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

Spring Renewal

Wonderful changes are underway at the storied Sun Valley Lodge

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!"

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 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

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

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.


Family of Women Gather in Sun Valley

Welcome film fans!

Welcome film fans!

The seventh annual Family of Woman Film Festival returned to Sun Valley this week, bringing both rising and established documentary filmmakers to town to screen movies guaranteed to provoke thought, spur conversation and encourage action. This year, the weeklong event, running through March 10, focuses on the subject of education for women throughout the world.

This year’s theme “advocates for the empowerment of women and girls,” according to festival organizers. Events include not only the screening of powerful films at the Sun Valley Opera House, but intimate discussions with the filmmakers, the first Bonni Curran Memorial Lecture for the Health and Dignity of Women, receptions, events at Ketchum’s Community Library and much more.

On Friday, filmmakers Allison Shigo, Freida Lee Mock and Alexi Pappas joined other directors for an intimate, casual roundtable at the Sun Valley Lodge

On Friday, filmmakers Allison Shigo, Freida Lee Mock and Alexi Pappas joined other directors for an intimate, casual roundtable at the Sun Valley Lodge

On Friday, five filmmakers gathered in the Sun Room at the Sun Valley Lodge to take part in a media roundtable discussion. Filmmakers Allison Shigo, “A Walk to Beautiful,” Academy and Emmy-Award winner Freida Lee Mock, “Anita,” Jeremy Teicher and Alexi Pappas, “Tall as the Baobab Tree,” and Annie Eastman, “Bay of All Saints,” spoke about their projects in a casual, intimate atmosphere.

In addition to discussing their work, the artists all said how much they enjoyed participating at this festival in Sun Valley. Allison Shigo, who first brought her Emmy Award-winning documentary to the 2009 Family of Woman Film Festival and returned for a Filmmaker Update said, “I really enjoy this festival. There are so many fascinating filmmakers and the global perspective is inspiring and thought provoking.”

Annie Eastman said she was enjoying her first trip to Idaho to screen her film, "Bay of All Saints."

Annie Eastman said she was enjoying her first trip to Idaho to screen her film "Bay of All Saints."

This trip marked Eastman’s first time to Idaho and she said she was “just thrilled to have been picked.” She called Family of Woman “such a different festival experience.”

All the filmmakers acknowledged that part of what makes this festival unique is the opportunity to spend time with the other exhibitors, as well as members of the community. “We really get the opportunity to get to know each other,” Eastman said.

Academy Award winner Freida Lee Mock's next film focuses on Anita Hill (photo Anita Hill American Film Foundation)

Academy Award winner Freida Lee Mock's next film focuses on Anita Hill (photo Anita Hill American Film Foundation)

Freida Lee Mock, who may be best known for the Oscar-award winning film, “Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision,” said how happy she is to be back in Sun Valley. The film she brought this week, “Anita,” about the life of Anita Hill, will be released nationally in two weeks, so this experience was akin to the calm before the storm. Mock also glanced out the plate glass windows over Dollar Mountain and the iconic outdoor skating rink and smiled, “where else can you go skating, enjoy that amazing hot pool and still draw a fantastic, engaged audience to your film?”

Teicher agreed, “we really wanted to come because of the intimacy of this film festival. It’s a great way to connect with the a passionate audience and the other filmmakers.”

Filmmaker Jeremy Teicher said he appreciates the opportunity to get to know fellow directors at this festival as well as its global nature

Filmmaker Jeremy Teicher said he appreciates the opportunity to get to know fellow directors at this festival as well as its global perspective

Also in attendance was Festival founder Peggy Elliott Goldwyn whose commitment to human rights and the health and dignity of every woman compelled her to create this forum.

The Family of Woman Film Festival is closely aligned with the United Nations Population Fund. Goldwyn joined the board of this organization in 2003 and according to a statement, “one of my main duties was to make the American public aware that the UN had a women’s agency and of the remarkable work it did. My first thought was to use film – but how?” This longtime part-time resident decided Sun Valley was the perfect place to find the support she needed to make this dream a reality.

Three years ago, photographer and philanthropist Stephanie Perenchio joined Goldwyn as co-chair of the festival. The commitment and capability of these two women and the organization’s many volunteers and supporters saw the festival grow. Screenings moved to the Sun Valley Opera House and the festival partnered with the Sun Valley Company to continue to bring the filmmaker’s messages to bigger audiences.

Screenings for the Family of Woman Film Festival take place at Sun Valley's historic Opera House

Screenings for the Family of Woman Film Festival take place at Sun Valley's historic Opera House

Perenchio said in a statement, “It’s one thing to read about intolerance or gender persecution in the newspapers; it’s a significantly different thing to see the stories unfold on the big screen. To have a chance to talk with filmmakers or people featured in these films adds a layer of understanding.”

The passion for the projects this year’s featured filmmakers brought to Sun Valley was readily evident in their careful, thoughtful responses at Friday’s roundtable. While we in Sun Valley may not think every day about issues such as early marriage for Senegalese girls, obstetric fistula in Ethiopia, or the plight of single mothers in Brazil fighting for their homes, audiences here embrace opportunities to learn about issues challenging women throughout the world and look forward to the eighth installment of the Family of Woman Film Festival next spring.

For the festival’s schedule, please click HERE.


Christina Healy Trunk Show – Sun Valley Lodge Gift Shop 2pm – 5pm

Come check out the latest designs by Christina Healy at the Sun Valley Lodge Gift Shop from 2pm – 5pm on Friday, February 21st.

Annual Valentine’s Dinner Dance – The Sun Valley Lodge Dining Room. Friday, February 7th at 6:30pm

Ode to Sun Valley

For the Marziello family of New Jersey, Sun Valley holds a special place. Lisabeth Marziello started bringing her four children to the Resort for the magical holiday season when they were tiny and has returned for the past 15 years for the lively week of December 26 through New Years’. Her parents, Bill and Harriet Harris, have been Sun Valley loyalists for 25 years.

The Marziello family at Baldy from left: Samantha, Joseph, Sophia and Fiona. And, yes, that is Sylvester Stallone in the middle!

The Marziello family at Baldy from left: Samantha, Joseph, Sophia and Fiona. And, yes, that is Sylvester Stallone in the middle!

“The children have all learned to ski in Sun Valley, starting in the preschool program on Dollar, and moved with their favorite instructor, Basil, to Baldy,” Lisabeth explained. “They are now all black diamond skiers!”

The family also returns during the warm weather months to ice skate, horseback ride, bicycle and go whitewater rafting. In all, according to Lisabeth, the family that includes Joseph, 21, Samantha, 20, Fiona, 16, and Sophia, 14, spend about a month in Idaho each year.

When assigned an essay in English class this fall, 14-year-old Sophia, a freshman, composed an evocative piece detailing what she loves about winter in Sun Valley. This ode reminds that Sun Valley is a place that cultivates lifelong relationships, lifelong loyalty. The essay, which incidentally received an A grade, appears below.


Another reason to love Sun Valley, no matter your age: the gourmet hot cocoa bar at a la mode

Another reason to love Sun Valley, no matter your age: the gourmet hot cocoa bar at a la mode in the Village

Sun Valley by Sophia Marziello
In the wintertime, a blanket of shimmering snow covers the ground for as far as the eye can see. The sweet aroma of hot chocolate fills the air as you walk down the peaceful streets of Sun Valley,

The wind as cold as ice hits across your face, as you race down the slopes of Mt. Baldy; which is one of the greatest features of Sun Valley. In the small, but spirited, town of Sun Valley, Idaho, there are so many great things to do. From skiing, to sleigh rides, and drinking Sun Valley’s famous hot chocolate, everyone is guaranteed to have a great time. In Sun Valley, while the snow is falling, and the air is filled with the laughter and cheer of your family, it seems like a perfect Winter Wonderland.

Christmas lights light up the night, as you listen to the wonderful voices of carolers, and take in the majestic scenery of Sun Valley. Surrounded by trees, chirping birds, and the smell of smoke,
from nearby bon fires, there is no other place I would rather be. One of my favorite places in Sun Valley is the Sun Valley Lodge.

Surrounding the beautiful Lodge, are dozens of ice sculptures, made by local, creative, artists. From animals, to sleds, and the annual great Sun, these sculptures come in all different shapes and sizes.

From the moment I step off the plane, and feel the cool breeze of winter glide across my face, I know that I have finally arrived in Sun Valley, and I feel right at home. Sun Valley will always be close to my heart, because of the fond memories I made their, the majestic scenery, the peaceful walks with my family, the fun activities, and of course, their famous hot chocolate.

Come taste the hot chocolate that won Sophia's stamp of approval at a la mode

Come taste the hot chocolate that won Sophia's stamp of approval at a la mode

For a young lady, this loyalty can begin with something as simple, but as tasty, as the hot chocolate bar at a la mode in the Sun Valley Village. For the many families who have made Sun Valley a holiday tradition for 10, 20, even 40 years, the loyalty may have started with a special lunch at Roundhouse, a memorable day in the powder, cross country skiing next to Trail Creek … whatever it was, it kept them coming back.

We look forward to seeing the Marziello family back at the Sun Valley Lodge in December or warming up with a gourmet hot chocolate at a la mode. We are certain Sophia and her family will create new memories to last a lifetime during this holiday season.

The holidays in Sun Valley truly are magical -- from giant ice sculptures to horse drawn sleighs

The holidays in Sun Valley truly are magical -- from giant ice sculptures to horse drawn sleighs

After all, holidays in Sun Valley spring straight from a well-worn, best-loved children’s storybook. It looks like winter is supposed to look with snow blanketing tall mountains and dusting the branches of fir trees. It smells like it’s supposed to smell with the ubiquitous, welcoming, warm scent of wood burning fires. It feels like it’s supposed to feel with cold temperatures biting cheeks and noses, but the warm sun mitigating the sting. It sounds like it’s supposed to sound, whether that sound is jingle bells on a passing horse-drawn sleigh, carolers circulating during the holiday season, or the bell at Warm Springs Lodge pinging to announce that freshly baked cookies are hot out of the oven.

Come visit us this winter and your family will be the main characters in this wonderful, time-proven tale. Like the Marziello family, chances are you will be back again and again and again.


Jazz It Up

On October 16, Sun Valley will jump, jive and wail for five days as the annual Jazz Jamboree, and all the live music, dancing and fun that comes with it, swings into town.  There is no cooler place to be!

Jazz Jamboree swings back into town next week

Jazz Jamboree swings back into town next week for the 24th music-filled year

People travel to Jazz HQ at the Sun Valley Lodge from all over the country for one of the most highly anticipated festivals around. Why? To listen to the music of more than 40 bands; to watch 260 shows on ten stages; to dance the night away after learning all the moves; to see old friends and make new ones; to take advantage of this spectacular time of year in this one-of-a-kind place. The fun is non-stop as enthusiasts choose from live jazz, Dixieland, Swing, Zydeco, and the Blues all day and all night, at all types of venues.

40 bands, 260 acts, 10 stages ... enough said!

40 bands, 260 acts, 10 stages ... enough said!

This 24th installment of the Jazz Jamboree story has some special events. Free dance lessons and an amateur dance competition will get everyone moving.  Come out to check out the All Star Big Band Bashes, a Marching Band Salute, a Pianist Showcase, even a Jazz Worship service. For a full schedule of what is available, click HERE.

The party kicks off with a free event and the entire community is invited to come out and tap their toes. At 7 p.m. on October 15, Meschiya Lake & Dem Lil’ Big Horns will get things rolling with their supercharged take on New Orleans style jazz. Opening for Lake (who incidentally was honored Best Female Performer at the 2011 Big Easy Music Awards) and her band will be the Wood River High School Dixie Band. The action takes place at the indoor Sun Valley indoor ice rink that is converted into a fantastic jazz club, replete with a sprung dance floor, for the duration of the Jamboree.

A Next Generation concert, scheduled for October 19 at 5 p.m. in the Limelight Room includes my favorite act at the Jazz Jamboree – the Whiffenpoofs of Yale. This all-male A capella group, founded in 1909, consisting of 14 seniors, is the world’s oldest, and perhaps best know, collegiate A cappella group. Every year, I take my children to see the Whiffenpoofs’ concert and their music and style always carry me back 20-plus years to my undergraduate years in New Haven. My children remain impressed that the Whiffs still perform in tails and I love seeing formal wear in the middle of the Idaho mountains. Performing with the Whiffenpoofs at this free event are Bill, Shelley & Westy and high school choirs. 

Whether your taste runs to funky New Orleans grooves, big band swing, rhythm and blues, traditional jazz, sousaphones, lyrical standards, big band or almost any other permeation of this always-evolving music, you will find something to love at the Jazz Jamboree.

The Whiffenpoofs of Yale entertain fans of all ages in style at the Jazz Jamboree

The Whiffenpoofs of Yale entertain fans of all ages in style at the Jazz Jamboree

Sun Valley invites all jazz enthusiasts to take advantage of special room packages during the Jazz Jamboree. Call 208.622.2030 or email reservations@sunvalley.com for rates reserved for festival participants and stay and play right in the middle of the action.

Come join the party!


Sun Valley History: The wagons of Wagon Days

The 55th Wagon Days parade takes place tomorrow, Saturday Aug. 31 at 1 p.m. In honor of the event, The Valley Sun’s guest blogger Jennifer Tuohy digs into the history behind the centerpiece of the parade, The Big Hitch, also known as the Lewis Ore Wagons, the only wagons of their kind in existence today.

The 2013 Wagon Days poster by Ketchum photographer Steve Snyder showcases the majestic beauty of the Lewis Ore Wagons. Click on the poster to purchase a copy.

On August 15, 1958, Katherine Lewis rode down Ketchum’s Main Street as the Queen of the very first Wagon Days Parade. It was her 85th birthday, and the town she had called home for seven decades was honoring her in a way only this town could. Behind her snaked a line of seven unique ore wagons that had been pulled out of storage especially in honor of Ketchum’s grande dame.

As Kate, as she was known, watched the giant wagons rumble through town for the first time in over a decade her thoughts likely travelled back through the years to the story behind this remarkable sight. A story that began, as many stories of the Wild West do, with the quest for gold.

In May of 1879, David Ketchum arrived in Idaho’s Wood River Valley searching for metallic treasures in its mountains. Although he discovered the first lead and silver deposits in the area, Ketchum left a few months later. But many came behind him, chasing the same dream, and on August 2, 1880, the town of Ketchum was born.

One of those who followed in Ketchum’s footsteps was Issac Lewis. But he didn’t come just to mine, he came to build a community. Hailing from Butte, Montana, Lewis was a banker and a businessman and – as many businessmen did in those days – he saw an opportunity to create a community out of this town of dusty mining tents and dirty miners. He quickly invested in real estate, opened the town’s first drug store, helped build the Gueyer Hot Springs Resort, purchased the weekly newspaper, and constructed the town’s first bank. In his own words he “virtually made the town.” The effort Issac put into building Ketchum is still visible in the form of the First National Bank building which still stands on Main Street.

Issac’s son, Horace, soon joined him from Montana, along with his wife, Katherine. They settled on the brand new Lewis Ranch, which extended from just east of what is now Spruce Avenue in Ketchum to the mouth of Trail Creek Canyon. Horace, looking out at the daunting mountains surrounding his new home, spied another investment opportunity for his family: transporting the lead and silver from the valleys beyond into the new railroad-town of Ketchum.

The Lewis Ore Wagons remain a centerpiece of the valley's history. Alongside Bald Mountain they are one of the most recognizable features of the former mining town of Ketchum. Photo courtesy Sun Valley Resort.

In 1884 he formed the Ketchum & Challis Toll Road company to construct a road over the precipitous Trail Creek Summit and built a chain of massive wagons known as the Ketchum Fast Freight Line. A testament to human engineering and masterful animal husbandry, these giant wagons carried between 18,000 and 24,000 pounds of ore along a road no wider than a wagon. They careened around hairpin turns and teetered along sheer ledges on giant six-foot wheels, covering 12 to 14 miles per day. Built to withstand the stresses of traversing the summit loaded with ore, the wagons were daisy chained together and powered by a team of draft mules, chosen for their temperament, strength and stamina. This awesome combination of metal, wood and beast was masterfully controlled by a unique craftsman, the mule skinner. Using a jerk-line, a rein approximately 100 feet long attached to each member of the team, the mule skinner controlled as many as 20 mules at a time through a series of distinct whips and jerks.

This video demonstrates the skill of the mule skinner, showing how each mule in the team of up to twenty, must be commanded to perform a different task. (Not displaying? Click here.)

At the height of the mining activity in the Wood River, Big Lost, and Salmon River valleys the Ketchum Fast Freight Line employed 700 mules and 30 wagons to haul 700,000 pounds of ore to the Philadelphia Smelter on Warm Springs Road annually. There it was turned from raw ore into precious metal and shipped down the Oregon Short Line railroad.

Between 1880 and 1885 approximately $12 million worth of lead and silver left the valley. By 1902, when rail service to Mackay and Challis arrived, the Ketchum Fast Freight Line became obsolete and in 1909 the wagons were retired for good. Two years later Horace passed away.

For a couple years, the wagons sat sadly in a barn on the Lewis Ranch. Then, in 1911, Horace’s widow, Katherine, sold the ranch to Ernest Brass, moving down the road to a house in town. Her home is also still standing, currently occupied by the Elephant’s Perch sporting goods shop.

Kate Lewis's moved into this home in Ketchum in 1911. It is now the Elephant's Perch sporting goods store. Photo from Google Maps.

Connoisseurs of the history of Sun Valley Resort will have already made the connection in this story. That ranch between Ketchum and Trail Creek, which Kate sold to the Brass family, had a grander future in store.

For the next 20 years Ernest Brass and his large family struggled to get by. In January 1936, after losing half his herd to an appetite for the poisonous purple larkspur, Brass met a handsome foreigner named Count Felix Schaffgotsch. Schaffgotsch was on a scouting mission for Averell Harriman, searching for the perfect spot at the end of a railroad track on which the president of Union Pacific Railroad could build a luxurious ski lodge. Brass Ranch was that spot. In April, Ernest Brass sold his 3,888 acres to Union Pacific for $39,000. That December the Sun Valley Lodge opened its doors. Among the names on the guest list for opening night was Katherine Lewis.

The wagons on the other hand, were not invited to the party. Mining had long since been replaced in the valley’s economy by sheep, who had no need for breakneck rides down mountain sides. These giant emblems of Ketchum’s past sat in a rapidly crumbling barn along what is now Sun Valley Road until 1925 when one of the valley’s last teamsters, Sam Sanders, brought them out for the Fourth of July parade, and then one more time in 1940 for the Sun Valley Rodeo. For the next 15 years the wagons were left silent and forgotten. Then, in 1958, the city of Ketchum was looking for a way to honor its founding mother Kate Lewis’ 85th birthday. What better way to do that than to resurrect the source of her family’s fortunes, the Lewis Ore Wagons, and parade them through town, in what became known as the first Wagon Days parade.

In October 1958, two months after riding triumphantly through Ketchum, Kate Lewis passed away. Her nephew Palmer G Lewis, donated the wagons to the city on the condition that they be displayed once a year to commemorate Idaho’s mining heritage, and so the annual event that is Wagon Days was born.

In 1985 the wagons were given their very own home, a museum designed and built especially to house them, and allow them to be on display year round. The city has kept its promise to the Lewis family, and trots out these massive symbols of American history annually (barring wildfire and city politics) for the grand finale to the Wagon Days Parade. Held Labor Day weekend, the event has extended into a 5 day festival celebrating the area’s heritage, but the Saturday parade at 1 p.m. is still the centerpiece, and the Lewis Ore Wagons’ hair-raising trip down Sun Valley Road and around the corner onto Main Street is still the highlight. If she could see what “her town” has become, and the smiles of joy the parade brings to the thousands who gather to watch the largest non-motorized parade in the West, Kate would be so very proud.

Jennifer Tuohy

Preserving this unique and irreplaceable relic of history is a costly effort. As the Lewis Ore Wagons near their 130th birthday, the Wagon Days Committee is looking to raise $10,000 to help maintain the wagons through an indiegogo campaign. Donate to the campaign here.

For a full schedule of events this Wagon Days’ weekend go hereFor a list of the 100 unique wagons from across the West participating in the 2013 Wagon Days’ parade click here.  


Free Fly Casting Clinics

Hosted By Silver Creek Outfitters

DATES: Starts Tuesday June 25th runs through Labor Day Weekend 

Tuesday through Saturday 5:30 – 6:30pm

Join a member of our guiding team and learn to fly cast, or brush up on that double haul technique. With our new location in Sun Valley, we are now able to offer nightly casting clinics to all who are curious or just a little rusty. We offer nightly sessions Tuesday through Saturday on the lawn in front of the Sun Valley Lodge from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm. Equipment will be provided, but feel free to bring your own.

Location: On the lawn in front of the Sun Valley Lodge


World-class Wellness

Sun Valley is the perfect place to focus on mind, body and soul

Sun Valley is the perfect place to focus on mind, body and soul

For years, I considered my lengthy summer sojourns to Sun Valley an opportunity to regroup: to think, to get fit and healthy and to change up my normal routine for the better. In other words, I always thought of my time here as ‘Spa Sun Valley.’ While many of my friends paid exorbitant prices at wellness retreats so that they could work out, eat well and get a little synthesis for the soul, I did everything they were doing and more, in my normal day-to-day activities. From mineral hot springs, to breathtaking hikes, from spa treatments to fresh, healthy food, Sun Valley’s clean air, sunshine and gorgeous scenery provided the ultimate reboot, addressing mind, body and soul.

And that was without the benefit of attending the annual Sun Valley Wellness Festival. This event, chosen by Travel to Wellness as one of the Top 12 wellness vacations in the world, returns to the Resort from May 23 – 27. It is my version of ‘Spa Sun Valley’ taken up a few notches! Whether you are traveling 10, 100 or 1000 miles to attend Wellness Festival events, you are sure to experience an eye opening and habit-altering reboot.

Hiking in the area provides a fresh vantage point

Hiking in the area provides a fresh vantage point

“Sun Valley has always been a destination for health and wellness,” said Nick Maricich, Sun Valley Wellness Chairman. “Since Sun Valley’s opening in 1937, people have come from all over the world for healing experiences in this pristine alpine environment. Whether it is skiing, fishing, hiking, golfing, bike riding or simply watching the sun rise over the Pioneer Mountains, being in Sun Valley encourages an openness to new ideas, a re-centering and re-framing of priorities. It is the Sun Valley Wellness Institute’s mission to build on these experiences and to help Sun Valley get the recognition it deserves as one of the top destinations in the world for all aspects of health and wellness.”

Energy guru Amory Lovins is a featured speaker at the Wellness Festival

Energy guru Amory Lovins is a featured speaker at the Wellness Festival

The Memorial weekend Wellness Festival is the epicenter for this goal. For the mind, the Festival brings some of the most prominent speakers from many fields to the Sun Valley Inn. This year, one of the predominant questions asked by organizers is: What does energy have to do with wellness? The answer? Everything! Keynote speakers on this topic are global energy leaders Amory Lovins and James Woolsey. Their talk, to be held at the Sun Valley Inn Continental Room on Saturday, May 25, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., focuses on energy present and energy future. According to Festival organizers, “energy underpins our planet’s health and our personal health, from enabling alleviation of suffering from poverty, to providing clean air, to helping to ensure our national security. Energy is perhaps our greatest challenge, but also our greatest opportunity.”

During a break from Wellness Festival activities, the bike path awaits

During a break from Wellness Festival activities, the bike path awaits

Another part of the complete wellness picture, focusing on health and the body, is the Hands-On-Hall. Free to the public, everyone is encouraged to stop by the Inn for massage, healing touch, energy work, Tarot card readings and Henna body art that is particularly popular with the younger set (children are welcome).

To address the spirit, 16 workshops will be offered throughout the weekend focusing on topics as diverse as ‘Attuning to the Unseen World,’ ‘New Beginnings,’ ‘The Four Pillars of Health’ and ‘An Introduction to the Human Design System.’ These workshops are intimate and guaranteed to engage participants on a truly meaningful level. Please click here for tickets for all lectures and workshops and further information.

Trailheads to wonderful hikes lie just across Sun Valley Road from the Lodge, and spread north, south, east and west. Bikes are for rent at Pete Lane’s, located in the Village, and a bike path is readily accessible. Between lectures, workshops and inspiration at the Festival, take time to breathe the mountain air and let the Sun Valley sun work its magic. Take a break beside the scenic swan pond and let everything you have heard and seen sink in. Chat with friends in the Lobby Lounge. Grab a healthy bite at one of the Resort’s many restaurants.

The Resort's two outdoor hot pools are a great way to naturally relieve stress

The Resort's two outdoor hot pools are a great way to naturally relieve stress

To enjoy the full benefit of a wellness retreat, book a room at the Lodge or Inn at a special rate of $120 a night (please call 1-800-786-8259 for details and reservations). As a guest of the Resort, enjoy ‘Spa Sun Valley’ at its finest – soak in the relaxing outdoor hot pools, book a fortifying body treatment at the Salon and Spa, indulge in healthy food and wonderfully comfortable beds. All the Festival offers will be moments away.

You don’t need to go far for a world-class wellness experience. It is all right here.


Go ahead, you're worth it

Go ahead, you're worth it