Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Sun Valley’s Early Birds Catch the Skis
George Caton, Mike Hetherington and Jay Basen were three of the die-hard skiers rewarded with a new pair of Fischer skis on New Year’s Day.
Thursday, January 31, 2019


Apparently it pays to be the early bird on New Year’s Day in Sun Valley—and not just because you get to make first tracks.

That—at least--is what six Sun Valley skiers found out when they braved minus-9 temperatures on New Year’s Day to take their normal spots at the first of the line on the steps below Sun Valley’s gondola.

While others were sleeping off their New Year’s Eve parties, the six were chatting away between chattering teeth. And then someone pulled them out of line.

“We thought maybe we were going to go up early for being such dedicated skiers,” said Jay Basen.

But, no, they got something far better.

Fischer Ski product developer Mike Hattrup, a Sun Valley resident known as the “Blizzard of Aahhh’s” for his extreme skiing prowess, informed them  that each were being awarded a pair of brand new Fischer sticks for their dedication.

“How would you like to become team riders for Fischer?” they were asked.

The six—Jay Basen, Ranger Cook, George Caton, Jack Hetherington, Bill Gehrke and John Reinholt-- are now proud owners of Fischer Ranger FR skis, twin tips and all.

Fischer apparently decided the best way to market their skis is on the feet of skiers who are hard core enough to brush off cold and perhaps even New Year’s Eve hangovers to be first at the lift.

And they pulled the stunt off in several resorts across the world, starting with one in Japan since it was the first to celebrate the New Year’s.

“As a company, we’ve always been on the more serious side, building serious skis for serious skiers,” said a Fischer representative. “It’s not only about your abilities as a skier but also your attitude towards skiing. We want to acknowledge the sacrifices you make to get in that perfect run or to make that first track.”

 “We had to pick our jaws up off the ground when they told us,” said Mike Hetherington.

Additional skiers were handed free skis at St. Anton in Austria and resorts in Germany, Russia, Switzerland and Canada.

Sun Valley Resort was the last of the day, given its westernmost location.

The lucky six were outfitted with a pair of skis to ski on as they exited the gondola. They were then filmed carving turns on Baldy.

“All I could think was ‘Don’t fall. Don’t fall. Don’t fall,’” said Basen.

Of course, there were some near misses that morning.

One skier who was originally fifth in line gave up his place when he spotted a friend and went back to stand with him.

Another man who is always part of the early morning posse was uncharacteristically late that morning—it’s too cold to go right off the bat, his wife told him.

Gehrke and Rineholt typically prefer to take the Lower River Run chair. But that chair was slow getting started that morning and so they made their way to the gondola, instead.

Basen’s wife Gretchen just missed the cut—she was seventh in line.

“But I just got what I consider the perfect pair of skis so I don’t need a new pair,” she said. “I was just happy that my husband and the others had the good fortune.”

She paused.

“I tried to talk Jay out of going so early that morning—I had worked the day before and was tired. But I relented. Can you imagine if I had kept him from being among the first in line that days?!”

Their good fortune hasn’t gone to their heads.

You’ll still find these early birds taking their place in line every day at 8:30 in the morning—a half-hour before the lifts crank up.

“My wife thinks it’s a mental illness” said George Caton. “But, really, it’s our coffee group.”


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