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Year in Review

2020: The Year in Pictures

These images told the year’s biggest stories

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Boulder Mountain Tour

FEBRUARY 1: There was a part of 2020 prior to the pandemic. In February, local star Johnny Hagenbuch, then 18, took advantage—and one last look back at the pack—before crossing the finish line in first place in the 47th annual Zion’s Bank Boulder Mountain Tour on Saturday, Feb. 1, dusting the 34-kilometer course (and 580 other skiers) in 1:17:07. The 2020 Sun Valley Community School grad emerged unscathed from a bottleneck on the home stretch to clip University of Utah skiers Ola Jordheim (center, No. 8) and Maximilian Bie, (right, No. 7) by less than one second.

Melody Bowyer

March 14: Melody Bowyer, director of the South Central Public Health District, announced Blaine County’s first confirmed case of coronavirus—the second in Idaho—during a press conference in Hailey on Saturday, March 14. More than 130,000 Idaho cases would follow in the months to come. For many in the Wood River Valley, 2020 can be divided into two parts: before that press conference, and after.


MARCH 15: Following North American closures from Vail Resorts, Alterra Mountain Company, and neighboring ski areas including Jackson Hole, Grand Targhee in Wyoming and Big Sky in Montana, Sun Valley announced on March 15 that it would cut the ski season a month short. A spate of other closures—from libraries to public buildings to businesses—and cancellations would follow.

isolation order

MARCH 20: A state-issued isolation order essentially locked down Blaine County on March 20. At the time, the county had 31 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19. The next day was a Saturday. Express photographer Roland Lane emerged to find downtown Ketchum—typically full bore with spring break and skiers—all but abandoned.

6.5 magnitude earthquake

MARCH 31: A 6.5 magnitude earthquake—the second largest recorded in Idaho—struck northwest of Stanley on March 31, shaking a region already stunned by the opening salvo of the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of aftershocks followed, as did inventory of the damage—mostly seen in local landmarks throughout the Sawtooth Valley. Among them: famous climbing hubs the Arrowhead, captured here by local photographer Jeffery Lubeck prior to its collapse, and the last digit of the Finger of Fate.

Blaine County public schools

APRIL 7: Blaine County public schools shut their doors on March 14, when the first case of COVID-19 was called in Blaine County. After several short-term closures, the district announced on April 7 that classes would be fully online for the rest of the 2019-20 school year, prompting a rapid rollout of remote learning tools—including computers, distributed here by Alturas Elementary staff and Principal Brad Henson, center.


April 15: A month into the pandemic, the Wood River Valley began to echo in an evening chorus. The nightly howl saluted health-care workers, who, by April 15, were combating 463 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Blaine County.

The Meadows

APRIL 23: The first of several breakdowns in the water system at The Meadows trailer park south of Ketchum left some 300 people dry for 30 hours in April—and sent this family to the Big Wood River with buckets to supply water. Service resumed the next day, though Express photographer Willy Cook captured this stark image of life in the shadow of Sun Valley’s wealth.

potato market

APRIL 25: An effort to salvage some 75 tons of potatoes from Silver Creek Seed Farm led to pick-up sites in Hailey and Ketchum in late April. Bellevue residents and farm owners Mark and Jill Johnson said they decided to pay it forward after the potato market tanked during the coronavirus outbreak. On this Saturday, John Casey of Bellevue, left, hauled his dump truck full of potatoes to Hailey where he was greeted with an outpouring of emotion from locals struggling under COVID-19.

Camas County’s Class of 2020

MAY 9: Camas County’s Class of 2020 swapped a traditional commencement for a graduation parade through Fairfield in May—one of many concessions to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the circumstances, the town stood behind its seniors: Dozens of cars followed the class, offering well-wishes and support.


JUNE 3: More than a thousand protesters turned out on Main Streets of Ketchum, Hailey and Bellevue to stand—and kneel—in solidarity with George Floyd, a black man killed while in custody of Minneapolis police on May 25, and against systemic racism and police brutality in America.


AUGUST 24: As wildfires raged across Idaho and in neighboring states, smoke choked the Wood River Valley from the midsummer onward. Air quality diminished significantly, reaching dangerous levels of toxicity and—for the second time in 2020, although for a different reason—residents were urged to stay indoors. The smoke gave the sun a hellish hue one evening in August as it set behind Bald Mountain.

COVID-19 bus

SEPTEMBER 8: Blaine County School District students got back in the classroom on Sept. 8 for the first time since they were sent home for remote learning in mid-March. New COVID-19 safety protocols were enforced throughout the school district, including the requirement of masks for students and staff. The school board plans to revisit its current model early in 2021.

Ashley Midby memorial

OCTOBER 22: Police found two prominent Bellevue residents dead after a suspected murder-suicide in October, shaking the small town. Ashley Midby, 34, and Jared Murphy, 28, both died of gunshot wounds, according to Idaho State Police. Midby was a well-known barista at the Coffee Corner downtown. Murphy was a Hailey police officer and candidate for mayor in the upcoming election, then two weeks away. Months later, the case remains under investigation.


NOVEMBER 3: More than 87 percent of registered voters in Blaine County cast ballots in the Nov. 3 election, according to the county’s unofficial vote tracking dashboard—a significantly higher turnout than the 78 percent of registered voters who cast ballots in the 2016 general election. About three-quarters of the 13,409 people who voted in Blaine County this year did so via mail-in ballot or early voting.

Dr. Deb Robertson COVID-19 vaccine

DECEMBER 23: Dr. Deb Robertson, medical director of the emergency department at St. Luke’s Wood River, was one of the first in Blaine County to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as doses reached the valley on Dec. 23. At the time, Blaine County had 1,391 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19. “It’s a feeling of elation that we’re finally in the pathway of getting through this pandemic,” Robertson said of getting the long-awaited shot. “It gives me a sense of hope.”

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