For nearly 135 years there has been a Catholic presence in the Wood River Valley. In 1880, St. Charles Borromeo was built in Hailey, and for several years served as the mother church of Southeastern Idaho. In 1884, St. Mary’s church was built in Ketchum, measuring 48 ft. by 24 ft., with a lean-to in the back where the missionary lived. In 1948, due to an increase in the population of permanent and part-time residents in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area, a second and larger church was built under Fr. Linus M. Dougherty. This church was dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows and was a mission parish of St. Charles.
For several years services were held at the new Our Lady of the Snows, as well as at the Sun Valley Opera House. However, both facilities became inadequate to accommodate the number of Catholics now coming to the area, and in 1968 a special building fund campaign was started to build a new and larger Our Lady of the Snows church. Mr. and Mrs. Bill Janss and family, owners of Sun Valley Resort at the time, donated a two-acre tract of land on Sun Valley Road on which to build the larger church, in memory of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
The new church cost approximately $150,000 to build and was dedicated by Bishop Treinen on August 16, 1970. Fr. William P. Carroll was appointed the first pastor of this church and served until 1974.
The exterior of the church featured wood and stucco paneling, and on the Sun Valley Road side of the church, a 12 foot Italian carved wood statue of the Madonna and child Jesus hung. The statue is over 200 years old and was a gift from William and Rosemary Hewlett. Ralph Harris designed and Herman Lirk created the stained glass windows depicting the Good Shepherd, Mary, and an angel.
In 2005, due to the increasing costs to repair the church, a building campaign was initiated to build a third, more efficient building. Jim McLaughlin of McLaughlin & Associates, a world-renowned architectural firm that is located in Sun Valley, was the architect chosen to design this new church. He is also a parishioner of Our Lady of the Snows.
McLaughlin took the cross as the inspiration for the shape of the new church. Outside the front of the church hangs the wood carving of Mary and the child Jesus from the previous church. Inside you will find the stained glass windows from the previous church, as well as two newly commissioned pieces, one above the front doors depicting a cross, and the other, St. Joseph. Both pieces were designed and created by Ralph Harris and Herman Lirk.
A distinguishing feature of the new church is the chandelier which forms a baldachino (canopy) over the altar. It is a unique work of art commissioned specifically for this church. The artist is Sharon Marsten, from London, England. The piece is 24 feet long and is constructed with 1,600 fiber optic filaments and 2,200 hand-blown glass crystals.
We invite you to stop by any time to take a detailed tour of the church to better understand the significance of its design for Catholic liturgy, the celebration of the sacraments, and communal and individual prayer devotions. Or just come in to spend a few quiet moments in prayer.
For more information on the design of the church please click the link below to view a YouTube video of an interview with Jim McLaughlin.
Our Lady of Snows former pastors:
Fr. William Carroll 1969-1974
Fr. Joseph Gebhardt 1974-1983
Fr. James R. (“Reg”) Wilson 1983-1995
Msgr. John W. Morgan 1995-2007
Fr. Jorge Garcia 2007-2011
Fr. Joseph McDonald, III 2011-2013