SI Vault
Mort Lund
December 01, 1958
The fun at Sun Valley, the country's luxury ski resort, is the fun that attracts millions to skiing every season, but here it's really done with a difference
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December 01, 1958

High, White And Wonderful

The fun at Sun Valley, the country's luxury ski resort, is the fun that attracts millions to skiing every season, but here it's really done with a difference

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On any given night there are three trios and an orchestra in the valley. The orchestra plays at the dinner dance in the lodge. If you still haven't seen a movie star, go there and you'll probably see Norma Shearer—still with the figure that used to photograph so well in the movies of the '30s—dancing with her husband, Martin Arrouge. (Arrouge was Norma's ski instructor. They were married here in 1945 and have been coming back ever since.) Dinner done with, the skier can move into the Duchin Room bar or go out on the village.

The Ram, Challenger Inn's drinking room, has the New York nightclub feeling, with one of the trios doing nothing to dispel it. Another trio will be playing at Holiday Hut, where likely as not the Detroit Ski Club and the Sun Valley employees are dancing polkas and fraternizing en masse over beer. Back at the lodge, there is an evening dance, strictly suit and tie, with the orchestra. Additionally, there are movies and bowling plus sleigh rides to Trail Creek cabin for steak and dancing to the third and last trio. And if you're lucky enough to fall in with any of Sun Valley's permanent residents like Dr. and Mrs. George Saviers (see cover), there is a lively social life all the way from Ketchum to the village.

In spite of the new decorousness, Sun Valley still has its wonderful differences. Hemingway came back to write another book this fall. Management still sends fresh bouquets to guests on its special list. And even the fun-loving gesture on a grand scale is by no means out. Last winter, for instance, a Sun Valley regular named Jim Harrison decided in advance of the season to have a joke on Sigi Engl. Harrison bought five sleds up north for $30 apiece, had them shipped to his home in Florida and engraved with Engl's familiar signature as if in endorsement of the product. (Note to nonskiing readers: skiers feel about sleds the way elephants do about mice.) Harrison had one of the sleds hung in Pete Lane's shop and the others dragged out to the instruction slopes by various girls who claimed to have bought them under a guarantee that Engl would supply them a hill and an instructor.

It was a gesture which pretty well typifies Sun Valley today—a place where high-class high jinks are occasionally still indulged in, but which basically is friendly to all, from habitué to the newly arrived. Everyone says hello. No one, not even the help, is rude to the guests. In fact, it would be hard to find a place where people seem more pleased with their jobs. Most of the 700 who work at the valley (ratio of guests to employees is about one to one) are under 25, and were picked from a waiting list of 2,000 applicants. Some, like Assistant Lodge Manager Lou Stur (who was halfway to a Ph.D. when he arrived) intended to spend only a season, but have stayed on and on, "caught in the velvet glove," as one employee put it.

The hand in the velvet glove is still Union Pacific. Management is expected to break even, and that is all. A sizable profit one year presages a profit-swallower, say a new lift, next year. A good time-study expert probably would have a heavenly time cutting the fat off Sun Valley on a cost basis, but Sun Valley is not run quite like that. UP is Big Daddy. And this comfortable feeling is one the place transmits to its guests.

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