Sun Valley History: The Reindeer of Sun Valley


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Holidays!

Jennifer Tuohy

Grateful for the Original

Sun Valley's red barn

Home sweet home

“Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go. The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifting snow, oh!” Or so goes the old ditty sung by generations of school children as they prepared for Thanksgiving break. At least that’s what we sang back in the proverbial day, images of family, feasts and a sense of belonging percolating with each verse.

In this season of giving thanks, for me, over the river and through the woods took the form of a 10-hour road trip to my brother’s house, through some fiercely beautiful terrain and a lot of scrubland. I was surely thankful to arrive. I was thankful for the hugs from my nieces and nephews. I was thankful for my brother and my sister-in-law and their hospitality. I was really thankful for a washing machine and some Lysol wipes.

I was also thankful, after driving by dozens of ski areas, that I ski in Sun Valley. Very thankful. Just like many of America’s suburbs are indistinguishable, strip mall by strip mall, many ski areas also look like some mountain version of Levittown. A gondola or two and lots of lifts sprawl over runs that look like they never really reach their full potential. Short steep-ish slopes are intersected by roads and funneled into other runs. Many ski areas are only minutes from the highway and stretch one after the other after the other. Buildings eight stories high huddle with their bland edifices and cookie cutter balconies and pools. Luxury homes line the edges of runs, condos dot the hills. Base areas are built up and lifts are accessed by concrete walkways.

Sun Valley is an original. In my travels, I have yet to see any resort that looks anything like it. From our opulent day lodges to our mountains whose slopes are untouched by driveways and homes, Sun Valley looks like I think a ski resort should: a touch European, elegant, unique, family-owned. I love skiing to the base of River Run or Warm Springs, or over to Roundhouse, and gathering in a central location with my friends. Our mountain was not conceived in a corporate office and you can tell. I know I am biased. I decided to make Sun Valley my home and raise my children here – of course I am captivated by our style of charm. I learned to ski in Sun Valley back in 1983 and have yet to find another ski area that equally appeals. Getting a glance at other ski resorts during our epic road trip made me even more grateful for what we have.

Sometimes you have to leave, to travel over the river and through the woods, to really appreciate from whence you came. I am grateful for my hometown, my ski resort and the season that lies ahead. From my people to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.


A new chapter for The Valley Sun

From Mountain Babies to Beach Babies: Mrs. Sun and the Sun family are moving on...

The summer of 2012 was one of the most fun and fulfilling I’ve spent in Sun Valley during my nine years living in this great state of Idaho. And if you don’t believe me just look back over the 40 or so posts I wrote on this blog in the last three months! But sadly, it was to be my last Sun Valley summer. As I mentioned in a previous post, the Sun family are moving on. Family and careers are taking us to another great state, South Carolina, where we will be making our home in the equally historic city of Charleston.

While this is the end of the Sun Valley story for myself and my young family, I will continue to drop in on The Valley Sun blog from time to time, posting on my favorite topic: the history of Sun Valley Resort. (Do please let me know in the comments below if there’s any particular slice of Sun Valley history you’d like to know more about).

Meanwhile, I am putting the reins of The Valley Sun in the more-than-capable hands of Robin Sias.  An excellent journalist and local freelance writer, Robin is a mother of three and a Sun Valley resident for close to three decades. I’m sure her family will enjoy showing you the ins and outs, ups and downs and general joys of being in Sun Valley as much as mine have done these past few months.

Many thanks for spending the summer with me and my family, I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. And personally, I’m excited to see what Robin and her brood get up to this winter, so be sure to stay tuned… .

Happy Trails!

Jennifer Tuohy (aka Mrs. Sun)

Want to keep up with the former Sun family on their new adventures? Follow me on Twitter or visit my personal site here.

Wine, wheels and history

Mr. & Mrs. Sun join Elissa on last week's Wheels & Wine Tour.

On my first trip back to London after moving out to Idaho, I took my husband on a bus tour. How silly, I thought to myself, being a  tourist in my own hometown. But that tour showed me a side of my city I had never seen before. It opened my eyes to just what an exceptional place I had grown up in. In a similar fashion, the Wheels & Wine Tour on offer at Sun Valley is a real eye-opener. Just as the bus tour was for my husband, this bike tour is a great orientation for any new visitor to Sun Valley, but it is also a perfect peek into the history and wide-variety of activities on offer here at the resort for anyone with an interest. So, whether you’re a longtime local, a Sun Valley sophomore or a first-time flyer, the Wheels & Wine Tour is a great pit-stop during your time in Sun Valley.

Don't worry, the wine comes after the bike ride!

Last Thursday, Mr. Sun and I ditched the little ones to head out on the tour and get a taste of Sun Valley history, as well as a decent look at a few bottles of Northwest wines (this was in fact the motivating factor for our outing, and an ideal carrot to dangle in front of any reluctant party.)

First off, a disclaimer, this is not a strenuous bike ride, no headers down Baldy here, it is all flat, gentle riding around the resort and along some of the paved bike path to take in the outer-lying reaches of Sun Valley.

The tour began in front of Pete Lane’s Mountain Sports in the Sun Valley Village with an introduction from Mark Blaubach, who was to be our guide. Mark developed the tour, which is in its second season. An impressive figure, Mark was clearly built for serious bike riding, so it’s a little comical to see him puttering gently around the resort on a town bike stocked with wine bottles and a checkered picnic basket.

Mark and his wife, Faye, who also works at Pete Lanes, found Sun Valley a few years ago, after they had quit their high-powered executive jobs and sold everything to travel around the country in an RV. They happened upon the Wood River Valley and quickly figured out a way to stay here all summer long.

Mark Blaubach gives a great tour on wheels.

Once assembled, our little group – Mr. Sun and myself, plus the delightful Elissa from California – then proceeded to the first stop on the tour, The Sun Valley Lodge.

I won’t go into all the history and anecdotes Mark shares on the hour-and-a-half trip, you’ll have to get out and experience it for yourself. Being something of a connoisseur of Sun Valley’s history (I’ve written a few articles on it, including this one on the building of the resort and this one on Count Felix Shaffgotsch, who discovered Sun Valley), I was familiar with most of his stories, but the revelation that the famous Sun Valley Lodge swans share their home with The Pioneer Piranhas was news to me. Apparently, the pond is chock full of what Mark describes as “the most obese rainbow trout in the world,” courtesy of their high-carb diet, which consists of copious amounts of leftover bread from The Konditorei Cafe. Mark demonstrated how they will eat straight out of your hand (the fish that is – don’t try this with the swans!). Lots of fun for the little ones.

Mr. Sun enjoying the leisurely wheels part of the tour

The tour also takes in the Opera House, Inn, ice rink, pavilion, White Clouds trails, club house, Trail Creek Cabin, gun club, Hemingway memorial, the world’s first chairlift and of course, Bald Mountain. At each stop Mark offers up tidbits of history as well as highlighting the different activities at the resort, a handy thing as, honestly, despite living here for 9 years I only discovered the Olympic pool and tennis courts this summer!

Following the obligatory snapshot in front of (a smoke-obscured) Baldy Mountain, which Mark dutifully posted to Pete Lanes’ Facebook page, we headed in to the Lodge’s Duchin Room to meet Paul Johnson, the resort’s assistant beverage director. Here we were greeted with a generous tasting of five Northwest wines from the resort’s cellars, accompanied by detailed tasting notes courtesy of the very knowledgable Paul.

All in all, a lovely afternoon’s activity.

Happy trails!

Mrs. Sun

Details: The tour is $29, including bike rental, and wine tasting. Head over the Pete Lanes’ Facebook page for pictures of previous tour groups. Wheels and Wine runs every Thursday at 4 p.m., throughout the summer, ending Labor Day. If you fancy something a little more low-key, the resort also offers a free hour-long, guided hike, leaving from Pete Lane’s every Friday at 10 a.m. This covers similar topics, such as local history and activities and places to go during your stay. Call 208.622.2279 or email for more details.



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.

Welcome to The Valley Sun

Jennifer Pattison Tuohy aka Mrs. Sun. Photo by Paulette Phlipot.

Welcome to The Valley Sun, the new blog from Sun Valley Resort. Named after the original Sun Valley Lodge newspaper, which bore the tagline “Covering the Valley Like the Snow,” this blog will be packed full of newsy tidbits and anecdotes about life at Sun Valley Resort. The Valley Sun debuted in 1937 during the resort’s second season and was the place to get the skinny on America’s premiere destination ski resort and I’m honored to be a part of its electronic rebirth.

This seems a good place to introduce myself, I’m Jennifer Pattison Tuohy, or Mrs. Sun as I have christened myself for the pages of this blog. Born in Manhattan, raised in London, England, and married to an Idahoan transplant, I have a strong affinity with Sun Valley. We both have our roots in Europe, we both have a healthy dose of big city glamour tempered by deep adoration for the rugged outdoor lifestyle, and we both love this great state of Idaho.

A Wood River Valley resident for close to a decade, I came to this area by happy accident, much the same as the man who “discovered” Sun Valley over seven decades ago, Count Felix Schaffgotsch. He stumbled upon this place at the bitter end of a long, arduous journey, when he had almost given up hope of finding what he was looking for.

The history of Sun Valley is rich and varied – conceived as a playground for the wealthy and the famous, transformed into a laboratory for spectacular innovations in winter sports, and reigning now as the original destination vacation resort in America, Sun Valley is treasure trove of stories. In my other life, I’m a journalist and editor of the Sun Valley Guide magazine, where I’ve written numerous articles on that history, and I hope to share many more with you on this blog.

But Sun Valley is about so much more than its singular heritage, it’s also a multi-faceted place, where many have lived, loved and had buckets of fun. Catering to a wide variety of tastes as well as pandering to those with single-track minds, the resort is a living, breathing character that I hope to capture on these digital pages. I’ll be keeping you informed on the events and activities coming up, as well as reporting back on them for those who couldn’t join us. I’ll also be taking my family out and about to sample the delights of the seasons. They’ve agreed to let me share their experiences here to provide a glimpse of the bounty of family fun to be had in Sun Valley. My husband, Brian (Mr. Sun) brought me to Idaho in 2003, since then we’ve added to our family Owen (Little Sun, 4) and Rose (Baby Sun, 18 months), who will occasionally have cameos in my posts.

Above all, this blog aims to capture the vitality of Sun Valley Resort by reflecting and reporting on what matters to those who love it and who hope to come to love it. So please, help me out and tell me what you love about Sun Valley in the comment section below.

Happy Trails!

Mrs. Sun

p.s. Be sure to subscribe to the blog (enter your email address in the box on the left) so you can get each post delivered directly to your inbox, and also follow Sun Valley Resort on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ for up-to-the-minute info.

SKIING HERITAGE: Sun Valley Torchlight Parade

A Sun Valley Tradition

By Alec Barfield

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

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


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

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

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

>> Event Details: 

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

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

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

Happy 75th Birthday to Sun Valley!

Carving turns down memory lane

By Mike McKenna

On the unseasonably warm and fateful day of December 21, 1936, Sun Valley officially opened to skiing. To mark the 75th birthday of America’s original destination ski resort, we’ll take a run down memory lane–not to be confused with Pete Lane’s Mountain Sports–and highlight some of the unique and interesting happenings from each of the last eight decades on (and off) the slopes of Sun Valley.*

1930s: Legend has it that just as the last workmen were putting the finishing touches on the Sun Valley Lodge and sneaking out the back door, celebrities like Clark Gable were walking in the front. Every detail of the grand opening was said to be perfect (except for the snow, which showed up a few days late) and after throwing a star-studded opening night dinner at the Lodge, a new star was born on the world’s ski scene–Sun Valley, Idaho! (The Gilbert Stanley Underwood exhibit at the Ketchum Sun Valley Historical Society-Heritage & Ski Museum is "must see" for any history or architecture fans.)

Leif Odmark, the original "Hot Dog Skier."

 1940s: Skiing, ice skating and enjoying life in the dreamy environs of Central Idaho grabs the nation’s attention with the release of the iconic film, "Sun Valley Serenade," which still shows daily at the Sun Valley Opera House. Even more positive attention shines upon Sun Valley when local skier Gretchen Fraser becomes the first American to win an Olympic gold medal for skiing.

1950s: Ernest Hemingway, who first started visiting Sun Valley in 1939, buys a home overlooking the Big Wood River, forever linking the literary giant to the Valley where he worked on some of his classics like "For Whom the Bell Tolls," which he wrote in Suite 206 of the Sun Valley Lodge.

1960s: Hot Dog skiing (now referred to as Freestyle) is born in Sun Valley. Led by the high-flying likes of local skiers Leif Odmark, Bobbie Burns and Penelope Street the sport takes off and by 1973 Sun Valley plays host to the first U.S Freestyle Championships.

Bobbie Burns graces the cover of Powder.

 1970s: Powder Magazine launches its first publication from an old cabin in Ketchum. Aimed at chronicling "the other ski experience," Powder finds its niche with a unique voice, stunning photography and by bringing "Powder to the People!" Powder celebrates its 40th birthday in December 2011 by throwing a legendary "Powder Prom" at Sun Valley’s Limelight Room.

1980s: After purchasing the resort in 1977, Earl and Carol Holding spend the next decade plus refurbishing America’s oldest ski resort. State-of-the-art snowmaking and ski lifts are installed. These two additions are still considered hallmarks and highlights of the Sun Valley ski experience–consistently offering some of the best snowmaking in the world, as well as the shortest lift lines at any major ski resort in the country.

1990s: Sun Valley’s day lodges at the base of River Run and Warm Springs are rebuilt and the Seattle Ridge Lodge is opened, redefining the standard of elegance and excellence that made Sun Valley "America’s Shangri-La." The award-winning day lodges are considered, as Earl Holding put it, the "crowning jewels" of the resort.

2000s: Sun Valley adds a 1,800 passenger per hour gondola. Running from River Run Lodge to the newly re-opened Roundhouse Restaurant and Averell’s Bar, the Sun Valley gondola (the largest Doppelmayr project in North America at the time) covers 2,000-feet in a mere eight minutes. A truly magical experience offering arguably the best views the Valley has to offer, dinner trips up to the Roundhouse have become popular year-round.

2010s: After a stunning remodel to Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge in 2004, Dollar kicks off the next decade and chapter in Sun Valley’s remarkable history by opening one the of best snow terrain parks in the nation (designed by the experts at Snow Park Technologies). This season, a half pipe will be built on Dollar as well.

*[All these stories–and much more, including hundreds of classic Sun Valley photographs–are part of Van Gordon Sauter’s new book in honor of the Resorts’ 75th anniversary, "The Sun Valley Story." Pick up a copy at any Sun Valley Resort shop.  If you’d like to look before you buy, visit to take a peek inside the book.]

Experience Sun Valley Dining


Trail Creek Cabin’s Baldy View Terrace.

Join us Wed. – Sat. night for dinner on the terrace or come out for a drink at our new River Bar! For reservations call 208-622-2800. We’ll see you soon!

Sun Valley Winter Resort Tour

Sure it may be July, but it’s never to early to start thinking about winter in Sun Valley. Let Bert Witsil take you on a tour of winter in Sun Valley and all that we have to offer.