One of them, 25-year-old Virginia Taylor, was perfectly candid about the Snowball Special. Sun Valley? "I don't really even like to ski," shrugged Virginia. "But this trip is sure a lot of fun."
In the rumpus car brunette Diana Newell, secretary to the society editor of the
Los Angeles Times
, summed it up: "This train is no different from a resort, really. If you're aboard looking for the man of your dreams, forget it."
And one of the Los Angeles ski-clubbers, tall, willowy Bette Sutter, flashed a smile that lighted up her end of the car. "Remember that the very logistics of going skiing are tough in southern California," she explained. "But with the Snowball Special it is all handled beautifully for you. All you have to do, really, is present yourself at the Union Pacific depot, and everything else is taken care of for you—the transportation, lodging, ski-lift and ski-school tickets. For Californians it is perfect."
The organization was a wonder, really. In one of the lounge cars, impervious to the sounds swirling around him, Sun Valley Staffer Irv Silver issued ski-lift and lesson tickets and handed out room assignments. He had flown down to Los Angeles to catch the train, carrying a canvas bag with $40,000 worth of lift passes. "This way, when they get to the Valley they will be ready to go," said Silver.
In the growing Idaho dawn, 26� hours and some 1,100 miles out of Los Angeles, the Special chugged through new snowfields. Inside, equipped with morning Bloody Marys, the skiers were suiting up. Many of them had boots on (those who had smuggled their skis into the vestibules) ready to race directly from the train to the lifts for their first runs of the season.
The Sun Valley Lodge, the Challenger Inn, Baldy and Dollar mountains were waiting. The "train people," as the Valley staff calls them, came in like conquering Huns. Which is tough to do with wrinkled clothes and red eyes. Some of them went directly to Baldy—the experts—to slash down the manicured slopes. Others went in direct, unwavering lines to The Ram for drinks. Some went, heavy-lidded and exhausted, to their rooms to sleep one, two, three days. Some of them clearly had no intention of going skiing. Ever.
One hour and 15 minutes after the train people had arrived, one of the girls slipped and fell over her unpacked suitcase, putting a four-stitch gash in her chin. She was the first Snowball Special casualty. There would be others. But there would be everything else to make the trip worthwhile. Romance, a whirl of parties, skiing—or just breathing air without smog.
"The trip back to Los Angeles is always pretty calm," explained Wagon Master Ramsey. "They are a pretty subdued bunch by then, and it is nothing like the trip up here."
"The trip back home," said one of the train people, "means an end for one more year to this glamorous week. It means back to those damned meat patties on that chuckwagon car."
It was worse than that. The band was too tired to play. The crowd was too tired to dance. Everybody slept.