KETCHUM, Idaho - It's a time for milestone anniversaries. Deer Valley, the resort in Park City, turns 30. So does Beaver Creek, the sibling to Vail. And off in a remote, forgotten valley of Idaho, the first deliberately created destination mountain resort in North America opened for business 75 years ago this winter.
Beaver Creek had a rocky beginning - literally. It was a severe drought winter. The ski area was opened - and then closed for at least several weeks.
The economy wasn't so hot, either. An oil embargo caused skyrocketing oil prices that staggered the national economy. Then, oil prices cascaded, causing Denver's oil-based economy to stagger. To the west of Vail, Exxon pulled the plug on its oil shale project near Rifle, immediately throwing 2,000 people out of work. The reverberations lasted many years.
Real estate sales at Beaver Creek stalled until 1987-88, when the new tax laws ushered in by the Reagan administration favored investment in second homes. Then, Beaver Creek took off - and it hasn't stopped since.
Beaver Creek has been arguably the most robust resort in the West in the last 20 years as measured by growth in skier days, increase in terrain, and addition of bed base.
Many of the same things can be said about Deer Valley. And it continues to expand, with first the St. Regis last winter and now the Montage, both of them hotels glittering with stars.
When you look around the resort West, many of the new hotels at other resorts are a reaction to the coming-of-age of Beaver Creek and Deer Valley.
As for Ketchum, the story of Sun Valley sure is well known. Averill Harriman, chairman of the Union Pacific Railroad, wanted to develop business on the passenger trains and sent out a scout to survey the West. Bald Mountain was usefully devoid of many trees, and at its base was an old mining camp that had become a headquarters for sheep grazing: Ketchum. And, most of all, it had a railroad - the UP, of course.
Almost immediately, Ketchum and Sun Valley became Aspen, Park City and Whistler all rolled into one. The actor Gary Cooper, the novelist Ernest Hemingway and the ice skater Sonja Henie became regulars.
Many films were made there. Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall filmed How to Marry a Millionaire at Sun Valley, James Stewart was there for The Mortal Storm .
But the trains that made such filming possible were overtaken by planes and other equally scenic but more accessible locations. After World War II, Aspen became the middle of North America's ski resort pond. Arguably, it still is.