Profile September 21, 2022

Andrew Dunning

Portrait of a renaissance man and his joie de vivre

The very first experience that Andrew Dunning remembers of Sun Valley turned out to be a pivotal moment in his life. As a youngster of 10 years old, his grandparents took him to dinner at the Sun Valley Lodge. His grandparents were excited to show their young southern California grandson the fineries of Lodge dining. At the conclusion of the main course, the surprise of the meal appeared on a cart wheeled by an ever-attentive waiter; it was Bananas Foster! As the wide-eyed youngster watched the concoction being created, his excitement grew and, then when the spark was lit and the alcohol flashed in flames high above his head, an epiphany occurred. “How was this possible,” thought the young lad?

With a curiosity that couldn’t be quelled, his grandparents relented and asked the waiter if their grandson could venture back to the kitchen and meet the chef. The chef then took the time to go step by step in the creation of Bananas Foster, explaining in detail what he was doing and then lighting the dessert on fire again. So enthralled was Dunning with the experience that he did the experiment on his own at home the next day, which meant his parents had to go purchase the correct alcohol to complete the task.

That experience set the stage for who the 35-year-old Dunning is today: gourmet chef, consummate kayaker, speed flyer, skier drone expert, videographer, and outdoor coach. All activities that didn’t jive with living in the heart of Los Angeles. In fact, since the age of 16, Dunning has been a full-time Wood River Valley resident.

The oft-used adage of “if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life” fits Dunning to a tee. Dunning’s life in Idaho is primarily centered around skiing/coaching on Baldy, kayaking the world-class Payette River and the Lost River Range for amazing speed flying peaks. (Speed flying is an advanced form of paragliding that uses a small, high-performance paraglider wing to quickly descend heights like mountains.) Says Dunning, “Idaho has definitely formed who I am.”

Dunning has developed an itinerary that regularly takes him around the world. During the winter months, you will find him speed flying the Alps in Europe. During the spring and early summer months, you will find him kayaking the Payette River near Banks, Idaho. Then in the fall, you will find him in Chile kayaking the Futaleufu River while based at his uncle’s guest ranch. When the opportunity presents itself, he slides over to Hood River and spends time kayaking on the White Salmon River, and every now and then he’ll throw in an occasional trip to Nepal.

In each of these locations, Dunning has formed a posse of friends, support staff, weather watchers and assistants who assist in making his endeavors a success. For example, this year in Europe, Dunning found himself speed flying for 21 days straight, unheard of in the sport since it takes so much planning, coordination, and perfect weather to pull off.

Aside from speed flying, kayaking occupies most of Dunning’s time and for good reason. His entire family is well known as a kayaking family. His grandmother retraced a significant river portion of the Lewis and Clark trip by kayak decades ago. And his uncle, Chris Spelius, competed in kayak in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. As a youngster, Dunning remembers his mother, gifted pianist and Artistic Director at the Sun Valley Artist Series, Susan Spelius Gannon, traveling every weekend from April to September from Los Angeles to the Kern River. The family became well known for setting up camp in the Kernville Town Park and paddling all weekend before making the trek back to Southern California. From that experience, Dunning has taken his kayaking skills to the top level by coaching, working with manufacturers on design, and running rivers around the world.

Over 10 years ago, Dunning became as fascinated with shooting drone footage as he was in making the perfect Bananas Foster. Now, he has been able to create a thriving business of shooting and selling his footage to clients all over the country. With his brother, Michael, the two have created, Dunnings & Co., a full-service video production company based in Sun Valley. Their passion is filming adventure videos involving whitewater kayaking, skiing, speed wing/paraglider flying, and climbing mountains. “While pushing the limits of these sports lies at the heart of our cinematography, we are always eager to explore new avenues and opportunities,” says Dunning. To date, they have worked with a variety of national and international active lifestyle brands and even created a short film, “The Crux,” about two expert climbers who visit City of Rocks National Reserve.

Dunning’s zest for life carries over into every aspect of his many careers, whether wielding a paring knife, a drone remote control or kayak paddle. “Don’t make excuses for stuff,” says Dunning. “If you think you have the ability to do something, you definitely should.”

This article appears in the Summer 2022 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.