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Story and photos by Larry Turner (www.larryturnerphotography.com)
HighOnAdventure.com   February 1, 2013

  Sun Valley  

McCall and Sun Valley, Idaho are shimmering icons in the history of my ski experience. Though I wet my ski whistle at 18 in Oregon—a crazy inaugural ski day at Spout Springs in the Tollgate region between Pendleton and Elgin, Oregon, when I careened off the slope into a parked car!—it was Brundage Mountain near McCall where I fell in love with the sport. Soon after, Sun Valley would affirm that love on an outing that my late wife and I took when I was working as a newspaper writer in Ontario, Oregon and living as a newlywed in our first home in Payette, Idaho. This was the early 1970s.

I've often gone back to these two ski mountains, creating new memories...the most recent a few years ago, attending our annual meeting of the North American Snowsports Journalists Association in Sun Valley, preceded by a pre-trip to Brundage in McCall, Idaho (self proclaimed Ski Town, USA). Like in days past, we stayed at two venerable lodges: Sun Valley Lodge and Shore Lodge in McCall.

When I first started skiing these areas, I had old (then new) Head skis with straps. My hair was much longer then and my skiing apparel marginal at best. I wear a helmet now... then nothing more than a stocking cap. These two areas are endearing, steeped in memory; all of that accompanied me on the slopes as I made new tracks during the NASJA gathering. Both areas have expanded their terrain from the old days, giving me and others more mountain bone to chew on.

Hemingway Memorial   Sun Valley
Hemingway Memorial
Sun Valley Seattle Ridge   Sun Vsalley Seattle Ridge lunch
Seattle Ridge
Seattle Ridge Lunch


Sun Valley (www.sunvalley.com) is the home of the world's first ski lift, placed on Dollar Mountain during the Averill Harriman era. I love skiing Dollar for nostalgia as much as anything, but also because it gathers in great amounts of sunshine with its treeless exposure and its beginner-intermediate runs which are great fun for zipping up and down. It should have been named Old Baldy but Bald Mountain in nearby Ketchum has that moniker.

It is a world class ski mountain with plenty of vertical terrain and a host of on-hill ski lodges second to none. I especially love the Seattle Ridge Lodge (check out their restrooms with Kleenex tissue boxes in each stall and above the urinals), with its grand views inside and out (where there is a 10 foot glass wall to break the wind), and the charming Roundhouse Restaurant where my wife and I would take breaks to eat and rehydrate in the old days. I remember one afternoon meeting singer Andy Williams of Moon River fame and taking a few mogul runs with him.

On my more recent trek, Lynette Shirley and I took a late lunch break—after skiing countless runs with 1-2 inches of fresh dry powder on top of hardened snow—at Seattle Ridge where we had a superb soup (sweet potato leek, orange and curry) and salad (oriental greens with rice noodles) for $8.95. We drank a Stone IPA beer while seated outside in the deep warming winter sun, fueling ourselves for the remaining skiing. No need to take a sack lunch here with these prices.

Late in coming—but they made up for it with the size and quality—Sun Valley now has a world class terrain park. They also have a Nordic park which is one of my all-time favorites, offering as good and as beautiful a course found anywhere in America.

The only negative about Sun Valley is a plus in my book: the nearest large airport is Boise. There is a small airport in nearby Haley. The lack of immediate flight access to the mountain also means fewer skiers.

Sun Valley ski runs   Sun Valley barn   Sun Valley Lodge Hallway
Skiing Sun Valley
Sun Valley barn
Sun Valley Lodge hallway
Sun Valley ice skating
  Sun Valley ice skating  
  Accordian player on Baldy Mountain  
Sun Valley Seattle Ridge patio
Accordianist at the Roundhouse on Baldy Mountain
Seattle Ridge patio


There is nothing excessive and overdone about the Sun Valley Lodge. It is like the perfect shoe, fit for lodging. It all starts with the 24 hour doorman who welcomes you to the lodge and opens your door. Our room overlooked the ice skating rink.

I look back at my notes and see what I had written one afternoon: “In the foyer I sit, in the east wing, near the fireplace. The Yamaha burnished wood piano in front of me. Out the window, the late sun falls softly on the ice skating rink. Children and parents, attired in bright colors, skate hither and there around the rink, some demonstrating polished skills, others learning for the first time...all having loads of fun. It makes me nostalgic as I think of my son when he was their age. The age of innocence, firsts, learning. I see kids chasing their moms and dads. I see moms and dads chasing their kids. All in fun...the exuberance of the day shown in smiles and glee in everyone's face.”

This is a lodge for all: families, friends, lovers, newlyweds, solitary folks, long term relationships.


  One day at a conference gathering, we had the pleasure of listening to and meeting the world famous mountaineer Lou Whittaker who led the first ascent of Everest's North Face. His twin brother Jim was the first American to attain Everest’s summit. Lou and his wife, Ingrid, spent winters in Sun Valley, and the remainder of the year near Mount Rainier where he was the chief guide for 30 years. He made 250 ascents of that fabled mountain. A tall, angular 83-year-old, Whittaker says to me in private, laughing, “I'd love to keep Sun Valley a secret, but I know that is impossible with you journalists. But I make my money, too, as a result of tourism so I can't complain too much.” Kind and gracious, Whittaker spoke about the importance of keeping healthy. “I look at health like banking. You save and make deposits by keeping healthy as long as you can because someday you'll have to withdraw from your banking health. If you keep your health up, it will keep you up with time. Sun Valley is a perfect place for gathering and maintaining health with the skiing, ice skating, mountaineering and a host of other outdoor activities.”   Lou Whittaker  
Lou Whittaker


Across the Sawtooth Mountains and through the woods is my personal favorite ski area (www.brundage.com) in the world...mainly because of the memories I have there with my wife, my long time friend Pete Smit and old newspaper friend and world renown horticulture writer/photographer Jorge Cervantes. Brundage Mountain is quaint, charming, affordable, uncrowded with great runs and champagne powder. Nearby McCall (http://www.go-idaho.com/McCall/) has a Shore Lodge (www.shorelodge.com) which has endeared me forever to this area.

Idaho Shore Lodge   Idaho Shore Lodge
Shore Lodge
Shore Lodge
  Shore Lodge   Brundage yurt  
Shore Lodge
Brundage yurt
Brundage entry   Brundage mountainside lunch
Brundage entry
Brundage mountainside lunch
  Shore Lodge hot tub   Shore Lodge  
Shore Lodge hot tub
Shore Lodge

In the old days we'd get a room at the lodge and often ski for several days. Brundage never ceased to satisfy and there was always plenty of elbow room for skiing in those days, just as there is now, including a current back-country yurt snow-cat ski program that accesses thousands of untouched acres.

The lodge in those days had a great thermal heated swimming pool. After a hearty day of skiing, upon our return to the lodge, we'd head out to the pool with a cheap six-pack of beer, anchor it in the snow beside the pool and commence to enjoy the unwind from all of our activity. The newly remodeled lodge doesn't have the pool, but it does have a large hot tub (we got up to a dozen in it) outside near frozen Payette Lake that is heavenly.

My room (258) had a comfy balcony with two cushioned chairs and a superb view of Payette Lake and the distant mountains. My computer/writing desk had a perfect lake view, too. The well-appointed rooms are the ultimate in comfort and decor and in-room hot tub jets as strong as I've ever had...a perfect place to relax and massage muscles in the morning before a robust day of skiing. The lodge itself is steeped in history connected with winter sports activities and summer tourism in this beautiful area.

Their are several food venues in the Shore Lodge, the most notable is The Narrows with great lake and mountain views. The comfort of the lodge is such that one can be content just staying there and skiing nearby Brundage. However, downtown McCall should be explored and enjoyed, as well as the surrounding area which offers a variety of winter activities.

Idaho is heaven in the wintertime and the best Pearly Gates that lead into it are Sun Valley and Brundage.

Larry Turner is a full-time freelance writer/photographer with endless publication credits. His work can be viewed at www.larryturnerphotography.com and on facebook at larry turnerphotograph. All of his images are available for print purchase or licensing.

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