HEAVEN WAS KIND
If Hannagan ever prayed, he did then. And Heaven was kind. The season's first flakes came in early that night. Hannagan spent the rest of the night at the window with a bucket of champagne at his side, celebrating quietly as the valley filled up.
Thus saved, Hannagan thereafter left as little as possible to Providence. He had built Miami Beach on the well-filled bathing suit and intended to do the same here. The luxurious hot-water pool was strictly Hannagan's idea, and before long the models, starlets and pretty girls who swam there appeared in publications throughout the land.
The lodge that had been built was of concrete dyed a beige color and roughed to look like timber, and the architect, G. Stanley Underwood, did it in a subdued Hansel-and-Gretel style—balconies and that sort of thing. The guests loved it. The lodge was packed from Christmas through March that first year. Robert Pabst of the beer family was there, and Julius Fleischmann of yeast, among others. LIFE sent out the famous photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt right away. His pictures subsequently showed J. M. Studebaker manfully struggling with the newfangled sport, and his wife skiing rather better. They showed Lydia du Pont brooding over some bruises and Mrs. Margaret Emerson McKim Vanderbilt Baker Amory smoking a cigaret. They also showed Gloria Baker, heiress to $10 million, resting her head pertly on the lap of Ski Instructor Hans Hauser. Shortly thereafter Miss Baker was yanked home. In the early years Ernest Hemingway came with his wife, stayed to finish up For Whom the Bell Tolls and left the only corrected copy of the manuscript in existence with his friend Taylor Williams, his hunting guide.
By 1941 Harriman had $6 million in the place. Sun Valley grew in reputation and luxury. At the height of its palmy prewar days, a greenhouse was installed for the sole purpose of supplying fresh bouquets to guests; three men were kept on the payroll to design and maintain fancy ice sculpture on the grounds; three full sled teams of purebred Huskies were kenneled in the village for the use of guests who would rather sit than ski. At one time the whole operation was running roughly three-quarters of a million in the red annually. Union Pacific happily wrote this sum off to public relations.
Then in December 1941 the U.S. declared war on Japan. Head Instructor Hans Hauser and other Austrians on the staff were hauled off to the Salt Lake City pokey as enemy aliens. (One of Hauser's men, Friedl Pfeifer, went on from detention to serve with distinction in the U.S. mountain troops, later founded Sun Valley's big rival ski area, Aspen.) The Navy took over the grounds as a naval hospital, and the hills were soon populated by pharmacists' mates.
Some of the old guard clung on, however. A group that included Hemingway, Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Ingrid Bergman and some friends rented a row of cottages in Ketchum, took over a lift at Ruud Mountain and threw some fine parties. Hemingway, it is said, still had a good supply of Spanish wineskins and was apt as not to pot someone with a stream of vintage red before the night was over.
The war finally ended, and the valley was returned to Union Pacific. Hans Hauser and other employees eventually came back and life shifted again into high gear. Shortly after the war a real splash spender named Virginia Hill descended on the valley with a girl companion and a maid, bought a thousand dollars' worth of clothes and skis the first day and set up running parties at the bars. She paid in $100 bills and left the change. She hired Hans Hauser by the week. Even-the most enthusiastic disciples of the gay life breathed weary sighs of relief when Virginia departed with Hans—still hired—for Aspen. Today an acquaintance or two at Sun Valley occasionally gets a postcard from Switzerland, where Virginia, after a sensational appearance before the Senate rackets committee disclosing her relationship with the biggest shots of the underworld, settled with Hans when she was asked to leave the country.
Then came the big change. In 1949 Arthur Stoddard became president of Union Pacific, Harriman having headed for politics. One of Stoddard's first memorandums concerned the deficit at Sun Valley. Shortly thereafter the ice sculpture went, the teams of Huskies mushed northward and an earnest attempt was made to put the valley on a self-sustaining basis. The management tried, successfully, to interest the average skier in the valley's fine skiing. They emphasized the bargain Learn to Ski Week and the $3 per night chalet dormitory accommodations. This emphasis still exists today. Of course, guests who want comfort first still stay at the lodge, with its 144 rooms, superb restaurant, cocktail and TV room, tea lounge, barber shop, beauty parlor (always well filled), high-fashion clothing shop (dresses up to $250) and art gallery (Picasso prints for the price of a couple of weeks' stay). The cost of living at Sun Valley Lodge runs $18 to $30 a day for twin beds and shower, plus half that again for food from a kitchen that measures up to the best New York or San Francisco standards.
On the other hand, groups like the Detroit Ski Club, in for the week, usually stay in the chalets and the Challenger Inn, and cut expenses by taking the Learn to Ski Week which gives them seven days' lift tickets, six days' instruction, and room in one package, for $65 to $102. This points up the fact that nowadays, once he gets there, the Sun Valley guest can stay for prices comparable to those at any ski area.