Amer­ica’s first ski re­sort is still the jewel among win­ter play­grounds

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - DESTINATION IDAHO - MATT RAGGHIANTI

Averell Har­ri­man had a prob­lem. Though never a man to let ob­sta­cles stand in his way, the chair­man of the Union Pa­cific Rail­road and fu­ture Sec­re­tary of Com­merce and Gover­nor of New York sud­denly found him­self in a pre­car­i­ous po­si­tion.

Lodge con­struc­tion had ex­ceeded even his no­to­ri­ously lofty stan­dards and Har­ri­man’s friend and polo part­ner, David O. Selznik, ral­lied the troops to fill its rooms with Hol­ly­wood roy­alty in­clud­ing Sam Gold­wyn, Claudette Col­bert and Er­rol Flynn. The press was play­ing along and the trains were run­ning on time. He needed a truly grand open­ing, but, as the clock ticked closer to mid­night on New Year’s Eve 1936, Har­ri­man was forced to ac­cept the truth: even a man of his wealth and in­flu­ence couldn’t make it snow.

As fate would have it Jan­uary 1 in 1937 de­liv­ered a proper snow­storm, and Sun Val­ley, Idaho, pulled off its tri­umphant de­but as Amer­ica’s first ski re­sort. Be­fore 1936, win­ter in Amer­ica was some­thing to be en­dured, not en­joyed. And while some around the coun­try strapped on their skis out of ne­ces­sity, the con­cept of go­ing to the snow for fun sim­ply didn’t ex­ist.

That’s where Hol­ly­wood stepped in again.

When Dar­ryl Zanuck saw 1936 Olympic cham­pion fig­ure skater, Sonja He­nie skate in Los Angeles, he knew he could make the Nor­we­gian beauty a star. A few years later, she re­ceived top billing in 1941’s mu­si­cal romp, Sun Val­ley Ser­e­nade. Featuring a young Mil­ton Berle, spec­tac­u­lar danc­ing from Dorothy Dan­dridge and the Ni­cholas broth­ers, and the mu­sic of the Glenn Miller band, which recorded fa­mous song Chat­tanooga

Choo-Choo specif­i­cally for the film, the movie was a hit, earned three Os­car nom­i­na­tions and for­ever changed Amer­i­cans’ view of win­ter. Ski­ing wasn’t only fun, the film taught us … it was sexy.

Peo­ple flocked to Sun Val­ley, both to see the celebri­ties rid­ing up the moun­tain on the world’s first chair lift and to be seen them­selves, din­ing, drink­ing and danc­ing at the Sun Val­ley Lodge. Oth­ers took no­tice and the Amer­i­can ski in­dus­try was born.

To­day, 80 years later, Sun Val­ley re­mains the jewel of Amer­ica’s win­ter play­grounds.

In the Wood River Val­ley, sur­rounded by Idaho’s Saw­tooth Moun­tains, Sun Val­ley sits be­side the fron­tier town of Ketchum. Fly di­rectly into Sun Val­ley from Los Angeles, San Fran­cisco, Seat­tle or Salt Lake City or into Boise or Twin Falls from just about any­where else.



The newly re­fur­bished Sun Val­ley Lodge now in­cludes a world-class spa. The walls are cov­ered with pho­to­graphs of the lodge’s most fa­mous vis­i­tors from Gary Cooper and Louis Arm­strong to Ernest Hem­ing­way who, as part of a 15-year love af­fair with Sun Val­ley, fin­ished

For Whom the Bell Tolls in the suite (No. 206) which now bears his name. En­joy cock­tails in the Duchin Lounge while the kids play in the bowl­ing al­ley down­stairs, be­fore you all meet for an evening skate at the ho­tel’s fa­mous ice rink. This is the place that started it all.

The Sun Val­ley Inn is just steps away and a great op­tion along with new­comer, Lime­light, in the mid­dle of down­town Ketchum. Need more space? There are plenty of Airbnb op­tions, too.



Need to be kit­ted out? Try Pete Lane’s at the base of Dol­lar and Bald moun­tains, although my fam­ily has been us­ing PK’s Sports for nearly 40 years. Ritchie and the team will take ex­cel­lent care of all your ski/ snow­board needs and even pick up and de­liver rentals to and from your ho­tel for free.

For begin­ners, Dol­lar Moun­tain serves as the head­quar­ters of Sun Val­ley’s ex­cep­tional SnowS­ports School. World fa­mous for the fun-filled ap­proach and ban­ish­ment of par­ents, it will have your lit­tle ones, or you your­self, look­ing like a pro in no time. In­ter­me­di­ates and ex­perts are treated to Bald Moun­tain, where the 100 runs and 3400 ver­ti­cal feet de­liver fluffy pow­der, long groomers and ev­ery­thing in-be­tween.

“Baldy’s” lodges are among the most beau­ti­ful and well-pro­vi­sioned you’ll find any­where and the iconic Round­house has of­fered white table­cloth din­ing next to a roar­ing fire since 1939 (try the fon­due).

Some­thing quick? Try Irv­ing’s Red Hots, where Jill Ru­bin has been serv­ing Chicago style hot dogs at the bot­tom of Warm Springs since 1977 (cash only, please).

My wife and mother haven’t skied in years and, in­stead, de­cided to rent snow­shoes from the Sun Val­ley Nordic Cen­ter to en­joy more than 40km of trails wind­ing through­out the beau­ti­ful prop­erty.



Sun Val­ley and Ketchum of­fer stylish shops from Sil­ver Creek Out­fit­ters for the best fly-fish­ing and hunting gear, and The Ele­phant’s Perch for all your out­door sport needs, to fash­ion­able bou­tiques such as Sway.

Hun­gry? The Kneadery will get your day off to a de­li­cious start with the best break­fast in town. Wan­der into clas­sic dive bar, Grumpy’s for grilled burgers, cold schooners and friendly ser­vice from Rachel, JC and the gang.

In the evening, try Vil­lage Sta­tion or The Cel­lar Pub, but you can­not say you’ve been to Ketchum with­out hav­ing din­ner at the leg­endary Pi­o­neer Sa­loon, whose walls are cov­ered with mounted game tro­phies and the firearms needed to sur­vive in the old West. En­joy thick steaks, juicy prime rib and fresh trout but be pre­pared to wait (and wait) as the “Pi-O” doesn’t take reser­va­tions. Don’t worry, half the fun is sip­ping a drink or three in the bar, chat­ting with the new friends you’ll make while wait­ing for your ta­bles.

Fi­nally, take a trip to the past with a 30-minute horse-drawn sleigh ride to the his­toric Trail Creek Cabin. Nes­tled un­der cosy blan­kets and the blan­ket of stars over­head, this is an ex­pe­ri­ence you’ll never for­get. I mean, re­ally, when was the last time you took a sleigh to din­ner?


A celebrity hotspot, who knows who you could run into on one of Bald Moun­tain’s 100 ski runs at Sun Val­ley; try the fon­due at iconic Round­house; or craft beer and ca­sual eats at Vil­lage Sta­tion.

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