Friday, April 1, 2011

Why We Ski

Where everybody knows your name

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum is a town divided. No, not in the world of politics. Or even in the always-contentious arena of planning and zoning. It isn't even as simple as Nordic versus alpine. The real divide is be-tween River Run skiers and Warm Springs skiers. There, I said it.

Each "side" has its merits, of course. There is no place like the Warm Springs patio after a day of spring skiing to catch the sun and enjoy a beer. The Pavlovian response we all have to the fresh cookie bell speaks for itself. And I will definitely put Apple's and Irving's in the plus column for the Warm Springs side. Many of my closest friends call the Warm Spring Lodge home base.

But I'm a River Run girl. And here's why: While my attraction was born of proximity, as so many relationships are, my loyalty has deepened, evolved and matured. Yes, the River Run Lodge is closest to my house. It's also closest to my heart.

I could call my attachment to River Run a song, a ballad if you will, a ballad of Bill and Bob. It is a story of the people who make every day at River Run pleasant and worthwhile.

Take Bill, the sunglass-wearing redhead who drives the parking lot shuttle. Bill always greets me with a wide smile and always by name. I have no idea how Bill knows my name. I'm thinking he learned it through osmosis during the three seasons he has helped me make the pilgrimage from real life, e.g. the parking lot and beyond, to my fantasyland of fluffy snow and bright skies.

Bill happily circles back to my car when I forget my son's ski goggles. He patiently waits for my whole little family to lumber on and off the bus. If he sees me in the distance approaching the bridge, he waits.

Then there is my good friend and erstwhile ski buddy, Bob, who mans ski storage. I merely have to walk by the windows of the little ski storage hut and Bob materializes with my skis and poles in hand, banter and a ski report at the ready. Bob never fails to make my day.

Another loyal friend, Bill, also worked at ski storage, before returning recently to his real life in Florida. He could not have gone further out of his way to ask about my family, my life and my day. And I cannot fail to mention Philip. Though he is not one of my Bills or Bobs, he is very nice—ready at the hut with a great service, kind words and good advice.

And then there's Bill, with the flirtatious nature. He scans my pass as I ski up to the No. 1 River Run lift. Bill makes me feel like the prettiest, most interesting girl on Baldy each and every time I see him. His eyes twinkle as he escorts me to the chair and he never, ever complains when I com-pulsively ask, "Bill, how many days do I have?"

So you get my point. Everyone at River Run makes me feel happy to be there. Welcome. Local. From the lovely salespeople at Brass Ranch who greet me every day, to my friend Eric at Pete Lane's, to the joyful, exuberant Sun Valley employee who greets visitors by the buses, each day at River Run is like a homecoming, and I am the queen.

Not to mention the ease of use at River Run. Where else could I, without thought or worry, tuck my old snow clogs behind the bench as I buckle into my boots and leave them there, unmolested, while I ski? Where else on the mountain is there such a nice bar, with such nice bartenders, who make such a nice Bloody Mary? Warm Springs may have the cookies, but we have the wok. So there.

Lastly, we can claim the jewel of Baldy on our side—Roundhouse. Roundhouse is the antique piece that sits cushioned in your jewelry box, sometimes eclipsed by what is shinier and newer, but of lasting value and worthy of deep appreciation. Two of my favorite memories of this year are of taking the gondola to Roundhouse for that wonderful new dinner service Sun Valley Co. cooked up, once in a snowstorm, once under a bright starlit sky. My very favorite part of one night was the chuckle I earned as I asked the attendant if we could take just one more lap. Please. He let us.

And with Roundhouse, comes Roundhouse Slope, one of the loveliest and most perfect, albeit shortest runs, on the hill. Best yet, Roundhouse Slope leads to my absolute favorite way to end a day on Baldy: Olympic Lane. No matter the weather or snow conditions, swooshing down the per-fect pitch of Roundhouse Slope onto the wooded cat tracks and onto Olympic still makes me grate-ful on a cellular level. On a snowy day, there is nowhere quieter or more peaceful on the hill.

I will leave the cachet of the Warm Springs side to others. While the star-gazing and business dealings among muckety-mucks and high-profile part-timers is certainly of a higher wattage over there, I prefer my less flashy mix of visitors and local families alike.

So to all my friends at River Run, especially my Bills, and Bob, thank you for a terrific season. See you next year! I can hardly wait.

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