Outdoors Blog

A 1940s film, ‘The Hokey Pokey’ and other fun tidbits as Sun Valley Resort turns 80

Sun Valley Resort celebrates its 80th birthday Wednesday. Here are four quirky bits of history about the resort:

The resort is a movie star

“Sun Valley Serenade,” a 1941 movie starring Sonja Henie, was set in Sun Valley. Henie won gold medals as a figure skater at three Winter Olympics. Her skiing double was Idaho’s Gretchen Fraser, who won a skiing gold in 1948. The movie was probably Henie’s best, according to Turner Classic Movies. It was the first to feature the Glenn Miller Orchestra, which introduced “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” in the movie. Other songs included “In the Mood” and “It Happened in Sun Valley.” Several other movies have been filmed in Sun Valley, from “I Met Him in Paris” in 1937 to “Bus Stop” in 1956 to “Town and Country” in 2001.

The honor runs

Sun Valley’s influence on American Olympic alpine athletes is obvious in the number of runs named for medalists with deep ties to the area. On Seattle Ridge, you’ll find Gretchen’s Gold (Fraser won gold and silver in 1948), Christin’s Silver (Christin Cooper won silver in 1984) and Muffy’s Medals (Muffy Davis was a Winter Paralympics medalist in 1998 and 2002). Nearby, you can ski Kaitlyn’s Bowl (Kaitlyn Farrington won gold in 2014). And on the Warm Springs side of Bald Mountain, there’s Picabo’s Street (Picabo Street won gold in 1998 and silver in 1994).

The first chairlift

Sun Valley installed the world’s first chairlift in1936. It was built in Omaha, Neb., by the Union Pacific Railroad, which owned the resort. Skiing then was at Dollar and Proctor mountains. The third chairlift, at Ruud Mountain, is still standing. The chairlift design was based on the way bananas were loaded onto ships — and the basics of the design are still used today.

Do ‘The Hokey Pokey’

The origins of the famous song and dance are murky at best. But one version says the song became popular after Larry LaPrise and the Ram Trio began playing it to entertain skiers at Sun Valley. The resort will honor the song’s place in its history from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at The Ram Bistro. “Larry Harsbarger will be playing the classic dance tune every half-hour, so everyone can join in the fun that was invented in the Ram Room at the Sun Valley Inn in 1949,” the resort says in a press release.

Sun Valley’s birthday plans

Here are some highlights from Sun Valley Resort’s birthday celebration Wednesday:

▪ 2:30 p.m., Sun Valley Opera House: Watch a free screening of “Sun Valley Serenade.”

▪ 4 p.m., River Run Day Lodge: A free concert that includes Glenn Miller songs from “Sun Valley Serenade.”

▪ 7-10 p.m.: Dancing in the Duchin Lounge with music by Brooks Hartell.

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