The Little Sisters of Sun Valley’s Grand Dame
PHOTOGRAPHY: COURTESY The Community Library REGIONAL HISTORY DEPARTMENT
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It’s only a matter of hours until the slopes of the Sawtooth mountains, as respectable a range as there is in the Rockies, will be covered with prominent citizens from New York, Hollywood, and intermediate points …
… Movie actresses, Wall Street financiers, debutantes, Men-About-Town and society matrons, all with hickory bed slats strapped to their feet, will be falling up hill and down dale on their expensive faces. And all pour la sport. The sport is skiing and the place, so help me, is my own, my lovely Idaho . . . Society with a capital ‘S’ is on a par with termites. It gets into everything. Nothing is sacred, not even the Sawtooths . . . The good people of Ketchum had best make up their minds right now to being regarded as ‘quaint’ and ‘native.’ And they’d better prepare themselves to answer the damnedest assortment of questions that ever have come their way. Also, to contain — as best they can — their laughter the first time they spot a skier in his full and fashionable habiliments.”— Boise native Inez Callaway Robb,
writing in 1936 for the New York Herald Tribune
The draw to work at Averill Harriman’s new Sun Valley must have been irresistible for any young man who had grown up in Ketchum. All sorts of intoxicating possibilities would have danced in the head of a small-town boy, attractions never before seen in the outback of central Idaho: the goddess-like starlets, the elegant foods (who ever heard of Mousseline de Lobster Polignac?), the aromas of expensive cigars and rare perfumes, the heroic faces of Errol Flynn, Ernest Hemingway, and Clark Gable. Properly trained, the young worker would be able to stifle his laughter while disengaging an unlucky celebrity from a down-slope evergreen.
After all the ritzy splash of Sun Valley’s grand opening, though, it may have brought some relief to our young bellman’s simple, mountain-town heart to hear word of a new, more rustic cabin being built on a 10,000-foot perch across from Hyndman Peak in an attempt to provide skiers with the kind of destination hut experience Europeans had long enjoyed. Yes, rustic little Pioneer Cabin and its sister “lodges”—Trail Creek Cabin and the Roundhouse—were the talk of the town when they were built.
Sun Valley’s crown-jewel lodges of today—Warm Springs, Seattle Ridge, and River Run—easily capture the imagination. Visitors crane their necks looking up at the massive log beams in the ceilings, marvel at how a human could have cobbled such a massive fireplace together out of river rock, gaze in awe out Seattle Ridge Lodge’s plethora of windows, and wonder aloud whether they should take their ski boots off before traipsing across the marble floors in the restrooms.
But, as magnificent as they are, these award-winning lodges can’t hold a candle to Sun Valley’s three originals when it comes to sweet nostalgia. The Roundhouse, Trail Creek Cabin, and Pioneer Cabin are beloved reminders of the early glory days of America’s first destination ski resort—and their useful years are not over yet. >>>