For the week of December 23 thru December 29, 1998  

Christmas in Sun Valley

Our gift to the world

Express Staff Writer

It’s Christmas in Sun Valley. The mountains are white, and the snow is falling. But the evergreens don’t seem to mind, because the storm moves fast, the clouds break, the sky turns blue, blue, blue. The sun is back. The sun always comes back. This is Christmas in Sun Valley.

It’s Christmas in Sun Valley, planet earth’s destination. People come from all over the world, plan their year around it, wait for this occasion, dream about it.

Yet we are lucky enough to live here, like Christmas everyday. So we don’t mind working on this day to make it special for the world. Just living here is Christmas enough. Right?

I went out to talk to some locals about working on Christmas to learn the answer to this question. Mountain Express photographer Charmaine McCann went with me. Sometimes she had trouble getting the people to smile for the camera. Opinion varied about working on Christmas. No two snowflakes are the same.

d16kev1.jpg (4963 bytes)Bald Mt. Taxi driver Dan Hess enjoys the holiday spirit of his passengers. (Express photos by Charmaine McCann)

Bald Mt. Taxi driver Dan Hess reminds me of Santa Claus, easy to smile and jolly. I ask Dan about working on Christmas.

"I don’t mind working on Christmas," he says smiling, "just part of the service industry. Besides every day you have off is a holiday."

Dan added that it’s great working with the tourists during the Christmas season.

"They’re always happy to be here, sometimes sad to go."

But for Dan, "Every day I wake up and realize where I live it’s like Christmas."

d16kev6.jpg (6216 bytes)Tyrolean Lodge manager Kameron Thorne and his staff, Estela Leon Tellez, Maria Contreras and Diane LeClair from housekeeping, and Roger Peck from maintenance. (Express photos by Charmaine McCann)

At the Tyrolean Lodge in Ketchum, the lobby is decked with tinsel and bows, a Christmas tree waits for the day.

Manager Kameron Thorne greets us kindly and gathers his staff for pictures; Estela Leon Tellez, Maria Contreras, and Diane LeClair from housekeeping, and Roger Peck from Maintenance. Charmaine coaxes them to wear the Santa hats, which they do reluctantly.

Kameron and his staff are realistic about working on Christmas.

Kameron admits that with a wife and two kids he’s not happy about it, but that this is the industry he chose, part of the job.

As for Estela, Maria and Dianne, they say "no problem." Working on Christmas is merely out of necessity and the need to work to support their families. They celebrate with their families on Christmas Eve and Christmas night.

d16kev3.jpg (6652 bytes)Larry Jennings is a snow cat operator, who helps make the runs into perfect corduroy just right for the resort’s skiing guests. (Express photos by Charmaine McCann)

Larry Jennings, a snow cat operator for the resort’s owner Sun Valley Company, is a busy man but a good sport. Charmaine talks him into wearing the Santa hat and beneath that bushy mustache I believe he’s smiling.

The snow cats run through the night, even on Christmas Eve, to make the skiing just right. And Larry is one of those guys who drive the cats and groom the trails while tourists sleep, dreaming of great skiing and unforgettable Christmas vacations.

"That’s what I do," Larry says. "This is our business."

d16kev5.jpg (3443 bytes)Jamie Hutch, a lift operator at River Run base of the resort’s Bald Mountain ski area. (Express photos by Charmaine McCann)

Jamie Hutch is a lift operator at River Run base of the resort’s Bald Mountain ski area.

Not really happy about working on Christmas, she smiles anyway.

"I feel good that I can be there for the tourists. But Christmas is a family day and I feel bad about not being with my family."

d16kev2.jpg (5610 bytes)River Run Lodge bartender Brendan "Sully" Sullivan hasn’t had a Christmas off in eight years. (Express photos by Charmaine McCann)

River Run Lodge bartender Brendan "Sully" Sullivan hasn’t had a Christmas off in eight years. Smiling anyway Sully says, "It’s hard, but the sacrifices we make here and now will hopefully be rewarded latter in life."

Sometimes I forget what Christmas is, a celebration of the birth of Christ, a season for giving.

I know about working on holidays, and Christmas to me--in a working sense--is just another day.

Mind you, I don’t mean to sound blasphemous and Lord forgive me if I’m wrong, but this is a destination resort town and making it go, making it special for the people who come here for Christmas is, in a sense, our gift to the world.

And I have to believe that Jesus is smiling down on this valley and on these people who work on the day of his birth. So Merry Christmas to the working class, and God bless.


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