FOR WHOM THE SNOW FALLS
America’s first ski resort is still the jewel among winter playgrounds
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.
SUN VALLEY’S SKI SEASON RUNS FROM AROUND NOVEMBER 23 TO APRIL 22.
WHERE TO STAY
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.
SUNVALLEY.COM/LODGING, LIMELIGHTHOTELS. C OM/KETCHUM
ON THE SNOW
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.