Life on and off the waters of the Wood River Valley
Take a Damn Staycation!
The best advice I ever got about living in a ski town came from my boss at the time, a short fiery native Spud named Mark Fisher.
“The only way you’re ever going to be happy living in a ski town is if you occasionally take a vacation and don’t go anywhere,” Fisher said, about a decade ago, from across the pick-up window at the Sun Valley Brewing Company and Café in downtown Hailey—where I was running the bar during my first go-round in the Wood River Valley.
“Sometimes you’ve got to play tourist too, and remember why you live here,” explained Fisher, who usually had a head and face full of dirty blond hair, and who tragically passed away a half-dozen years ago while driving down one of the old dusty Idaho mountain roads he loved so much.
As he handed over a homemade Wurst sausage and mashed potato plate for a patron he sternly stated, “Otherwise you’re gonna be miserable, and nobody wants to be around somebody who’s miserable. Got it?!”
Fisher then told me to take the next week off, to take a “damn staycation”—paid, of course, because that’s the kind of generous guy he was—and to pretend that I, much like many of the people I regularly served, was a “touron” too. And that’s exactly what I did, specifically because Fisher (who had forearms that Popeye would be jealous of and was an acclaimed big game bow hunter) wasn’t the type of guy who takes “No” for an answer.
For the next seven days I was then lucky enough—even if forced to do so—to enjoy the playground that any “destination ski resort” worthy of such a romantic title is.
And since Sun Valley is the country’s first such ski resort it naturally offers all kinds of magical places to go outside to play no matter what season it is. While I’ll always love some of the other resorts I’ve had the blessing of hanging my hat in for a while—especially Taos and the Eastern Sierra’s Mammoth Mountain—Sun Valley will always be my favorite.
As I often hear when interviewing or even just shooting the breeze with locals, second homeowners or just those simply making a sojourn in Sun Valley, there’s something magical about this place (actually, there are numerous things: world class skiing, hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing, food, art galleries, literary culture, mountain views, plus it’s a great place to raise kids).
But it’s easy to forget all this when you’re just another overworked ski town local trying to survive the tourist season. For all the beauty and glory, it can be tough to make it in most ski towns—even living in paradise requires some sacrifices.
That’s why Fisher’s order—make that advice—to stop and literally smell the roses or the fresh snow or the squirmy fish or the blooming sagebrush or my own sweat while hiking or biking in this breathtaking place is the best I’ve ever been given. And one any ski town local could make good use of: “Take a damn Staycation!”
“Life is hard, it’s harder if you’re stupid.”—John Wayne