It Happened in Sun Valley
…only seventy years ago…or certainly fifty years ago…
|When my wife and I spent our honeymoon in Sun Valley, I did not realize that Sun Valley Resort was twenty years old. Marion and I are back again for the celebration of Sun Valley’s seventieth anniversary and our fiftieth. We have come here to the Valley many times over the years and always visit with our good friends, Mary Ann and Jack Flaherty. We always spend some time reminiscing about the old days. Our favorite spot to sit and talk of the past and present fun is in the Duchin Room at the Lodge prior to heading over to the Ram restaurant in the Challenger Inn for dinner. The area has changed over the past fifty years. There is now a town of Sun Valley and many homes and condominiums. The comment always seems to be: “Remember when you could buy that acre lot for under a thousand dollars?” (one that now would sell for a million plus). The photos show how the mountain and area have grown since 1936. The Brass Ranch and surrounding properties, a total of 3,881 acres, were purchased for $10.04 per acre by Averill Harriman, president of the Union Pacific Railroad. Harriman had a dream of the perfect year-round resort. He hired Count Schaffgotsch from Austria to search the west for the perfect site along the Union Pacific line. His telegram to Harriman was “I’ve found it! Come see for yourself.”
Simultaneously, Schaffgotsch chose a site for the lodge. The location was perfect. It gave a beautiful view of Bald Mountain and the Sawtooth Mountain Range. Construction started in June of 1936, and it opened for business on December 21 to a full house. The total cost for the Lodge was 1.5 million dollars. Today that would get you a two or three bedroom home on a half acre lot. The public relations man hired by Harriman was Steve Hannigan and, at the time, he was famous for his promotion of Miami Beach. He chose the name Sun Valley for the resort because, during his visit, every day was sunny (and every night it snowed a few inches). Harriman and he decided to promote it as America’s first destination resort. Special trains were organized to transport Hollywood stars to Sun Valley and they partied all the way. Hannigan also thought it would be great to have a number of special cars added to the cross-country Union Pacific trains and fill them with New York society, who had a multi-day party across the country.
Nowadays my first run down is usually Christmas Ridge or a fun run down College, groomed to perfection, making you feel like such a good skier. My first run with Jack Flaherty in 1956 was Easter Bowl in two feet of new powder that some friends of his were saving for the honeymoon kid from the east. “Weight both skis evenly and don’t begin your first turn until you see the tips of your skis” were my directions for my first run in deep powder, as we stood on a snow cornice looking down a very steep Easter Bowl. I always have felt that they enjoyed my first run in deep powder more than I since there was great laughter at my falls. I had made three turns and my speed signaled my “brain” to check the speed, and weight went to the downhill ski which resulted in a good head beater. When I was clearing the snow from my goggles, the comment I heard from the surrounding group was “we told you not to weight the downhill ski”. Bald Mountain has it all for any skier or boarder--as smooth or as rough as you would like with each trail different. One thing to remember, the “green” “blue” and “black” marked trails are relative to that particular mountain and Bald Mountain greens may be blue at many other mountains.
The view of Baldy from inside the new Dollar Mountain Lodge.
Ownership of the resort has been in three hands over the seventy years: the Union Pacific Railroad from 1936 until 1964; the Janss Corporation from 1964 to 1977; and the present owner, Earl Holding, who also owns Sinclair Oil and the Little America motels and hotels. Holding has done a great job of modernizing the lift complex, installing snowmaking and, in the past two years has been upgrading the Sun Valley Lodge and Challenger Inn.
Our guides for our 50th wedding anniversary trip were Mary Ann and Jack Flaherty, both recently retired from the Sun Valley Corporation after over forty years of service. Jack left Malden, Mass., to become a night baker at the lodge. The job gave him the opportunity to ski during the day. It wasn’t long before he became head baker and was referred to by many as the best powder skier in the valley.
Sun Valley is very accessible. Delta Express flies into Hailey, about a twenty minute drive from the lodge. In 1956 it was necessary to fly into Twin Falls and then take a two and a half hour bus ride.
Jack Flaherty provided some background information for this article. Dorice Taylor’s history of the resort was also a valuable source.
Photos courtesy of Sun Valley Resort
IF YOU GO . . .
GETTING THERE: Gateway cities are Salt Lake City, Utah and Boise, Idaho. Both are serviced by most airlines. Flights from Salt Lake City are continued on Delta Express to Hailey, Idaho. Sun Valley Resort guests are met by vans with complimentary transportation to the Lodge, Inn or condominiums. Bus service is also available from the Boise airport to the Lodge.
GETTING AROUND: No need for a rental car. Free bus service throughout the Ketchum, Sun Valley area via the KART bus system.
ACCOMMODATIONS: In addition to the Sun Valley Lodge, Challenger Inn and condominiums, there are many other inns and motels throughout the valley.
INFORMATION: Call Sun Valley Resort at 1-800-786-8259.
Helpful web sites:
Copyright © Rye Reflections 2006. All rights reserved.