Moveable Art

Anticipation was high Tuesday at the unveiling of a unique art piece -- a real gondola wrapped in original art

Anticipation was high Tuesday at the unveiling of a unique art piece — a real gondola wrapped in original art

For the next three months or so, a one-of-a-kind piece of art is on display at the Ketchum Town Center. It’s big, it’s beautiful and it was unveiled on Tuesday.

The unique artwork is actually a real gondola car from River Run, albeit a highly jazzed up version of the basic model. The car is wrapped in original art from local artist Ralph Harris and shows a picturesque scene of the Boulder Mountains. It will be the first art-covered gondola to go over Forest Service land in the country.

Kurt Nelson of the BLM, Jack Sibbach of Sun Valley Resort, Ketchum mayor Nina Jonas and artist Ralph Harris all celebrated the  arrival of the gondola at Ketchum Town Square

Kurt Nelson of the BLM, Jack Sibbach of Sun Valley Resort, Ketchum mayor Nina Jonas and artist Ralph Harris all celebrated the arrival of the gondola at Ketchum Town Square

“I created the art digitally and it was transferred onto a nylon wrap that covers the entire gondola car,” Harris explained. “It’s the same type of material that you see in town adoring KART buses. You can see through it from the inside.”

The goal was to create something to blend in with our gorgeous, natural mountain environment, not to stand out. This is even more important as in October, the car will rejoin the gondola fleet and will become a spectacular way to ride from River Run to Roundhouse.

Since Sun Valley Ski Resort is run on public land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, this outdoor art was a collaboration between Sun Valley Company, the BLM, the City of Ketchum Arts Commission and the U.S. Forest Service.

The artist, lifetime local Ralph Harris, is pictured in front of his creation with Mayor Nina Jonas. Care was taken so that the art would fit in with the area's beautiful natural environment

The artist, lifetime local Ralph Harris, is pictured in front of his creation with Mayor Nina Jonas. Care was taken so that the art would fit in with the area’s beautiful natural environment

At a ceremony unveiling the gondola, Kurt Nelson, district ranger of the Sawtooth National Forest joked, “I just told them no pink, no orange, no colors of the rainbow. We really wanted this to blend in with the environment.”

Harris, who can claim 44 years as a ski instructor with the Sun Valley SnowSports School and ancestors in the region dating back to 1881, was an obvious choice to create the special art. In fact, his Uncle Zeb worked on the first ski lift at the Resort.

The project was generously sponsored by David and Trish Wilson of Wilson Construction, longtime benefactors of the arts and supporters of the community.

And community is really what this project is all about. Jack Sibbach, Marketing Director for the Sun Valley Resort emphasized, “The company is very excited to be a part of this project. What we have accomplished shows what the community can do when we set our minds to it and come together for a common cause.”

A crowd gathered to inspect and enjoy the outdoor art installation

A crowd gathered to inspect and enjoy the outdoor art installation

The wrap looks like a painting, filled with beautiful detail depicting the Boulder Mountain range with the peaks covered in snow, as well as local flora and fauna.

“Sun Valley has always been a leader in innovative programming in the arts,” said Marybeth Flower who spoke on behalf of the Ketchum Arts Commission. “This forward-thinking vision has helped create this unique display of artwork by one of our leading local artists.”

Be sure to stop by the Ketchum Town Square to see the gondola for yourself, then be ready to see it whisking skiers and snowboarders up the mountain when the 2014-15 season commences in November. It is a head turner, indeed!


Sun Valley's own Julian Tyo brought inspiration for this project home from his recent European honeymoon with wife Katie

Sun Valley’s own Julian Tyo brought inspiration for this project home from his recent European honeymoon with wife Katie

NBS Hits the Slopes and the Town

A member of NBS shows how it's done (Tal Roberts Photography)

A member of NBS shows how it's done (Tal Roberts Photography)

The National Brotherhood of Skiers (NBS) arrived in Sun Valley earlier this week and club members are taking the mountain, and the town, by storm! For the hundreds of participants here from every corner of the country, this year’s NBS Mini Summit is a gathering of friends old and new, an opportunity to enjoy Bald Mountain’s radical, and not so radical, runs, and one big party.

Tuesday, for instance, saw Adventure Races on Baldy. Something like a scavenger hunt for grown ups, these races, that were sponsored by REI, had skiers and riders exploring the hill in a madcap manner. Later that day, the famous NBS extended themed, happy hour du jour was titled, “50 Shades of Black.” Wednesday, brought Mardi Gras to Sun Valley one week early when beads, umbrellas and Fat Tuesday festivity turned River Run Lodge into a small corner of New Orleans.

Earlier that day, NBS members enjoyed a delicious barbecue on the patio at River Run Lodge overlooking the Big Wood River. The sun was bright, the sky blue and the lunch was made even more special with an appearance from Kaitlyn Farrington, the Wood River Valley native who just won the Gold Medal in the Sochi Olympics in snowboard Halfpipe. Kaitlyn chatted with NBS participants, enjoyed lunch al fresco, posed for photos and soaked it all in.

Olympic gold medalist and local golden girl Kaitlyn Farrington, joined NBS participants at lunch and posed for lots of photos with fans

Olympic gold medalist and local golden girl Kaitlyn Farrington, joined NBS participants at lunch and posed for lots of photos with fans

NBS was founded in 1973 by Art Clay and Ben Finley who were determined to create a national Black Ski Summit. During an interview Wednesday at the base of Baldy, Clay remembered the club’s beginnings. “Back then very few African Americans could really ski,” he said, “Very few of us had ever been to a real ski resort.” According to the organization’s website, Clay and Finley, “moved forward with a proposal to bring together 13 black ski clubs for an event which was called ‘A Happening’, but was later changed to ‘Black Summit’. The purpose was ‘to identify and discuss problems and subjects which were unique to the black skiing population, ski and socialize,’” according to Finley.

Members of the elite Team NBS took to Baldy's slopes this week (Tal Roberts Photography)

Members of the elite Team NBS took to Baldy's slopes this week (Tal Roberts Photography)

Today, according to Clay, “the NBS has thousands of participants and continues to grow. We also offer a scholarship program to help kids who would never have a chance to ski get on the slopes and to support the hopes and dreams of our elite athletes.” Members of NBS have competed in the Paralympics and Olympics. The organization now includes 60 clubs representing 43 cities and a membership of 3,000. It is one of the largest ski organizations in the country and its Summit conventions bring together the largest gathering of skiers and riders in the United States.

This visit marks the NBS’ fourth trip to Sun Valley. The first was in 1975 for the Black Ski Summit. Members came back in 1998 for the club’s 25th anniversary. NBS returned again to enjoy the area’s blue skies and great conditions in 2012. They couldn’t wait to come back this winter. “The hospitality here is amazing,” club president Diana C. Starks enthused. “Everyone makes us feel so welcome. The skiing is also great. We have members who are at every level, beginners to experts, and Sun Valley makes it fun and challenging for everyone. Our novice skiers and riders take some lessons with the Sun Valley SnowSports School and then often go out afterwards to practice with friends or other members of the group who may be more experienced.”

Even after 40 years, NBS founder Art Clay (shown here during an interview at River Run Lodge) never tires of seeing new friends and old

Even after 40 years, NBS founder Art Clay (shown here during an interview at River Run Lodge) never tires of seeing new friends and old

This camaraderie is what Clay said he values most, after 40 years of events. “My favorite thing about NBS happening on an annual basis is that I get to see folks I haven’t seen for maybe a year, or maybe for 40 years,” he said. Every meeting brings together old members and new and creates memories that last a lifetime.

The group has ample opportunity for members to spend time together. Skiing and riding during the day turns into themed extended happy hours in the afternoon and parties and dinners into the evening. Starks said these themed events allow different clubs from around the country to host their friends and to contribute to the festivities. “We love our themed events,” she laughed. Ketchum and Sun Valley have also rolled out the welcome mat to the NBS with Shop Around opportunities at local stores and many chances to sample the best of our valley.

It's been a terrific week to enjoy everything that makes Sun Valley special

It's been a terrific week to enjoy everything that makes Sun Valley special

Sun Valley is thrilled to have the NBS back and thanks all its members for bringing their skills and enthusiasm to our slopes. Please come back again soon!


Training the Next Generation of Champions

The state-of-the-art SVSEF Engl Training Center is now officially open!

The state-of-the-art SVSEF Engl Training Center is now officially open!

A large, enthusiastic crowd arrived at Warm Springs Village at the base of Bald Mountain Friday afternoon to cheer the newly renovated Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) Engl Training Center. The Center is for use by the program’s approximately 500 alpine, freestyle, snowboard and cross country athletes. Chilly temperatures did not curb the excitement as SVSEF’s Executive Director, Rob Clayton, appeared on the be-ribboned balcony above the street to declare the training center officially open.

SVSEF Executive Director Rob Clayton was cheered on by an enthusiastic, supportive crowd

SVSEF Executive Director Rob Clayton was cheered on by an enthusiastic, supportive crowd

And Clayton, new to SVSEF this year, did not hesitate to share his grand dreams with supporters. “We want this to be the best snow sports program in the country,” he declared. He sees no reason this isn’t possible. In fact, though the SVSEF has been around since 1966, it continues to evolve, improve and exceed expectations. In 2013, the SVSEF was named Club of the Year and Snowboard Club of the Year by the United States Ski & Snowboard Association.

With the recent designation of Sun Valley as one of the rare official Olympic and Paralympic Cross Country Training sites in the nation, the SVSEF is setting standards on skinny skis, as well.

The center is a place to train, to gather and to dream a little

The center is a place to train, to gather and to dream a little

Clayton wants everything available in our amazing valley – from perfectly pitched vertical on Baldy, to the eye popping Terrain Park and Olympic 22-foot Superpipe on Dollar, to miles and miles of challenging and beautiful cross country – to be available to each and every young athlete in town. He sincerely wants everyone, from second graders on the alpine Development Team to the elite cross country Gold Team whose sights are set on national and international glory, to achieve personal bests, pursue their dreams and grow as citizens and athletes.

The $700,000 renovation of the Engl Training Center is sure to inspire. Sparkling clean and invitingly modern, the facility features spin bikes, Fitwalls and resistance training equipment, designated (beautiful!) locker rooms, a tuning and wax room and ski and boot storage. It is almost unrecognizable from the training center that existed just at the end of last season.

The facilities are pristinely clean, modern and will help athletes stay organized and focused

The facilities are pristinely clean, modern and will help athletes stay organized and focused

Clayton thanked the SVSEF board, his architects and construction team and many supporters in town for allowing this project to come in on time and on budget!

Idaho’s Lieutenant Governor Brad Little showed his support for the program, participating in the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Members of local government, the SVSEF Board of Directors, Sun Valley General Manager Tim Silva and Sun Valley Manager of Mountain Operations Peter Stearns were also in attendance.

It was a big street party at Warm Springs as Apple's Bar & Grill and Irving's served food and beverages, live music provided a soundtrack to events and retailers got in on the pre-season action!

It was a big street party at Warm Springs as Apple's Bar & Grill and Irving's served food and beverages, live music provided a soundtrack to events and retailers got in on the pre-season action!

In fact, Clayton specifically thanked Sun Valley for its support of the SVSEF. Starting today, a pre-season ski camp begins for nearly 200 athletes in the U-12 and above age category. At least half of these young athletes are from six other teams across the region. Clayton explained that Sun Valley was able to open unprecedented access on the mountain for this, the third Thanksgiving camp. River Run is operating top-to-bottom, for training – providing lots of early-season runs. Sun Valley’s legendary snowmaking has been working around-the-clock to give these skiers the best pre-season training around, as well as ready the mountain for opening day on November 28.

SVSEF has grown 18 winter Olympic athletes to date. It will be exciting to watch this next generation develop, grow and hopefully grace a podium or two! This gorgeous new facility is sure to help make that happen.


What it's all about -- young athletes enjoy pre-season camp on Baldy

What it's all about -- young athletes enjoy pre-season camp on Baldy

Let the Party Begin!


The Janss Pro Am Classic is a huge reunion every year

Part reunion, part party, part ski race, the Janss Pro Am puts the fun in fundraiser (photos courtesy of SVSEF)

Warm Springs is about to turn into a giant costume party as the annual Janss Pro-Am Classic rolls into town. This fundraiser for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) signifies spring in these parts like nothing else, bringing together teams of pros and amateurs for some good-natured gate running, a lot of partying and some pretty elaborate costumes, on the slopes and off. This year, the event will grace Warm Springs and the Sun Valley Resort from April 4 – 6.

This team is super

Doing good by having fun

Named for Bill Janss, the beloved former owner of the Sun Valley Company, this year’s event is expected to host nearly 500 enthusiastic participants for Giant Slalom racing and free skiing, cocktail parties, an awards banquet in the Limelight Room, hosted breakfasts and lunches, and of course, costumes!

One very coordinated Janss team stands at the ready atop the Greyhawk Chair

One very coordinated Janss team stands at the ready atop the Greyhawk Chair

The 2013 theme, “Let the Games Begin,” is a nod to both the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia (where SVSEF hopes to be represented), as well as an invitation to play in the spring sunshine.

“While the theme is inspired by the Winter Games, everyone is invited to make it their own,” explained SVSEF Events Director Kate Berman. “For instance, Dr. Tom West, a chiropractor, is part of team “Operation” after the board game. A group of freestyle skiers are dressing as the “Sorry!” game – as in “Sorry! We’re freestylers! Our teams are always so creative and I love seeing what they come up with.”

Everyone is invited to watch the 32 teams race on Lower Warm Springs on Friday and Saturday, April 5 & 6 at 10:30 a.m. Speed isn’t the ultimate goal for the amateurs (consistency is king), but the pros on board usually can’t help but go fast. Among this year’s impressive names are locals including: Ski Cross champ Langely McNeal, former Olympian Jonna Mendes, X-Games star Zach Crist and SVSEF’s very own Doran Key.

Christin Cooper once said the Janss is the biggest reunion for former US Ski Team members around,” laughed Kate. “Everyone looks forward to getting together on Baldy’s amazing runs with old friends and new for such a terrific cause. It’s very popular, one of the most fun events of the year in the Valley.”

The hottest team on snow -- Karen Holzman (far right) and pro Langely McNeal and team celebrate some fast times at the Janss

The hottest team on snow -- Karen Holzman (far right) and pro Langely McNeal and team celebrate some fast times at the Janss (photo courtesy Langely McNeal)

And it’s just as much fun for the amateurs. Karen Holzman who is organizing team “Greek Goddess” this year with Langely as her pro, always looks forward to this event. “We support the Janss because SVSEF is at the core of what’s special about our community. They contribute and have contributed so much to training local past and future Olympians, as well as some pretty amazing lifelong recreational skiers,” she explained. “It’s a great weekend because of the costumes, spirit of competition (who in Sun Valley isn’t competitive?), you can have family and friends on your team and just generally, a lot of laughs!”

No race suits here!

At this race, it's less about speed and more about impact

This, the 16th Janss Pro-Am Classic marks Kate’s final party as the woman who makes it all happen. After 13 years as Events Director (and before that volunteer mom and board member for SVSEF), Kate is turning over the reigns to the very capable Sarah Crowley on April 7. After committing literally thousands of hours to the health well being of the organization, she said she feels she is leaving SVSEF when it is in a very strong position. “This is the biggest Janss we have seen in years,” she smiled. “SVSEF is doing amazing things. I’m really proud of all the work we have done and excited to see what comes next.”

Her only request? That no one makes a big fuss over her at the Janss’ events. Speaking on behalf of the rest of the community, I hope they do.


Silent Night, Torchlit Night

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

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

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

Skis lined up, ready to go

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

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

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

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

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

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

Up close and personal with the makeshift torches

Up close and personal with the makeshift torches

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

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

The view from the top of Old Bowl

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

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


Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night

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

Sun Valley History: The Reindeer of Sun Valley


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Holidays!

Jennifer Tuohy

Sun Valley History: The origins of the Torchlight Parade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy holidays!
Jennifer Tuohy

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

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

Alice of Wonderland


Alice Schernthanner, July 24, 1938 - July 23, 2012. “Alice does ski here forevermore in our hearts.”

Sun Valley can lay claim to many icons. From movie stars to literary giants, world-class athletes to world-wide leaders, hundreds of inspirational people have graced the hallways of Sun Valley Lodge since its birth.

But beneath the glamor and behind the facade of fame lies another legacy – an unforeseen outcome of Averell Harriman’s million dollar palace in the snow – that of the birth of a community in the heart of Idaho’s mountains; one with icons of its very own.

This past Sunday that community came together to celebrate one of those icons. Not an olympic skier or a nobel-prize wining author, but a woman whose life had a much greater impact on those who live in the Wood River Valley.

“The name Alice Schernthanner will remain on the lips of this community for a very long time,” Amy Federko said in her eulogy to Alice, reading from a letter written by Amy’s son, Josh.

A singular woman, Alice was both “famous and infamous, a legend in her own right,” Amy told the packed crowd at Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge, and there was not a murmur of dissent.

Alice’s legacy in the Wood River Valley community could be measured in the number of pancakes she’s flipped for the Papoose Club, which she formed in 1954 as a baby sitting co-op for skiers and went on to transform into a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting local organizations that serve children. Or it could be measured in the number of times she proudly led her Warm Springs Riding Club along the Wagon Days Parade route. It could equally be celebrated for the foresight she had in starting Blaine County’s recycling program from the back of a semi-truck, or for being a vocal and active advocate for affordable community housing – to the extent her and her husband, Andy, built some on their own Warm Springs property.

But it will be measured in the hearts and minds of the thousands of children she taught to ski both on Dollar Mountain as the children’s program supervisor for close to 30 years, and through her tireless promotion of the Blaine County School Ski Program.

Hundreds of those children, now grown up with children of their own, gathered at Dollar Mountain Lodge on Sunday to celebrate the life of this remarkable woman, who blazed a trail for modern homesteaders: building her own home from the ground up, skiing for a living and raising six children, all while living life on her own terms in the Wild West. The lodge she helped create was full to bursting on a sunny Sunday afternoon, the peals of children’s laughter emanating from the grassy knoll at the base of Dollar making a fitting tribute to the woman who helped create their perfect playground.

The lodge’s namesake, Carol Holding, wife of Sun Valley Resort owner Earl Holding, offered her thoughts on her friend and colleague Alice to the assembled community. “Listening today I was happy to hear she really had a happy life away from this cabin,” she said with a smile. “I’d been under the illusion all these years that she lived in this little cabin.”

Mrs. Holding went on to say how it was Alice’s persistence that brought this 26,000-square-foot state-of-the-art children’s skiing facility into being “When Earl built River Run, Alice and I were so upset with him. We tried everything we could think of to get him to build a children’s school there, but he wouldn’t. But she said to me, it’s ok – give it time, it’ll work. It took 15 years, but we got it. And this lodge here is Alice’s lodge as much as it is mine. It wouldn’t be here without Alice and through it all she suffered many hardships to get it here and changed so many children’s pants… .”

Local folklore has it that the lodge was almost named after Alice, but she wouldn’t have it. “I told them, if I don’t own it then I don’t want it named after me.”

Mrs. Holding’s touching and laughter-filled remembrances were followed by a free-for-all as friends, family and former students of Alice shared their memories. What emerged was a portrait of a strong-minded, high-spirited woman with fantastic earrings, who took life in her stride and always told the truth, whether you wanted to hear it or not.

Two of the many stories shared at the celebration of Alice’s life paint a technicolor picture of what was important to Alice: skiing, children and family.

“I would come here from Florida in the winter to ski with Alice,” said her friend Sherry. “One year she was pregnant, just starting to show, and she had the first daughter in a backpack on her back. As we came down the mountain we could hear people at the bottom whispering, aghast, saying ‘That’s child abuse!’ Alice looked at me, clearly baffled, and said ‘I don’t understand. They know I’m only skiing the groomers don’t they? I’m not skiing the bumps.”

Alice’s daughter Heidi shared a favorite story she had heard in the days following her mother’s death on July 24 (the day before her 74th birthday and 50th wedding anniversary).

“Alice was looking after a sick girl at the lodge, she had just come out of the bathroom with her when a grand woman in a mink coat swept in demanding service. Alice said to her ‘Let me just help this little girl lie down, she’s not feeling well.’ The lady replied, ‘Well, she doesn’t look sick.’ Then the girl projectile vomited all over her.”

Alice at home in Dollar Mountain Lodge ski school. Photo by Cody Doucette, courtesy Sun Valley Magazine

Rest in Peace Mrs. Schernthanner. In the words of the condolence book laid out for the hundreds of mourners to sign: “Alice does ski here forevermore in our hearts.”

Mrs. Sun

Share your memories of Alice and read other’s here. Read her obituary here.

Lift Line: The KSVHS Heritage and Ski Museum

The Ketchum-Sun Valley Ski & Heritage Museum.

Preserving the History of the Wood River Valley

 By Alec Barfield

The Sun Valley Heritage and Ski Museum  (KSVHS) is best walked into when it’s snowing. Of course any season will do, the property is a tree-filled compound of traditional white barns with green trim that is picturesque year-round. But when it’s snowing the museum beckons like a warm fireplace, the hearth by which we can gather and hear stories of Wood River Valley’s rich and colorful history. For reasons that don’t need explaining, this collection honoring skiers and winter soldiers, architects and local celebrities simply kindles brightest when it’s white outside.

First leased by the KSVHS from the National Park Service in 1993, the museum sits quietly on Washington Avenue and 1st Street. The interior, however, was renovated in 1995 and is now contemporary, with exhibits organized spaciously between the separate Heritage and Ski Museum buldings. The first of these are the Jimmy Griffith and the Don and Gretchen Fraser collections, which are housed in the latter. Regional history at its finest. The photo and award displays tell the stories of three Sun Valley residents, each a legend in the sport that has defined this community for more than 75 years.

Ski movie posters form Warren Miller's films.

The ski protion of the museum is a tribute to these heroes and others, an extensive presentation of those who have contributed so much to shaping this resort community. Stroll through the "Ancient Skiers" exhibit and you’ll find rare photos of Andy Hennig, vintage Sun Valley ads from the 1960s and a mountain of classic images depicting life and sport in Ketchum. Equally significant is the fact that the Ancient Skiers Club, a group of individuals who have been skiing since before World War II, recently had a gathering at the museum–living additions to a museum that already features many of the club’s members.

What’s incredible about both the Heritage and Ski Museum is how personal many of the holdings are to people in this Valley. Although 75 years is monumental, the Sun Valley Story, which is also an exhibit, remains a foggy but memorable experience. Yet this won’t be the case for long and the Historical Society is committed to preserving both the recent and bygone eras of Ketchum and Sun Valley. As much as people love to walk the photo-filled hallways of the Sun Valley Lodge, it’s truly a blessing that we can expand our knowledge and appreciation by visiting a substantial museum, who’s only goal is to collect and preserve regional history.

Who knew that Freidl Pfeifer, Sun Valley’s second ski school director, helped to train 10th Mountain Division in the 1940s? Or that Stanley Underwood, the architect behind the historic Sun Valley Lodge, was famous for establishing the now standard aesthetic of National Park Service buildings? Whether you consider these mere pieces of trivia or details that reveal the center-most fabric of our community, the Heritage and Ski Museum is a cultural asset worth exploring.

The 10th Mountain Division exhibit.

For instance, there’s the visually diverse, "Warren Miller and the Art of Ski Cinematography." Miller started his illustrious career in the River Run parking lot, where he lived in a trailer and causally filmed with friends. Relics of his path from there to Hollywood dot the walls of this exhibit. There are timeless posters of Miller’s "Beyond the Edge" and "Ski People," there’s a projector running other famous movies and there’s even a large collage of ski cartoons sketched by the iconic director himself. However, it’s temporary, so go examine the artifacts of this great pioneer before it’s too late.

Another highlight, which has permanent status, focuses on another prominent Sun Valley character, Ernest Hemingway. Housed on the property’s third barn, is the hallway of "Hemingway in Idaho." More than just a few classic images, the exhibit is a full and elegant presentation of Ernest Hemingway’s two decades of living, writing and hunting in the Wood River Valley. This collection of photos is just one of many reminders in the Heritage Museum that the story of this place extends beyond skiing, even if winter sports does anchor so much of its history. So if you’re a fan of Hemingway, this unassuming celebration of the author in an area he loved is a must-see!

Yet "Hemingway in Idaho" and "Art of Cinematography" are just the beginning. The Ski and Heritage Museum has eight permanent collections, with three temporary exhibits currently in circulation. They also host weekly events, like February 1st’s 2012 Sun Valley Ski Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, during which a handful of candidates will be chosen and their plaques placed in the Ski Museum, next to the likes of Bobbie Burns and William Janss. Although only one of many dates on the KSVHS calendar, the ceremony symbolizes the museum’s function; it is the community’s time capsule, that fireplace of memories, while also being the window out which we can admire the present. History is made everyday, and it’s wonderful that the museum recognizes the on-going nature of its subject matter by recognizing Sun Valley’s latest icons.

If you have time on snowy (or even a snowless) afternoon, make a stop by the Heritage and Ski Museum. Wander the exhibits, attend one of the many lecture or just let the legacy of the Wood River Valley warm your soul before returning to the harsh storms of the present.



The hallowed halls of the Ski & Heritage Museum.

Current Exhibitions

Ski Museum:

The Ancient Skiers

Gretchen Fraser, Don Fraser and Jim Griffith

Sun Valley Ski Hall of Fame

10th Mountain Division of the United States Army

Warren Miller and the Art of Ski Cinematography (temporary)

The Sun Valley Story: An American Original (temporary)

Heritage Museum:

Mining in the Wood River Valley

Discovery of Elkhorn Springs: Pre Historic Native Americans in the Wood River Valley

Hemingway in Idaho

The Architecture of Gilbert Stanley Underwood and The Sun Valley Lodge

Women’s Work: Women and the Settling of the American West (temporary)



SKIING HERITAGE: Sun Valley Torchlight Parade

A Sun Valley Tradition

By Alec Barfield

Dollar and Baldy Mountain celebrate the season with Fireworks and a Torchlight Parade

The Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade on Dollar Mountain is one of Sun Valley’s most venerable traditions, dating back further than the memory of any living resident. More than merry exercise, the parade truly holds symbolic significance in the community–especially on this Anniversary year. Seventy-five years ago this Christmas season, the Sun Valley Lodge opened its doors to the world and our celebrated resort was born. By now we all know the "creation story" of how Averell Harriman and Count Felix Schaffgotsch, after combing the West, hand-picked Ketchum to be America’s premier ski resort, the next St. Moritz. With such a compelling narrative and host of characters – the railroad, the Count, the celebrities from Hollywood’s golden age – it is no wonder this town loves its heritage.


Tomorrow night that history will come to life in the form of lights and fireworks. The parade itself speaks to Sun Valley’s Swiss and Austrian predecessors, who pioneered the mesmerizing trails of fire that snake down the mountain. The location, however, alludes to the resort’s own uniqueness, as Dollar was home to one of the first two chairlifts in the entire world (the other being on nearby Proctor Mountain). While the East was using rope tows and Europe was still relying on funiculars and tramways, Sun Valley began moving skiers like hanging bananas on the novel Dollar Mountain "chairlift." The idea was a momentous innovation that would shape the skiing world forever, and Sun Valley was at the heart of it.

Yet the torchlight parade is a unique and festive Sun Valley time capsule, not only for its connection to this area’s earliest beginnings, but because its participants have been doing it for years. Historically conducted by the Sun Valley Snowsports School, the parade is a nostalgic event, providing an opportunity for friends and family to remember those torch bearers who are no longer with us as they watch the snaking line of past instructors, sweeping right and left, and sharing in the tradition once again. According to ski school director, Allan Patzer, the torchlight has become a truly spiritual event and an honor for present instructors. Not simply a performance, it is an opportunity for remembrance, in more ways than one, of everyone and everything that has contributed to the foundation of this incredible community.

Tomorrow night, after the Nutcracker On Ice Show, look towards Dollar. Rising nearly 630 vertical feet from the valley floor and bereft of trees, the mountain is the ideal host for the event, which will be followed, as always, by a show of fireworks. If you’ve never watched the parade before, this is your opportunity to take part in an elegantly poignant Sun Valley tradition. If you are a regular spectator, one familiar with that glowing stream of Christmas lights, then you understand, and have probably already set your clocks for six p.m.

>> Event Details: 

“Nutcracker on Ice” Holiday ice show begins at 5:00 PM at the Outdoor Rink, Sun Valley Lodge Terrace.

Torchlight Parade & Fireworks immediately following the ice show(usually around 6:00 PM)

Dress: Bundle up and look for hot chocolate and goodies on the Lodge Terrace (and maybe even a surprise visit from Santa after the “Nutcracker on Ice” Holiday ice show.