August, 2014 – The magic of Sun Valley, Idaho, is that it combines the stunning scenery of the Sawtooth mountains and Big Wood River with the more cosmopolitan pleasures of the fine arts, all in a chic small town atmosphere. Everyone who visits is captivated by its charm, and we were quickly seduced too.
As the owner of the Pacific Union Railroad, Harriman wanted to get people onto his trains, and what better way to lure them for a ride than to open a ski resort in a spectacular place at the end of one of his railroad lines?!
He sent an Austrian count out to the end of each line to look for the ideal resort spot, and when the count disembarked in Ketchum, Idaho, he knew this place was it.
He felt like he was back in the Austrian Alps, and Ketchum still feels like that even today.
The mountains soar on the horizon, the ski slopes are a snowy playground in winter, and in summertime (the slow season) everyone basks in the sunshine and plays outside in short sleeves.
The downtown streets come alive with activities everyday, whether it’s a small band playing in the town square or a farmer’s market on a side street or a free wine and art appreciation walk or a fine arts fair of the highest caliber.
Because the celebrities who call this town their “home away from home” love Sun Valley so much, the money flows easily to support every local endeavor.
There is a month-long series of free summer concerts by the top quality Sun Valley Symphony in their exquisite indoor/outdoor concert hall, gazillionaires donate buckets of money to race their cars on the highway, and the highway shuts down yet again on Halloween when the whole town hits the streets to celebrate.
Ketchum is a real town, and is indeed “the town,” but Sun Valley is actually a resort — a corporation — located at one end of Ketchum.
And there is always something going on there. From skating, biking and golf to eateries and relaxation, the grounds of the resort are open to everyone to enjoy. Just stroll on over!
The outdoor skating rink is famous for the series of skating shows that are performed each weekend all summer long, and it has always been a showcase for new and upcoming talent.
Every big name figure skater in history has starred in this show, from the 1956 Olympic champs Tenley Albright and Dick Button right the way through to today’s stars.
I loved the photo in the Lodge of Lucille Ball and her family in figure skates.
During our visit to Sun Valley this year, two big figure skating events were held back to back, and both were free.
The first was the Sun Valley Figure Skating Championships, an open competition for young amateurs that are beginning to climb the ranks.
A contingent from Hong Kong arrived to compete, and one of the youngest little girls was a total ham.
She proudly showed me her medals, although she didn’t speak any English, and then she got on the ice on the outdoor rink and did some very elaborate interpretive skating during a practice session.
I got a huge kick out of watching this competition, as there was a time when I was part of the skating scene too.
Figure skating has been on an evolutionary rocket ship ride in the decades since I participated in the sport, and the replacement of the old figure eights that my generation often practiced for 30 hours a week or more have been replaced by intriguing new events like “Show Case,” a non-Olympic track that emphasizes performance and entertainment.
Of course, the judges are still as stern and intimidating as ever, and I couldn’t help but chuckle as I watched them frowning over their reading glasses at every little girl that skated.
The day after the Figure Skating Championships ended, another skating event began that spectators could also enjoy for free.
This one was the ProSkaters Open competition, another new type of event in figure skating.
The entrants were mostly amateurs who are headed into the professional ranks, and the competition was structured like a reality TV show.
The judges took the microphone and commented on each skater’s performance when they finished, and the skaters were given a microphone to respond.
The skating was wonderful that night.
One of the resort’s restaurants looks out on the rink, and many audience members were enjoying dinner or a drink while they watched.
We learned later that the male partner in a fabulous dance team would be turning 60 in October. What an inspiration!
As the sun sank in the sky over the mountains, the lights on the outdoor rink slowly came up.
There are no hockey barriers on this rink, and the skaters seemed close enough to touch.
In fact, a few of us sat right at the feet of the skaters within arm’s reach of the ice.
The next day the amateurs-turning-pro assembled again, this time to audition for some of the major skating show producers, including Holiday on Ice, the biggest figure skating show in Europe.
Our travels always introduce us to the most interesting people, and by luck we happened to sit next to LuAnne, the mother of Clara Daly, one of the contestants and a particularly graceful skater.
LuAnne later joined us at our rig to take some photography tutorial lessons from Mark.
We instantly bonded over our cameras and the craziness of the skating world.
Sun Valley is a place where you can hike, bike and revel in the outdoors one moment and then enjoy wonderful and unusual entertainment the next.
So far we had been in town for just a few days and we had already enjoyed engaging performances by an inspiring granny and aspiring figure skaters. What would we bump into next?
Related Post about Figure Skating:
For more of our posts from Sun Valley (both past and present), check out these links:
- Sun Valley Idaho – An RV Traveler’s Delight in Ketchum, ID! 09/16/16
- Sun Valley Idaho – in Trailer Life Magazine! 08/07/15
- Craters of the Moon + Cataclysms from Sun Valley ID to Alpine WY 09/02/14
- The Artsy Side of Sun Valley, ID 08/26/14
- Sun Valley Road Rally – Go Granny Go! 08/16/14
- Sun Valley Idaho – Music, History & Celebrities 08/15/09
- Sun Valley Idaho – RV Camping, Car Racing & Skating Legends 08/06/09
- Sun Valley & Ketchum ID – Beauty & Fun in the Mountains! 07/25/09
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