much convincing, I grabbed a seat at the new rustic wooden bar and soon had the distinction of being the first guest to be served dinner there. The food, the bartenders Mike and Matt, and the ambiance were the perfect nightcap to an amazing afternoon.
Mike and Matt, the welcoming committee at Roundhouse's new bar
To enter the raffle so you, too, can have this once-in-a-lifetime experience, you need only fill out a free entry form on Ipads available at the Sun Valley Recreation Center in the Village or at the River Run Ticket Office. One winner will be chosen to ride every Friday and Saturday night throughout the season and dinner at Roundhouse may be combined with the ride, space permitting (and with L’Addition the guest’s responsibility). Winners are announced a day prior and must be 18 years old. Please call 622-2135 for more information.
If you stand in front of the Ski Patrol hut on Baldy (which can be found tucked under the mountain’s chin and is easily identifiable by the many white crosses it flies), and orient your skis straight down the hill, after a few turns, you will end up at the new avalanche beacon practice center. Delineated by an oversized wooden gate and marked on either side with stakes, this is an area in which five transceivers or beacons (the oversized-cell-phone-looking equipment that transmit an electronic “beep” and should be worn by all back and side-country skiers) are buried. The practice arena opened for the season on Tuesday and is free to use.
“We invite the public to come with their beacons and hone their skills,” Skooter Gardiner of the Sun Valley Ski Patrol explained as we side-slipped down to the field. “It’s open when the mountain is and it’s an excellent resource.”
Ski Patrol's Skooter Gardiner demonstrates how to use the park
The beacons are buried beneath the snow on the unofficial run “Christmas Bridge,” that spans Christmas Ridge and Christmas Bowl above the trees. A special dial affixed to the vertical beam of the gate allows users to customize their experience. Dial in how many transmitters you want to search, set your beacon to receive, and follow the signal. A sign next to the dial explains exactly how the system works and how best to use it. The equipment was a gift from Dr. Rick Moore, an orthopedic surgeon who is an avid skier and good friend to Sun Valley Ski Patrol.
As I am a novice at beacon training, Skooter dialed up two transmitters on which to practice. Given today’s user-friendly equipment, it is not hard to get the basics of beacon use, but it is obvious that practicing with one is the only way to get good at using one. The basics are: hold the beacon parallel and flat to the snow’s grade and point it downhill. An arrow on the screen points toward the beeping transceiver and indicates how far you are from your target. A “bull’s-eye” appears on the screen and the beeping intensifies when you are very close. Then it is time to mark a probable area and search with an avalanche probe until you hit the steel plate that lets you know you found your mark. The exercise reminded me a sophisticated game of “hot and cold” played by children.
My beacon's "bull's-eye" indicates that I am close to the buried transceiver
But proper training for snow emergencies is no game. “Ski Patrolers often come out here three or four times a week to practice,” said Skooter. “It’s like anything else, the more something becomes second nature, the more successful you will be in a real-life situation.”
If you ever go into the backcountry or have children who do, the new beacon practice center on Baldy is an easy, interesting and readily accessible way to practice vital skills. Having the equipment isn’t enough. Taking a basic avalanche course isn’t enough. Practice, practice, practice.
Rest assured, even if you keep to the groomers, it’s good to know that our already highly-qualified Ski Patrol (filled with EMTs, Paramedics, explosives experts, firefighters and some of the best skiers on the hill) are also out there regularly and rigorously doing their beacon homework.
Members of Ski Patrol prepare to keep the mountain, and our guests, safe
We have not yet officially reached the start of the 12 days of Christmas, but from my perspective, Sun Valley’s alpine skiers and sliders have already been given gifts aplenty. With apologies to the original scribe of the beloved holiday classic, my 12 Days of Christmas might go, thus far, something like this (feel free to hum along):
On the first day of Christmas, Mother Nature gave to me: a snow-covered evergreen tree.
On the second day of Christmas, Mother Nature gave to me: two well-tuned skis and a snow-covered evergreen tree.
On the third day of Christmas Mother Nature gave to me: three groomed steeps, two well-tuned skis and a snow-covered evergreen tree.
On the fourth day of Christmas Mother Nature gave to me: four days of snowfall, three groomed steeps, two well-tuned skis and a snow-covered evergreen tree.
On the fifth day of Christmas Mother Nature gave to me: five pow-der runs! four days of snowfall, three groomed steeps, two well-tuned skis and a snow-covered evergreen tree.
I will stop there, because the prevailing theme quickly runs to overkill, but in Sun Valley, in December, the skiing is stunningly good. This week, after a massive storm came through and dumped something like three feet of white, fluffy powder on the top of Baldy, I have skied runs that are normally reserved for much, much later in the season. I dropped down into Central Park off of College and splashed in the still fresh snow, three days after the big storm. The trail that sounds like “Stilhung” but is spelled in a way I can’t begin to fathom, beckoned alluringly from the top of International, offering still untouched powder past my knees. I tackled Rock Garden, Upper Holiday and Upper River Run, nearly three weeks BEFORE Christmas. (For our guests, all these runs involve some combination of steep pitches, trees, bumps or powder and are not always in great shape this early in the year).
Thursday saw first tracks in the bowls
Sun Valley Ski Patrol has been aggressive in opening terrain and on Thursday … wait for it … they dropped the rope on some of Baldy’s awesome bowls. Yes, people were skiing and riding the bowls on December 6, and making laps on the Mayday lift. For lack of a better word – epic!
Lift talk is, without fail, enthusiastic and filled with gratitude. On a weekday morning, those of us lucky enough to work the night shift or have the day off, giddily compare notes, conditions and look almost guilty at our good fortune. Our only complaint? Tired legs from all this early-season powder. Yes, it’s hard to be us.
Insert yourself here
The mountain’s base is in fantastic shape for the coming season and it promises be a very white and very jolly holiday in Sun Valley. In fact, I don’t think there is better skiing anywhere in the country right now. It’s that good.
I will take this recent snowfall over drummers drumming, maids a’ leaping, swans a’ swimming –even golden rings. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here, and that looks pretty darn amazing — especially when you’re looking down at it from 9000 feet.
Childish wonder was apparent everywhere on Saturday at the Sun Valley Village
This Saturday in Sun Valley, it was as if someone held a holiday kaleidoscope to my eye, slowly turning the barrel as one scene lost focus while another coalesced.
During the Winter Wonderland Gala, the first image I saw was that of a large expectant crowd waiting outside the Boiler Room for the official opening of the Gingerbread Village. Turn the wheel to the next picture and throngs of people surrounded the Gingerbread Village, a scale replica of all that makes Sun Valley charming. Children peered and pointed at the tiny buildings with candy windows; a swan in the pond; perfect storefronts. Adults bent for a better angle from which to see down walkways and around corners. The strong scent of gingerbread mingled with the aroma of hot cocoa and wet wool.
The Lodge's famous swan pond is replicated in gingerbread and candy
Turn the tube again and the all-girls’ chorus, Colla Voce, from Wood River High School slides into focus. Clad in festive red or cream colored coats and Santa caps with their long, shiny hair falling down their backs, the a capellagroup charmed with songs of the season in multi-part harmony. A fire blazed in the fire pit on the patio, providing warmth and cheer.
The next click of the wheel brings into focus a brightly colored, lit-with-holiday- strings, children’s train. If the kaleidoscope could capture sounds, you would hear shrieks of joy and excitement as the train came into view, stopping at the “station” in front of the Brass Ranch. All aboard!
A child-friendly train wends through the Village
Next, the kaleidoscope’s images would show a scavenger hunt challenging participants to find specific images in Sun Valley’s spectacular new holiday window displays. Where is the Eiffel Tower? There it is! In the window of Brass Ranch — a whimsical interpretation of Christmas in the City of Lights. Where are two skiers schussing down the slopes? In Austria, of course, on the window in front of the Toy Store. Little hands wrote answers on the official ticket that they would enter for the chance to win — ski passes, ski lockers, 10 prizes in all.
Another spin of the barrel brought into focus a horse-drawn wagon ride around Sun Valley Village, with Cowboy Jess at the reins and Barney and Bill graciously pulling the load. Another rotation showed Santa Claus center stage, offering his “bowl full of jelly” lap to long lines of children, all anxious for their photo and for Santa’s ear.
A huge turn to the right shows a vignette of excited kids, their caretakers practically jogging to keep up with them, in the quest for stamps at each window location. They ducked into the shops, the Inn and the Lodge, grinning widely as their passports were stamped with a holiday greeting from the different nations represented by each window. Once the passports were full of multi-colored ink, they were shown in return for a special sweet treat.
Dane shows off his finished passport book
A final twist of the kaleidoscope shows my friends relaxing in the warm, inviting lobby at the Lodge with some hot chocolate for the children and a hot apple cider or some bubbly for the mothers. As we unwound in front of the brightly lit and whimsical window showing a Swiss Christmas at its finest, it felt as if the holidays had arrived. (The more than two feet of snow that fell on Baldy didn’t hurt either.)
Like the vibrant stained-glass shapes that all fall into place in a kaleidoscope to create an unexpected whole, Sun Valley’s Winter Wonderland Gala brought the community together. It invited wonder at the season from children on their dad’s shoulders to grandmothers patiently helping fill out scavenger hunt forms. Saturday provided a vivid, multi-hued, many-faceted start to the holidays that will continue right through Christmas Day. Be sure to come to the Village during this festive time. You will be glad you did.
Our scavenger hunt team takes a break at the Lodge
more photos because there was so much going on!:
Cooper shows off the treat he received after visiting all the holiday windows
This little scavenger hunter gets a lift from dad
Colla Voce serenades the crowd
Ten great prizes were drawn at the end of the scavenger hunt
Filmmakers work on getting the right shot on Dollar
What do you get when you combine some of the world’s premiere Red Bull-sponsored freestyle athletes, huge features on Dollar Mountain and a top-notch film crew out of Los Angeles? You get the scene at the base of Dollar this weekend. The amazing guys from SPT, the team that works with Sun Valley’s Brian Callahan to create our ever-evolving terrain park, are the subject of an action-packed, high-flying reality television show that is scheduled to air in April. Sun Valley will be featured in the first episode of this series, spotlighting SPT and produced by National Geographic.
Preparations are full speed ahead, readying for the arrival of the Red Bull athletes. Midweek, SPT was building two rail pads into an airbag (yes, just like it sounds – a huge airbag that the athletes land in). Snow making is going full bore toward the top of Dollar, creating a 65 to 80-foot jump that will launch these guys into our thin mountain air.
SPT, which stands for Snow Park Technologies, is one of the most-sought after consulting teams in the world, creating special projects on snow. Frank Wells of SPT is one of the guys who make the magic happen — designing and building awesome (in the true sense of the world) terrain parks and half pipes, competition courses and staging on-snow productions and events. Though he has worked all over the world, Frank loves Sun Valley.
The morning meeting brings together Frank Wells of SPT, the production crew and Bryant Dunn of Sun Valley Ski Patrol
“Sun Valley is one of our favorite places to come and to work,” Frank said, sipping coffee outside Carol’s Dollar Lodge. By 9 a.m., he had been up and down Baldy, secured some footage of a spectacular Idaho sunrise and found time to get in a few turns. He said everyone loves coming to Sun Valley, staying at the Resort and swimming in the Lodge Pool — “the only hot tub you can dive into!” Amir, part of the film production team and a first-time visitor to Sun Valley agreed, “That pool is great.” He and his colleagues are also enjoying the night life on Main Street and are generally having a blast and working hard.
Back on Dollar, Frank and his team brought in some special fierce-looking Snow Cats for this effort, allowing for the creation of the exact features required by the project. Everything is in place and in control, except that one variable no one can control – not even Frank: the weather. The great news is Sun Valley is expecting two to five FEET of snow to fall above 7000 feet by Monday morning. The challenging news for Frank & Co. is that we are expecting two to five FEET of snow to fall by Monday morning. But Frank, the filmmakers, and, for sure, the athletes, don’t mind a challenge. They are extreme freestylers after all. Let the action begin!
Red Bull athletes will fly from these epic jumps this weekend
Blue skies and great conditions defined Baldy's opening day
Helmet: check. Goggles: check. Ski pants that still fit (phew): check. Socks without holes: check. Skis, poles, boots: check. Gloves, two left ones: whoops. Wish I had caught that while I was still at home. But, hey, it’s my first day of the season. Something had to give!
Thus outfitted, geared-up and downright excited, on Sunday morning I turned into the lower parking area at River Run, hungrily eyeing the hill. The first day of ski season is a homecoming for me. I gave a big wave to Bill, my favorite parking shuttle driver. He smiled, giving me thumbs up. At the base of the hill, I caught up with the boys in the tune shop and rental desk, people I haven’t seen since closing day last April. Dan at the Brass Ranch not only recommended the right gadget allowing me answer my phone without fumbling around (don’t worry, I don’t chat on the phone on the lift), he installed it, too. Smiles all around.
Come on up, the skiing is fine!
More smiles as the ticket taker at the base of the River Run chair, a new face this year, scanned my pass. Day one was officially underway! A warm-up run led me down Upper College to Mid River and back to the lift. My thoughts on these groomers alternated between “Whee!” and “Ow, my knees!” and “Yikes! I’m not sure I remember how to do this,” but I made it all the same. The next run, down Upper Warm Springs to I-80 was smoother and more relaxing and by the time I made it to the soft bumps (yes, bumps, in November!) on Ridge, I was getting my groove back.
Early season skiing is gratifying. I always appreciate, with my sore knees and tired muscles (I knew I should have signed up for one of those pre-season boot camps), that every run on our huge, challenging mountain isn’t available on Day One. At first, just enough slopes are open to remember the joy of skiing, the basics of making pretty turns and to provide a real-life boot camp. Nothing trains your legs for skiing like skiing. With each snowfall and Sun Valley’s amazing snow making, runs seem to open in direct correlation to what my legs can handle.
Bumps on Ridge
Scanning that sweeping 360-degree vista atop Bald Mountain, there is a lot to look forward to. Seattle Ridge is already drenched in white and striped with corduroy. Also looking ahead-of-the-usual-curve-snow-wise are Baldy’s storied bowls. From the perspective of the lift, coverage looked great.
By all accounts, the opening days on Baldy were excellent. Visitors I chatted with couldn’t have been happier. Locals came out in force with their families. And from here, it only gets better and better. Today looks like a great day to ski – time to run!
Five-year-old Scarlett Carruth, part of the Crist skiing dynasty, sums up the mood on the hill
Being ready for an avalanche rescue takes lots of practice and expertise, even for Sun Valley Ski Patrol
We all know skiing and boarding are fun. Big fun, in fact. But the importance of knowing how to stay safe in the snow cannot be over exaggerated. While many love the idea of backcountry or “side-county” skiing (what until recently used to be called illegally ducking the ropes), not everyone who ventures off groomers understands how to prepare for potential pitfalls when enjoying winter activities.
Sun Valley Ski Patrol wants to help. In conjunction with many organizations and retailers in the community, Ski Patrol presented the Sawtooth Snow Safety Festival on Saturday. A large crowd came out, despite a light rain and the promise of snow (fingers crossed!) to check out the latest equipment, participate in demonstrations and get as much information as possible. Held at Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge (that, by the way, is already beautifully decorated for the holidays – kudos to this year’s designers!) the festival was a rousing success.
Avalanche beacons 101
According to Mike Davis, one of Sun Valley Ski Patrol’s outstanding supervisors, “it is crucial for mountain users who might be venturing out onto a powder day, side-country slope, or the backcountry (even if the backcountry is literally in your backyard), to be prepared. There are so many resources available to educate people and help them learn the essentials as well as really advanced skills.”
The past few years have seen a huge increase in people interested in “side-country” skiing on Baldy, especially after the Castle Rock fire in 2007 exposed what many saw as new ski terrain. But Davis said he cannot over emphasize that mountain users are on their own if they venture out-of-bounds. “There is no patrol, no sweep. Even if you know what you’re doing, someone above you may not,” he said.
That is why events like the Snow Safety Festival are so important. Local instructors, experts and merchants discussed all the equipment necessary to more safely explore off-piste (shovels, probes and beacons being at the top of the list) and the importance of knowing exactly how to use them. Many at the event also emphasized that using experienced guides like those at Sawtooth Mountain Guides or Sun Valley Trekking is a very, very smart way to go.
The newest generation of avalanche beacons
Shovels are a must-have safety item and were on display at the Snow Safety Festival
Part of the joy of living in or visiting Sun Valley is the vast outdoor playground that surrounds the Wood River Valley on all sides. There are limitless possibilities for exploration, adventure and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. But what the Snow Safety Festival emphasized is that information is key. Skiers and boarders on Baldy should heed all signs and advisories. Ski Patrol is there to keep you safe, not hinder your fun. Backcountry users should check conditions with the local Avalanche Center that updates information daily throughout the season. When in need of new information or a refresher, sign up for a course or clinic.
Slopeside life officially kicks off in Sun Valley on Thursday the 22nd. Let’s all have the most fun, safest season yet.
Backcountry adventurer Bob Rosso shows off the latest equipment during the Festival
It was music to my ears, a sight for sore eyes and every other applicable cliché when I pulled into the base of River Run just in time to see a ski racer swoosh to the end of the slope and jump onto a chairlift, ready for another go at it. Now, Bald Mountain doesn’t open to the public (a.k.a. me) until Thursday, November 22, but it is open right now for an early-season ski camp. There are racers skiing and training, right now, on the hill, as we speak. Oh! Joyous day!
The camp, organized by the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) in cooperation with Sun Valley Resort, provides five days of training on Lower River Run to local racers and teams from all over the northwest.
“The kids love this camp,” said Ruben Macaya, Alpine Program Director for SVSEF. “They get to ski the mountain first which is always exciting and Lower River Run is a really good place to train.”
As Ruben explained, the relatively gentle pitch on Lower River Run is perfect for teaching skills and drills. As part of this camp, aimed at skiers ages 8 to 17, drills include one-ski skiing, balance building exercises, gate training and gate running.
“Early in the season you don’t want the kids building up too much speed,” Ruben laughed. “It takes more skill to slow down and do it right.”
The camp runs through Wednesday and many families who participate chose to stay in Sun Valley for Thanksgiving and ski the mountain when it opens to the public. After enjoying Turkey Day specials and packages, they will join hundreds of anxious locals and visitors alike who cannot wait to get in their first runs of the season.
By all accounts, the snow, a mixture of Nature-made and man-made, is good and Sun Valley will open Dollar and Baldy for its 77th winter season as planned. There is great early-season pricing in effect so there’s really no excuse not to get in some turns.
Ski Patrol actually came over to politely ask if I was alright as I lingered at River Run, watching the chairs swoop up the skiers. Shaken out of my reverie, I replied that yes, I was great. I was simply counting the days until I was on the chair myself. He smiled. Somehow, he didn’t think that was odd at all.
In a week’s time, when Thanksgiving memories are still fresh and bellies are still full, Sun Valley Village will provide a wonderful opportunity to take a stroll, shop and turn your thoughts to the holidays. Next Friday, November 23, storefront windows in the Village will come to life with eye-popping, three-dimensional, beautifully conceived and crafted scenes depicting the “Language of the Holidays” throughout the world. The new Holiday Window Stroll is certain to be one of the highlights of the season and will hopefully become a Sun Valley tradition.
A transformation of Village shops is underway as Jonnie Hartman, a talented artist in her own right, is busy unpacking everything from bags of brightly colored gumballs, oversize glass jars and Chinese lanterns, to hand-crocheted flowers and huge silver ornaments. Spread carefully around a staging room in the Village, 13 window-size panels in various pieces, are quickly taking form into a whole.
Holiday window scenes awaiting installation
The panels, created by four international illustrators, Danielle Davis (United States), Ben Javens (England), Miguel Ornia-Blanco (Argentina) and Janine Rewell (Finland), are whimsical, bright and detail-dense. According to Jonnie, the artists create the scenes digitally and then transfer images onto enormous, flexible panels – something akin to supersize foam core board but with a waterproof and durable surface. Layering is crucial to the designs. A sophisticated laser-cutting machine creates lattice borders, drifting snow and hundreds of other details you will have to see for yourself to fully appreciate.
Jonnie Hartman plans the best way to begin work on a China-themed window
The holiday window dressings are rich in breadth and depth. In the Sun Valley Signatures & Gift Shop this morning, Jonnie was busy measuring and centering the background panel for a display depicting holidays in China. Drill in hand, she readied to hang the panel a foot or so back from the front window of the shop. Once the picture is secured, Jonnie’s next step is to bring the scene to life. In this case, that means layering a serpentine dragon across the backdrop, hanging paper lanterns and adding dozens of unique touches to the life-size diorama. Stunning.
Throughout this week, installments will go up throughout the Village, as well as in the Sun Valley Inn and Lodge, creating a temporary gallery that encourages a free and interactive self-guided stroll. Starting on November 23 and continuing through January 4, 2013, participants will receive “passports” at any window location. Visit each one to receive a stamp bearing a holiday greeting, then enjoy a special treat at the end of the stroll
The windows are a part of Sun Valley’s Winter Wonderland Gala. On December 1, join in the festivities at Sun Valley Village to kick-start the season. Free and fun for all, activities include cutting the ribbon at the Gingerbread Village in the Boiler Room, a scavenger hunt, wagon rides, great food, a special visit from Santa and, of course, a look at those windows. Festivities begin at 1 p.m and last into the early evening.
Sun Valley’s new window displays promise to fulfill that universal yearning for simpler, more meaningful holidays. The vibrant colors, exquisite details and evocative images will transport you around the world and serve as a reminder of what the season is truly about: friends, family, giving and sharing. Take a moment to stop, stare and appreciate the season in front of these gorgeous works of art – a gift to the community from Sun Valley!
This window-in-progress sums it up
Crochet flowers will lend texture and color
Bright gumballs add to the whimsical feel of a display