The Little Sisters of Sun Valley’s Grand Dame
PHOTOGRAPHY: COURTESY The Community Library REGIONAL HISTORY DEPARTMENT
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Trail Creek Cabin
Boisean Charles Davidson, who landscaped Sun Valley resort for Union Pacific, conceived the rustic Trail Creek Cabin in 1938 as a getaway to which guests could be taken by sleigh on moonlit nights. He built it with leftover lumber scrounged from the construction of Sun Valley Lodge.
“It’s only two miles from the Lodge, but guests would go out there on the sleighs and think that they were miles and miles from civilization,” recalled Jack Flaherty, longtime baker for Sun Valley. “And the stars on clear nights just added to the magic. Most visitors don’t realize how many stars there are until they get away from the lights.”
For celebrities like movie actress Ann Sothern, actor Gary Cooper, and author Ernest Hemingway, the cabin quickly became a favorite spot for throwing private parties and celebrating New Year’s Eve. Pianist Eddy Duchin played at Trail Creek, and it was there that an impatient Averell Harriman announced the engagement of Gretchen Konig, America’s first Olympic Alpine medalist, to Don Fraser—even though neither had yet proposed to the other.
Partygoers were a wild bunch in those days, doing the bunny hop and the hokey pokey, which some claim originated in Sun Valley. When, at certain parties, unsuspecting blindfolded guests tried to “pin the tail on the donkey,” they would find that they had stuck their hand into a can of lard.
Leif Odmark, who taught skiing to Jackie Kennedy, Judy Garland and even “Tarzan” Rex Barker, talked Sun Valley General Manager Wally Huffman into a once-a-week ski-to-dinner tour from Sun Valley Village to the cabin. He recalls that a hundred people showed up for the inaugural ski-in dinner, many of them beginners. About midnight the guests and instructors headed back to the lodge, following the light of tiki torches.
Odmark returned to close the cabin at about 2:30, and found three young women, completely soused, sitting around the pond singing and using their ski poles as fishing poles. From then on, guests were responsible for getting themselves back to their hotel rooms.
Trail Creek Cabin was turned into a Naval Officers’ Club during World War II, when Sun Valley became a Navy rehabilitation base. Gloria Battis, who ran the Rio Club casino with her husband, took over cooking detail at the cabin and served up home-style platters of roast lamb, Spanish rice, garlic potatoes, and her locally famous fried chicken. >>>