A look back at 2020 from Sun Valley's perspective after becoming ground zero for COVID-19 in Idaho

Posted at 4:14 PM, Jan 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-02 20:10:55-05

KETCHUM, Idaho — 2020 was a year that will go down as one we will all remember as the COVID-19 pandemic changed life as we knew it in several drastic ways.

When we look back it is easy to realize that the virus was here before precautions were put into place and history will also take note that America wasn't very prepared for the pandemic.

The National Brotherhood of Skiers held their black summit in Sun Valley to celebrate Art Clay and Ben Finley, the first two African-Americans to get inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboarding Hall of Fame.

However, the timing couldn't have come at a worse time as hundreds of people made their way to Sun Valley from all over the country, there were no travel warnings or restrictions in place.

A week after the black summit ended Idaho officially got its first coronavirus case on March 13, but we now know the virus was already in Sun Valley.

Blaine County would end up becoming ground zero in Idaho as the popular ski resort with its own airport made it easy for people from all over the country and the world to visit Sun Valley.

More than 100 hundred members of the Brotherhood of Skiers returned home to their loved ones and ended up getting sick, Idaho News 6's Steve Dent also got the coronavirus in Sun Valley.

The Mayors of Sun Valley and Ketchum were quick to insist that blame directed towards the Brotherhood was baseless and meritless, instead, the mayor of Ketchum apologized to the NBS.

Sun Valley Resort shut down and Blaine County enacted some of the strictest measures in the state, including a county-wide mask mandate in the summer.

“I am concerned about the mental health of our community and communities throughout Idaho," said Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw. "This is an incredibly challenging time, this is a time to come together and a time to support each other in every way we can.”

Managing the pandemic had its challenges especially in a community that relies on tourism to thrive, leaders had to figure out how to balance the health of the community with the economic well being of local businesses.

“This is all we have, we don’t have enough people in this town who live here year round to keep all the restaurants busy," said Pete Prekeges, the owner of Grumpy's, which has been an iconic restaurant since 1978. "It's a tourist town."

But businesses like Grumpy's not only bought into the health orders, this business went above and beyond to create a safe environment for their guests and staff.

“Most of our employees either have parents who live here that are older or family members that are immune-compromised so we want to keep everyone safe," said Prekeges.

Sun Valley Resort opened back up this winter with several COVID-19 protocols and they were also named the top resort by Ski Magazine.

“It’s such a testament to the entire ski resort and the entire Sun Valley community," said Bridget Higgins of Sun Valley Resort.

Even though the pandemic continues Blaine County has moved from the red to the yellow moderate category and there's a light at the end of the tunnel as vaccines begin to get distributed.

Hopefully, in 2021 Art Clay and Ben Finley who are credited with bringing millions of dollars to the ski industry, will finally have the chance to be honored at their hall of fame induction ceremony.