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Ancient Skiers Honor History with Sun Valley Sun Award
Pamela Lemley, whose husband Jack built the Channel Tunnel between England and France, joins ski instructor Julia Webb and honoree John W. Lundin at the Ancient Skiers Banquet held at the Sun Valley Inn Limelight Ballroom.
Tuesday, January 30, 2024


Some of the skiers had skied Sun Valley shortly after it opened in the 1930s; others had come in the 1940s and 1950s. And most remembered when Union Pacific sold Sun Valley Resort to Bill Janss in 1964 for $3 million—less than what it costs to buy a home in Sun Valley today.

Three hundred members of the Ancient Skiers came to Sun Valley to spend a week skiing, partying and recounting stories they’d told dozens of times. And in the midst of it they honored one of their own—John W. Lundin for his contributions to skiing through such books “Skiing Sun Valley.”

“To receive an award from your peer group is the highest honor of all,” said Lundin, whose great-grandfather immigrated from Sweden in 1870 and whose relatives founded the International Hotel in Bellevue and the McFall Hotel in Shoshone.

Len Gerber spun a little cowboy poetry for the banquet, while his daughter Christy Anna Gerber oversaw the details of the banquet.

To be feted by the Ancient Skiers is pretty impressive when you consider that other honorees include the late filmmaker Warren Miller, mountaineer Lou Whittaker and Olympians like Janette Burr Johnson and Peter Kennedy.

If all of the 300 Ancient Skiers skiing Sun Valley this week have skied 50 years on average, that’s 15,000 ski years, Lundin noted.

“The Ancient Skiers are collectively skiing history,” said Lundin. “They saw skiing in its original form in the 1930s grow into what we have now in Sun Valley.  Most of the members started in the days when you didn’t have to come from a wealthy family to ski – it was a sport open to anyone who was interested.

“Webb Moffett, who owned the Snoqualmie Pass Ski Area, had a policy that if you were there at 8 a.m. and boot-packed the hill until 9 or 9:30, you got a ski pass for the day.  That gave many young skiers, including me, a chance to get into the sport with very little money.  Those experiences are in contrast to skiing today, with $250-a-day lift tickets,” he added.

The Ancient Skiers managed to cut a rug even after spending the day on the slopes.

The Ancient Skiers originated after World War II with ardent skiers from the Pacific Northwest who had started flocking to Sun Valley Resort, which had opened as America’s first destination ski resort in 1936.

Many had started out as ski jumpers in the 1910s, becoming part of the large skiing community from Seattle that began backcountry skiing at Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker or Snoqualmie Pass in the 1920s and 1930s before Sun Valley Resort debuted the first ski chairlift.

“When Averell Harriman was considering opening Sun Valley, he had John E.P. Morgan do a study of the skiing market in the United States. He was told that the ski industry was booming in the Seattle area where there were around 15,000 pairs of skis and 20 ski clubs.  Northwest skiing got another boost when in 1940, the Army chose to train its newly formed unit of Mountain Soldiers on Mt. Rainier.  They trained there until their facility was moved to Camp Hale in 1943,” said Lundin.

Sun Valley was like a magnet for Seattle skiers, including Lundin’s mother and her friends, when it opened in December 1936.

John W. Lundin shows off his Sun Valley Sun Award as Len Gerber looks on.

“The Seattle Times said in 1937 that Sun Valley was 20 hours away by car and 26 hours by train but that it might as well be Seattle’s back yard there were so many Seattle skiers there,” he said. “Sun Valley was mentioned 236 times in the Seattle Times in 1937 alone. And, of course, Seattle Ridge was later named for the hardy skiers from Seattle who were the first up in the morning and the last to leave.”

The original criteria for membership in the Ancient Skiers was that a person had to have skied before World War II. As the eligible pool grew smaller, membership shifted to anyone 55 and older.

“The club was really always intended as a way for Seattle and Portland skiers to come to Sun Valley to ski together,” said Lundin.

This week’s gathering saw two members from the original group. One was Peter Kennedy, who first came to Sun Valley around 1938. Kennedy and his sister Karol were ice skaters. In Sun Valley when “Sun Valley Serenade” was being filmed, they were featured skating in the movie although their faces were deliberately not shown so they could keep their amateur status.

Stan Larsen and Hurley Hamilton accepted gift bags for their showings in NASTAR races.

Sun Valley’s Olympic medalist Gretchen Fraser lost her amateur status after she did the ski scenes for Sonja Henie in the movie.

Peter Kennedy, who won the Ancient Skiers Sun Valley Sun Award in 2011, was the first American to win the World Pair Skating Competition along with his sister Karol. They were U.S. champions from 1947 to 1952 and won a silver medal at the 1952 Olympics.

He later formed PK Ski Company and produced one of the first lightweight aluminum ski poles.

Len Gerber was the second of the group to have skied at Sun Valley before World War II.

Gerber’s family founded Gerber Brothers in 1930, a year before Len was born. They manufactured skis, poles, bindings, ski wax and other accessories back in the day when goggles sold for $1 and wax for 50 cents.

In 1936 Gerber’s family purchased Anderson & Thompson in Bellingham, expanding into a major manufacturer of skis that were more than 7 feet long. Len was 10 when he came to Sun Valley in 1941 with his father. He became a regular at Sun Valley in the 1950s, watching many of the Harriman Cup races.

He became a ski racer himself, co-founded Crystal Mountain and he worked three World Cups.

“I came to Sun Valley and it was like a slice of skier’s heaven,” said Gerber. “They had ski instructors like Andy Hennig and Sigi Engl who were way above the average skier’s ability—they could do things the average skier couldn’t dream of.”

Julia Webb, a longtime ski instructor for Sun Valley, recalled riding with 8- and 9-year-olds up the single-seat Christmas lift in 1968.

“They said, ‘Look up! Look up!’ And a biplane with all its numbers covered up flew underneath the cable then back up. I thought, ‘Oh, my kids are going to be laying all over the ground!’ ”

“Ketchum was a wild place when I came in 1961,” said Dave Laster, another in attendance. “They hired all college kids then and they were all about partying!”

Sun Valley Ski Instructor Terry Smith, who has taught skiing for about 30 years, attended the banquet to honor Lundin. She called the Ancient Skiers a wonderful group.

“I remember getting here and people telling me Sun Valley has changed—that it was not what it used to be. That was 1984!”


The Sun Valley Sun Award was created by Peter Wick to acknowledge Ancient Skier members who have gained community, national and international recognition because of their exceptional ability, achievements or contributions to winter sports.

2010: The 20th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army, was honored in 2010. Among them Nelson Bennett, who at 101 was the oldest member of the Ancient Skiers that year. It also honored John Woodward, the oldest Master’s Ski Racer in the United States, having accumulated a record 17 gold medals before passing away at the age of 101.

Also, Lou Whittaker, an icon in the world of mountaineering having ascended Mt. Rainier more than 250 times and co-founding Rainier Mountaineering, the oldest and largest guide service in the United States with his wife Ingrid.

2011: Olympic skier Janette Burr Johnson, who competed in the 1952 Olympics and won the Harriman Diamond pin five times. Also, ice skater Peter Kennedy who with his sisters won a silver medal at the 1952 Olympics.

2012: Richard Byerly who at 84 became the oldest man to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro, doing so with his grandchildren. Also, Chuck Welch, who made the first descent on skis from Mt. Rainier, and filmmaker Warren Miller.

2013: Graham Anderson, who was inducted into the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame for his fundraising on behalf of the U.S. Ski Team and his work on the U.S. Olympic Ski Games Committee and other committees.

2014: Leroy Kingland, an equipment rep and distributor who was inducted into the Crystal Mountain Hall of Fame for his many contributions to the development of that Washington ski area.

2015: Carol Holding, who with her husband Earl purchased and restored Sun Valley Resort to become one of the world’s premiere resorts. Also, Marge Prothman, who managed the Crystal Mountain Ski Shop for more than 40 years; Madi Springer Krause, an alternate to the 1952 U.S. Olympic team and a U.S. National Champion in 1957, and Nonie Foley Shaw, listed among the world’s best by Ski Magazine in 1957

2016: Ross McLaughlin, a mountaineer and ski racer on the University of Washington Ski Team. Also, Corky and Lila Corrock, who developed Crystal Mountain and had three children on the U.S. Ski Team, including Kenny, Annie and Suzy, who won a Bronze Medal at the 1972 Olympics.

2017: Tammy Dix Jensen, who won the Sun Valley Diamond Sun Race in 1963, holding the record of 2.35 minutes for the women. Also, Dick Dorworth, who won the Sun Valley Diamond Sun Award in 2.22 minutes, the fastest speed on record. He also set the world record for speed on skis on at 106.8 miles per hour in Chile.

2018: Len Gerber, who has manufactured skis, sold them, raced and taught skiing.

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