Sun Valley, Idaho, which receives over 250 sunny days per year, is full of fun facts. America’s first destination ski resort, which is home to the country’s first chairlift, has allured filmmakers to Sun Valley since 1936. Movies starring celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, Clark Gable, Clint Eastwood, Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn have used this locale as a backdrop. The largest automated snowmaking system in the world exists here. It’s no wonder that Fortune 500 leaders, Hollywood stars, inventors, and olympians currently call this destination home. Keep reading to learn more about Sun Valley, including what there is to do here and how you can save a few bucks along the way.
How to Get Here
Perhaps you think that because Sun Valley is located in the heart of Idaho, it must be difficult to travel to. It’s true that this ski resort is a bit off-the-beaten path, which is conducive to zero lines at the mountain’s chair lifts, but it couldn’t be easier to reach. Daily non-stop flights to Hailey’s Friedman Memorial Airport (SUN) are offered for San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Denver and Chicago.
Sun Valley Resort also provides complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport. Mountain Rides bus service will get you around the Wood River Valley, free of charge.
The bottom line: there’s no need to rent a car as you’ll easily be able to get to the Village, Dollar and Bald Mountains, and to the boutique and restaurant-filled towns of Ketchum and Elkhorn Springs.
Where to Stay
Sun Valley Village
Sun Valley Lodge is fabled. Black and white photographs of famous Sun Valley visitors like Garth Brooks, Scott Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Barbra Streisand, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bruce Willis, Tom Selleck, John Wayne, Louis Armstrong, Rosa Parks, Tom Hanks, Judy Garland, and so many more line the walls throughout the property.
There’s a fitness center, yoga studio, and spa but the main magnet is the expansive heated outdoor pool where you can soak your tired muscles after a long day of skiing for an unpretentious apres-ski experience.
Book the Celebrity Suite, where Ernest Hemingway stayed for months in 1939. It’s decked out with photographs of the famed novelist as well as a bronze statue.
Pro Tip: Save by booking the Stay & Ski package, which includes discounted prices on lodging and lift tickets. The offer is valid now through the end of the season. The Staycation package includes a savings of 20% off at the Sun Valley Lodge and Inn from April 1—May 25. If you have an Epic Pass, you’ll save 30% off on lodging though the end of the season.
For in-town accommodations, stay at the Limelight Ketchum. There’s a heated outdoor pool, dogs are welcome, and live music, bites, and libations can be enjoyed in the stylish lounge.
Pro Tip: Idaho residents receive complimentary parking and a special discount of 30% off the best-available hotel room rate through mid-June for the Idaho Local’s Rate package. The Limelight Long Stay offers visitors 30% off of room rates when staying for 14 nights or longer. The Passholders Offer is ideal for season pass holders—they’ll receive 20% off on two nights or more. Ask the hotel how you can save further on paragliding and Heli-ski adventures when you book a room at the Limelight.
Dining to Experience
Located at the base of the mountain, River Run Day Lodge has excellent choices—pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, salads, wok-made dishes, and soups—for a lunch break when you need to refuel and get back on the slopes.
Konditorei, the Austrian-inspired restaurant in the center of the village, is deservedly popular so allow for extra time when visiting, especially during brunch hours. Belly-warming dishes, delectable vegetarian and vegan-friendly options, crepes, and fresh-brewed espresso are specialties.
Sun Valley’s original restaurant, The Ram (in operation since 1937), is an absolute must for dinner. Choose a seat near the long-time pianist, Larry Harshbarger. If you have a song request, likely, he’ll play it. Also, don’t be shy about asking him to tell you a personal story—he has many to share.
With floor-to-ceiling windows, multiple fireplaces, and a relaxed environment, Sun Valley Club should be on your list for places to dine for lunch. Order the baked brie for a starter and a specialty cocktail or craft beer and then let the moment carry you further until you’re satiated.
Gretchen’s, located next to the lobby at Sun Valley Lodge, is an excellent choice for dinner and convenient if you’re staying at the lodge. Named after the first American to win an Alpine Olympic Gold Medal (Gretchen Fraser), this is the place to be for thoughtfully-created entrees and lodge classics. Plus, the service is top-notch.
Pro Tip: Other eateries worth a visit include: Village Station, Duchin Lounge, and Roundhouse.
Choose between two mountains for your spring skiing adventure. The treeless Dollar Mountain, with a vertical drop of 628 feet, is much smaller than Bald Mountain and geared toward beginner skiers, families, and small children. There’s a magic carpet, a day lodge, two newer high-speed quads, and a terrain park.
Bald Mountain (also known as “Baldy” to the locals) has 12 lifts, including a gondola, and over 100 runs on either side of the mountain, elongating 2,380 acres, with a 5,750-foot base and a 3,400-foot vertical drop. Known for a constant pitch, long runs, and groomers, you can ski corduroy or powder all day. Many skiers remark that the green runs here really feel like blue-level runs.
Pro Tip: On Bald Mountain’s southern side, Sunrise is a new expansion that will increase the skiable terrain by nearly 20%, adding 380 acres. Expect challenging bowls, chutes, drops, tree skiing, and the new Broadway lift.
See for Yourself
Get excited by viewing Sun Valley’s webcams where you can see live footage of the mountain at Snow Stake, River Run, Warm Springs, the Bowls, Sun Valley Club and Quarter Dollar.
Plan for Next Season’s Opening
The Sun Valley Nordic, Snowshoe, and Fat Biking Center offers visitors a chance to use different muscles while exercising outdoors. Well-marked, groomed trails, ideal for all abilities, provide the picture-perfect setting for a day of joy. For those new to classic cross-country or skate skiing, or to snow shoeing for that matter, enlist the help of a guide and get one-on-one instruction. Rentals are available as well as a service shop that can tune up your gear.
A Final Word
Not only did Ernest Hemingway stay and write portions of For Whom the Bell Tolls at Sun Valley Lodge, but also, he eventually bought property and lived out his final days here. Make a point to see the Ernest Hemingway Memorial, a bronze bust overlooking Trail Creek. You can also visit his simple gravesite in the Ketchum Cemetery, where you’ll likely see flowers, shot glasses and other paraphernalia.