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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
208.726.8060 Voice
208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of June 18 - 24, 2003


Tales of skiing, flying and the Duke

Austrians reminisce about Sun Valley history

Express Staff Writer

"The town has not slept," Ruth Perry-List announced looking out a Ketchum cafe window. List who lived and worked in Sun Valley over 30 years ago was back in one of her favorite places for the first time since she left to become a flight attendant in 1970.

List came here first in 1967 to teach skiing. She returned in 1969 with her then beau, Heinz Achhorner. Both were from Kitzbuhel, Austria, a mountain village renowned for the Hannenkam downhill ski race, for quintessential Austrian-ness and for exporting dozens of skilled ski instructors to the new American destination resort of Sun Valley. Ketchum and Kitzbuhel eventually became sister cities.

Courtesy photo
During a ski lesson in 1970, Heinz Achhorner and Ruth List pose with John Wayne on Baldy.

In the late 1960s, a new generation of Austrians arrived, following in the footsteps of the Austrians who had been recruited to start the ski school by Austrian Count Felix Schaffgotsch, who discovered the area for Averill Harriman and the Union Pacific Railroad in 1936. Many of these skiers stayed for life. Achhorner, still teaching, is one of them.

When they arrived in town, Achhorner went to live in the Pine Chalet, a place where many of the Austrian men stayed. Newly married Olympic skier and Sun Valley ski instructor, Christian Pravda, invited List to stay with him and his new wife until she found a place to live.

Eventually she moved to the old nurses quarters in the Sun Valley Lodge with Magoo McGloin and together they worked at the Ram Restaurant. The nurses quarters were left over from the naval hospital that was housed in the Sun Valley Lodge during World War II.

"It was very prestigious to live there," List said.

Eventually she became a ski instructor and worked at the 319 Restaurant in Sun Valley.

"We did everything in Sun Valley, we never came to Ketchum," List said.

"I remember the Kennedy clan, and Ethel skiing in a mink jacket. They were very nice people," List said during her recent visit to Sun Valley.

Still friends, Achhorner and List meander off into memories that, given their accents, aren’t always easy to grasp.

Memorably, Achhorner had a ski lesson with John Wayne in 1970.

"He was physically not in good shape," Heinz said. "One lung and still smoking many packs of cigarettes a day."

After a short coast on his skis, the Duke announced to Heinz, "I’m sweatin’ like a horse." And stopped. Later he sent a note, "Thanks for the long slide."

They also reminisced about teaching Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner.

But List had a dream to be a flight attendant. For her interview with Pan Am in 1970 she flew out of the Hailey airport, then just a shack with a runway.

After being hired in May of 1970, she left Sun Valley.

List trained in Miami and flew for Pan Am for 16 years. A flight attendant’s first year of service is known as probation.

On September 6, 1970, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacked a TWA jet, a Swissair jet, and made an unsuccessful attempt to seize control of an El Al airplane. The first two landed in Amman, Jordan. About two hours later, another PFLP group hijacked a Pan Am jet headed to New York City from Amsterdam and forced it to fly to Beirut airport, where the airplane landed almost out of fuel. List, still on probation, was working the latter flight.

"There were two Palestinian passengers in first class," List said. The El Al flight they were supposed to hijack wouldn’t let the Palestinians on the flight. "We were not told they were suspicious until we were on the runway."

Twenty minutes into the flight, the two men took over the flight. List said one of them announced over the loudspeaker, "We are going to a friendly country."

All the passengers with diplomatic passports were moved into first class. In Beirut bombs were loaded onto the plane. They then flew to Cairo.

"We had seven minutes to evacuate the passengers," List said. "It was very well organized."

But it was not without problems. When the jet stopped, the attendants opened the doors and released the inflatable slides for emergency evacuation. The pilots who didn’t see the slides down began to taxi further away from the terminal as the 176 passengers were disembarking.

"One boy, with his mother and grandmother, fell between the door and slide," List said. "I grabbed his wrist and pulled him back up. Others had sprains and bruises from falling off the slide when we moved. Later the boy said to me, ‘You saved my life.’"

Later, counselors said adrenaline was responsible for her moment of super human strength.

While the passengers were still on the runway, literally running for their lives, the plane was blown up.

"We were very lucky we survived," List said.

In December of 1970, she was hired to be part of a special crew for an international flight because King Hussein of Jordan was a passenger. Fully confident, she informed him she’d been working on the hijacked plane.

"He apologized that I had to go through that ordeal."

From that meeting they became friends. List and her husband visited the royal family several times in Jordan.

In 1992, after she’d left Pan Am, King Hussein asked her to work for him as his personal flight attendant. The state airline, Royal Jordanian, paid the rest of the crew. The king employed her until 1996. During that time, she had full access to the palace and she and her family were given a home in Jordan, a country she still loves.

"It was an honor to work for him," she said. "It’s a beautiful country. I can only recommend it."

In fact, she does recommend it by organizing tours to Jordan from Austria. She also does public relations work for the Hannenkam race and the Generali Open tennis tournaments in Kitzbuhel.

While List was in town last week visiting, Achhorner and his girlfriend, Cynthia Woolley, gave her a "dinner party with all the Austrians," Woolley said.

"Adi Erber came and Peter Schott. Heinz cooked dinner. We had bratwurst, sauerkraut, schnapps, and kugel. It was a very Austrian night."

"We played lederhosen music," Heinz laughed. It was the Kitzbuhel connection all over again.

"Everything happened in Sun Valley," List said, amazed it was all as she left it.

Sort of. Art von.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.