Dante's Getaway: Sun Valley Gets a Little Closer to its Namesake, but its Tourism Board is Fireproof

There's nothing like a massive wildfire to put things in perspective. For San Franciscans, this is painfully evident; the monster "Rim Fire" immolating Yosemite was, as of press time, six times larger than this city. If that's not humbling enough, the specter of the city's hydroelectric municipal power source being disrupted and our pristine — and unfiltered — water system being inundated with charred runoff should be.

For those struck with an urge to flee, attempts to run from our peninsula will be abortive in three of four directions. A means of conveyance — possibly even flight — is necessary. So, it would seem fortuitous that, just as the city's subject du jour turned to uncontrollable fires scorching nostalgia-saturated camp cabins and menacing San Francisco's vital infrastructure, an announcement was made that there was, in fact, another place we could go. A refuge from our menaced city. A veritable paradise on earth.

Late last month, a consortium of Idaho business interests announced the establishment of nonstop flight service between San Francisco and Sun Valley. The town, boasts a press release, "became known as 'America's Shangri La' for its unique and unrivaled combination of recreation, culture, and facilities set amidst the majestic beauty of the central Idaho Rockies."

Sadly, on the very day this missive was unveiled to the world, "America's Shangri La" was the subject of less glowing prose. "Uncontrollable Idaho Fire Ruins Vacations for the Rich and Famous," read an Associated Press headline. A reprieve from wildfires, like good taste, is something that can't be bought.

Jack Sibbach, the marketing director for Sun Valley Resort, confirms that he was evacuated from his home just prior to sending out a press release urging San Franciscans to visit him. "It's a mostly one-way in and one-way out community we live in," he says. "We have to [evacuate] for safety reasons." That's both disturbing and reassuring, when you think about it.

Sibbach admits that the fire came at a bad time. "But fires never come at good times." In the short-term, he predicts some hardship. "But, in the long-term, this is a very special place. We'll come back stronger than ever."

It remains to be seen if the same can be said for San Francisco. When hydroelectric dams are in close proximity to miles of flames, more can be ruined than the vacations of the rich and famous.

 
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