Ski Heritage Week: Sun Valley

Contributed by guest blogger Jim Garrison.

This coming March 27th – April 3rd the skiing world will turn some of its’ attention to Sun Valley. In concert with the 75th anniversary of Sun Valley Resort; it seems appropriate that the old and new gather and again grace and enjoy the slopes, restaurants, and area.

During this particular week the US Ski Hall of Fame will present the latest inductees along with any number of other events, films, and activities.

Years ago I was lamenting to my friend Dick Barrymore, that I had no money…..guessed that I needed to get a job in the “real” world instead of hanging out skiing in Sun Valley. He thought for a minute and told me, “Jim, you can work hard for years and probably earn a million dollars but, the real key is to not work so hard but live life like you HAVE it.” As a matter of fact, Dick wrote his autobiography titled, “Breaking Even” and titled one of his films, “The High Cost of a Free Ride”. Plays upon the same life thought – live like you HAVE it….

Sun Valley has raised some of those interesting, bigger than life, ski characters over the decades, Barrymore being one of the most colorful. Warren Miller also got his start in Sun Valley – photos of his little trailer in the parking lot, his unique sense of humor and distinctive voice. Bobby Burns, the “original” hotdogger, ski maker, clothing designer – another unique style and innovator who landed in Sun Valley. Most of K2’s “The Performers” who so heavily influenced the young skiers of the 70’s still live in Sun Valley. Olympic winning ski racers, hot doggers, extreme, xcross, half pipers…. from the time the slopes opened to today’s newest generation of Zach and Reggie Christ, Graham Watanabe, Shane Cordeau – and even younger ones still on the rise.

Living like you have a million….. I’ve always felt that if you can ski Baldy well, you can ski well anywhere in the world. The hill seems to fall away from you all the way down, the altitude and run length strengthen your lungs and legs. The snow is fast and often hard which makes solid, crisp edging important and easy to understand sharp from dull edges. To locals, a “Sun Valley foot” of new is a well understand joke played upon us by mother nature. Usually amounting to something around 2 inches. But, it’s almost always good snow, evidenced by that crunchy, squeaky sound under your boots – a combination of cold and dry – ergo, see the fast reference above.

One of Barrymore’s favorite runs to film was – well, all of them…. as long as the back-lighting contrasted with the deep blue sky and the snow flew in the air and hung behind his skiers like wispy tails of smoke. Either Dick or his partner Earl Rickers would call first thing in the morning if the skies were clear and we’d be on the hill ready to go in half an hour. That night we’d look at the “dailies” – a 16 mm rough print of what had been done during the day before.

When it was a particularly cold day and they wanted colored sweaters in the shot, they’d take our jackets with them as they set up their cameras which sometimes might take 15 or 20 minutes. Then with a whistle or a pole wave, we’d have to ski like we were warm – we likened it to running a 100 yard dash with no warm up….in the cold….

Both Dick and Rickers are gone now and we all miss them terribly. But the mountain and snow are still there – the Sun Valley sky is still that deep, dark shade of blue, snow is still cold, dry and fast. Greg Stump, TGR and Matchstick will carry on the tradition. All is right with the world for today.

So, in this 75th year of Sun Valley, this 40th year of “hotdogging”, the reunion of skiers, old and new alike, during the last week of March will be a fun series of events and a chance of a lifetime to ski with the greats of yesterday and today….and to live life like you HAVE a million bucks….

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    Looking forward to coming to Sun Valley, seeing old friends and celebrating our sport. Been working with Bernie W to have a lot of great ski movies showing through out and the ski film makers there, Roger Brown, Stumpie, Paul Ryan, Warren Miller to name a few…

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    Comment: We will be showing the 1931 German Mt. Film “Der Weisse Reisch”.
    There is a delegation coming from Kitzbuhel to receive an award for “Hahnenkamm: The Chronicle of a Myth” and the European Broadcast Network will be represented for their film “The 100 Years Of FIS” …