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Valley Profiles

Profiling skiing icons Bobbie Burns, Chuck Ferries, Rick Kapala, Langely and Wiz McNeal, Phil Puchner and Penelope Street.

(page 7 of 7)

About Penelope Street ...

A dynamic skier with an exuberant flair and flash both on and off the snow, Penelope Street was a pioneer of the women’s freestyle movement in the early 1970s. A talented, aggressive competitor who was not afraid to catch air, Street learned upright jumps, front and back flips, and layouts as she excelled in mogul and aerial disciplines, mentored by the legendary freestyle skiers John Clendenen, Jack Taylor, and Bob Theobald. With her red hair flying, “Penny in the Sky” was a freestyle favorite: glamorous, risky, and confident. 

Penelope was an athletic wild child, smart, full of fire, fiercely independent, physically tough, and crazy about skiing and the mountains. She was born on the third floor of the Sun Valley Lodge in 1948, just two hours after her mother, Polly, a nurse, walked from Ketchum to Sun Valley. Bud Street, her dad, was a baker at the Challenger Inn who taught his two-year-old daughter to ski on Dollar Mountain. In grade school she was dropped off at Baldy at 7:30 a.m. so she could ride up with the ski patrol to help pack the bowls every morning. It was a pretty exhausting routine for a little kid, but apparently the reward was great. “I got to run the 103 steps to the Roundhouse,” she giggles, “where lunch every day was a chocolate roll and a chicken salad toast-tight.”

Penelope attended the old Ketchum Grade School that boasted about 20 kids per class. If you could ski, you raced, so she joined just eight or nine kids on the ski team who trained and ran gates on Penny Mountain. They were coached by Jack Simpson and Betty Bell. “Betty,” Street says, “was a great mentor to me as a little girl.” 

Penelope excelled in racing, but in high school she decided to just go skiing instead. On the weekends she skied, only going to school on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, often writing her own excuse notes for skipping classes. In the spring of 1966, just one credit away from graduation, she quit school and headed for San Francisco, a naïve Idaho girl who learned to love the beat of the music and the freedom of the streets in Haight-Ashbury.

“I have learned to be in the present, but it does make me laugh to look back like this because it’s been so much fun!”-Penelope Street

When she returned to Sun Valley she modeled for Avventura, did a photo shoot for Seventeen magazine, and left again for Aspen, Lake Tahoe, and Lake Louise, ending up as the manager of a cattle ranch on Maui.

Then, in 1971, Penelope literally “jumped” into the earliest days of freestyle, talked into a team skiing event in Tahoe. “I really appreciate how we did it in those days,” she explains. “We were creative with lots of adrenaline, helping each other learn new stunts. Self-inventive, we were always having fun.” She adds with laughing eyes, “We were such free spirits and definitely not good role models!” The team was promoted in the media and in Warren Miller’s movies, but it was Penelope who graced the cover of Sports Illustrated doing her famous layout on a bluebird Baldy day.


Helping establish the International Freestyle Skiers’ Association, Street played a pivotal role for women by facilitating better press, sponsorships, and the prize money they deserved. Penelope was a consistent performer in North America and Europe who loved the control of mind and body that was needed to excel in freestyle skiing. But in 1976, after a competition in Crested Butte, Colorado, she retired when she saw some radical telemark skiing. It captured her untamed spirit and she never looked back.

Penny rocks a Daffy. Posing for a head shot.


Extreme telemarking became Penelope’s new passion and she helped promote it by teaching and racing. She became a certified cross-country and telemark instructor and was sent by Ski Instructors of America to Europe and Scandinavia as a member of the first U.S. Demonstration Team.

“Basically,” she remembers, “we would just haul-ass on any slope with no tracks!” But she missed her family in Sun Valley, so she headed back home where she became a certified backcountry guide in 1983, working for over 25 years for Sun Valley Trekking. 

Penelope still loves the quietness of alpine touring, telemarking her way down radical terrain and pristine snow in the mountains she knows so well. She also happily chooses the peaceful creativeness of gardening for private clients during the non-snowy months. “I have learned to be in the present, but it does make me laugh to look back like this because it’s been so much fun! The biggest thrills of my life though,” she exclaims excitedly, “were jumping the cliffs at Squaw and telemarking the steepest, deepest powder in the Monashees.” -Julie Gallagher


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
Feb 6, 2012 12:02 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Love these shots. And great stories too! Thx for sharing.

Oct 22, 2013 09:56 am
 Posted by  superskier

Bobbie Burns - I remember him when I worked on the Sun Valley Ski Patrol. Other characters were numerous - Les Outes, Cathy Palm, ALL 35 of the Ski Patrol and last but not least - Lea Bacos - my fellow Canadian who managed Dollar Mountain and was my room-mate. He called me his fellow wet-back.

Those were the days when moguls were moguls (not the whale-back shapes you find these days), men were men, and women were glad. We had 1st powder on our way to safe ski runs too steep for snowcats. Then packed the runs and then skied the rest of the time when not slated for the patrol shack.

The instructors hated us for that and we hated them for getting all the girls but never mind - we were there only for the skiing. One trick when en route to ski packing was to pick out a particularly unlikeable instructor addressing his class - and systematically ski over the back of his skis - one after another after another. Childish really, but the hatred was tangible and we couldn't help ourselves.

Wish I could remember the ski patrollers' names - but the guys from San Francisco and LA were as mad as hatters and the lieutenants were local ranchers when not skiing. And me - i was the mad Canuck. Not mad because of my behaviour but mad on my skis. I don't know why people made such a fuss over Bobbie Burns. In my mind - Exhibition after a good dump WAS ALL MINE. One explosion, then another, then another - avalement - sat waaaay back, arms in the air - but not in slow motion like Old Man Burns. I liked to keep my speed up and blast over those bumps. If i didn't fall 3 or 4 times a run - I wasn't skiing. No disrespect to Bobbie - just flying the maple leaf. Well done Mr Burns for all your successes - you certainly got me revved up. I can still taste those steaks in The Ore House on Fridays with pay packet in hand. And the heated outdoor pool each evening with a Coors in hand at The Ram Hotel. What a life - paid to ski, room and board and all the latest skis to try out. Lovely Job.

Oct 23, 2013 06:23 pm
 Posted by  superskier

And whatever happened to Moe on the ski patrol - I was The only Crazy Canuck on the Patrol...back in the winter of '68-69. I remember come springtime when folks would gather at the bottom of River Run at the end of the day to watch various Patrollers schuss from quite high up as the snow was slow and then jump the stream at the bottom. Moe was always asked to do silly tricks and he never shied away - even though he never managed to pull them off. I can still see Moe and his skis stuck in the river bank, vibrating until he gradually slid back into the water - what a clown! He's probably area manager today.

And there was some crazy yet colourful chick who skiied full out on hard pack down through the trees and if she ran into one - she'd break into fits of unconrollable laughter.

And then there were the wonderful jazz duos at The Ram - husband on piano, wife on double bass during Happy Hour after a hard day's skiing and a swim in the heated pool...with sometimes more than a few Coors. After the paid entertainment did their thing - i would sit at the piano and take requests - double shot of single malt if you please. i missed so many staff dinners that spring.

My room-mate and manager of Dollar Mountain - Lea Bacos - giving me a lecture for dating Cathy Palm - his future step daughter with him marrying her mother whose other daughter was possibly marrying his buddy Les Outes - Area manager which would make Lea - Les' step father in law. Lea had 3 pictures of himself on the mantelpiece standing as proud father of different families in each. And HE'S A CANADIAN.

What a laugh - it could only be Sun Valley...gosh - 1968/69 - that's 45 years ago. Raichle Red Boots and Head Killy 215 Downhill skis in moguls that were absolutely fabulous. THAT WAS HOTDOGGING !

Oct 23, 2013 06:40 pm
 Posted by  superskier

Part of our job on The Patrol was- first ride up to look for skiers who had sneaked in without paying for a lift ticket very early before the lifts had started and would hide face down in the trees and half way up the mountain. I could see them on a sunny morning as any metal bits would shine in the sunlight and we were supposed to catch them up and then escort them out of the area. I confess I felt if they went to that much trouble - leave them to it - bless them - lying motionless - freezing their backsides for the better part of an hour. they deseerved to ski for free...though these days I don't think the management would condone such tolerance.

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