Postcard from... Sun Valley


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Just off a picturesque road between two multimillion-dollar properties in the Idaho resort of Sun Valley are the remains of the world’s oldest surviving ski-lift.

You’d be hard pressed to identify it as such, as remains isn’t much more than a shed, an iron frame and a trail of supporting pylons stretching up the mountainside. But it is a little piece of history.

Today, Sun Valley is best known for a media conference that takes place every summer, and is attended by everyone from Tony Blair to Mark Zuckerberg. But it began life as the first dedicated US winter resort, established in the 1930s by W Averell Harriman, chairman of the Union Pacific Railroad and a keen skier. He modelled it on the Swiss towns of St Moritz and Davos but in 1936 he added a modern touch: three electric chairlifts to carry skiiers up the slopes.

The contraption still visible beside Fairway Road may be the world’s oldest surviving ski-lift, but it is no longer working, because the resort long ago moved its ski operations. Its place in history is preserved, however, at the Sun Valley Lodge hotel, where a corridor off the lobby is lined with photographs of famous early guests on the slopes, including Mary Pickford, Ernest Hemingway, Ginger Rogers and Gary Cooper.