Friday, February 6, 2009

Finding love in a holiday town

Valentine’s Day causes some to reflect on the dating scene around Sun Valley

Express Staff Writer

Willing hearts at the Coffee Grinder café in Ketchum. Café Owner Nicola Potts has customers decorate their own in preparation for St. Valentine’s Day next Friday. Photo by David N. Seelig

Valentine's Day isn't all about roses and chocolates.

There is an old saying in Ketchum that goes: "You don't lose your girlfriend, you just lose your place in line." This saying underscores the fact that living in a resort community can present particular challenges for those in search of lasting love.

The 2006 U.S. census reports that men outnumber women in Blaine County (53 percent male to 47 percent female). But while the odds for females may be good, women often say "the goods are odd."

The Idaho Mountain Express quizzed several people for some local knowledge on the ways of the heart in the shadow of Bald Mountain.

"In my opinion everyone who moves to a ski town is 'odd goods,'" said a 30-something woman working at a nonprofit in Ketchum who chose to remain anonymous.

Importing talent has crossed the mind of executive search firm recruiter Andrew Woodle. He came to Ketchum from the Silicon Valley six months ago to live a "more balanced" life and perhaps start a family, but so far he has not found the right person.

"It's slim pickings," he said. "I love it here, but it is a bit of a culture shock. In the Bay Area you could meet people everywhere you went. It was a matter of sheer numbers."

Nicola Potts, the long-time owner of the Coffee Grinder café on Fourth Street in Ketchum has seen a generation of single people come and go. Last year she hosted an evening of musical-chairs-style speed dating for amusement. Potts says the old sayings aren't necessarily true.

"Plenty of people have met in Ketchum and have had fully functioning relationships and families," said Potts, who believes the success of a relationship need not depend on its length.

"We need a new paradigm to measure relationships," she said. "Small towns make for more dynamic growth because there is more support in reflecting on relationships."

Eloise Christensen lived in Ketchum during the 1990s, got married here, and then divorced. She recently returned from a 10-year stay in Marin County, Calif. She was hanging at the Coffee Grinder on Wednesday.

"In the city you are in more of a vacuum," she said.

Christensen has had an on-again, off-again relationship with a musician for eight years. She quoted the poet Jalaluddin Rumi on the ways of the heart: "Break my heart. Break it again, so I may love more deeply."

Jack, the bartender at the Sun Valley Brewery in Hailey said his clients are working class and not looking to "hook up."

"People go to the Mint Bar or the [Hailey Hotel] for that," he said.

Kathryn McNeal, 28, came to Ketchum several years ago and works at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts. So far she has found a stopgap way to avoid the whole dating mess.

"I was married when I came here," she said.

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