A Walk Through History: Sun Valley Resort

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.”

Written and researched by Jennifer Tuohy

Click here for Part One: The Sun Valley Lodge

Click here for Part Two: The Sun Valley Village 

A Walk Through History: The Sun Valley Lodge

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.

Written and researched by Jennifer Tuohy

Click here for Part Two: The Sun Valley Village 

Click here for Part Three: Sun Valley Resort

It’s Autumn! Get Out and Hike

You don't need to go far from town to enjoy a fall hike complete with golden aspens

You don't need to go far from town to enjoy a fall hike complete with golden aspens

Ah, September in Sun Valley: Cool mornings and evenings; warm sunny days; the always-evolving alchemy of aspen leaves as they turn bright gold. Though each season here certainly has its merits, there is something truly spectacular about autumn.

And with the children back in school, the booked-to-the-minute fun of Labor Day weekend behind us, it’s time to get out there and take a hike. Though many local trails were temporarily closed in August due to the Beaver Creek Fire, right now, local hiking is at its peak.

The Hemingway Memorial is a beautiful tribute to the author and a gateway to terrific local hikes

The Hemingway Memorial is a beautiful tribute to the author and a gateway to terrific local hikes

Whether you have lived in Sun Valley your entire life or are just visiting for the weekend, a great place to start a September hike is at the Hemingway Memorial just east of the Sun Valley Lodge on Trail Creek Road. The memorial features a likeness of the legendary writer who completed For Whom the Bell Tolls in suite 206 at the Lodge, and is tucked beneath shady trees on the banks of Trail Creek. Stone benches in the shape of a half moon offer a place to sit and reflect on the inscription that reminds Hemingway is laid to rest in the Ketchum Cemetery:

Best of all he loved the fall
The leaves yellow on the cottonwoods
Leaves floating on the trout streams
And above the hills
The high blue windless skies
Now he will be a part of them forever.

From this very unique, and very nearby, trailhead, miles of beautiful single track wend through Proctor Mountain. For the novice, gentle walks lead along the creek and east. Craving more vertical? Numerous trails climb to the saddle of Proctor, offering fantastic views in every direction, including one of the best ones around of Baldy. If you’re up for a challenge, the Ruud Mountain trail cuts steeply right to the more traditional Proctor Mountain trails, leading to, and beyond, one of the first chairlifts in the world.

Bald Mountain in the warmer months offers stunning vistas and great exercise to those on foot

Bald Mountain in the warmer months offers stunning vistas and great exercise to those on foot

Also “in town” are popular hiking and biking trails near the White Clouds golf course across from Sun Valley Resort. Don’t forget Bald Mountain offers a great cardiac workout, terrific views and the possibility of a fabulous lunch to reward you for your efforts. Start at the River Run side of the hill and bear right to the Bald Mountain Trail. This leads, in switchbacks, both to the Roundhouse Restaurant (offering a fabulous barbecue deck lunch through September 8), and all the way to the summit. If you want to channel your inner local, head straight up the Warm Springs or River Run ski runs to the top. It’s an unbeatable workout and who knows, maybe you will want to take the Baldy Hill Climb later this month.

Slightly further afield, but still a very short drive from town, the Adams Gulch trailhead just north of Ketchum provides many trail options for hiking and mountain biking, as do Chocolate Gulch and Fox Creek. To the east, a hike to the historic Pioneer Cabin (there are three different routes up) is one of the most beautiful in the area. In the fall, this very popular hike is more lightly traveled and it is the perfect time to go.

The walk up to Pioneer Cabin is beautiful, but the real pay out is cresting the final ridge

The walk up to Pioneer Cabin is beautiful, but the real payout is cresting the final ridge

For all these hikes, remember, even if the trailhead is right up the street, you are in altitude and the autumn weather can be variable so be prepared. Bring plenty of water and a light rain shell, layers, wear comfortable sturdy shoes, bring a snack or lunch and sunscreen is a must.

For a full list of current trail conditions, please click HERE.

September is the most beautiful hiking month in the Wood River Valley, at least by my account. Take some time for yourself, get out there and hit the trails!


Recipe from the Resort: Trail Creek Meatloaf with Tomato Onion Relish

The Trail Creek Cabin patio was full on July 4 with people enjoying great food and a great ambiance

The Trail Creek Cabin patio was full on July 4 with people enjoying great food and a great ambiance

Trail Creek Cabin is located merely a mile and a half east of the Sun Valley Lodge, but is a world away. Step inside the rustic cabin, built in 1937, and step back into an era both of simplicity and glamor; one where meals with friends lasted for hours and ended over a fine single malt scotch. Once Averell Harriman’s private hunting lodge, this idyllic location on the banks of Trail Creek hosted gatherings of some highly influential people, including by many reports, Ernest Hemingway. Today, the cabin’s rough-hewn exterior, log furniture and grand fireplace still exude a masculine, woodsy energy, but don’t let that fool you – the food is refined, sophisticated, and offers just the right fresh, healthy, flavorful ingredients that still give a nod to Trail Creek’s hunting lodge heritage.

Make your own history at Trail Creek Cabin, built in 1937

Make your own history at Trail Creek Cabin, built in 1937

For a festive Fourth of July celebration, my family, friends and I ventured to Trail Creek Cabin to enjoy a meal beneath one of the most spectacular Idaho sunsets I can remember. Under Chef Wendy Little’s discerning eye and exacting palate, the menu offered something for everyone in our party of seven that included four children. Wendy, who has been with Sun Valley Company since 2009 and the chef at Trail Creek Cabin since 2010, said the special environment at Trail Creek Cabin informs the menu, with hearty steaks and meatloaf year-round favorites. For summer, Wendy also incorporates a great deal of fish and farm fresh, local, organic greens and vegetables into her seasonal offerings. For children, she insists on the same high quality of product as with adults, simply cutting down portion size and offering sides to appeal to the younger set. “I don’t do chicken nuggets or strips or any of that,” she laughed.

As we were under a bit of a tight deadline to get to Sun Valley On Ice, our server quickly took our order that included wild salmon, Idaho trout, cowboy rib eye steaks with buttermilk onion rings and baked potatoes (a favorite at the table), Kobe beef sliders, organic chicken and a buffalo and lamb meatloaf. All delivered wonderful flavor and excellent sides, but the meatloaf proved the most interesting. Chef Little agreed to share this recipe with the readers of The Valley Sun.

Trail Creek Meatloaf is a year-round favorite

Trail Creek Meatloaf is a year-round favorite

Trail Creek Meatloaf with Tomato Onion Relish

For the relish: (yields approximately 2 cups)
1 small onion minced
1 tsp. chopped garlic
1 tbl. Olive oil
7 oz. ketchup
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 large roasted red bell pepper, peeled and seeded

Chop tomatoes and pepper into a coarse dice, sauté onions and garlic in the olive oil, then add the chopped peppers and tomatoes.
Add the ketchup and Worcestershire sauce and cook 15 minutes.
Cool before stirring into the raw meatloaf mixture. Reserve the extra sauce to spoon on top of the meatloaf as a sauce.

For the meatloaf (yields one four inch deep meatloaf pan)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2.5 pounds ground buffalo meat
1.25 pounds ground lamb
3 eggs
4 ounces heavy cream
1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
1.5 cups tomato relish
½ pound bacon for lining the meatloaf pan
Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste

Place meat, eggs, cream, tomato relish, salt and pepper in the bowl of a kitchen aide mixer. Using a paddle attachment, slowly blend these ingredients.
After these are mixed, slowly sprinkle in the breadcrumbs and mix for three minutes more. Cook a small piece to check for seasoning.
Line a Teflon pan with strips of bacon and then fill with the meat mixture. Place more strips of bacon over the top of the meatloaf if necessary.
Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes, remove the foil and bake another 30-45 minutes until an instant read thermometer registers 155 degrees.
Allow the meat loaf to rest for 20-30 minutes before slicing. Spoon reserved tomato onion relish on top of each slice and serve.

Makes ten generous, delicious servings that taste even better the next day!

Chef Wendy Little of Trail Creek Cabin works painstakingly to share Idaho's local flavors and Sun Valley's rich history with diners

Chef Wendy Little of Trail Creek Cabin works painstakingly to share Idaho's local flavors and Sun Valley's rich history with diners

While I would certainly recommend making this meatloaf at home (dinner one night, sliced into picnic sandwiches the following day!), no visit to Sun Valley is complete without going out to Trail Creek Cabin. Rent a bike from Pete Lane’s, hop on the bike path, and pedal out for light fare and a signature huckleberry mojito on the peaceful creek-side deck. Or make a reservation for the whole family or a romantic dinner for two on the lawn and enjoy Chef Little’s carefully crafted fare that incorporates more than just a bit of true Sun Valley flavor!

Happy Fourth of July weekend!


The deck on the banks of Trail Creek -- there is no nicer spot for a glass of wine and a light bite

The deck on the banks of Trail Creek -- there is no nicer spot for a glass of wine and a light bite

Mrs. Sun gets her shotgun

Gun Club manager J.C. Dovey had his work cut out for him teaching Mrs. Sun how to shoot a shotgun.

As the welcome chill of fall enters the air, Sun Valley Resort looks to its third season. For some, notably the area’s most famous resident Ernest Hemingway, fall is their favorite time of year in the Wood River Valley.

The opportunity to participate in one of Hemingway’s favorite fall activities is one not to be missed. And you don’t even have to kill anything. While Hemingway was an avid hunter, the Sun Valley Gun Club offers the chance for everyone from the most experienced to the novice to get their hands on a shotgun.

I headed to the historic club to see what it felt like to have a shotgun in my city-bred hands. Manager J.C. Dovey took me under his wing, but not before giving me the grand tour of the facilities.

Almost as old as the resort itself, the Gun Club was once one of the most popular non-winter activities here. Pictures along the wall of the club show hundred of shooters lined up at the original club in the shadow of Bald Mounatin during one of the many “shoots” the resort hosted over the years, stretching all the way back to 1936.

The club’s structure is still the original building that once stood across Sun Valley Lake along what is now Fairway Road. “It is actually made from the old Proctor and Ruud sandwich shacks [or day lodges as they were more grandly called],” Dovey said.

After undergoing a few re-locations (the first fifty or so years ago to what is now the White Clouds Golf Course, and then to its current home, a mile east of the Lodge down Trail Creek Road, in 2006), and the installation of marble bathrooms (“I rent them out as baptismal fonts,” joked Dovey), the Gun Club and has re-captured its former glory. This summer the shooting range was a veritable hot bed of activity. While I was waiting for my lesson the phone rang off the hook with would-be shooters. But Dovey assures me fall is the time to be here, it’s a little quieter and is when the locals move in. “About 25 percent of our guests here are locals and regulars, seasoned shooters who own their own guns,” Dovey said.

The lion’s share of the other 75 percent are once-a-year shooters or beginners like myself who have never held a shotgun before. Dovey tells me this is unique in the world of gun clubs. “We get so many people here who have never shot, but we have extensive teaching staff,” he said with obvious pride. “The only other similar club is Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, but we actually do more lessons than they do.”

Sun Valley’s Gun Club is very much a teaching facility with the price of a lesson included in the rental of equipment. “It’s rare for a gun club, we have 5 or 6 instructors,” Dovey said.

Dovey and his team pride themselves on not letting a novice leave without hitting one of those orange clay thingys. So, when I decided to join a long line of resort guests, including many Hollywood celebrities such as Anne Southern, and make the Sun Valley Gun Club my first experience with that icon of the Wild West the shotgun, Dovey had his work cut out for him.

Rudy Etchen - son of Gun Club manager Fred Etchen who was Sun Valley's first Olympic gold medal winner (winning gold for team trapshooting in the 1924 Olympics) - was considered the greatest shotgun shot that ever lived. Pictured here in 1958 with actress Anne Southern, Rudy was one of the instructors at the resort. Today J.C. Dovey and his team continue the Sun Valley tradition of excellent instructors.

Standing at the far end of the shooting range, escaping the hooting and hollering emanating from the group of Idaho Milk Processors’ indulging in something called an “Annie Oakley,” I picked up my first shotgun with trepidation. Orange earplugs firmly shoved in my ears and my shooting stance adopted, Dovey talked me through how I would shoot my first shot. Not suprisingly I missed by a mile. His words were, “I’d shoot it sooner. Try for this county, not Camas.”

I could tell there was some pride at stake here, but Dovey maintained his calm, encouraging tone and before we were through the entire box of shells I had actually hit one. The sound of my hooting and hollering even shut the milk processors up for a few minutes.

While it was a lot of fun, I had to conclude that I’m just not a gun-toting type. But I highly recommend giving it a shot, it’s something of a rite of passage for anyone that wants to call themselves an Idahoan.

Happy trails!

Mrs. Sun

The Sun Valley Gun Club offers Trap, Double Trap, Wobble Trap, Skeet, Duck Tower, 5-Stand and Sporting Clays. Open 7 days a week 10 a.m.–4 p.m. through October. For rates and more details click here. On Sept. 22 the club is hosting a “Sporting Clay Fun Shoot!” 100 targets for $50, including lunch. Prizes on offer for 1st and 2nd place shooters. Call 208.622.2111 or email recreation@sunvalley.com. A special $149 Fun-Shoot room package is available, call 1.800.786.8259.

Van Gordon Sauter on Sun Valley’s past, present and future

Van Gordon Sauter, former president of CBS News and Fox News, spoke about his book The Sun Valley Story at the Sun Valley Writers' Conference Saturday. Photo by Kristen Shultz

Van Gordon Sauter is a man with a view, many views in fact. And he’s not one to mince words. So when I heard that this “respected journalist, distinguished television executive, and renowned raconteur” was going to be talking at the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference about his new book The Sun Valley Story, I pulled every string I could to secure myself a spot (not an easy task, as any journalist who has tried to infiltrate the hallowed halls of the conference without publishing their own book will tell you). The fact I have known and worked with Van for the last five years, and that I contributed (in a very small way) to the book he was talking about, undoubtedly weighed in my favor.

The Wood River Valley is very lucky to call Van one of its own. He has had a second home here for many years, and he takes an active interest in the community, beyond just how it will impact his own property. A broadcast journalist and author with a storied career, he is one of the original founders of the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference, and has shared his love of this valley by writing numerous articles on it for the local press (including the Sun Valley Guide, of which I’m editor). Of his many areas of interest, history ranks the highest, so it seemed a natural fit for him to bring his engaging writing style to the entertaining story of the birth of Sun Valley Resort.

The Sun Valley Story is the result of a collaboration between Sun Valley Resort and Mandala Media. Published last year in honor of the resort’s 75th anniversary, the book is described by Van as “an anecdotal history,” one that captures the individual stories and events of Sun Valley’s singular history with his signature flair.

And if anyone can recount a good anecdote it’s Van. His “Break-out session” at the conference on Saturday was full of fascinating tidbits, both from the book and his own experiences in the valley. Including the one time he tried to buy a bar in Hailey that turned out to be insulated by miners clothing, or the story from Peter Duchin’s childhood in the Harriman mansion in New York, where – because his room was so far from the breakfast parlor – he had to hop on a bicycle every morning just to get his cereal. To get them all you’ll have to pick up the book, or corner Van at Cristina’s Restaurant any summer morning, but here are a few choice morsels about the major characters of the book that he divulged at the conference:

Van on Averell Harriman [the founder of Sun Valley]
“In 1935, when Harriman said ‘I want a ski resort in the West,’ that put into motion a project that by today’s standards is incomprehensible. This was and is, if you’ve tried to fly into here recently, one of the most unreachable places in America. At that point nothing came here expect the little train primarily used for hauling sheep. But Harriman said ‘I want it up and I want it up now,’ and low and behold, Union Pacific (and it’s hard to imagine a corporation of that capability today) put up this resort in 11 months. There was no zoning, no politicians, no litigation over environment, they just put it up. From bowling balls to beds to bourbon, the railroad got it here. And 11 months after he made that decision, the front doors open and the customers came.

Van on Eastwood [Clint Eastwood wrote the introduction to The Sun Valley Story]
“Clint Eastwood produced and directed and starred in a movie called Pale Rider, which was shot just north of here in the Boulder Mountains. It was for him a marvelous experience because he could go shoot on location for most of the day and then drive home – he’s had a home here forever – and play golf in the late afternoon. It was just the epitome of an ideal movie-making experience for him, and it was a heck of a good movie.”

Ernest Hemingway loved Sun Valley in the fall, in particular for the hunting opportunities it afforded. Photo courtesy Sun Valley Resort.

Van on Ernest Hemingway
“Hemingway came and stayed in room 206 of the Sun Valley Lodge, a great place to spend the night, a lovely, small suite. It was there he finished his book For Whom The Bell Tolls. He loved it here, his times here were good and he developed an incredibly strong relationship with Gary Cooper. Many of his good times involved being in this town. But ultimately, it ended tragically.”

Van on Ernest Hemingway’s Ketchum home
“[After his suicide in Ketchum] the home he and Mary had bought here was given to The Nature Conservancy, which has been both a good landlord and a useless landlord (it’s currently in one of its good phases). The house is in pretty good shape. A lot of the Hemingway material that was left behind has been pilfered, the best of Hemingway in the house was given to the Kennedy Library at Harvard. At one time, I headed an ill-advised committee, of which I was the premier ill advising person, and we worked with The Nature Conservancy to try and open the house for limited public access. The neighbors, and I can understand their motivation, said no, we don’t want outsiders traipsing through here. So the house is marooned and fundamentally inaccessible to the public.”

Van on Bill Janss [Sun Valley Resort's second owner]
“Bill Janss was a marvelous human being. He was generous, he was kind. He was an Olympic skier, who was unable to compete in the Olympics due to the war, and he really got that mountain into remarkable shape. He turned it into the best ski mountain in the country. Unfortunately, he never could learn how to rent rooms, sell food, run retail establishments or sell condos, he had none of those skills.”

Van on Earl and Carol Holding [Current owners of the resort]
“The Holdings have been generous caring owners of this facility, the improvements they have made, from the snow-making to that gorgeous pavilion, have been remarkable. They made it work. Now we have a good valley, we have a great business here, and we need new hotels. The Holding family want to put a big hotel out at River Run, a ‘ski in, ski out’ establishment. But they can’t do that without a better airport. If any of you have tried to fly in here recently you’ll understand. This city, this valley is at a point now where it has to determine whether it has the courage and the capacity to fix the airport or move the airport, so that there can be direct flights from around the country to bring people in here. The Holdings are very old, no one knows what their children want to do, but their children are highly regarded – fundamentally the jury’s out on where all of this will go.”

Van on the future of Sun Valley [in response to the question "Where do you see the valley in 10 years time?"]
“I would say it’s all up to the airport. It’s a double edged sword. If we get the airport so it works here and the airline starts to have direct flights from Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles wherever, we’ll see a dramatic influx of tourists. On the one hand that’s good, but it’s going to change the ambiance of where we live. There’s no doubt about it. My bottom line is, this is a beautiful place even tourists can’t destroy it, and it will be a better and better place if we do make it easier to get here. It’s impossible to get here now, it’s impossible to sell it to a large swath of the public because it’s so hard to get here.”

Van on the airport [in response to a question on the politics of the airport]
“I have been cautioned never to raise politics at this event… . There is a division in the community. Those who want an airport are trying to find ways to either change the airport runway or to move the airport down beyond highways 20 and 75. But their first choice has frigging grouse on it. Here’s a community of 25,000 people, desperately needs an airport and there’s mating grouse there. Can’t these grouse mate somewhere else? Whatever, that site is a long way from the resort, the construction expense would have been enormous. But without an airport that accommodates small commercial jets, this valley will wither and become non-competitive.”

–Jennifer Tuohy
(aka Mrs. Sun)

The Sun Valley Story, by Van Gordon Sauter, was written to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the resort.

Details: Sun Valley Story, written by Van Gordon Sauter, with a foreword by Clint Eastwood, this glamorous coffee table book contains previously unpublished vintage images, as well as lavish four-color photographs from the last decade, including the Castle Rock Fire, the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference, Allen & Co. Conference and the personalities that define Sun Valley today. See some excerpts from the book here, and buy a copy 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)