Monday, June 24, 2019. It felt like a perfect summer over the weekend in New York. Temps reached up into the low 80s so it was warm, but not humid; and falling to the mid-60s cool by late evening.
Today we are featuring a kind of travel piece about our friend Paige Peterson visiting her nephew and his wife and family out in Sun Valley, Idaho. I believe the actual name of the area is the Wood River Valley. And Sun Valley is in Ketchum. Paige, you may remember, did a couple of beautiful travel pieces for us, and she has the eye for it. So we asked her for a piece on Sun Valley.
Sun Valley has been famous to Americans for the past 75 years. It was created by Averell Harriman who was the chairman of the Union Pacific Railroad which he inherited from his father. The Railroad owned a large chunk of land in that valley in Ketchum.
It is known for having an almost ideal climate for people who love the outdoors. Even as far back as 10,000 years ago, the Wood River Valley in Idaho was home to the Native American people in the fairer weather seasons. For the 21st century dwellers, the summers are milder than the East, and the winters have great snows for skiers.
The Harriman project was widely publicized in the press because of its clientele. It drew Ernest Hemingway to Ketchum. Movie stars and their moguls, such as Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart, Esther Williams, Clark Gable, Ingrid Bergman, Daryl Zanuck, Doris Day and their spouses (and often with family) were frequent clientele “roughing it” in the mountains Hollywood-style.
It wasn’t until the 1870s, when gold was discovered in the West, that the European settlers and prospectors began to populate the Wood River Valley. By the end of 1884, the ore mining business was thriving. Ketchum boasted 13 saloons, 4 restaurants, and 2 hotels.
By the first quarter of the 20th century, the prospecting days were over and most people moved on. In January of 1936, Count Felix Schaffgotsch arrived in the Valley. The once prosperous mining town had shrunk to a population of 100. The Count was sent by Harriman to scout out the perfect spot to build his ski resort. Within three days of arriving, the Count wired his client: “Among the many attractive spots I have visited, this combines the more delightful features of any place I have seen in the United States, Switzerland and Austria for a winter ski resort.”
That was it for Harriman. In less than a year, the luxurious Sun Valley Resort was completed and the doors were open. Today Sun Valley’s star-studded history can be viewed in photographs at the Sun Valley Lodge. Tom Hanks, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Clint Eastwood, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Wynn, Justin Timberlake, and Bill Gates have owned property in Sun Valley. People may come for the snow, but they stay for the summers.
The legendary novelist Hemingway felt very much in sync with the place. He fished there, explored the mountain trails, drank at the local bars, and finished writing “For Whom the Bell Tolls” at the Sun Valley Lodge. He also took his own life there on July 2, 1961.
Here’s what Paige saw: