Warren’s World

Sun Valley, 1946-47

By Warren Miller

When I drove into the Sun Valley parking lot with Ward Baker in January 1947 I had no idea I would spend the next three winters there.

On the road from Ketchum to Warm Springs, there was only one building after the Bigwood River Bridge. There was no reason for anyone to live out there because there was no electricity or water. Prices of real estate were still working against moving that far out of town because you could still buy a vacant lot in Ketchum in the $500 range. I bought my first piece of property in Ketchum right on Trail Creek and the road to Hailey for $350. There was only one motel in Ketchum called the Bald Mountain Hot Springs Hotel.

At the base of what is now the Warm Springs lift there was a lumber mill built in about 1900 that belonged to the Farnan ranch just south of town.

Owen Simpson upgraded a casino on Main Street in Ketchum the first winter I was there and the next summer the town shut them down so they built a gambling hall halfway to Hailey out of Ketchum’s jurisdiction. This was also short-lived and so they decided to build a very large log gambling casino in the middle of Warm Springs and fly gamblers there from Elko and Jackpot Nevada.

Eventually the building was moved south of Ketchum just past my little log cabin on Trail Creek on the east side of the road to Hailey and became a large real estate office.

Gradually more and more houses appeared. During that same timeframe, Jack Simpson, Owen’s son, built a golf course and the Warm Springs Ranch.

When Bill Janss bought Sun Valley in 1964, one of the first things he did was build a chairlift on the Warm Springs side of the mountain and created one of the best ski runs anywhere in the world.

Several of my skiing friends built homes there 50 or 60 years ago and they still love their lives there, often saying that they had come for the winter, but the summer was even better.

Every winter when I used to drive to Warm Springs for the first time I was always amazed at its steep, vertical rise and fantastic ski runs.

Ward Baker and I spent two years living in the Sun Valley parking lot and skiing seven days a week. In the early years before they built the Warm Springs’ lift, occasionally there would be a bus from the bottom of Warm Springs back to Sun Valley and we could go out of bounds and ski top to bottom.

Ward and I would shadow ski classes and listen to what the instructor told each individual pupil when they finished their run and apply it to what we thought we might be doing.

We enjoyed watching Otto Lang teaching the Shah of Iran how to ski in powder snow that was deep enough to come up over his metal edges. And standing in a chairlift line with Gary Cooper and his wife Rocky before they abandoned Sun Valley and moved to Aspen.

After I bought my vacant lot on Trail Creek with a great view of Baldy, I had planned on settling down there someday before I established my film business that took me all over the world.

When Laurie and I got together we decided to not settle down in Sun Valley because I had my circle of friends of my previous marriage and so did she. But when the opportunity came to help pioneer the world’s only private ski and golf club called the Yellowstone Club, we would’ve been very foolish to say no to that one. After traveling the world of ski resorts with my camera and a rucksack for 50 years, I still think Baldy is one of the best place to turn right and left.

For more of Warren’s wanderings go to www.warrenmiller.net

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