National Meeting 2010: Sun Valley, Idaho

In 2010, our annual meeting didn’t go exactly as planned. The original idea was to visit Tamarack, a new ski area in Idaho. But financial troubles hit that resort, making a visit impossible.

The folks at Sun Valley, Idaho, came through with a plan for us to hold our meeting there. Sun Valley is one of the oldest ski venues in the country. It has plenty of history, as is documented by the photos of film starts from the 1930s and beyond that fills up one hallway of the Sun Valley Lodge.

Lodge-photo wall

Here are some comments from NASJA members about that meeting.

Getting back to basics at Sun Valley
By Matt Boxler

SUN VALLEY, Idaho – If there exists a fountain of youth, surely it flows in Sun Valley. Here, time has a wonderful way of not mattering. These mountains, these people, have the power to bridge generations in a shared sense of all that has been – and still is – possible.

Rich ski history resides in mountain towns all over this country – including New England – but no place on earth celebrates its heritage like Sun Valley.

I was introduced to this storied place for the first time last week with my 12-year-old daughter, Catie, during the annual meeting of the North American Snowsports Journalists Association. For two New Englanders from two generations who love the sport of skiing, arriving here felt as though we were landing at the epicenter of the sport’s universe.

More importantly – in typical Sun Valley fashion – arriving here brought a father and daughter closer together.

Catie and I strolled the halls of the famous Sun Valley Lodge, pausing at each of the framed photographs that chronicle brief moments in the resort’s unparalleled history that dates back to 1936. Along the way, we ran across Ernest Hemingway, who wrote much of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” while staying as a guest on the second floor; Lucille Ball (Catie tells me she loves “I Love Lucy,” the theme of a sleepover party she once enjoyed at a friend’s house); Stein Ericksen (she recognizes from skiing Stein’s Run at Sugarbush, Vt., where he once served as ski school director). We pass by Bette Midler, Clint Eastwood, Arnold Schwarzenegger, too many to mention here.

We view images of skiing royalty: Andrea Mead Lawrence (a Vermont native), Jean-Claude Killy, Billy Kidd, Otto Lang, Bud Werner. We learn about the Olympic champions Sun Valley has produced – Gretchen Fraser, Christin Cooper and, Catie’s favorite, Picabo Street (she insists the next day that we rip down Picabo’s Street beneath the Flying Squirrel chair on Bald Mountain).

We stop at a photo of Muffy Davis, perhaps the most talented of all the Sun Valley ski racing children. Muffy grew up competing alongside Picabo, her friend and classmate, until a horrific downhill training accident on Baldy crushed her back and left her paraplegic at age 16.

Davis went on to become valedictorian of her high school class and later graduated from Stanford University. She returned to these mountains and to ski racing, going on as a member of the United States Disabled Ski Team to win multiple medals at the Paralympic Games, two World Cup overall titles, a World Championship, five World Cup titles and more than 25 World Cup medals. She has summited two 14,000-footers, including the first wheelchair ascent of Colorado’s Pike’s Peak.

Sun Valley is a very humbling town.

Each evening in the hotel, Catie and I watch on TV the continually looped 1941 film, “Sun Valley Serenade,” starring Sanje Henie, John Payne, Glenn Miller and Milton Berle. She was transfixed. (This from a kid I can’t pry away from the teen dramadies of Disney Channel).

She especially enjoyed the big band music, the vintage ski outfits, the blankets handed to skiers as they were loaded onto the single chairs (dad, why don’t they still do that?), and the chase scene where “Karen” confounds “Ted” the whole way down Baldy. She asked about the technique required to turn those towering wooden skis compared to how we do it today.

She doesn’t ask why the film is void of color.

During the days … we ski. It’s the reason for our visit. The sun is abnormally high overhead for 9 a.m. We amass vertical like never before (Bald Mountain boasts an incredible 3,400 vertical feet from top to bottom). We run gates side-by-side on lower Cozy, cruise Greyhawk and Hemingway, have lunch on the sun-drenched patio at Warm Springs Lodge.

We marvel at the steepness of the “green” circle trails on Seattle Ridge, black diamonds anywhere else in the country. We drop into the Baldy Bowls after the sun has had a chance to soften the surface. We cruise lower Broadway, Olympic Lane. We never even get to Dollar Mountain, where it all started.

We end our day exhausted in the 101-degree outdoor pool, joining others just like us … old, young, smiling.

(A NASJA member since 1989, Matt Boxler’s website can be found at http://www.mattboxler.com)

A book of memories I’ll cherish for a lifetime
by Troy Hawks

As a fledgling teenager growing up in the heart of Central Wisconsin’s Dairy Land, I fell in love with skiing after my first day on the slopes of nearby Rib Mountain. I wrote about skiing in my English class, day dreamed of sliding down the slopes in math class, and chose to paint the U.S. Ski Team logo on canvass for my art class. Little did I know that one day I’d find myself traveling through the Great State of Idaho touring ski areas with some of the foremost ski journalists in the country.

The 2010 NASJA meeting was a milestone moment for me. Sure, I may have been surrounded by old farts, but I can’t remember ever being as warmly, and immediately welcomed into such a tight-knit group of people in my life. (I’m 41 which isn’t exactly young, but in this crowd…well…I’ll save that for another story.)

These folks might be hot-shot ski writers and photographers, but you’d never know it by meeting them. And the genuineness didn’t stop there. From Brundage President and GM Rick Certano and Communications Director April Russell, Bogus Basin’s PR Guru Gretchen Anderson and her team of Mountain Hosts, and Sun Valley GM Tim Silva, PR Pro Jack Sibbach and Mark Thoreson – these resorts spared no detail in showcasing their top-rate operations. The skiing was great, the eating was even better, and the story telling along the way was nothing less than a treasure. (Unfortunately I’ve already forgotten many of these stories, damn this getting old!)

This is just a brief reflection of my first NASJA meeting, but in reality, the experience has left a book of memories I’ll cherish for a lifetime. North America is home to the best ski areas in the World, and this of course can only come as a result of the tireless efforts of the most esteemed ski area executives in the business. It’s only fitting that their stories be shared to others through the writings and images created by this incredible group of authentic ski journalists who share an intense fervor of the sport, and a true passion for sharing their stories with current and future generations.

Thank you, all of you.

Best, Troy Hawks, National Ski Areas Association

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