For the price of his bed and board, the Sun Valley skier has the run of the village, containing a post office (Sun Valley has its own postmark), a gift shop, photo store, the Challenger Inn, the Ram Bar and Pete Lane's ski store. Lane goes south in Idaho every March to take part in the sheep-shearing (still big business in Idaho) that supplies wool that returns to his shop via Seattle as his best line of ski sweaters.
Then there is a hospital where John Moritz, the head M.D., is so good at setting legs that they send a couple of graduate doctors out from Peter Bent Brigham hospital in Boston just to watch every year. And there are the pools, both enormously soothing places to be after a day's skiing.
To top it all off, Sun Valley's hills have all kinds of skiing: from dizzy to gentle. Beginners have the wonderfully smooth mammoth ice-cream scoop known as Dollar Mountain. This pocket-size mountain, a half mile east of the village, has two chair lifts, Dollar and Half Dollar (Sun Valley has nothing but chair lifts), and is a perfect ski kindergarten.
The other Sun Valley mountain is Baldy, 2.1 miles on the other side of the village (through Ketchum by bus) and six times as high as Dollar. The runs under the lifts have some of the longest continually steep skiing in the country. North of the lift is College Run, fairly gentle in comparison and emptying into River trail, the runout at the bottom of the mountain. Off to the south, almost as far as the eye can see, smooth open fields run down from the ridge back of Baldy's peak. These are the famous bowl runs. With a little powder on them, they are an intermediate's heaven.
However, Baldy's lift runs—Ridge, Canyon and Exhibition—are the places where the skier who feels his oats can learn about the round and plentiful mounds called moguls. They build up gradually, piled up inside the arc of the sharp, linked control turns made by successive skiers following in each other's tracks down the steep terrain. A good mogul can run three to four feet high from track to crest. Unless you ski sharply and well, the sensation becomes something like being dropped off a cliff and then hit under the boots with a power ram. If you start doing much of this, it means you're tired and it's time to take the bus back to the lodge.
A word ought to be said here on the bus system, which sounds annoying but isn't. The buses run every five to seven minutes between the village and the mountains. The wait is never burdensome, and the ride is a nice way to meet people.
Another nice way to meet people is in the Sigi Engl Ski School. Out of 700 people likely to be staying at the valley, 500 are in class every day. Sigi Engl's ski instructors are men with souls of brooding patience. They start at the beginning of the week explaining how to put your socks into your boots without wrinkling them into painful ridges and go on from there. On Dollar every day are the most attentive groups of skiers in the world. The classes are lined up in single squads, dispersed on the hill for maneuvers. At a word from the instructor, each squad goes down in formation: one turn, two turns, stop. And again. And again. Sun Valley instructors are not martinets nor are the Sun Valley skiers robots; it's just that everyone wants very much to graduate to Baldy. The distinction between a Dollar skier and a Baldy skier is almost a social one.
The system used by the Engl school can be described as modified rotation. The upper body moves in the direction of the turn (not in the opposite direction, as in the Austrian shortswing). However, the elbows and hands are kept fairly even with the body until the time comes to bring the pole ahead for the next turn. There is none of the arm swing of the extreme rotation school. On easy slopes there is considerable unweighting, but on Baldy's steeper runs this is eliminated and all that is left is a simple sinking movement, coupled with a very pronounced lean toward the inside of the turn with the whole body (instead of upper body leaning out, as in shortswing), while the knees are pressed sharply toward the slope. Expertly done, it looks like an optical illusion. One minute the skier is going left and the next right and you swear he didn't move—around the valley they call it The Mystery Turn.
Once you have conquered the mystery, however, there are instructors ready to show you deep powder turns, high speed running and, yes, the Austrian shortswing.
After-ski at Sun Valley is most relaxed and at the same time most organized. Sun Valley's guests typically follow the casual European tradition during their stay. This means getting off the skis early enough in the afternoon for a swim in a pool, a round of tea at the lodge and/or a drink at one of the bars. You then have plenty of time to change to lighter clothes for dinner.