Sun Valley one of The world’s iconic ski resorts – the “Grand-Daddy” for the full-service retreats, the “total” ski vacation! It was established in the era preceding the “Great War” when people traveled by train and staid for weeks, not visit for days.
Yes, it certainly is a “hoity-toity”. Sun Valley is a show-case production of the Sinclair Oil corporation which also runs Snow Basin in Utah. The mountains rise sharply out of the town. There are actually two distinct and totally separate areas: Baldy, the steepest and highest plus Dollar which is favored by beginners and intermediates.
Now the pries are as steep as Mt Baldy’s runs, but the prices are almost warranted by the ski experience from the long,, well-groomed, runs, the exquisite lodges, helpful staff and great night life.
I first visited the valley late in the last century, But it was very late spring and the resort was in transition to the summer schedule. The mountains were closed to skiing. So now on my Idaho Odyssey 1, I was making my re-entry on a day that was cutout to ski. Lots of recent powder, a bright sunny day with no wind, and mild temperatures in the upper 30’s. And should I emphasize the sun? Well, it is named “Sun Valley”!
I drove up the valley coming from Bogus basin or more properly Boise when I logged in a good night’s sleep setting out early in the morning. I mistakenly checked in at Dollar Mountain having precisely obeyed my GPS guidance. The ticket window was located in a plush facility that made me think I was in a hotel.
The ticket agent was a distinguished gentleman who might well have been close to my age. He politely answered my questions and recommended I might be more pleased to ski Mt Baldy and explained the two areas were not connected. He gratiously refunded my original tpass in exchange for a ticket to Baldy, at an additional charge (even with the professional courtesy that was extended). More useful yet, he explained there were two bases areas, and thoughtfully recommened “River Run” over “Warm Springs”.
The “man” was “right on”! Following his advise, I drove up to the bridge that spanned the creek (well river as it was phrased). unloaded my gear into a very handy four-wheel wagon, and then drove up to park in a lot conveniently close by a foot path that returned me to my awaiting wagon.
I easily pulled my load to a wide open hard-scaped sun deck surrounding the lodge (er- ticket window and reception area that is). I slipped into my boots and chatted with the ticket or pass inspectors that filtered and checked in skiers before they loaded into the 8 passenger gondolas that whisked skiers to mid-mountain.
In response to my inquiries, both the men provided details answers complete with a map and thoughtful additional information and suggestions. Did these guys know I was merely a day visitor skiing on a discount, rather that some wealthy jet setter who flew in for the weekend? You’d never have know. They attentively listened to my questions and then efficiently, accurately and effectively responded.
Heeding their advise and still a bit stiff form multiple days of activity and the long ride, I made my way to Seattle Ridge and was glad I did. The entire mountain is steep approaching the likes of Telluride. Bur Seattle Ridge was immaculately groomed and it basked in the morning sun. What great warm up runs. And the edges were replete with well-spaced moguls which allowed easy “ins and outs”.
I paled up with another skier who was enjoying the day and she showed me around before breaking for the day. Margarite was a 77 year young, retired teacher from the Michigan. She had bought a condo years ago, used it for rentals and family retreats and lived at the base of the mountain year-round tremendously enjoying her retirement.
I made my way down to the Warm Springs base area and took the lengthly high speed lift that speeds you base to peak in minutes. This is the way to log in the miles! This is one of the most efficient lifts in the nation. And there were no lines. The quad lift faced southwest exposing me, the rider into the warm spring sum the entire route up.
Moguls or groomers, woods or wide opens, I skied my brains out and abused my weary legs to the point of pain. And of couse I had to ski “Picabo’s Street” a run named in honor of the famous and very pretty Olympic skiier of days gone by, who honed her skills on this very mountain. (When my daughter skied the FIS European circuit, she did indeed “bump into” Picabo. Incidentally, reared locally, she was likely was named for the nearby town of Picabo, ID.
Closed to exhaustion, I made my way back to the River Run base. The place was rockin’! The interior saloon, with its soaring timber frame supports and magnificently stoned fireplace offered a variety of craft drafts and fine wines at respectable, reasonable prices. But the real pleasure was the band and outside bar that kept the huge terrace awash in music and song adding to the warmth of the sun and the large gas-fed fire pit.
I opted for a PBR “pounder” (Pabst Blue Ribbon, 16 once canned beer) one of the happy hour specials, and invited myself to share a table with a few other skiiers. No problem! Everyone was courteous, no even friendly. Leslie was drinking a Rolling Rock, kinda a cult beer bottled in Latrobe, PA not far from my NY State border. I couldn’t help but comment, and it led us into more serious conversation.
As Leslie confessed, she worked at Soldier Mountain, but since her area was now closed for the season, she was skiing here in the valley. As she also revealed, Leslie is a “fellow” instructor at Soldier, and a bar keep at night to supplement her living expenses. And she was actually toting in her Rolling Rock to further control her costs in afternoon. You gotta love this place and all its locals!
Leslie had to cut out, but I, being in no hurry, staid on to enjoy another brew or two and drink in the warm sun, music and atmosphere as well. It was a mellow moment to say the least.
A team of groomers moved out immediately after the close. I enjoyed watching older children toted sleds a fair distance up to then come careening back down bouncing and laughing through the bumps that lined the edges. More intriguing were the young adults put on their skins and disappear as they stretched up the mountain with back-packs of supplies, many with dogs bounding around them and several with belly packs securing babies before them.
The band had ended by inviting all to visit them at their home base, a well recognized night spot in the nearby town center. And as I gathered up my gear, I had to asked another group of late-stayers, about those telemarkers. They were locals who regularly hiked up, not to party or camp out, but to simply ski down enjoying the late setting spring sun. Oh to be young or at least in better shape!
So the conversation went on. They were locals all, here for the winter season. Heading off to dinner they invited me along. Where was this hoity-toity high brow area the likes of the snooty Vail and Beaver Creek experience? These guys are interesting, friendly and fun. It still breaks my heart, but I had to move on. Pomerelle was closing tomorrow, and Pebble Creek the next day. But we traded contact info and next year will get here before we know it. And so will I. I shall return.
Oh, and Susan, one of the several spark pugs in the group, read my palm. Yea, you heard me! And she was pretty accurate too. It’s spooky! I gotta return!
It’s an Idaho Odyssey, but it’s only phase one. And the tale continues. Come, SkiWithMe