Sun Valley, Idaho: America’s Most Hostile Ski Town

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Do you like blue bird days and nonexistent lift lines? Do you enjoy enjoy dark rivers that flow beneath snow-covered bridges? Are you looking for a preserved piece of the American West? Whelp, Sun Valley is not the place for you.

This town sucks balls, man. I flew in on the 30th of December for a week of mountain adventures and I couldn’t be more disappointed. The snow is slushy and brown: a thin, fecal layer over the rocks and gnarled roots that lurk below, waiting to snag an edge and demolish an ACL. The bars in town are hostile: while waiting in line at local mainstay Grumpy’s, we were pelted by snowballs from locals who didn’t like our vibe. Maybe it was the fancier shearling coats that our group wore that set as apart, as the majority of the bar’s patrons were clad in colorful sweatshirts and retro one-piece ski outfits bought on eBay. Whatever it was, they hated us. When the bouncer checked our IDs and waved us through, people booed. They booed us for bringing our business to their bar. Under the withering glances of regulars and staff alike, we sulked out the back door in search of a safe, comfortable, overpriced hotel bar.

Sun Valley wasn’t always so uninviting. Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Oprah, and Clint Eastwood have all owned homes here. Hemingway wrote “For Whom The Bell Tolls” within a suite at the Sun Valley Lodge. I visited at 11 with my family and don’t remember a single thing because we arrived the day that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was released, and I didn’t raise my head from its pages until we were moving out. But at least nobody bothered me. And while it’s not the easiest place to get to, Sun Valley was, at one point, a place that made a visitor feel welcome.

Things have changed. The first night here, I went to the grocery store to pick up some wine for the group. In recent years, I’ve fallen headfirst into the tantalizing world of wine. When choosing a bottle, $18.99 is the right amount. Wines priced at $18.99 are always of a terrific vintage. If the bottle has any sort of animal on the label, it’s an especially rare find. Stags, frogs, eagles, and bears are easy indicators of a well-brewed vino. Lastly, make sure the label is off-white or taupe. Snow white labels are the sign of a new wine that hasn’t had time to age, to grow into itself. It will be tight to the tongue. Look for browner labels—anything that looks like recycled paper. Your friends will be impressed.

As I was searching for $18.99 price tags, a young man approached me. “Hey, are you Francis?” he asked cheerfully. He was incredibly warm, gushing with praise for my writing and some of the videos I’ve made. He asked what I was doing in town, and I said I was here to ski for a few days and drink well-priced wines at night. His young daughter was pulling at his coat, growing antsy. I shook her hand, which is always weird. Do I really need to shake the hand of a child? Come on. Even so, I was impressed by her eye contact. Someday this young lady will run a company that lowers costs by utilizing child labor in underdeveloped countries. You can see it in some people.

As I started to say goodbye to the dad, he pulled me in. “Just promise me one thing,” he said, his voice low and husky, erotic in a way that I hadn’t noticed before, as though he was priming me. “Sure, what’s up?” I said, nervous, not knowing his intentions, feeling young.

“Don’t write about this place.”

I laughed. But he didn’t. And we were still shaking hands, somewhat. It was that Trumpian handshake where he pulls you in and exerts control and part of me liked it but part of me was terrified because it was all new, all new for me in this new place surrounded by bottles of wine and ruthless daughters.

“Don’t write about it… because you don’t want people to discover it?” I tried.

“Just don’t write about it.” He smiled and showed his teeth—pointed fangs, whiter than any wine label I would have considered.

Once again, I laughed nervously. It was a threat. He let me go, and I said goodbye. “Big fan,” he reiterated, still smiling.

That was three days ago. Since then, I’ve been pelted with snow balls, I’ve torn my skis apart, and someone put a car bomb under our rented Navigator that failed to detonate, mercifully. And just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, our in-sink disposal stopped working. The point is, don’t waste your money on a trip to Sun Valley, Idaho. Head elsewhere: Vail, Aspen, Deer Valley, Tahoe… these places welcome visitors with open arms.

Unlike Sun Valley. Where instead of a cup of cocoa, you’ll get kicked in the dick.

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