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Snow Pioneers

Valley locals make their mark

(page 3 of 7)

Inventor, Dave Robrahn


Dave Robrahn Finds, and Helps Define, his Home


Dave Robrahn is a global citizen, and even though he calls the Wood River Valley home, the twisting path that brought him here is quite a story.

Born in the winter of ’46 in Maroubra, one of the rougher coastal towns surrounding Sydney, Australia, Dave grew up as a surfer. He didn’t even get his first taste of winter until he was 21, in the mountains of southeastern Australia at a ski resort called Perisher Valley. After one season on the slopes, Dave hit the road, not really sure where he was headed.

“If you know where you’re going, or why you’re going,” Dave said, in his thick Aussie accent, “then you also know when you’re coming back, and what’s the fun in that!”

Robrahn’s long journey to Idaho began when he hopped a ship from Sydney to Singapore. He then traveled up to Europe, where he jumped on a sailboat to the Caribbean and worked there for a while. Eventually, Dave made his way north to the Rockies, where he worked on the ski patrol at Aspen. From there, Dave followed the snow to Whistler, British Columbia, and eventually ended up in Sun Valley in the early ’70s, four years after he left Australia.

"There are lots of places I like to go in the world, but there’s not a whole
lot of places that I love coming back to. The Wood River Valley is one
of the few places I love coming home to.”

“The first time I came to the Valley, it was during one of the worst snow seasons ever,” Dave recalls, about his first fateful (pre-snowmaking) Idaho winter. Large patches of dirt covered Baldy in mid-February. The skiing was awful. But he didn’t give up on the place, mainly because of the people he met here. The next year his faith was rewarded with a big winter.

“That did it for me,” Robrahn said, fondly. The world traveler had finally found his home. Not that he’s one to stand still for too long. Dave continues to travel extensively, from Alaska to Australia, from South and Central America to Mexico and Europe—he’s always on the move. It’s just that now, he always comes back to Ketchum.

“There are lots of places I like to go in the world,” he explained, “but there aren’t a whole lot of places that I love coming back to. The Wood River Valley is one of those few places.”

When asked just what it is about the Valley that keeps him coming back, Dave gets a bit philosophical. “It’s just an awesome balance for me, an all-around great place to live that has a wonderful mix of the outdoors, good food, great people, a nice climate and a lot of open space,” he explained.

Dave was one of the first snowboarders on Baldy, thanks to a few early boards made by Hooger Booger that showed up at his office at Scott USA (and thanks to the encouragement of his two young sons, Kai and Tann). Robrahn played a vital role in the burgeoning snowboard culture of the late ’80s and early ’90s­—a culture that has now come of age and features world-class, locally-grown snowboarding stars like Olympian Graham Watanabe, Kaitlyn Farrington and even Dave’s now-full-grown sons (Tann made the 2008 Australian Olympic team).

Merging his background in surfing with his love of winter sports and his experience as a design engineer and head of new product development at Scott USA, Dave helped define what it means to be a snowboarder in Sun Valley and the type of gear you need to be one.

The list of products Dave helped design and patent is as long as the one Santa Claus carries around. Though Dave doesn’t like to talk about it, he helped patent inventions like anti-fog systems for goggles, lenses that amplify flat light, face protection gear for motorcross and pivot-points in ski boots that allow a skier’s ankles to move more naturally.

But it’s not because of his inventions that Dave has come to define the Wood River Valley as much as anyone. It’s because of his easy laugh, abundant enthusiasm and a natural ability to encourage others.

Dave is pretty hard to miss around town with his long blond hair (usually stuffed under a baseball cap), an arm full of bracelets, and an Aussie accent that he holds onto proudly. So the next time you spot him, do yourself a favor and buy him a beer. At the very least, you’ll hear an amazing story or two, and there’s a good chance he might just inspire you to go out into the world with an open mind, an open heart, and no destination whatsoever.

-Kitt Doucette




Sun Valley Magazine encourages its readers to post thoughtful and respectful comments on all of our online stories. Your comments may be edited for length and language.

Old to new | New to old
Dec 20, 2010 03:12 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Great shots!

Dec 29, 2010 12:28 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

i'm sooo glad that sun valley is UPgrading your terain park.
way to go brian. i'll see you guys before the end of the season.
denali mad dog

Sep 29, 2011 08:36 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Callahan. You made my day!

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