Vaccinations that will help humans resist COVID-19 have left recipients with the feeling that the confining windows of a global pandemic may finally be opening. People within the Sun Valley area along with other Americans are beginning to think about what comes next.

It’s expected that when vaccinations confer herd immunity on the population, people will once again be able to gather safely in groups. That includes meeting within the chambers of city halls and county courthouses for public hearings.

Before the pandemic, it was within those chambers that citizens planned and shaped their communities. People met in person with the context of human communication intact instead of in the diluted form of flat video and audio-only conferencing that viral safety required.

We may emerge to find that the pandemic has changed the area in ways that are profound.

Cities in Blaine County became “Zoom Towns” when offices closed and workers who could worked remotely. Then they became “Boom Towns” as uncounted numbers of urban residents decided that our small towns were better places to weather the pandemic storm than their cities. And who could blame them?

Instead of being confined to cramped apartments in shuttered cities, people here spent their off-hours during the pandemic hiking, biking, skiing, snowshoeing and picking up takeout. It was “normal” life in mountain towns in abnormal times.

As people begin to break free from pandemic patterns, it will be interesting to see if the economics, expectations and lifestyles of new and longer-term residents align. It’s likely that debates over long-held local values will emerge.

One example is the proposal for an airstrip along state Highway 75 within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area that would serve a single family’s private needs but disrupt the wild spaces precious to all Idahoans. The airstrip is proposed even though a public airstrip already exists in Stanley just north of the site.

Another recently approved private airport near Fairfield, just an hour away from the Sun Valley area, eventually could impact development in the area as well.

Both installations raise the question of whether the area will become the private playground of the jet set to a degree never seen before.

Will the valley continue to send middle-class locals packing because housing has become entirely unaffordable? Will it sentence people who want a job here to pay the price of long and dangerous icy commutes from Carey, Richfield, Shoshone and Fairfield?

Will “Zoom Town” residents continue to live here after the pandemic? If so, what will the income disparities that exist between places like Seattle or San Francisco and Blaine County’s Main Streets do to life here? Will the area retain its ski-town ethos or morph into some version of gated suburban life?

The Sun Valley area will not be alone in confronting those questions. All the mountain resort towns in the nation have had the same experience in the last year.

As people emerge from their mountain cocoons, it could be a bumpy ride to a “new normal.”

“Our View” represents the opinion of the newspaper editorial board, which is made up of members of its board of directors. Remarks may be directed to editorialboard@mtexpress.com.

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