Even in the high mountains of Idaho, this year, April showers did bring May flowers.
Wildflowers are beginning to bloom along Sun Valley's trails
Local lower altitude trails are dry and open, and with temperatures well into the 70s this week, everyone is out enjoying the early season.
Across from Sun Valley Resort, the White Clouds trails that wend through the hills below the storied golf course of the same name, are a popular spot for hikers and mountain bikers. Great views predominate and early wildflowers are making the scenic walks even more scenic.
One family takes a break from an early season bike ride on Sun Valley's fabled "rails to trails" system
The area’s miles and miles of “rails to trails” paved paths that run along the Big Wood River, connecting all the towns of the Wood River Valley, are full of bikers and walkers getting back into summer shape and enjoying fresh air, sunshine and already long days. Dry pavement is making for great road rides, too.
More amazing biking and hiking is right around the corner when Bald Mountain opens for the summer season the third week of June. Uphill lift service accesses endless mountain bike trails, including new flow trails planned for this summer. These downhill trails use the mountain’s natural contours and gravity to provide a fun-filled ride for enthusiasts of every ability. The hiking on Baldy is also beautiful and available to all levels. Beginners can grab the lift to the top of the hill and take a gentle hike on the top of the world. More ambitious climbers can access the summit from the base of River Run, conquering a few thousand vertical feet and about five miles via the trail that begins at the base of River Run.
A mountain biker takes advantage of warm afternoon temperatures, bright sunshine and dry trails on the White Clouds system
Check into Pete Lane’s in the Sun Valley Village for all your gear needs. Now is the time to get that bike tuned, check the tires, break in some hiking or trail running shoes and invest in the latest high performance clothing.
Early season golf is also in full swing with nine holes open on the White Clouds Course and nine holes open on Trail Creek‘s back nine. It’s a great time to work out the kinks as value season daily rates apply beginning Friday, May 2, and include range warm-ups and cart rental. Please contact the Pro Shop if you have questions or to make a tee time, 208-622-2251.
Come hit some balls at the top of the world on the spectacular White Clouds course. The early season is a great deal and a great way to be ready for the best summer ever
It promises to be an amazing summer in Sun Valley. Spring is rarely this nice, this early, in the Idaho mountains and so far, it’s providing a few extra weeks for everyone to get out and enjoy what they love to do best.
Get out onto the trails and into the local mountains now and you will be in great shape and ready to enjoy all the warm weather months offer.
Get out there! It's beautiful right now on Sun Valley's trails
Springtime is all about renewal and in Sun Valley, there is no better way to revive, recharge and maybe even revise your way of thinking than at the perennially popular Sun Valley Wellness Festival. The five-day event straddles spring and early summer, bringing the most interesting, sought after and inspiring speakers and practitioners to the Sun Valley Resort, offering something for everyone. Films and workshops are also part of what makes this one of the premier wellness events in the nation.
Start the summer season in just the right way at the Sun Valley Wellness Festival. Get centered, get inspired.
In its 17th year, the Festival kicks off on May 22 and runs through Memorial Day, May 26. More than 30 presentations and workshops are scheduled, all designed to “inspire positive change” in body, mind, spirit and environmental awareness according to event organizers.
Headlining an impressive list of nationally known speakers is the one-and-only Diana Nyad who will deliver the keynote address. Nyad’s recent record-breaking swim from Cuba to the U.S. (all without a shark cage) was a lifelong dream, but there is much, much more to her story. At 64, she is sure to inspire others to keep pursuing their dreams. A documentary based on her experience, “The Other Shore,” will be screened in advance of the Festival on May 10 at the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum.
Also coming to Sun Valley to offer her unique perspective is second keynote speaker Kris Carr: New York Times best-selling author, wellness activist and cancer ‘thriver’. She will speak on “Crazy, Sexy, Wellness.”
Speakers Eric Saperston, Tommy Rosen and a friend let the joy flow at last year's Wellness Festival (photo courtesy Nick Maricich).
Other top 2014 Sun Valley Wellness Festival speakers include: new visionary spiritual leader Panache Desai, relationship expert Arielle Ford, Heart Math founder Howard Martin, yoga master and addiction recovery expert Tommy Rosen, GMO experts Don Huber and Tyrone Hayes, author and filmmaker Eric Saperston, Simplicity Parenting founder Kim John Payne, wellness shift comedian Kyle Cease, Mindfulness Meditation expert Kate Janke, author, speaker and co-creator of film “What the Bleep Do We Know?” Betsy Chasse, Kundalini Yoga expert Kia Miller, naturopath and triathlete Dr. James Rouse, astrologist David Pond, intuitive experts Gary Quinn and Peggy Rometo, Oneness leader and Interfaith minister Rev Michael Milner, PhD and many more, according to Festival organizers. See? Something for everyone!
The Movement Studio and Wellness Expo is another great way to participate in the Festival. The Movement Studio offers numerous types of yoga practices taught by top teachers, including Tommy Rosen. At the Sun Valley Inn, the Wellness Expo encourages exploration and features vendors selling everything from beautiful clothes to jewelry to health products. In the Hands-On-Hall, you can get a massage, try reflexology or have an intuitive reading. The Wellness Expo is free and open to the public throughout the Festival.
Try a henna tattoo at the Hands On Hall at the Sun Valley Inn.
Children are welcome at the event, too, with programs designed just for the younger set.
For a full listing of speakers, workshops, films and events and for ticket information please click HERE.
The Sun Valley Resort provides a beautiful backdrop (and great place to stay) for all the events the Festival offers.
Sun Valley Resort is offering special Wellness Festival lodging rates, starting at just $120. To make lodging reservations call 1-800-786-8259 and ask for the Wellness Festival rates.
In between events, be sure to get out into Sun Valley’s mountains and onto the trails for some fresh air, sunshine, blue skies and wellness of a complimentary variety. Just steps away from the Resort are hiking and biking trails suitable for every fitness level. Be sure to pop into Pete Lane’s at the Sun Valley Village and ask for a recommendation and get any gear you might need. Sun Valley is also known for its restorative hot springs, endless fitness opportunities, vibrant cultural scene and so much more. Five days won’t be enough to get it all in!
Sun Valley has always been a place to recharge and to heal and it's easy to see why.
Renew your mind, refresh your spirit, replenish your soul in Sun Valley this May. Stay tuned to this blog for updates and more information on the Sun Valley Wellness Festival.
With tips of daffodils and tulips peeking through the ground with just a hint of hesitation and buds forming in earnest on the trees up and down the valley, everyone’s thoughts are on summer. Summer in Sun Valley is like nowhere else: endless days filled with sunshine and temperatures that begin wonderfully cool for golf or biking and heat up to “time to jump in the pool” digits. Blue skies abound. The pace is as leisurely or as fast-paced as you like and days are filled with adventure and activities ranging from hiking to fly fishing to mountain biking to golf, tennis, horseback riding, backpacking, ice skating … really too many to name.
Summer in Sun Valley is pretty special. Make your plans now so you don't miss a moment.
In addition to this daily menu of fun, Sun Valley offers some pretty amazing programs and opportunities each summer that draw thousands from near and far. Now is the time to secure your tickets and make your reservations. Mark your calendar for some of these favorites and check back to this blog and to visitsunvalley.com for updated listings.
Sun Valley Writer’s Conference
The always-popular Sun Valley Writer’s Conference is back and better than ever. This year, the intellectually charged event will take place in and around the Sun Valley Pavilion from July 19 – 22. Celebrating its 20th year in Sun Valley, this year’s speakers and participants include luminaries such as Dave Barry, Justice Stephen Breyer, Timothy Geithner, Ridley Pearson and Scott Turow among many others. Please click HERE for more information about conference passes and single event tickets (based on availability). There is no better place to listen to some of the great thinkers and writers of our day tackle the issues of our day than at the Sun Valley Writer’s Conference.
The Tapas and Tasting event is one of many wonderful ways to enjoy fine wine and great company during the Sun Valley Center for the Arts' Wine Auction weekend
Sun Valley Center for the Arts Wine Auction
This year, the Sun Valley Center for the Arts celebrates its 33rd Sun Valley Wine Auction, one of the premier charity wine auctions in the nation. Tickets are now on sale for this legendary event that offers something for everyone (as long as you are over 21!). Extraordinary wine experiences await over the course of three days, from Vintner dinners hosted in exquisite private homes, to the popular Grand Tasting and Tapas party to the Wine Auction Gala. The Gala includes 40 live auction lots and 70 silent lots including many once-in-a-lifetime experiences and wines. Proceeds from all Wine Auction events support The Sun Valley Center for the Arts. The Center provides educational opportunities in the arts, with fine art and music programming, lectures series and arts education in the Blaine County School District. Cheers!
Michael Franti & Spearhead, will launch the first-ever music & yoga tour, Soulshine, that will bridge daytime and nighttime experiences including music, yoga, sustainable lifestyle and DJs guaranteeing a full-blown dance party. SOJA, Brett Dennen and Trevor Hall will be joining the North American Tour along with special guest yoga teachers. The afternoon will begin with a mass yoga at Trail Creek Lodge and acoustic music jam with Michael Franti & Friends, led by some of today’s most inspiring teachers from across North America, including Ryan Leier. The yoga session is designed for people of all experience levels, ages, shapes and sizes and will feature artists participating side-by-side with fans. The evening concert will feature all four bands for over four hours of music! The evening will kick off at 6 p.m. at the beautiful River Run Lodge. Music in the mountains is unbeatable!
I dare you not to dance when Michael Franti & Spearhead rock River Run
Josh Ritter is a singer-songwriter, guitarist and author who performs and records with The Royal City Band. He will perform his distinctive Americana style and narrative lyrics, also at River Run Lodge where there will be food and beverages for sale or you are invited to bring a picnic. Be sure to make a night of it!
On August 6, the legendary Chris Isaak takes to the River Run stage treating the audience to his deeply personal style, influenced by luminaries like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Finally, on August 29, The Head & The Heart conclude the concerts series on a high note bringing to River Run their indie folk-rock sound straight from Seattle. They scored two No. 1 singles with their song “Lost in My Mind” and they’ve opened for Vampire Weekend, The Decemberists and others.
Tickets for the concert series go on sale to the public on May 19.
The Fab Four and the Doobie Brothers will perform this summer beneath the Sun Valley Pavilion's amazing sail, also home to the Sun Valley Summer Symphony
Fab Four Concert
A fun-filled and energetic blast from the past will grace the stage at the Sun Valley Pavilion on July 5 at 8 p.m. when the Sun Valley Opera presents The Fab Four: The Ultimate Tribute. This is the ultimate Beatles tribute band known for its uncanny, note-for-note live renditions of Beatles’ hits. Check out www.thefabfour.com for a preview of what is sure to be an amazing night. Tickets are now on sale and the Sun Valley Opera is also selling Diva Party Tickets that include a cocktail party in a private home and premier seating.
Picture yourself here for one of the Sun Valley Summer Symphony's amazing concerts
Sun Valley Summer Symphony
Picture this. You carefully unpack a gourmet picnic full of treats on the vast lawn outside the Sun Valley Pavilion amphitheater. Wine is poured, the blanket is spread as you settle in for an evening of world-class classical musical played live by some of the country’s best musicians. The sun begins to slowly set over Dollar and Bald Mountains as the strains of the symphony waft through the air. And what do you pay for this one-of-a-kind experience? Absolutely nothing. From July 28 – August 19 join the thousands of enthusiasts who make an evening at the Sun Valley Summer Symphony the centerpiece of their summer schedules. At the age of 30, the Sun Valley Summer Symphony attracts the most sought-after soloists of our time. With free year-round music education programs complimenting free-admission concerts, the Sun Valley Summer Symphony has claimed a place of world-class status in the North American classical music scene. This year, the In Focus Series takes place on July 28, 29,31 and August 1. The 30th Anniversary Gala, featuring the incomparable Renee Fleming, will be held on August 3 and the Pavilion Series takes place from August 4 – 19. Be a part of it – every concert is a reason to celebrate!
Doobie Brothers in Concert
Yes, you read right … those Doobie Brothers, the one and only, are coming to Sun Valley on August 20. Their concert set in the gorgeous Pavilion is sure to be one to remember. Four-time Grammy winners, the Doobie Brothers provided the soundtrack to the lives of more than one generation of Americans. They continue to write and record new material, tour the world, and delight fans everywhere they go. Presented by the Killebrew-Thompson Memorial, net proceeds from this event benefit Leukemia and Cancer Research. Every August for the past 37 years, the Killebrew-Thompson Memorial Golf Tournament in Sun Valley has gathered celebrities, sponsors, participants, members of Congress and supporters with one common goal: the cure for cancer and leukemia. Tickets to this amazing concert go on sale May 15 and are sure to sell out so don’t delay!
There is no better way to spend a summer's Saturday night than watching the stars under the stars at Sun Valley On Ice
Sun Valley On Ice
There is nothing more beautiful than being outside on a star-filled Sun Valley summer’s night and no better place to be outside on a Saturday evening that at Sun Valley On Ice. These storied ice shows have graced Sun Valley’s iconic outdoor rink for decades, drawing the very best professional and up-and-coming figure skating talent summer after summer. This year, Sun Valley welcomes 2014 Olympic Gold Medal Ice Dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White (August 23) straight off their spectacular win in Sochi. Other headliners include the amazing Gold Medalist Evan Lysacek (August 30), beautiful Olympic Bronze Medalist Gracie Gold (July 4) and US National Champion and Olympian Ashley Wagner (August 9) – truly the biggest names on ice. Sun Valley On Ice debuts July 4 and runs Saturday nights through Labor Day. Core skaters including Craig Heath, Ashley Clark, Darlin Baker, Jozef Sabovcik, Kim Navarro & Brent Bommentre, Andrei Khvalko & Elena Leonova, Natalia Zaitseva, Ryan Bradley, Erin Reed and Jason Graetz will also delight and entertain. No visit to Sun Valley is complete without taking in Sun Valley On Ice.
Ride Sun Valley brings some amazing mountain bike athletes and action to Bald Mountain and beyond
Ride Sun Valley
Sun Valley is mountain bike Mecca and at no time is this evident than when Ride Sun Valley comes to town. From June 27 to 29, all things two-wheeled take center stage during this bike festival to end all bike festivals. The 4th annual event showcases the area’s 400-plus miles of continuous singletrack in an event centered around some of the best race courses in the U.S. Sun Valley is a bike rider’s paradise with over 32 miles of multi-use paved bike paths, two bike parks, and miles of scenic road riding. There are events for the recreational rider to the professional and lots of opportunities to spectate, cheer and enjoy mountain bike culture.
Labor Day is officially the end to summer and in Sun Valley, the season ends with one of the biggest celebrations of the year: Wagon Days. From August 27 – September 1, the Wood River Valley honors its heritage with lots of family-friendly events culminating in the Big Hitch Parade. This non-motorized parade is one of the largest in the Pacific Northwest and features museum quality wagons, buggies, and stagecoaches. The Grand Finale to the parade is Ketchum’s own Big Hitch, the Lewis Ore Wagons. These large freight wagons are the best preserved, most original, functioning wagons of their kind in existence. Watch them wend down Sun Valley Road pulled by an authentic 20-mule jerk line. There are also arts and crafts fairs, pancake breakfasts, an antique car show and auction, live music and much more. It is a can’t-miss weekend in Sun Valley.
The old ore wagons in the Labor Days Wagon Days Parade are a sight to behold
Don’t miss a minute of this magical season in Sun Valley. By July 2, daily non-stop flights to Sun Valley will be offered from San Francisco (United Airlines), Seattle (Alaska Airlines), Los Angeles (Alaska Airlines) and Salt Lake City (Delta Airlines) with new service from Denver (United Express). Also, be sure to look for great lodging deals on www.sunvalley.com for many of these summer events.
The 2013-14 ski and snowboard season didn’t exactly go out quietly. On Sunday, hundreds of merrymakers donned their most creative costumes and got after the last turns of the year before the lifts ferried the final passengers to Lookout Restaurant at 3:45 p.m. The sun was bright, the air was warm and snow conditions were great — the perfect ending to a terrific Sun Valley season.
If you didn’t make it up Bald Mountain yourself (or at least to the patio at Warm Springs Lodge), enjoy this sampling of photos, capturing the spirit of the day!
The top of Baldy was one big open-air party as the 2013-14 season wound to a close
Young and older came out to enjoy the gorgeous sunshine and big small-town spirit
Skiing and snowboarding were only part of the fun on Sunday
Local ski legend Zach Crist spends some quality time with friends
Two athletes who probably skied every day of the season -- local philanthropist Kipp Nelson, and friend
Thanks to all for making it one fabulous season!
Part of the great Sun Valley team that made it happen all winter long: Tony Parkhill, Matt Baxandall and Peter Stearns
Gorillas somehow weren't out of place at the base of the run (photo courtesy Susie Ring)
The season definitely ended on a high note
The party on the Warm Springs patio didn't end when the lifts stopped running. Thanks to all for an amazing season!
Thanks to Sun Valley’s Nick Maricich for sharing these photos.
Spring is in the air and it’s time to grab your golf bag and hit the links! The early season is underway with Sun Valley’s scenic, challenging courses now awaiting your tee. On Friday, golfers made for the greens taking their first swings of the year under sunny spring skies on the back nine of the Trail Creek Course, as well as on the chipping green and putting green. The back nine on the Elkhorn course, which is semi-private, also opened Friday.
Find out why Golf Digest called Sun Valley "one of the top 75 resort courses in North America." The season has begun!
Exciting things are underway on the fairways under the leadership of new Director of Golf Operations Tyler Jones who plans to make this the best season yet on Sun Valley’s courses. He brings with him more than 15 years of experience managing successful golf operations in California and Washington. Most recently, he was General Manager at the Olympia Country & Golf Club in Olympia, Washington. He has also acted as General Manager for the prestigious Palouse Ridge Golf Club in Pullman, Washington, and brings to the job experience as interim CEO for the Northern California Golf Association, the largest regional golf association in the U.S.
Meet Tyler Jones, Sun Valley's new Director of Golf Operations
But Tyler loves Sun Valley. As a child, he spent many seasons in Sun Valley with his grandparents and learned to ski on Dollar Mountain when he was six years old. As a hospitality graduate from Washington State, he first worked in the Resort’s Food & Beverage division starting in 1992. But golf called to him and from 1994 to 1996, he worked as First Assistant Professional under the legendary Rick Hickman who only recently retired. Tyler said he is absolutely delighted to be back. He and his family are excited to relocate to the valley and Tyler has a lot of great ideas to make one of Sun Valley’s best recreational options, even better.
“Sun Valley has been a very special place for my family for over 50 years and we are thrilled to be joining the Sun Valley team. I am very much looking forward to the opportunity of carrying on the tradition of offering the highest levels of hospitality and world class amenities that Sun Valley Resort is known for,” Tyler said. “The season is starting on a great note. Conditions are very encouraging, the greens are in good condition and golfers are excited.”
On the White Clouds course, golf is played at the top of the world
This PGA professional has assumed responsibility for full operation of Sun Valley’s 45 holes of golf: the 18-hold Trail Creek Golf Course, the 9-hole White Clouds Golf Course and the 18-hole Elkhorn Golf Course. The Trail Creek Championship Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., boasts 6,968 yards, surrounded by jaw dropping views. The White Clouds Course provides a perfect complement with 3,600 yards available for play and 360-degree views of the entire Wood River Valley. Golfing at Elkhorn provides 7,214 yards of beautiful undulating greens, more than 100 sand traps and bunkers.
After a day on the links, the Sun Valley Club provides a gracious gathering place for golfers as well as the public, offering a full-service restaurant, bar, locker rooms, club storage, club rental and a well-stocked pro shop. There is no better place to enjoy an afternoon libation and snack than on the restaurant’s terrace.
The Sawtooth Putting Course provides fun for the entire family
Both group and private lessons are available by calling 208-622-2251 and don’t forget the popular Sawtooth Putting Course and virtual golf facility. Both can enhance your game or just provide a few hours of fun.
For extra incentive, book the Early Birdie Resort special from Friday, April 18 through June 8, 2014.This special deal offers one night’s lodging and one round of golf (including cart) for only $124 per person, double occupancy. Please call 800-786-8259 for reservations. And don’t forget to ski and tee through Bald Mountain’s closing day, Sunday, April 20.
Be sure to stop at the Pro Shop at the Sun Valley Club to stock up on the latest golf fashions and gear. Then head across the hall to enjoy a wonderful meal or post-game cocktail.
Golf Digest called Sun Valley “One of the top 75 resort golf courses in North America.” Come find out why.
Spring is in the air and Easter is just around the corner. Now is the time to make sure you don’t miss a moment of the festive holiday celebrations in Sun Valley.
Come to the Sun Valley Village on April 18 for an egg hunt and a visit with a very special VIB (very important bunny)
On Friday, April 18, come and enjoy a sweet tradition at the Sun Valley Village.At 4:30 p.m., everyone age 10 and under is invited to search for eggs in a huge Easter egg hunt. Children are divided into age groups and asked to bring their own baskets as they scramble around the grounds in front of the Sun Valley Inn, collecting eggs.
Simultaneously, the Village location of the Toy Store will host face painting and children big and small can enjoy ice cream specials at the charming a la mode or satisfy a sweet tooth at the wonderfully nostalgic candy shop, the Chocolate Foundry. It will be a sweet beginning to a memorable holiday weekend.
If you're ten and under, the lawn outside the Sun Valley Inn is the place to be for a madcap Easter egg hunt
Festivities continue on Easter Sunday, April 20, with a lavish Easter brunch. The Inn’s Limelight Room will brim with fresh, tasty and traditional delights, sure to please any age and any palate. Brunch will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Please call 208.622.2135 for more information.
April 20 also marks closing day for the snow season on Bald Mountain. Before or after enjoying a bountiful brunch, be sure to get in your last turns of the year. The weather has been beautiful and the corn snow terrific. The final day of the season is traditionally also a chance for locals and visitors alike to dress up, turn their faces to the sun and appreciate the season that was.
Here, last tracks matter as much as first tracks!
Face painting is a great part of the Easter weekend fun
Specials at the Resort add extra incentive to enjoy everything on offer. Lodging is available for the night of April 19, including Sunday brunch, for $93 per person, double occupancy. Please phone 800.786.8259 for more details. Tie on that Easter bonnet or clip on your ski helmet and get out and enjoy the weekend.
Happy Easter, happy spring and happy end of the season! Next up? Golf! Stay tuned to this blog for the exciting early season details.
Take a break from decorating eggs to enjoy them specially prepared for you at the lavish Easter brunch in the Limelight Room
Sun Valley Resort’s historical walking tour is a must-do for anyone visiting Sun Valley. But for those who can’t wait until they’re here to discover the secrets behind this historic resort, here is Part Three: Sun Valley Resort. For the complete series click here.
The Red Barn once belonged to the Brass Ranch, on which Sun Valley Resort was built
STOP ONE: Take Sun Valley Road from the Lodge towards Ketchum and stop at the bright Red Barn on your left just before you reach the city. This barn is all that remains of the original Brass Ranch on which the resort was built. Used by the Brass family as a granary and machine shed, it is now an iconic image of Sun Valley. In January 1936, a week or so after Count Felix Schaffgotsch arrived in town and deemed the area “perfect” for a million-dollar ski resort, he bumped into Roberta Brass sitting on a fence pole near this very spot. “This is it,” he told her. “This is where Union Pacific is going to put in a ski resort. Next year at this time there will be a thousand people here.” Two months later Roberta’s father Ernest sold the family’s 3,888-acre sheep and cattle ranch to the railroad company for $39,000, or about $10 an acre. Construction of the Lodge began in May of that year, and its doors opened eight months later.
STOP TWO: Travel a few hundred yards along Sun Valley Road toward the Lodge and turn right down a dirt road to the Sun Valley Stables. It was here the Sun Valley Rodeo enjoyed its brief life. Having given little advance thought to what it would do with a ski resort during the summer, Union Pacific quickly whipped up a rodeo grandstand in the spring of 1937 and Sun Valley hosted its first Wild West rodeo on August 14. It proved too expensive however, and once visitors discovered the real draws of Sun Valley in the summer, the gimmick was no longer needed. The rodeo ended its regular run with the closing of the resort for WWII in 1942 and the stands were finally torn down in the late fifties.
STOP THREE: Continue east a mile or so along Sun Valley Road past the Lodge to the magnificent Sun Valley Club. Built in 2008, this 58,000 square foot clubhouse provides a luxurious base from which to access 27 of the resort’s 45 golf holes in the summer, and 25 miles of Nordic trails in the winter. Union Pacific was quick to spot the importance of golf to a resort, starting work on the Sun Valley golf course in the fall of 1937. Designed by William P. Bell, it opened in the summer of 1938.
STOP FOUR: Walk through the clubhouse and out to the expansive patio, where you will enjoy what is arguably the best view of Bald Mountain and Dollar Mountain in the valley. While it now stands as the centerpiece of Sun Valley Resort, Bald Mountain was not the initial attraction. When Schaffgotsch first arrived in the Wood River Valley, at the end of his six-week, 7,000 mile odyssey across the West in search of the ideal spot to build Harriman’s ski resort, it was the gentle inclines of Dollar, Proctor and Ruud mountains that caught his eye. He certainly noticed the “bald” mountain, but deemed it too advanced for the majority of skiers in America, where the sport was still in its infancy. He was wrong. Although lifts didn’t open on Baldy until December 23, 1939, even in the first season guests attempted to tackle its 3,400-foot vertical rise using the services of an early snowcat named “the tank.”
STOP FIVE: A few hundred yards further along Sun Valley Road look for a sign on your right pointing to the Hemingway Memorial. Take the trail down the hill and discover one of the most tranquil spots on the valley’s floor. A bronze bust of Ernest Hemingway sits there, presiding over the trickling Trail Creek. Inscribed on the memorial is part of a eulogy Hemingway delivered for the man who brought him to Sun Valley in 1939. Gene Van Guilder was a publicist for the resort and an avid outdoorsmen. He introduced Hemingway to the excellent hunting and fishing in the area, but tragically was shot in a hunting accident a few weeks after the author arrived at Sun Valley. A notoriously shy public speaker, Hemingway surprisingly agreed to write and deliver Van Guilder’s eulogy, perhaps an indication of how comfortable he felt at Sun Valley. Sadly, Hemingway’s association with Sun Valley ended with his suicide in 1961. He is buried in the Ketchum Cemetery a mile or so from this spot.
STOP SIX: Walk back up to Sun Valley Road and take in the mountains suddenly towering over you to the south. Proctor and Ruud in front of you, and Dollar to your right, were the first mountains in the valley developed for skiing. But it was on Proctor Mountain that skiing history was made. Named for Charlie Proctor, the American Nordic Olympian who together with Schaffgotsch selected the skiing terrain, the mountain was home to the world’s first chairlift. Sun Valley’s publicist Steve Hannagan greatly disliked skiing, and hated cold even more, so he constantly looked for ways to make the experience more comfortable. One of his better ideas was the concept of mechanical devices to take people to the top of the mountain. Putting the vast engineering knowledge of Union Pacific to work, the idea of a chairlift was born. Engineer James M. Curran’s previous experience building a device to load bananas onto a ship inspired him to create a people-carrying version, and the world’s first chairlift was installed on Proctor in December of 1936. The second was completed a few weeks later on Dollar. A J-bar lift was also installed on Proctor Mountain in 1936, but it was moved to Ruud Mountain and refitted with chairs the next year. That lift is the only one that still stands, and it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It can be visited via a short, but steep hike. From where you stand however, if there is no snow on the ground, you can just make out the original, decaying poles from that first chairlift on Proctor jutting up out of the hillside.
STOP SEVEN: Head further up Sun Valley Road to the newly remodeled Sun Valley Gun Club on your left. First situated along what is now Fairway Road across from the Sun Valley Lake, the gun club was constructed from the Hot Potato Hut that once warmed chilly skiers at the top of Proctor Mountain. That original structure is still part of the club, but the addition of marble bathrooms and other amenities has greatly increased the building’s luxury factor. Skeet shooting was once the most popular summertime activity at Sun Valley and the club hosted many internationally accredited shooting competitions. The addition in 1940 of Carl Bradsher, an internationally known skeet instructor from the exclusive Pennsylvania Rolling Rock Club, helped in generating interest in the sport. Today, that interest remains high, and the gun club claims the honor of teaching more beginners than any other club in the country.
STOP EIGHT: Opposite the gun club is the entrance to Trail Creek Cabin. Opened in January 1939 to create a destination for Sun Valley’s jingling scarlet and yellow bobsleighs, the cabin embraced all the rustic Western atmosphere that the Lodge lacked. Built not out of concrete but from real logs brought down off Galena Summit, it boasted a small coffee bar, a whitewashed kitchen where host August Jacobsen turned out pies and hot biscuits, and a fire that was always burning. Today, you can take a seasonal sleigh or hay ride to the cabin and enjoy dinner surrounded by the same spectacular beauty that Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn enjoyed when they had their pre-wedding dinner here in March of 1939.
The history of Sun Valley is a rich tapestry that weaves the birth of America’s fascination with skiing, the glamor of the overlapping worlds of Hollywood stars and East Coast socialites, and the shadow of international disaster, into the creation of a vibrant and special community in Idaho’s high desert. This introductory tour merely scratches the surface of the fascinating events, amusing anecdotes and historical milestones to be tracked in this isolated valley. To read more about Sun Valley, its history and its characters, pick up a copy of The Sun Valley Story by Van Gordon Sauter. As Clint Eastwood wrote in his foreword “This book captures the magic and the tradition and a whole lot more.”
Sun Valley Resort’s historical walking tour is a must-do for anyone visiting Sun Valley. But for those who can’t wait until they’re here to discover the secrets behind this historic resort, here is Part Two of the tour: Sun Valley Village. For the complete series click here.
The Ram Restaurant, part of Sun Valley Village since 1937
STOP ONE: Begin your tour of Sun Valley’s grounds at the outdoor ice rink. Installed in 1936, the rink was a main attraction for the new winter resort. Steve Hannagan, Sun Valley’s publicist, was far from convinced that starlets and socialites wanted to hurtle down a hillside, and he deemed skating far more glamorous. Today, it is one of the world’s premier outdoor ice-skating venues, attracting Olympians such as Sasha Cohen, Johnny Weir and Evan Lysacek to perform in its summer ice shows. The very first ice show was held on the evening of Thursday, February 24, 1938. The Austrian ski instructors kicked off festivities by slaloming down Dollar Mountain carrying flares. This torchlight parade, as it became known, is a tradition that is now a centerpiece of Sun Valley’s Christmas celebrations. That first ice show however, was not quite of the caliber of today’s. Instead of Olympians it featured brave resort guests waltzing on the ice with flares in hand, comical musical chairs and Union Pacific staff who had been given such expert choreographic instruction as “just move around.” It proved such a hit that a repeat performance was ordered for the next week, and ice shows have continued at Sun Valley ever since.
STOP TWO: Now take a walk from the resort’s oldest entertainment venue to its newest. Keep the rink on your right and follow the path away from the Lodge toward the Sun Valley Pavilion. This impressive feat of architecture is the jewel in the crown of the six buildings Sun Valley’s most recent owner, Earl Holding, contributed to the resort during his 35 years of ownership. One of Mr. Holding’s favorite sayings was “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing,” and the Pavilion is overdone in the best possible way. Opened in 2008 through a partnership with the Sun Valley Summer Symphony, this one-of-a-kind performing arts facility was constructed with 1,000 tons of marble from the same quarry as the stone used to build Rome’s Coliseum. In its young life it has hosted such glittering names as Garth Brooks, the San Francisco Ballet, Bill Cosby and, of course, the world famous Sun Valley Summer Symphony.
STOP THREE: Walk from the Pavilion around the Lodge and towards the Sun Valley Village. You will pass three cottages. The first is The Harriman Cottage. Built in the summer of 1937, this was Sun Valley’s original “vacation home,” and is still available to rent today. “I wanted to have a place to come and live,” Harriman said in 1983. “And I wanted to encourage people to build houses in the valley. I didn’t want any more hotels to be built. I didn’t want it to be cluttered up as [if] it was a big resort. But I wanted people to come here and live and enjoy it either as a home or as a second home of sorts. All of that was part of the original idea. It has worked out very satisfactorily.” The other two cottages were added in the fall of 1940, one for Dr. Moritz, the resident surgeon, and the other for Friedl Pfeiffer, then the new head of the ski school, although he never lived in it. These are now The President’s and Guest cottages and can also be rented.
STOP FOUR: Continue along the sidewalk to the bus circle at the entrance to the Sun Valley Village, and stop just below the flagpole. Here you’ll find The Tenth Mountain Division Rock. This memorial to The Ski Troops, as they were known, honors the many Sun Valley alumni and residents who fought in the division during WWII. The Tenth is famous for helping push the Germans from the snow covered mountains of Italy, effectively ending the war, but they lost a quarter of their number in the process. Three mountains in the valley are named for fallen Sun Valley employees who served in The Tenth: Handwerk Peak after a waiter at the Ram; Duncan Ridge for a former Lodge employee; and Bromaghin Peak for a ski instructor.
STOP FIVE: Just beyond the rock, to the left of the recreation center, is another of the resort’s links to WWII. These statues are in memory of two members of the Tenth, Austrian ski instructors Sigi Engl and Sepp Froehlich, who between them worked 72 seasons at Sun Valley. Engl initially applied in 1938, but was turned down by Harriman. By the following season however he was firmly ensconced at the resort, and worked here for more than three decades. He served as director of the ski school from 1952 to 1975. Froehlich arrived at Sun Valley the year after Engl, but the outbreak of WWII saw him, Engl and three other Austrian instructors arrested by the FBI on suspicions of harboring Nazi sympathies. Engl immediately joined the U.S. Army, but Froehlich spent nearly three months in prison before enlisting. He went on to win a Silver Star for gallantry in the Pacific.
STOP SIX: Follow the path past the bank and turn right to the Sun Valley Opera House. The 320-seat movie theater was added in the resort’s second season, and its early ties to Hollywood were strong enough to secure a much-sought-after copy of Gone With The Wind in the first few weeks of its release. (Wind producer David O’Selznick was a friend of Harriman’s and helped him publicize Sun Valley, although he disapproved of the name, he thought it should be called Ski Haven.) Today, alongside hit movies, catch a showing of Sun Valley Serenade most days. The 1940s classic features scenes shot at the resort as well as future gold medalist Gretchen Fraser skiing for star Sonja Henie.
STOP SEVEN: From the Opera House proceed around the duck pond, taking in the glass enclosed exterior of the resort’s second circular pool (identical to the one in the Lodge), and walk along the length of the Sun Valley Inn. “Realizing that one hotel doesn’t make a resort, Sun Valley this year opened another spacious hostelry, much more moderate in price,” Esquire wrote in its February 1938 article Enter the Ski-golo. The title referenced the original ski school director Hans Hauser’s stable of Austrian skier instructors. It turns out they were all “singularly adept in teaching that old world technique to our susceptible American maidens.” Originally called The Challenger Inn, after Union Pacific’s passenger trains, the Inn is the centerpiece of the Sun Valley Village. Built to resemble a Tyrolean mountain village, the hotel was based on drawings by Ernst Fegté, the German set designer of the first movie shot in Sun Valley, I Met Him in Paris starring resort regular Claudette Colbert. The hotel’s different facades were painted by American artist Walt Kuhn to enhance the illusion of a classic Austrian village street, when inside it is all one building.
STOP EIGHT: Taking the path to your left, pass the Inn and arrive in front of The Ram restaurant. A relaxed, casual setting for socializing after skiing, The Ram had a strong Austrian theme, right down to the long-stemmed wine-pourers called Weinhebers, imported from Vienna by Count Schaffgotsch. It was also a favorite of the celebrity guests. If you were here in 1938 you might spot Ginger Rogers tap dancing away to The Ram Trio’s cheery tunes (possibly including the Hokey Pokey, which musician Larry Laprise claims to have invented here). Pop by in the winter of 1956 and Marilyn Monroe could be tucked away in a booth, relaxing after a day filming Bus Stop in the snow. Stop for dinner in the forties and sit next to Clark Gable, Bing Crosby or Gary Cooper. The Ram was a place where people let their hair down because, according to a 1958 Sports Illustrated feature on Sun Valley, “It has the New York nightclub feeling.”
STOP NINE: Continuing on through Sun Valley Village, follow the path to the left towards the Lodge. You’ll pass through what was originally known as the Sun Valley Mall. Installed in 1966 by the resort’s second owner, Olympic skier Bill Janss, the shopping street was modeled on the popular shopping mall concept of the time. Today it has been so tightly woven into the character of the original village that it is simply referred to as the Sun Valley Village. In fact, one spot here claims a link to the earliest history of the resort. The Brass Ranch skiwear boutique is named after the sheep and cattle ranch that once stood here.
Sun Valley Resort’s historical walking tour is a must-do for anyone visiting Sun Valley. But for those who can’t wait until they’re here to discover the secrets behind this historic resort, here is Part One: The Sun Valley Lodge. Parts two and three are coming soon.
Sun Valley Lodge
In March of 1936, on the spot where the Sun Valley Lodge now stands, a short, stout New York publicist surveyed what was to become his next project: a barren cattle field, waiting for the birth of a luxury ski lodge. Despite the snow filling his Fifth Avenue loafers, Steve Hannagan felt warm. The intense heat of the deep-winter Idaho sun was remarkable. In that moment, Hannagan knew how to convince the rich and famous to travel to the middle of nowhere and risk their necks hurtling down a mountainside in the decidedly uncivilized pursuit of skiing. He was going to lure them with the promise of “Winter Sports Under a Summer Sun.” He was going to call it Sun Valley.
Sun Valley Resort exists because of three men: Hannagan, William Averell Harriman and Count Felix Schaffgotsch. The brains, the money and the brawn behind the project respectively, this trio turned the then crazy idea of building a magnificent palace in the snow into a reality. Harriman, chairman of the Union Pacific Railroad, was a famous playboy whose passion for glamorous pursuits inspired the idea of creating America’s first destination ski resort at the end of one of his railroads. The promise of passenger traffic on the freight-heavy line was enough to convince UP’s board and, after a snow-seeking odyssey across the Wild West, Count Schaffgotsch found the perfect spot. Then, with Hannagan’s marketing genius, Harriman’s cash and connections, and the charming Count’s direct line to the best ski instructors in Europe, a legend was born.
STOP ONE: Stand on the path at the edge of the duck pond and take in a panoramic view of the Sun Valley Lodge. The X-shaped building is virtually unchanged from when it was constructed in the summer of 1936. Four stories high, with 220 rooms (now 148), the building rose from the ground in less than eight months and cost $1.5 million. You could be forgiven for assuming it’s a traditional wooden lodge. In fact, the walls are made from concrete, to ensure it would not suffer the fate of its architect’s previous project, the Grand Canyon Lodge, which burned to the ground three years earlier. Each “log” was made by pouring concrete into wooden molds and then staining and stenciling it to resemble wood.
STOP TWO: Walk around the pond and let one of Sun Valley’s genial doormen welcome you into The Lobby. Here you will stand in a room not much changed since Gary Cooper stepped inside on opening day, December 21, 1936. On your right is a portrait of Harriman, Sun Valley’s founder. Harriman had the Lodge furnished and decorated by Newport socialite Marjorie Oelrichs Duchin, the best friend of his wife Marie. Marjorie banished the color white from the interior, even from the linens. Instead, yellows, oranges and greens, complemented by rich red carpets and navy blue upholstery dominated the decor. When it first opened, alongside the usual requirements of a hotel, the Lodge also boasted a barber shop, a beauty parlor, a surgery department, a bachelor’s lounge (which quickly became a game room), writing rooms and, of course, a ski room. Saks Fifth Avenue also opened a store, selling the latest in skiing fashions from Manhattan that combined the style of the era with the practicalities of the unladylike pursuit of hurtling down a mountainside on two planks of wood.
STOP THREE: Step through the lobby and to your left into The Duchin Lounge. The Lodge’s premier nightspot, the lounge was originally located where Gretchen’s Restaurant is today and the Saks Fifth Avenue store was in lounge’s current location. Contrary to a popular myth, The Duchin Lounge was not named for famous forties’ bandleader Eddie Duchin, who played at Sun Valley many times, but for his wife Marjorie, in recognition of her work designing the Lodge’s interior.
STOP FOUR: Cross the lobby to Gretchen’s Restaurant. Opened in 1985 after the lobby was remodeled, it was named for America’s first Olympic skiing champion, Gretchen Fraser. Fraser was the star pupil of Sun Valley ski school director Otto Lang, who had her stand in for his friend the ice-skater Sonja Henie in the skiing scenes of Thin Ice (1937) and Sun Valley Serenade (1941). Fraser and her husband Don lived in Sun Valley for many years until their deaths in 1994. Fraser’s ashes were scattered over Gretchen’s Gold, the Baldy run named in honor of her victories at the 1948 Olympics in St. Moritz.
STOP FIVE: Exit the lobby through the northern corridor, otherwise known as the Hall of Fame. Also installed in 1985, this gallery of photographs showing off many of the Lodge’s rich and famous guests was the brainchild of Earl Holding, the resort’s owner since 1977. Look for photos of the Kennedy family vacationing on Sun Valley’s slopes, local residents Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis, classic crooners such as Louis Armstrong and Bette Midler, and legends of the silver screen including Clarke Gable and Claudette Colbert, all of whom were regular visitors to the resort.
STOP SIX: Continue down the hallway to the Lodge Pool. Originally intended to mimic Idaho’s natural hot springs, Union Pacific was unable to strike a deal with the State to pump its water into the pool. So the management decided to make its own. Large vats were installed in the basement to mix precisely the required minerals into the water. However, the resulting sulphuric stench was considered unbearable, and rapidly the mineral concentration was reduced just to a few teaspoons, still technically hot springs to draw people to the resort, but no longer obnoxious for those already here.
STOP SEVEN: On your way back to the lobby there is a doorway on your right that leads downstairs to the Bowling Alley. Installed in the summer of 1940, the bowling alley had been part of the original plans for the in-house entertainment of the Lodge. It joined a game room, which featured a very popular ping-pong table and a not so popular piano. One of the first guests at the resort, Gone With the Wind producer David O’ Selznick, was slightly appalled at having to pay for his ping-pong balls, especially as he kept losing them.
STOP EIGHT: Return to the lobby and take the elevator to the second floor. In front of you is the Sun Room. Offering excellent views of the ice rink and Bald and Dollar Mountains, it was once called the Redwood Room. In here, on July 17, 1954, Groucho Marx, 63, married actress Eden Hartford, 24. It was the groom’s third wedding.
STOP NINE: From the Sun Room turn left down the hall and walk towards the Lodge Dining Room. Glance down the hallway to your left. At the far end is Room 206. Arguably the most famous room in the resort, it was here Ernest Hemingway wrote the majority of For Whom The Bell Tolls on a wooden desk specially installed for the author. He first came to Sun Valley on September 20, 1939 with soon-to-be-wife number three, Martha Gellhorn. A passionate hunter, Hemingway was lured to the resort by publicist Gene Van Guilder as a way to promote the new fall season. He fell in love with Idaho, returning most years to his “Glamour House.” He finished For Whom The Bell Tolls on October 10, 1940, and sent the galleys to his publisher right from The Inn’s camera shop.
STOP TEN: Sun Valley’s grand opening dinner was held in the Lodge Dining Room on December 21, 1936. A lavish affair, Life magazine said the Lodge opened with “As fancy a crew of rich socialites as have ever been assembled under one roof.” Along with a menu featuring Beef Tea des Viveurs and Ananas Surprise Union Pacifique, guests were treated to a good old-fashioned fistfight. David O’Selznick threw a punch at a Chicago banker who presumed to ask Claudette Colbert for a dance. The resulting headline, “Sun Valley Opens With a Bang,” cemented the hotel’s place in history as the most talked about destination ski resort for decades to come.
Wonderful changes are underway at the storied Sun Valley Lodge
As March wound down, one chapter of Sun Valley’s storied history came to a close, while another one began to be written. On Saturday night, March 29, the elegant Lodge Dining Room hosted its final dinner, while on Sunday the 30th, hundreds gathered in the iconic room, the “grand dame” of the Sun Valley Resort, to feast on one final Sunday brunch. On April 1, the beautiful, tiered space with its rounded walls and floor-to-ceiling picture windows, began its transition as a central part of a spectacular new renovation that began earlier this week.
Among the revelers at Saturday night's party at the Lodge Dining Room were Mike and Carole Sampson and their guests Dr. David and Patti Puz. Mike, a local real estate agent, said, "Carole and I have been doing Christmas dinner at the LDR since the Holdings bought Sun Valley. I was a ski instructor and she owned an interior design business. It Happened in Sun Valley!"
The Lodge Dining Room will morph into a portion of a glorious new spa, salon and fitness center, part of a large renovation project announced last month by the Sun Valley Resort aimed at continuing to make the Sun Valley experience an unforgettable one for guests. The new 20,000 square foot facility will offer resort guests and the local community all the pampering they could ever wish for in an atmosphere designed to interact harmoniously with the area’s spectacular surroundings. Fifteen private treatment rooms for individuals and couples, steam and sauna facilities, large plush locker rooms, relaxation lounges, a yoga studio and large fitness facility filled with the latest and best aerobic and strength training equipment will add tremendously to the full Sun Valley experience. The views of Baldy should be pretty spectacular, too. And for you Lodge pool fans (like me), no worries. The wonderful, warm, round pool will remain in an improved form that includes a spacious deck and new food and beverage service.
The spa addition is just part of enhancements planned for the Lodge that was originally constructed in 1936 as America’s first destination ski resort. In addition to the spa, the project’s plans include creating guest suites with fireplaces and expanded bathrooms. Visitors will also be greeted in a lobby with enhanced space for gathering and comparing notes – whether they are about the best run of the day or the largest trout netted. Exciting restaurant plans are also in the works.
The iconic and wonderful year-round Lodge pool will receive some improvements during this project
The Sun Valley Lodge, however, will still be the Sun Valley Lodge with its unique and welcoming character that generations of visitors have enjoyed. According to the Resort, “With these improvements, the utmost care will be taken to maintain the character and essence of this magnificent historic building that was originally designed by Stanley Underwood in 1935.For nearly 80 years the Sun Valley Lodge has been recognized as an icon of architecture, hospitality, comfort and entertainment.As the pictures in its hallways display, it has been a place where movie stars, dignitaries and other celebrities come together with kids, families, locals and visitors of all walks of life throughout the world to enjoy the beauty and recreation that Sun Valley has to offer.”
“There are few more enduring icons of quality and hospitality in the world than the Sun Valley Lodge.” said Carol Holding, resort owner for the last 37 years with her late husband Earl. “Our family has loved Sun Valley for over three decades.We have always tried to make it better while maintaining the personal and intimate feeling that makes it so special.We want to keep the wonderful feeling of the Lodge while at the same time providing the modern comforts and conveniences that our guests expect, fitting the Lodge for the next 75 years of fun in the sun.”
The view from above on April 3
For Resort guests, the changes should be largely seamless. According to Dick Andersen, Director of Hotels, starting April 1, this first phase of the much anticipated remodel will not interrupt “business as usual.” Everything at the Lodge will be in full operation through April 6 with the exception of the current Salon that will reopen April 3 in a new, temporary location at the former Signatures and Gift Shop in the Sun Valley Village.Signatures and Gifts can be found adjacent to Pete Lane’s in the Village during the renovation. The Business Center has also temporarily relocated to the Village and the Lodge concierge is happy to also assist guests with business needs and services like printing boarding passes.
Beginning April 7, the Lodge pool will close but the Inn pool will remain open daily 7 a.m. – 10 p.m.
At this time, the Spa will join the Beauty Salon in the Village and the Fitness Center will move down the hallway toward the public bathrooms in the Lodge.
Stop by the Sun Valley Salon and Day Spa, now located in the Village, for the best pampering around
Sun Valley has retained the Boston design firm of Frank Nicholson Inc and local architects Ruscitto, Latham, Blanton to oversee the project.Having worked together for over two decades for the Holdings in Sun Valley, this design team is very familiar with the needs and character of the resort.Their prior projects include: River Run Lodge 1994, the Sun Valley Inn and Ballroom expansion 2003, Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge 2004, the Sun Valley Lodge improvements in 1996 & 2004 and the Sun Valley Pavilion 2008.
Full renovation of the Lodge begins in September and both projects are expected to be completed by June of 2015. According to Tim Silva, Sun Valley’s General Manager, “We anticipate completing both projects by June of next year.We are pleased that during construction the Sun Valley Inn, cottages and condominiums as well as restaurants, retail shops and entertainment venues will be fully operational to accommodate Sun Valley’s guests.”
It is an exciting time in Sun Valley as everyone looks toward the future and toward offering the finest year-round experience for our guests. I, for one, can’t wait for the new spa. Even though I was always a loyal fan of the Lodge Dining Room, this will be a wonderful reinvention of a wonderful space: one that will be enjoyed for generations to come.
Stay tuned to this blog for updates on the renovations and exciting developments at the Sun Valley Resort.