First Ascent athlete and Sun Valley local Wyatt Caldwell takes flight on assignment for a national ad campaign near Revelstoke, British Columbia.
Photograph: courtesy Eddie Bauer, Garrett Grove
IN THIS SECTION
Up and Comers [pg. 2]
Sun Valley Heli Ski [pg. 3]
A Day In the Life [pg. 4]
Real Estate Roundup [pg. 5]
UP AND COMERS
The stories behind our Sun Valley start-ups
BY Kate Elgee
Sun Valley has a long history of inspiring creative minds. Local innovators like Ed Scott, Bob Smith, Chuck Ferries, Bobbie Burns and Mike Brunetto toiled in frozen basements and garages, in backyard sheds and makeshift shops, to scrape together industry-changing equipment and build companies (in some cases, multi-million-dollar ones) from the ground up. That wintertime torch is now being carried by the new up and comers—ambitious entrepreneurial spirits of Sun Valley who are forming start-up companies right here at home. Here are a few of the promising new enterprises in our area and the stories and people behind them.
Two local bowhunters, Scott Robinson and Kenton Carruth, created this line of Merino wool hunting clothes that are, coincidentally, perfect for all outdoor activity. Merino wool is naturally warm and cool, durable, anti-static, a UV protector and (ladies!) it’s odor resistant. Add to that the camouflage patterns and you have the perfect Christmas present. They can be found locally at High Desert Sports and Silver Creek Outfitters and at major retailers like Cabela’s and Scheels.
Former pro snowboarder and Sun Valley local Cory Smith has solved the “approach” problem for backcountry snowboarders. The MTN Approach Ski, as it’s called, is a lightweight and sturdy trekking alternative to split boards and “slow-shoeing” (aka “snowshoeing”) up steep slopes. Developed in his garage, Smith says, “Each ski folds into thirds and fits perfectly into most backpacks. The bindings are specifically designed to fit a wide range of snowboard boots and perform like a pair of normal skis with climbing skins attached.” With the help of Apple engineer Dave Narajowski, Operations Director John Kaiser and new graphics from snowboarding legend Bryan Iguchi, the MTN Approach ski can now be found in over 30 retailers (including Backwoods and Board Bin locally) and 10 countries worldwide.
Founded by Hailey couple Marcus and Megan Lengyel in 2012, SQN stands for Sine Qua Non, which means “only the essential” in Latin. With a desire to create “quality, comfortable and performance fit apparel,” they designed SQN’s line of pre and post workout clothing to promote healthier lifestyle choices. “We decided to headquarter our company in the Wood River Valley to help grow the local economy and create jobs,” says Megan. Although they sell their products primarily online, you can find any number of their leggings, T-shirts, shorts and shirts locally at Zenergy Health Club and Spa, Gather Yoga Studio or SQN’s Ketchum showroom.
Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent series was designed with the help of Idahoan and mountaineering guide Peter Whittaker to create a line of expedition-quality outerwear, apparel and gear that was both guide-built and guide-tested. Many First Ascent athletes are Sun Valley locals, including Whittaker, Melissa Arnot, Ed Viesturs, Reggie and Zach Crist, Erik Leidecker, Wyatt Caldwell, Lexi DuPont and Lynsey Dyer. Why here? Because Sun Valley continues to be home to some of the best guides and athletes in their sport.
Local Troy Ballard (now the head of business development for PACT Apparel in Boulder, Colorado) brought Icebreaker Merino Wool to Sun Valley in 2005. This New Zealand company started with a small wool farmer and now sells products in 43 countries worldwide. Ballard, while living in Australia, befriended creator/owner Jeremy Moon and decided to bring the company to the northern hemisphere. What better place than Sun Valley to operate an outdoor and sport clothing company? Although Icebreaker is now located in Portland, Oregon, Sun Valley was its headquarters when it launched in the United States.
Longtime Ketchumite Corey Warren decided to celebrate Gem State pride with the Idahome line of T-shirts, hoodies, trucker hats and water bottles. First created in 2011, and now selling out in shops like the Board Bin and on his newly-launched website, IdahomeShop.com, the Idahome line has proven to have serious appeal.
Sun Valley born and bred, Conor Davis has created a line of premium detox products inspired by a lifelong battle with heavy metal poisoning. Conor took the same carbonized bamboo that was used to absorb toxins from his brain and created Black to Life (blacktolife.com)—a chelation supplement used to cleanse the body of industrial and agricultural toxins, chemicals, heavy metals, drugs and alcohol.
1936: Sun Valley opens as America’s original destination ski resort.
1936: World’s first ski lifts are installed on Proctor and Dollar mountains. 1939: First chairlift is placed on the Warm Springs side of Bald Mountain.
1941: “Sun Valley Serenade” starring Sonja Henie premieres and the film will draw people to Sun Valley from all over the world.
1946: Pioneering filmmaker Warren Miller gets his start by spending the ski season camping in the River Run parking lot.
1958: Ed Scott designs the first tapered aluminum ski pole.
1960s: Local legend Bobbie Burns is credited with creating the unorthodox “Hot Dogging” style of freestyle skiing.
1965: Bob Smith designs the world’s first double-lens ski goggle.
1966: Sun Valley Heli Ski becomes the nation’s first helicopter ski outfitter.
1968: Chuck Ferries helps K2 create the first foam core fiberglass racing ski.
1969: Sun Valley local Dick Barrymore makes the first of his iconic ski movies, “The Last of the Ski Bums!”
1970: Leif Odmark starts Sun Valley Nordic Ski School, the nation’s first cross country ski school.
1971: Scott USA produces the world’s lightest ski boot.
1972: Jake and Dave “Captain Powder” Moe launch Powder Magazine in Ketchum.
1973: Sun Valley hosts the first US Freestyle Championships.
1974: Bobbie Burns launches The Ski, the world’s first freestyle-specific ski.
1975: Mike Brunetto launches Research Dynamics, producing skis and eventually mountain bikes.
1981-82: Sun Valley sets its seasonal skier record with 475,000 skier days.
1987: Sun Valley ski coach Boone Lennon patents the “aerobar” cycling handlebar (it mimics downhill ski race positioning). Scott USA produces it in 1989 and American Greg Lemond uses it during his 1989 Tour de France win.
2010: 5B Ski Factory (now Big Wood Skis) begins producing boutique skis in Ketchum.
The history of this 31-year-old company begins with Joe Leonard, one of the original backcountry skiing guides in the Sun Valley area. He built the first huts in the remote Sawtooth Valley back in the late ‘70s. In 1982, he sold both the huts and permit for the then Leonard Expeditions to Sun Valley native, Bob Jonas, who renamed it Sun Valley Trekking. Jonas relocated the original yurts, built three new ones in the Sawtooth and Smoky mountain ranges and purchased the Pioneer Yurt from Sun Valley Heli Ski. After almost 20 years running the company, establishing one of the oldest and largest hut-to-hut ski operations in North America, Jonas passed it on to current owners Joe and Francie St. Onge. Sun Valley Trekking now has bases in Yellowstone, Alaska, Chile and Nepal and they have completely remodeled all six of their local yurts (including the Coyote Yurt, which burned in the Beaver Creek Fire). They offer year-round guided telemark and randonee skiing, cross country touring, snowboarding, snowshoeing, mountain biking and trekking.
The brainchild of Stanley local Kirk Bachman, Sawtooth Mountain Guides (SMG) was established back in 1985. “Backcountry skiing as we know it didn’t really exist back then—it wasn’t as much of a mainstream activity as it is now,” says Bachman, who was guiding trips around the Sawtooth and Teton mountain ranges in the ‘70s. “I’ve seen the whole evolution of this sport.” A yurt-builder by trade, Bachman perched the Williams Peak Yurt on an 8,000-foot peak near Stanley in 1988—a cozy overnight stay for SMG guests. Now owned by Erik Leidecker and Chris and Sara Lundy, SMG has access to prime backcountry terrain, including the steep couloirs of the Sawtooth, Lost River, Pioneer, Boulder and Smoky mountain ranges. They operate year-round guided expeditions all over central and southern Idaho. “The company is in good hands,” explains Bachman, who still guides, advises and teaches avalanche courses for SMG.
American-made and Sun Valley-inspired, Big Wood Ski is the baby of local ski enthusiast, Caleb Baukol. After originally creating 5B Skis with Brandon Doan between 2007 and 2012, Baukol decided to pursue his real passion,“creating functional pieces of art.”
“My inspiration was Stradivarius—one of the most renowned violin makers in the world. They’re very beautiful instruments, they’re valuable, they last forever, but they’re also functional. For me, it’s back to simplicity, back to the basics,” says Baukol.
Like the old school skis of the ‘30s and ‘40s, Baukol uses a one-piece core instead of three, and he removed the big protective sidewalls. Big Wood Skis even have a throwback appearance, with gorgeous veneers of African hardwood, domestic cherry, maple and black walnut. “But even the wood topsheet adds to the dampness or rigidity of the ski, so it’s all functional,” Baukol explains.
Though simplistic, Big Wood Skis are on the cutting edge of the revolutionary boutique ski industry. “I use an early rise tip, camber under foot and a race tail (no tail rocker) in almost every one of my alpine skis,” Baukol says, adding, “I prefer five-dimensional skis with a tapered tip and tail, but I can make anything.”
Based on an à la carte menu of options, every single product is made-to-order. “It’s like going into a tailored suit-maker,” says Baukol. “We are tailoring skis to suit you. Even if all you know is what you like, I can help you translate that into a pair of skis.”
Between flex, running length, shape, edge, baseline, tip profile, tail width, core taper and stringers, everything is completely customizable. Baukol uses a matrix of measurements—height, weight, strength, skier ability, skier type, etc.—to build a personalized pair of skis from the ground up.
“Ideally, I’d also like to ski with the person,” for an on-mountain evaluation, he explains. “I’m a product of the ski industry, over 28 years of experience. And it takes experience to put someone on a pair of skis with the confidence that it’s right for them.”
Once he gets the specs for an order, Baukol sends the files to a CNC engineer in Bellevue, Jason Georgiades, who sends back the templates. Baukol then assembles the ski in his shop, located in Ketchum’s industrial center. The whole process takes about three weeks.
In his line of Big Wood Skis, Baukol also offers a children’s powder ski and classic nordic ski, both with a standard footprint and customizable flex and topsheet.
“The Ski Shaper,” as Baukol trademarked himself, also owns and runs 5B Ski Garage, a private ski tuning and waxing club that shares a wall with Big Wood Ski. “It’s something to pay the rent until this takes off,” explains Baukol. “These are going to be the Ferrari of the ski industry.”
SUN VALLEY HELI SKI
Flights of Fancy
BY Kate Elgee
It all started in Sun Valley. In 1966, backcountry skier and former owner of Sun Valley Resort, Bill Janss, lifted a curious hand over his eyebrows to gaze past the Bald Mountain resort. He saw the jagged snow-capped peaks towering towards the north and east, where only the birds could go. Realizing flying was the only way to reach these untouched pinnacles, he arranged for his own kind of bird—a two-passenger Bell 47 helicopter—to take him exploring the steep lines and untracked snow of Idaho’s mountainous backcountry.
So it was that almost five decades ago, the first and oldest official heli ski operation in the United States was formed right here in Sun Valley. And so it was that Bill Janss became its “godfather.”
For 47 years, Sun Valley Heli Ski (SVHS) has been flying backcountry skiers into the deep and steep. With their Eurocopter A-Star B2 helicopter (aka “Charlie Romeo”), they charter groups into the remote couloirs and chutes of the Smoky, Pioneer and Boulder mountain ranges, where the terms “virgin snow” and “first tracks” take on whole new meanings.
SVHS has one of the largest special-use permits in North America, with access to over 750,000 acres of terrain. A regular itinerary for skiers includes hundreds of landing zones and over 10,000 vertical feet of skiing in a single day. Not to mention access to some of the lightest, deepest powder and remote skiing terrain in the state.
“All of the storms that come from the west tend to drop their snow in the mountains between Boise and Sun Valley (which is part of SVHS guiding territory). They get on average between 30-50% more snow than Baldy,” explains Mark Baumgardner, who bought the company in 1982 and owned it for 24 years.
Together with partner Carl Rixon, who is also a general contractor and owner of Rixon Construction, Baumgardner built the Smoky Mountain Lodge (SML) in 1999, nestled 5,500-feet high in the mountains at the upper end of the South Fork of the Boise River. This 4,000-square-foot basecamp, surrounded by the picturesque Sawtooth National Forest, is the only fly-in heli ski destination in the lower 48. Powered by a diesel generator and state-of-the-art solar batteries, with a riverrock fireplace, granite countertops, wood-fired sauna and hot tub, private chef and sleeping room for up to 12 guests, the SML is essentially a five-star mansion in the wild.
In 2006, Baumgardner sold SVHS to EpicQuest but continues to guide for the company. Now owned by Jay Levine out of Massachusetts, it is managed year-round from their new location at the base of Warm Springs on Bald Mountain, where SVHS continues to be one of the pioneering forerunners of the heli ski industry.
“Guests, if they so choose, can be picked up in the helicopter at the top of Bald Mountain,” explains Tyler Ferris, the business operations manager. “We are one of the only operators in the country with that capability.”
Before guests take off, Ferris usually asks them one simple question: “Are you ready for your life to change?” And they crawl in the chopper, wide-eyed and puffing clouded breath—just like “the godfather” of heli skiing—for the adventure of a lifetime.-Kate Elgee
A DAY IN THE LIFE
Locals share their perfect Sun Valley days
The hardest part about enjoying a winter’s day in Sun Valley can often be just deciding what to do: ski or fish, gallery hop or shop, eat here, drink there? Sun Valley is really just a well-balanced playground for kids of all ages. To help, we asked a handful of locals to describe their ideal winter day in Sun Valley.
Interview by Kate Elgee
SVM: What is your typical morning like?
Pete: I usually grab a coffee and banana from Giddy-Up Coffee, one of the best-kept secrets in the Valley. I make my Bellevue rounds, say hi to Martin Chandler at Guffy’s, then head to Ketchum.
SVM: What do you do for lunch?
Pete: I head into Wrap City and ask, “What’s in the hopper?” They give me a half wrap—I don’t care what it is—and then I go play my noon hockey. That’s an important part of my life. For 12 years, every Wednesday I have rented the ice at the Sun Valley ice rink and invited 30 ex-SUNS or good hockey players to skate for an hour. People like Hawk, Sluggo, Heans, Stoney, Eggie, Danglin’ Dickie Nelson, the Mahoney brothers. We’re the SUNS retirement party. After that, I sneak over to the Casino for a Bud can (or two). My wife, all the hockey players, my employees, all know that’s where to find me at 1:30pm.
OCCUPATION:Owner of Grumpy's and the Silver Dollar Saloon/Sanitation Engineer
YEARS IN SUN VALLEY:23
Pete: Afternoon is family time. My daughter Faye, who is 12 going on 27, walks home from the Middle School and George takes the bus home from The Sage School. The Sage School is perfect for George—he has a man-crush on Harry Weekes. Who wouldn’t? I do, too. George goes to train at Soo Bahk Do with Oliver Whitcomb in Hailey and Faye goes to swim with Brian Gallagher at the YMCA. When the kids are off doing that, the wife Molly and I go to “The Christy” for cocktails and apps—escargot and a martini up with two olives. Lately, I’ve been ordering Revolution Vodka martinis. It’s produced in Idaho and it’s veteran-owned. We at Grumpy’s are huge supporters of Higher Ground. My favorite thing to do if it’s a Friday night at 5pm is hit the Pio, because you see all the old-timers. Then we pick up the kids and we go home and feed ‘em and then I try to snuggle with my Molly, my business partner and wife. Without her I’d be pushin’ a shopping cart in Santa Monica, with a scarf on, mumbling to myself.
SVM: What if it’s a powder day?
Pete: I hit the slopes at 9am, and I’m back to Grumpy’s at 10:30am. I can cover 12,000 feet of vertical in an hour and a half skiing by myself. If there are six inches of powder or more, I’m on my snowboard, but if there’s less, I’m on my skis. Even though it’s early, I always feel obligated to have one beer after I ski. If they’ll open early at the River Run bar, I have one at 10:45am with Chuckles [Charlie Evans] and David Lee. Then I come to work between 11am and 3pm. At 4pm, I go to see my bartender friends and have a drink with the kids—my employees—at either The Cellar or Whiskey’s. Once 4pm hits, I’m onto a tall vodka sonic [half tonic, half soda] NFL. NFL means “No Frickin’ Lime.” If you don’t know what I drink, you haven’t been bartending in this town that long.
Interview by Kate Elgee
OCCUPATION:Editor/ Videographer, Yoga Instructor, Camp Counselor
HOMETOWN:Born in Salt Lake City, riased in Pennington, New Jersey
YEARS IN SUN VALLEY:8
SVM: What is your morning ritual?
Whitney: I don’t ever set an alarm. My morning usually consists of Mati, my fiancé, bringing me a cup of tea by the woodstove and writing in my journal. For breakfast, if I’m not making oatmeal at home, I’ll have a Country Frittata at The Kneadery or Eggs Benedict at Perry’s.
SVM: What is your typical day on Bald Mountain like?
Whitney: If I know it’s going to be a powder day, then I wake up early to go skiing—Limelight top to bottom. If it’s a groomer day, then my favorite run is Upper Warm Springs to Flying Squirrel, then Picabo to Greyhawk. When Averell’s was open, I would go get a beer and some fondue. But now I love the Taco Bar at the top of the mountain. It’s a great bang for your buck. I’ll usually watch live music at River Run afterwards, especially if Ethan Tucker is playing.
SVM: What if you’re not on the mountain?
Whitney: I would probably go cross country skiing north of town, by the SNRA (Sawtooth National Recreation Area), or go ice skating at Atkinson Park and then soak in Frenchman’s Hot Springs. I might go to a yoga class at Gather Yoga Studio or shopping at The Gold Mine. Mati and I spend a lot of time at Idaho Basecamp in the winter, too. The river freezes over, so we go ice-skating and fire up the wood-fired hot tub and relax.
SVM: Where can people spot you having lunch?
Whitney: Definitely at NourishMe for soup—they’re the best in the Valley and you know they’re healthy. They have an elk chili that is so delicious, and it all comes from good sources. In the winter, when I don’t have my garden, I like to shop there for groceries, too.
SVM: What’s your nightlife like?
Whitney: In winter, I’m in nesting zone. It’s a time for me to really relax, get back into my body, back into my soul and really nurture myself again. So in the evening, I love to go home, chop 3-4 rounds of wood—that’s a ritual for me—have a fire and get cozy. If I’m going to dinner in town, it’s usually Rickshaw. I love Zou 75, but only if it’s a really special night out. For quite a few years, the Friday/Saturday ritual for Mati and me was hockey—he’s played goalie for the SUNS for a really long time. I’d hang out with my hockey girlfriends, with my Mason jar of red wine, then go to the Pio after every game.
SVM: What is one thing you can’t go a single day in Sun Valley without?
Whitney: I think gratitude. To me, it’s really important not to take this place for granted.
Interview by Kate Elgee
AGE:Pete 71, Becky 74
HOMETOWN:Los Angeles, California
YEARS IN SUN VALLEY:28
SVM: What do you like to do in Sun Valley now that you’re retired?
Pete: I’ve had the privilege to serve on a lot of boards: The Nature Conservancy, the Sun Valley Center for the Arts (SVCA), the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) and most recently on the board at The Community School. Becky is on the board for the SVCA, The Community School and the Hospital Foundation. She’s also a St. Luke’s Pet Therapy volunteer.
SVM: What are your winter activities?
Becky: We are on the Warm Springs bridge by 9am just about every day. Pete’s a snowboarder and I’m a skier. We like to go for a couple of hours at the most.
Pete: Sometimes we wait for friends, but there’s a five-minute rule. On a powder day, there’s no waiting.
SVM: What are your favorite eateries in the Valley?
Pete: We love Cristina’s for lunch. For dinner, it’s the Ketchum Grill, CK’s (Real Food) or Enoteca. I’m a beer guy. At both the Powerhouse and Enoteca, they have a great variety of beers.
Becky: At the Ketchum Grill, Pete has a special pasta—they call it “Pete’s Pasta.” It’s not on the menu, but he orders it so often they have it in their computer.
SVM: What do you do on a weekend night?
Becky: We love to go to the movies, to our little theater, the Magic Lantern. We also go to a lot of the SVCA musical performances and humanities lectures. And to the Liberty Theater for the Company of Fools’ plays.
Pete: They bring in a lot of really great independent films, especially during the fall and spring Film Festivals. We live in quite a cosmopolitan place for such a small community.
SVM: I hear you are art enthusiasts?
Becky: We’ve been collecting art since the ‘60s, and we continue to collect, primarily American contemporary art. Our favorite local galleries are Gilman Contemporary and the Gail Severn Gallery. John Broschofsky is also a friend, as is Denis Ochi.
Pete: We have pieces by Ed Ruscha, Frank Stella, Sam Francis and Robert Graham.
Becky: Also, Larry Bell and Ellsworth Kelly. Over all these years, we’ve known a lot of the artists personally, which was part of the attraction—getting to know the interesting people who were producing, like Rod Kagan, for example. We have some of his work and we donated one of his large sculptures to The Community School. Wonderful man.
Interview by Mike McKenna
SVM: What is your Sun Valley story?
L’Anne: I had never heard of the place before I came here with a couple girlfriends from college (at the University of North Carolina) to work for a summer at Gail Severn Gallery and I pretty much fell in love with Idaho. I’m not a city girl. I’m not an ocean girl. I’m a mountain girl.
SVM: What is your ideal winter day?
L’Anne: We’re up on the mountain. My husband Nick and the kids have really gotten me into skiing. We’re all up early and the house has music cranking. First it’s off to Baldy to ski with our son, Alex, who’s the best teacher I’ve ever had. Then it’s over to Dollar to watch our son, Hayes, in the half-pipe. Some people think it’s too dangerous, but I’m not scared and just love watching them. It’s crazy what those kids can do. Then it’s back to Baldy for our daughter, Miriam’s, alpine races. Afterwards, it’s either to Lefty’s or the (Johnny G’s) Subshack depending on whether we’re in the mood for “Monkey’s” or a “Del Bello.”
AGE:Ageless (Last time I asked a woman her age I got slapped!)
OCCUPATION:Owner of Gilman Contemporary Gallery
YEARS IN SUN VALLEY:A couple of decades
SVM: What is your ideal Sun Valley evening?
L’Anne: Nothing too exciting, just being home with the family and unwinding. I might sneak in a walk with the dogs up Quigley Canyon and then an early dinner with my husband, at CK’s (Real Food) or Zou (75), and then it’s home to watch movies.
SVM: What makes Sun Valley so special?
L’Anne: It’s an attitude. There’s just a great mix of people here from all over, from Boston and Connecticut, California and the South. It’s pretty incredible. I met my husband here and he’s from Maine. There’s just nothing like Sun Valley. It’s an amazing place.
SVM: Most other ski towns envy Sun Valley’s art scene, what has been the key to its success?
L’Anne: Every gallery offers something uniquely different. I think that’s the biggest difference. I’m constantly amazed at how surprised people are with what we have to offer around here.
Interview by Kate Elgee
SVM: How does your morning in Sun Valley start?
Wyatt: I’m awake at dark to check the weather and avalanche forecast, have some homemade eggs benedict with my darling girlfriend and two dogs and plan the daily excursion into the backcountry. Usually, I go with my brother, Yancy, and the crew at Smith Optics. We head snowmobiling out Baker Creek area or Smiley Creek to find a spot to split-board.
SVM: What’s a regular “Sunday Funday” like?
Wyatt: If there were high avalanche conditions, we’d head to Baldy to find powder on Scorpion or the Board Ranch side-country (aka “The Burn”). If there isn’t any fresh snow and we weren’t snowmobiling, we would venture over to Dollar Mountain’s terrain parks and have some fun in the 22-foot half pipe.
OCCUPATION:Professional Snowboard Athlete, Outerwear Consultant, Photobrapher and Arborist
HOMETOWN:Born and raised in Ketchum
YEARS IN SUN VALLEY:30
SVM: Where do you go for après beers?
Wyatt: Apple’s Bar and Grill. We have a pitcher and get to see a bunch of crusty locals—SVSEF coaches, Bald Mountain ski patrol staff, friends and everyone else with icicles hanging from their beard. It’s got the authentic après feel to it.
SVM: Where do you shop for equipment and gear in town?
Wyatt: For snowboard gear, the Board Bin, and for technical mountain equipment, Backwoods and The Elephant’s Perch.
SVM: What does a night on the town look like?
Wyatt: Usually, I’ll eat at any one of Ketchum’s fine dining establishments. I like the classic half-pounder at Lefty’s or some grade-A maguro (tuna) at Sushi on Second. But some nights, it’s The Sawtooth Club, the Cab [La Cabañita] or Grumpy’s. For a night on the town, I go see Rick and Paige at The Cellar Pub for a Moscow Mule and Bangers and Mash, maybe play some shuffleboard, have a “Hamtini” at the Casino or go to Whiskey Jacques for live music.
Interview by Mike McKenna
SVM: What is your Sun Valley story?
Katharine: My family vacations in Sun Valley. So we get to spend time there in the winter and the summer.
SVM: What does your perfect Sun Valley day start with?
Katharine: A large cup of hot chocolate before hitting the slopes with my sisters. It also includes a mid-day break at Seattle Ridge Lodge. (They have the best pizza!)
SVM: What about your afternoons?
Katharine: Sledding and snow ball fights in the backyard.
SVM: When you are in Sun Valley, who do you want to spend time with?
SCHOOL & GRADE:Bishop Gorman High School, Las Vegas, Nevada, 12th
HOMETOWN:Las Vegas, Nevada
Katharine: My family and friends.
SVM: What would your day not be complete without?
Katharine: At least one face full of snow from a wipeout on the mountain.
SVM: What is your favorite Sun Valley-only thing?
Katharine: The cookies from the Warm Springs Lodge.
SVM: What is your favorite under the radar thing to do in Sun Valley?
Katharine: Go bowling in the game room at the Sun Valley Lodge.
SVM: Where is your favorite place for breakfast?
SVM: Where is your favorite place for lunch?
Katharine: The Burger Grill.
SVM: Where is your favorite place for dinner?
Katharine: The Pioneer.
BOOM & BUST
Real Estate Cycles Then and Now
Basking in the glory of historically resilient real estate values, the Sun Valley-Ketchum market that began during the pioneer ranching and gold rush days has nonetheless still experienced a few Western boom and bust cycles. We dug through 40 years of real estate coverage in order to capture a picture of where we are—and where we’ve come from.
Sun Valley’s first land boom occurred after the visit of Count Felix Schaffgotsch, who wired Union Pacific chairman Averell Harriman that he had found THE mountain. Harriman purchased the 3,888-acre Brass Ranch for $39,000 cash—considered too good to pass up, it was only $10.03 per acre. Seventy-eight years later, the average list price per acre in Sun Valley and Ketchum is $1.43 million and $2.44 million respectively.
Sun Valley’s first big real estate boom, fueled in part by condominium development under the direction of then-owner Bill Janss, is described in later years as a “frantic tax-driven and inflation-hedge.” By 1982, it had already gone bust.
Less than 10 years later, a second boom hits the area, shocking locals with the magnitude of price increases—with total real estate sold posting $86 million in 1988, up 41% from the $61 million in 1987 (Sun Valley Magazine, Winter/Spring 1989, “The Great Land Rush” by Lori Scott Stewart).
As Sherry Daech of McCann Daech Fenton Realtors explains, riverfront land demands a premium and cites the trend of buyers who are paying cash—ALL cash—for properties. She adds, “We have seen river properties re-selling for several times their initial offering price. People are paying up for older houses that don’t suit them and either remodeling them or tearing them down just for the land.”
Unprecedented price increases create a bit of a feeding frenzy. A 1989 Sun Valley Magazine article uses the example of “a 5,000-sq.ft. cabin on the river with views of Baldy that was selling for $1,500,000 last year is back on the market this year for $2,500,000.”
Speculation continues about development moving down the Valley (especially as it relates to Harry Rinker’s “much talked about private golf club on Golden Eagle Ranch”), although locals are relieved to know that Mid Valley development has slowed somewhat and a golf course development “won’t be on the approximately 300-acres north of Deer Creek as previously rumored. That piece of land went to Bob Brennan because in Idaho, where money isn’t everything, finding the right buyer still matters. And Deer Creek Ranch is rumored to have been sold to an unnamed buyer who apparently has no plans to develop it.” (from Sun Valley Magazine, Summer 1989, “Real Estate: Where do we go from here?” by Lori Scott Stewart).
A run up on real estate takes land prices and single-family home sales to new heights. Termed the “real estate bubble,” it bursts in 2007 in conjunction with the global financial crisis. It is the first real boom to hit the Mid Valley and sees a number of new highs including the highest average price per square foot and price per acre numbers ever recorded in the Valley. The volume of properties listed at the height of the market is more than $450 million and the average list price per acre for vacant land in Ketchum, which is at an ultra premium, is a mind-blowing $3.94 million per acre.
The Mid Valley experiences some of the largest growth with the average price per square foot of single-family homes rising to about $520/ sq.ft., which represents a 77% increase over just 5 years prior (when the average list price was just $293/ sq.ft.). Riverfront properties continue to sell at premiums far and above these numbers.
The real estate run up during these years also sees some larger homes being built. The average total square foot livable space of a home in Ketchum rises 145% to 3,468 square feet (versus just 1,410 square feet 10 years earlier in 1996).
The market begins to rebound from the 2007 bust, with total real estate sold posting $315 million in 2012 (not including farm and ranch properties, which bring the total to nearly $335 million—up more than $88 million over 2011 for a 36%-plus increase over the previous year. Perhaps even more significant, the average days on the market for vacant land drops from a depressing 989 days (2.7 years) to 379 in 2012, indicating that some speculative buying might be entering the marketplace.
Will the next rise in real estate reflect another boom / bust cycle or have we learned our lesson from the gold rush days? Only time will tell.
All data, unless otherwise noted, courtesy the Sawtooth Board of Realtors.