I just spent a week in wintry Ketchum, Idaho (aka Sun Valley) and it gave me a whole new perspective on urban life in San Francisco.
Don’t misunderstand: I love the mountains, especially those in south central Idaho. And, having lived there for 5 years during my young adulthood, the Wood River Valley occupies a cherished place in my heart and memory.
The town of Ketchum is tucked near the top of a river drainage, embraced by storybook mountains and soft golden hills. The setting feels protective, not claustrophobic like the Appalachian hollers I grew up in.
Idaho skies are blue. The air is dry. The snow can be epic. And – oh. my. goodness. – it is SO QUIET.
Yet winter living presents a unique set of challenges. When the snow is on, any outdoor activity requires preparing for something akin to space exploration. True, you can drive your SUV into the town center and manage the trek from parking lot to grocery store in your cross trainers. But what happens if your vehicle breaks down or gets stuck on the way home? There you’d be without a hat, in your not-warm-enough jeans and your shoes filling with snow.
You can’t just open an app and get a fast Uber in Sun Valley. Whereas, near my home in SF near Dolores Park, there are Lyfts circling like sharks near chum. If I call for a car, I must be on the sidewalk within 30 seconds.
In San Francisco, I am vigilant for the occasional bomb left in my path by an irresponsible dog owner. In Ketchum, I have to stay balanced over my feet and carefully read the snow and ice, lest I slip and and break my hip.
In San Francisco, I could walk in flip flops to a corner café for coffee (although I won’t, since I never drink coffee and I won’t wear flip flops except at the beach). In Ketchum last week I saw a crusty old acquaintance wearing shorts and Uggs while loading his car with ski gear, but even he wouldn’t risk exposing his bare feet.
In San Francisco, my most likely wildlife encounter would involve a skunk and a cat door, or a gang of raccoons using a lightwell as a party toilet. In Ketchum a moose or elk gets trapped in a window well every winter, deceived by the lay of the snow.
In San Francisco, I wear leather boots, pumps, oxfords, clogs or tennis shoes, depending on the day and requisite fashion level. In Ketchum, local women by necessity must express their senses of style primarily through their choice of snow boots.
In San Francisco, I’m constantly chilled due to the marine layer feeding in from the Pacific Ocean, and neighbors begin whining if the thermometer plunges to 50. In Ketchum, I need only a couple of layers of wool to feel cozy and happy, and the townsfolk don’t complain until temps drop to the teens.
Both places suit me well, and when I’m at one place I miss the other. Yet my career as a Realtor keeps me rooted to my hometown city. Maybe, just maybe, one of these days I can hang up my keys and take up the writer’s life in beautiful Idaho.
Snow boots in the YMCA ladies locker room in Ketchum.
Cynthia Cummins is the founder of Kindred SF Homes and has been serving homeowners and homebuyers for 3 decades. For information on San Francisco Bay Area real estate visit KindredSFhomes.com. For my writing and mindfulness blog, visit WildHeartWriting.org.