It’s no small thing to be voted the top ski area in North America, but Sun Valley has ranked up there for two years in a row. It’s heady stuff to be tops in the rankings as voted by SKI magazine readers.
Bald Mountain has always been the darling of locals who moved here to be closer to their favorite mountain, but the popularity of the area is more than just great snowmaking, great grooming, great bowl skiing on powder days and one of the best views from the top of a ski mountain anywhere in the U.S.
Sun Valley is more than a hotel and more than just a mountain. It is the mother of skiing in the United States.
It’s the manifestation of the dream of Union Pacific Chairman Averell Harriman to bring skiing to America. It’s the place carefully chosen by an Austrian count, Felix Schaffgotsch, for its unusual combination of sunny weather and snow. Not to mention that it lay on a railroad spur line that ran to an old mining area.
The count reportedly rejected other sites in the region because they lacked good sun-snow chemistry. Sun Valley skiers rarely have to fight fog.
It’s where Union Pacific Railroad engineers invented the ski lift using a banana hook bolted to the back of a flatbed truck and a classically adventurous “first-chair” rider who strapped on his roller skates, waited for the truck to drive by and hoped the “scoop” wouldn’t put him in the hospital with bruises or broken bones.
With all the changes that have come to the Sun Valley area in the decades since its first winter opening in December 1936, nothing has changed its elegant essence. It continues to exude a mysterious and glamourous appeal that other resorts simply can’t match.
That may be rooted in the spirit of the famous Hollywood actors who helped celebrate the opening of what was then a very remote place indeed. It may be rooted in the good humor they must have exhibited while they waited for the first day that enough snow had fallen for them to risk making turns on wooden skis.
Sun Valley’s banner was first proudly carried on by Bill Janss, a developer who loved skiing, in the 1970s. Then Earl and Carol Holding picked it up late in that decade and continue to build and embellish Harriman’s dream like no one else.
The key to Sun Valley’s success lies not only in its history, location or owners. It lies in the people who came here, lived here and became the fabric of the very real and soulful towns that stretch out from the base of Bald Mountain.
Cooks, wait staff, night clerks, dishwashers, lifties, ski instructors, framers, roofers, boot-fitters—these are just some of the people who decided to make a mountain sense of place first in their lives and ranked occupations second.
Sun Valley is not only a great place to ski. It’s an unusual intersection of outdoor pursuits, culinary adventure, thought and arts. No. 1 is as No. 1 does. In our book, it’s done very well indeed.
To enjoy Sun Valley’s heritage is to assume the responsibility to carry on the joy and the traditions of those who came before. We trust that it’s in good hands.
Congratulations everyone! Go skiing!