Who, What, Where, Now!
The Ski and Heritage Museums
Photography by Hailey Tucker
Having lived in the Valley for almost 20 years now, I generally consider myself an expert on all things local. Whether it’s knowing the best spots to grab lunch and avoid seeing anyone sporting a one-piece snowsuit or knowing which bands at Whiskeys are worth the covers and which are not, I rarely find myself caught off-guard by things going on around town.
Much to the dismay of my localite, know-it-all ego, I recently discovered Ketchum is the host of both a ski and heritage museum. And, not only were there two museums I had managed to be completely oblivious of, but I soon learned they have been around since 1995 and are in the Forest Service Park downtown, a location I frequent during summer’s Ketchum Alive concerts.
Despite my initial embarrassment of not knowing about the museums, I began asking around, only to find out that many other long-time natives were unaware of the museums or had some idea they existed but had never stepped foot inside. So, with the duty of keeping tabs on what’s up in town, I thought it was time to pay the museums a visit and draw some attention to their existence and contents.
Situated in two of the large white and green Forest Service buildings on the north side of the park, the Ski and Heritage Museums are run by the Ketchum Sun Valley Historical Society (KSVHS) and are open Monday-Friday noon-4 p.m. and Saturday 1-4 p.m. year-round.
Free of charge, the museums house close to 13 exhibits, all related to various aspects of what make our region’s history unique. Only the Fraser Collection, which contains the first Olympic gold won by the US for Alpine skiing, is permanently on display. The rest change or rotate on a quarterly schedule.
With a past that includes figures such as writer Ernest Hemingway, Olympians Gretchen Fraser and Picabo Street and ski industry trend-setters such as Smith Optics, Scott USA and Powder Magazine; filling two building with the history that has made Sun Valley what it is today appears to be no challenge.
Even for those who are already well-versed in the Valley’s history, Museum Director Megan Lengyel, says she thinks the museums offer a unique experience because they make history tangible.
“People can come in and see pieces of the history,” Lengyel said. “It makes it real.”
The Heritage Museum currently showcases a feature exhibit about Idaho’s last mountain man, Buckskin Bill, who lived off the land near the Salmon River during the Great Depression. Other exhibits include information about Ernest Hemingway, Al Griffith, old Ketchum and the Valley’s mining and Native American histories.
Lengyel chose many of the Ski Museum’s exhibits for this quarter to complement Sun Valley Company’s 75th season celebration. The museum currently has a room dedicated to the history of the resort. It also features exhibits on Smith Sport Optics, Gretchen and Don Fraser, James Griffith, Powder Magazine and the new Sun Valley Ski Hall of Fame. In the coming weeks, exhibits on Scott USA and the evolution of the ski will be added.
Upon entering the Ski Museum, I first came face to face with the white-masked and white-suited Captain Powder, ski superhero and creation of old Ketchum residents and founders of Powder Magazine, Jake and Dave Moe. With the new knowledge that “home of the captain” could be added to my list of Sun Valley’s bragging rights, I was eager to see what else the museums had to offer.
After walking through both of the buildings wall-to-wall, I realized knowing that characters like the captain can be claimed as part of the Valley’s local lore is only part of the incentive to learn a little more about our history.
Whether it’s taking time to remember that Ketchum locals produced the first aluminum ski pole or that the Valley is home to the first chairlift, something in the Wood River history books ought to strike a little interest and hopefully spark a little pride in anyone who associates with the area.
Throughout the past 75 years of snow sports history, Sun Valley has made a name for itself as a place for innovation. And although I had been ashamed earlier for my ignorance of the museums, walking through them made me a little ashamed of everyone, myself included, who has been down on the Valley in recent years for it’s seemingly slipping status.
Although the resort dropped to 9th on the list of Ski Magazine’s 2010-2011 Resort Rankings, there is too much history here to let a number define what this valley is.
Seeing the faces and products that had given the Valley such a reputation in the past reminded me of all the things I see budding here and gave me confidence that the history of this valley is far from fading.
Whether it’s names like Kaitlyn Farrington or the development of new snow sport technology like Cory Smith’s MTN Approach Skis, there are numerous things beginning to stir here that have the potential to bring Sun Valley back into the spotlight.
Lengyel said the KSVHS created the museums because “they believe the only way to have a strong community is to remember where you came from.” So if you find yourself with some free time or the interest in learning something new, I encourage you to take a walk through the Heritage and Ski Museums for a reminder of who we are and what we are capable of.
Things to Buzz About:
Boutonnieres Annual Valentine Ball—Friday, February 11, 2011
Take your sweetheart out to the annual Boutonnieres and Sun Valley Company’s Annual Valentines Ball. The evening includes a reception, dinner and dancing for $65 a person. The event is black tie or Sun Valley formal. Call 622-2800 for reservations. The Ball begins at 6:30 p.m. with dinner at 7:30.
Skijoring Competition—Saturday, February 12 and Sunday, February 13, 2011
See medieval pastimes combined with equestrian and skiing skills at the skijoring competition in Bellevue this weekend. Watch as horse-pulled skiers go off jumps in hopes of retrieving rings to win points. The skijoring event will be held at 26 Townsend Gulch, starting at noon. For anyone who would like to participate, registration starts at $25. To sign up, visit www.woodriveresja.com or call Tyler Peterson at 720-0329.
Starlight Snowshoe for Expedition Inspiration—Saturday, February 12, 2011
Join Expedition Inspiration at the Valley Club for the annual Starlight Snowshoe to raise money for breast cancer research. Equipment will be provided by the Elephant’s Perch at the event and is included in the admission cost. The evening will include silent and live auctions as well as dinner prepared by Chef Mike Diem. The snowshoe begins at 5:30 p.m. with the auction and cocktails at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $90 a person for the entire night. For more information visit www.expeditioninspiration.org.