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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

Pete Prekeges having fun during hockey practice at the Sun Valley ice rink. Photo courtesy Travis Bartlett.

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.

NAME:Pete Prekeges
OCCUPATION:Owner of Grumpy's and the Silver Dollar Saloon/Sanitation Engineer
HOMETOWN:Spokane, Washington
SVM: What do you like to do with
the family?

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?

The famous Schooner from Grumpy's. Photo courtesy Bryan Huskey.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

Whitney McNees, "Captain-ess" of the Eddie Bauer Airstream, at the Birds of Prey Men's World Cup downhill ski race in Beaver Creek, Colorado. Photo courtesy Paolo Mottola.

NAME:Whitney McNees
OCCUPATION:Editor/ Videographer, Yoga Instructor, Camp Counselor
HOMETOWN:Born in Salt Lake City, riased in Pennington, New Jersey

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 is a fan of the decaf Bowl of Soul from Java on Fourth. Photo by Travis Bartlett.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

Pete and Becky Smith in front of a Frank Stella painting at their home in Ketchum. Photo by Travis Bartlett.

NAME:Pete & Becky Smith
AGE:Pete 71, Becky 74
HOMETOWN:Los Angeles, California

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?

Rod Kagan Totems. Courtesy Gail Severn Gallery.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

L'Anne Gilman with her daughter, Miriam, at Johnny G's Subshack. Photo by Tessa Sheehan.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.”

NAME:L'Anne Gilman
AGE:Ageless (Last time I asked a woman her age I got slapped!)
OCCUPATION:Owner of Gilman Contemporary Gallery
HOMETOWN:Chattanooga, Tennessee
YEARS IN SUN VALLEY:A couple of decades

SVM: What is your ideal Sun Valley evening?

Date night at Zou 75. Photo by Julie MolemaL’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

Wyatt Caldwell's favorite spot to après is Apple's Bar and Grill. Photo by Travis Bartlett.

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.

NAME:Wyatt Caldwell
OCCUPATION:Professional Snowboard Athlete, Outerwear Consultant, Photobrapher and Arborist
HOMETOWN:Born and raised in Ketchum

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.

Authentic Mexican at La Cabañita. Photo by Travis Bartlett.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

Katharine Essa enjoys some fresh snow on Upper River Run. Photo courtesy of Katharine Essa.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?

NAME:Katharine Essa
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?

Katharine: Cristina’s.

SVM: Where is your favorite place for lunch?

Katharine: The Burger Grill.

SVM: Where is your favorite place for dinner?

Katharine: The Pioneer.

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