MACAU: Magical Charm
AUSTRALIA, TA: Hobart’s Half Dozen Treasures
USA, NM: Santa Fe – Downtown Retreat & Mountain Ranch Resort
PERU: Lake Sandoval, Amazonia: Mundos Intocados – Untouched Worlds.
AUSTRALIA, SA: Hopping Across to Kangaroo Island
USA, WY: The Legend of Buffalo Bill
AUSTRALIA, SA: Dishing It Out In South Australia
USA, NV: Top 10 Las Vegas Travel Tips
KIWI: Stewart Island's Natural Beauty
KIWI: Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track - Stairway to Heaven
KIWI: Sitting on the DOC of the Bay - A Campervan in the Coromandel
HONG KONG: Top Ten Must See Attractions
MACAU: A Macanese Affair to Remember
USA, Rockies: A Most Excellent Adventure - RV Trip Part 2
USA, Rockies: A Most Excellent Adventure - RV Trip Part 1
KIWI: Top 10 Kiwi Coastal Department of Conservation Campsites
KIWI: South by Southwest Auckland
AUSTRALIA, QLD: Campervan Adventures on the Great Tropical Drive
HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s Adventurous Atributes
KIWI: Top 10 Adventure Activities to Experience in Auckland
KIWI: The Gems and Jewels of the Tutukaka Coast
AUSTRALIA, NSW: A South Coast & Southern Highlands Tasting Seduction
USA, WY: Unadulterated Wilderness - Yellowstone National Park
KIWI: Island’s in the Gulf
USA, SD: Famous Faces in Great Places
USA, MT: Montana’s Forgotten Ghost Towns
UAE: Abu Dhabi - More Than A Flight of Fancy
WESTERN SAMOA: In the Footsteps of Robert Louis Stephenson
TONGA: Vava’u Island Group
KIWI: Unpack, Inhale and Unwind – Breathing Easy on Auckland’s West Coast
KIWI: Waiheke Island – Paradise Found
USA, ID: A Big City with a Small Town Heart
SOUTH KOREA: Temple Tourism Where Silence is Golden
AUSTRALIA, TAS: Hobart’s Half Dozen Treasures
AUSTRALIA, TAS: A Taste and a Tipple in Tassie
KIWI: Conjuring Up Some Matakana Magic
FIJI: Cavorting on the Coral Coast
USA, CA: Jamaica Bay Inn, Marina Del Rey
NEPAL: Kartwheeling in Kathmandu
KIWI: Going With The Flow - A Day on the Dart River
NEPAL: Eat Pray Hike – Life on a Himalayan Trail Part 2.
NEPAL: Eat Pray Hike – Life on a Himalayan Trail Part 1.
SINGAPORE: Capella Hotel, Sensosa Island
USA, HI: Hairpin Highway to Hana and Beyond
KIWI: Matakauri Lodge, Queenstown
ENGLAND: Haunted by Heathcliff - Yorkshire's Bronte Country
USA, CA: Handlery Union Square Hotel, San Francisco
KIWI: This Restless Land – Hiking the Tongariro Crossing & Mt. Ruapehu
KIWI: On My Bike - Mountain Biking and the Queenstown Bike Festival
ENGLAND: Mark it in Your Calendar – Visit Skipton, Yorkshire
SCOTLAND: A Scottish Highland Fling
REPUBLIC of IRELAND: Wrestling Wrasse on the Beara Peninsula
REPUBLIC of IRELAND: 48 Hours in Cork
ENGLAND: The Land of Romans, Myths and Medieval Castles
SCOTLAND: 48 Hours in Edinburgh
WALES: Wandering North Wales
USA, CA: In Yountville Pushing the Epicurean Envelope
ENGLAND: On The Trail of Lancashire’s Pendle Witches
THAILAND: Sky High in Bustling Bangkok
TAHITI: Lazy Hazy Days of Winter - Tahitii and Moorea
AUSTRALIA, QLD: In Seventh Heaven
VENEZUELA: Where Angels Dared To Tread
NORFOLK ISLAND: Isle of Exiles
NEW CALEDONIA: Flavours of New Caledonia
KIWI: The Wonder Country - Campervan Ventures in Southland
MALAYSIA, Sabah Borneo: In The Land of the Red Ape
AUSTRALIA, QLD: Taste of the Tropics

USA, ID: Sun Valley Lodge, Ketchum

For Ketchum and Sun Valley locals, spring, summer and autumn are all about the outdoors and enjoying what nature has delivered in abundance. The region is renowned for a host of world class challenging golf courses, great trout fishing rivers and lakes, over-the-top mountain biking and hiking trails as well as the chance to horse ride over stunning passes into the wild high country.

AUTHOR & PHOTOGRAPHER: ©Shane Boocock 2013


Many people have heard about Sun Valley at one time or another, especially if you are a skier as it is a recognizable name that has a pedigree to match some of the world’s best ski resorts. However, not many people will know it has the distinction of being the first ski resort in America to offer a chairlift to the top of a mountain – the year was 1936! It was also just before Christmas that year that Sun Valley Lodge first opened its doors at a cost of US$1.5 million.


On a beautiful hot August day as I descended into Sun Valley, not far outside the quaint town of Ketchum. I could see the town’s famous ski resort, Bald Mountain directly in front of me, tantalizingly close but bereft of snow.


For Ketchum and Sun Valley locals, spring, summer and autumn are all about the outdoors and enjoying what nature has delivered in abundance. The region is renowned for a host of world class challenging golf courses, great trout fishing rivers and lakes, over-the-top mountain biking and hiking trails as well as the chance to horse ride over stunning passes into the wild high country . . . you see Sun Valley isn’t all about snow sports.


Born in the days of the Wild West, Ketchum in the 1880s was first and foremost a silver and lead mining town tucked away in a long broad valley where the flow of the Big Wood River meandered its way to the southern flatlands.  As the mining boom died, sheep farming and ranching expanded as did the railroad branch-line of the Union Pacific which veined its way into town, a place where in the distance, the saw-toothed mountains rose majestically.


In 1936, the town had exactly seven bars, a few cafés, a harness shop, haberdashery and mercantile store and rustic, log-built cabin style accommodation.  In the Casino Hotel Café, miniature slot machines were bolted to the bar top.  It was a place to eat steaks or fried chicken and where the popular cocktail of the day was called a Pink Squirrel.  But, with the arrival of a tourist resort, locals were skeptical about a new type of boom that might sweep over their barns, corrals, outhouses and otherwise ghost-like town.


It all started after the end of the 1932 Winter Olympics, held for the first time in the United States at Lake Placid, New York. Averell Harriman, the influential Chief Executive of the Union Pacific Railroad was an inspired man. Needing to expand his railroad he envisioned an American ski resort to rival the best European Alpine resorts.  His scout, Felix Schaffgotsch, began a tiring six-week search of the Western Rockies. In January 1936, Schaffgotsch recommended an unknown valley in Idaho at the end of a 56-mile long branch line that frequently had to be cleared of snow. 


Within two weeks, Harriman viewed the snow-covered mountains and realized his dream could be a reality.  A deal was struck and he signed a Union Pacific Railroad check for US$39,000 for the sale of 4,300-acres of Brass Ranch just two miles outside of Ketchum, Idaho—in that instance Sun Valley was born. 


His idea was to build a year-round resort, a blueprint for the future of American skiing.  The construction of the four-storied Sun Valley Lodge took less than a year and just before Christmas 1936 it was ready for a grand opening.  On nearby Proctor and Dollar Mountains ski runs had already been laid out.  Towropes, like those found on eastern slopes were discarded in favour of a new, revolutionary type chairlifts; a system similar to the overhead cables that was used to hoist boxes of bananas onto ships in the Caribbean—these were the first ski resort chairlifts in the world. 


To bring publicity to the new resort, Sun Valley Lodge hit on the idea of using some star-power. With the flair and panache that wouldn’t go amiss in modern day celebrity openings, Harriman, the owner of Sun Valley Lodge hired a scintillating public relations guru, Steve Hannagan to make the Lodge’s ‘Grand Opening’ an affair to remember. Hollywood was heading to the Rockies.


Once inside the special Union Pacific train, Greta Garbo took her seat alongside the assembly of glittering stars and powerful men, including swashbuckler Errol Flynn, America’s sweetheart Claudette Colbert, Hitchcock heroine Madeleine Carroll, Gone with the Wind producer David O. Selznick and celebrated director George Cukor. The “Sun Valley Special” pulled out of Los Angeles to begin its 20-plus hour ride to the tiny town of Shoshone, Idaho. Everyone was then chauffeured to the resort. Also on the list was tough-guy screen star Gary Cooper and screen siren Barbara Stanwyck and her husband Robert Montgomery. It was a winter vacation like none otherand the world headlines were worth every penny of it.


Sun Valley Resort amenities included a skating rink, billiards room, glass enclosed heated pool, a black-tie orchestra and a bowling alley. It was a luxurious lodge with fabulous décor and facilities: overstuffed leather armchairs, large roaring fireplaces, expansive high-ceiling lounges, the Durchin Bar, fine dining restaurants and exquisite, if somewhat plainly decorated rooms compared with today’s standards. 


To pamper the Hollywood stars and other socialites Harriman introduced sleigh rides that took guests the one and a half miles to the rustic-log-style Trial Creek Cabin for a four-course dinner under low roof beams and in front of a beautiful stone fireplace stacked with blazing logs.  Sleigh rides are still available to guests today.


The next year, the new chalet-style Sun Valley Inn was built to accommodate the rising influx of guests who flocked there. Each year the celebrity culture and exclusivity was extended and by 1939 Ernest Hemingway, the famed author, as much the celebrity as the Hollywood stars, was on the list of invitees. 

Today, Ketchum is an affluent, slightly gentrified community embroidered with village cafes, chic boutiques and galleries, bookshops, bars and gift shops, a laid-back town that thrives on Sun Valley’s visitors. 


In winter, gentle hills and tall mountains shimmer in thick snow, edging Ketchum and Sun Valley on three sides, perfect for Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding or skiing. It’s what still attracts big celebrities. Movie stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Clint Eastwood and many others often call this place home for part of the year.


In Sun Valley, an area of 1,500 square miles, summer rivals winter. Golf courses are full, hiking and bike trails crisscross valleys, streams and woods, fishing and horse riding are popular and new day lodges have been added to 9,150-foot (2,780m) Bald Mountain, known locally as Baldy. America’s fascination with outdoor pursuits and recreation has truly revived this once ghost-like town into a year-round playground for both locals and visitors alike . . . from the peaceful explorer to the hardcore adventurer.


Having skied a good number of USA ski resorts over the past 30 years, I have finally made a note in my travel diary that one of these years I’ll return again to Sun Valley but next time in winter . . . not spring, summer or autumn but when Bald Mountain is packed in deep snow and the sound of sleigh bells ring out loudly.






Shane Boocock travelled to Idaho and Sun Valley courtesy of Idaho Tourism: and Montana Office of Tourism: 


For additional information on Sun Valley Resort go to:


Air New Zealand  offer direct flights to San Francisco connecting with daily domestic United Airlines flight of only one hour flight to Biose.

If you would like to read this article in full or licence it for your own publication, please click here to contact Shane.