Famed author Ernest Hemingway once quipped, “Don’t bother with churches, government buildings, or city squares, if you want to know about a culture, spend a night in its bars.” Having frequented public houses all over the world, the author’s tradition of writing his next page in a local saloon continued in many of Sun Valley’s watering holes up until his death. In love with the mountain views, serene streams, and stiff suds, it was in the valley that the legendary author and outdoorsman found his “church.”
Invited by W. Averell Harriman and his team to be one of the first celebrities to stay at the Sun Valley Lodge, Hemingway’s love affair with the area began in 1939. Staying in room 206 (now room 228), it was in the lodge that the author would finish For Whom the Bell Tolls. This visit is now memorialized with Hemingway’s room known as one of the “Celebrity Suites,” even featuring the typewriter he used to complete that world-famous novel. Even the lodge’s bar, the Duchin Lounge, features the “Hemingway Special Daiquiri”–an ode to Ernest who frequented the dark-wood trimmed spot for quick writing breaks.
Many spots in Sun Valley proper as well as Ketchum can recall a time when Hemingway was a patron. At the Pioneer Saloon, Hemingway would frequently rub shoulders with locals. Now known for its margaritas as well as displaying one of the author’s hunting rifles, one could assume Hemingway today would be more than happy to continue hanging out at the establishment—especially for its infamy as an illegal gambling den in the bar’s early history.
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One of Hemingway’s favorite bars was The Casino in Ketchum, a neighborhood staple since the 1920s. Legend has it that Ernest indulged in many conversations with the bar’s owner, Slavey Werry, and one time was invited to go on a local hunting trip as long as he was there at 5 am. When the clock struck 5:05 am the next morning and Hemingway was nowhere to be found, Werry’s hunting party left without the author. As the story goes, Hemingway was never late for a hunting excursion again.
When not using a margarita as a meal, The Christiana (now Michel’s Christiana) was Hemingway’s favorite establishment for fine dining. Spending many nights at the restaurant with friends, it was here that Ernest would have his final meal—a New York strip steak, potatoes, salad, and of course an excellent pour of Bordeaux. Not too shabby.
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Mesmerized by the area’s natural beauty, it was in Sun Valley that the author felt like he could finally live the life of his many idealistic characters—hiking, hunting, and enjoying time with locals that knew the rugged landscape. Breaking from writing, Hemingway would spend long afternoons in the nearby Silver Creek preserve, even bringing his eldest son to fish with him in the roaring creeks. It’s no surprise that he would eventually build a home here in 1959, living the last few years of his life surrounded by the valley.
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Cementing Hemingway’s love affair with Sun Valley, it’s here one can find his memorial and final watering hole. Surrounded by trees along a rumbling creek, a simple shrine to the author can be found along Trail Creek Road. A bust of Hemingway looks out into the distance as if forever looking out upon the valley that enraptured the rambling man. As the shrine’s epitaph alludes, “..the high blue skies, now he will be a part of them forever,” the author is continually tied to the many attractions of Sun Valley. Hemingway’s “parish” remains a place of pilgrimage for the sporty, the outdoor lovers, and for those seeking a killer daiquiri.