Ahhh, Sun Valley. Just mention the name, and a roomful of well-traveled skiers let out a collective sigh. Set deep in the heart of Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains, Sun Valley is North America's first ski resort, dating all the way back to 1936 with the unveiling of the first chairlift on Dollar Mountain. History seeps from every corner of this proud mountain jewel, calling out to bottom-feeding ski bums and A-List Hollywood stars alike. With icons including Ernest Hemingway, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Warren Miller, Picabo Street and many others calling Sun Valley home at some point, this is a "must see, must ski" on every mountain lovers list.
Sun Valley Resort has two different mountains, with two distinctively different personalities:
Bald Mountain stands watch over the Wood River Valley and the charming mining town of Ketchum, and defines the Sun Valley skiing experience with 3,400 feet of vertical drop, as well as the most immaculately manicured terrain this side of Pebble Beach. "Baldy", as the locals will tell you, is a mountain that has it all. From the legendary Warm Springs and College runs that provide some of the longest and steepest groomed runs on the planet, to the powder-filled bowls off of May Day chair, to the dubiously leg-burning Exhibition bump run, and over to Seattle Ridge's mellow intermediate tracks, Bald Mountain boasts some of the very best skiing and snowboarding on the globe.
For new skiers and boarders, Dollar Mountain is the most ideal learning venue around, with four short chairlifts serving a spacious and digestible canvas on which to master basic skills. With a huge new day lodge recently completed, Dollar Mountain is home to Sun Valley Ski School's childrens division, and a staff of friendly teachers are ready to lead kids (or adults!) into a world of lifelong mountain fun.
No ski trip to Sun Valley is complete without experiencing the après ski scene at Warm Springs base area. Whether it's kicking back on Warm Spring's Lodge's sunny patio and taking in live bands, or at the not-to-be-missed Apple's Bar and Grill, it's all too easy to slide right in with the friendly local crowd. Conversations flow from highlighting the day's snow conditions to football scores to the Dow Jone's average as smoothly as cold beer from the taps. Sun Valley's residents welcome anyone that has traveled this far with open arms, and a general vibe of "Hey, seriously...how lucky are WE?!" permeates the air everywhere you go.
Nestled between Bald Mountain and Dollar Mountain, the historic silver mining town of Ketchum is the center of the action at night. Hearty steak dinners and the best margaritas north of Mexico can be found on Main Street at The Pioneer Saloon. Get there early, or be prepared to pack shoulder-to-shoulder in the bar while you wait for a coveted table--this place rocks 365 days a year! Sophisticated palettes need not fear boredom, as Ketchum also happens to offer a huge spectrum of five-star eating establishments, including The Christiana, Chandler's and the Asian-inspired Globus.
Lodging and condo rental choices are also plentiful. For the "real deal" experience that Hollywood's Golden Era used to travel days by Union Pacific train for all the way from Los Angeles, you won't want to miss the history and magic of Sun Valley Lodge. A self-sufficient village in itself, there are many great restaurants and shops in this resort, but the hotel itself is where all the real fun is had, with beautifully appointed European-style rooms, it's own ice rink, and a huge heated pool at the foot of Dollar Mountain.