Surrounded by 12,000-foot mountains, the sleepy town of Ketchum, Idaho, is the birthplace of American ski resorts — Sun Valley.
The quaint destination has yet to be taken over by skyscrapers. The world-renowned ski slopes and fresh, dry powder are the main draws. And while luxury touches can be found in farm-to-table restaurants and high-end accommodations, echos of the mining-turned-farming town remain.
Part of the frontier feel comes from Sun Valley’s remote location. It’s a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Boise and more than a 10 hour drive from Seattle. But those who make the trek (or a luxury charter flight to Sun Valley) are treated to the magic of nearly lift-free lines on the slopes of Bald and Dollar mountains.
Dry Powder. Clear Skies. Dozens of Ski Runs.
Wedged among four mountain ranges, Sun Valley offers a high-desert climate. The result is a unique combination of sunshine and snow. The Sun Valley ski resort gets over 120 blue sky days and an average of 220 inches of snow annually. This is skier and snowboarder paradise.
Particularly unique is Sun Valley’s diverse terrain. It spans 2,400 acres and climbs an impressive 3,400 vertical feet, offering runs for skiers and riders of all skill levels.
Bald Mountain, fondly nicknamed Baldy, is the pinnacle of skiing in the region. Thirteen chairlifts, including one gondola, allow skiers and riders to access unique runs down both sides of Baldy. Adding to Baldy’s mystique is a series of themed terrain parks located throughout the mountain designed for beginner to intermediate riders.
The adjacent Dollar Mountain is petite, in comparison. Its gentle slopes feature just 627 feet of gradual vertical rise, creating the perfect learning environment for kids and beginners.
Lest we not overlook those who love to work for their downhill thrill, Sun Valley is also an ideal gateway to backcountry skiing. It’s nestled at the southern tip of the Sawtooth National Forest, where some of the best ‘untouched snow’ can be found.
How to Get to Sun Valley, Idaho
There are only two ways to reach Ketchum and the Sun Valley Lodge: a long drive or a beautiful flight. (The last train made its final run in 1976 during a special train event known as the Preamble Express.)
Driving is not for the faint of heart — especially during the winter. Harsh road conditions can make long travel days even longer. And with so many of the delightful ‘pit stops’ being summer activities (like visiting Silver Creek — Ernest Hemingway’s favorite place to fish), Sun Valley road trips are often best tackled during warmer months.
What to Know About Flights to Sun Valley, Idaho
Charter flights to Sun Valley from Seattle are just a few hours of comfortable flying. Primarily, all Sun Valley charter flights land at Hailey’s Friedman Memorial Airport (SUN) — located 14 miles from the resort.
Rental cars and cab rides are available from SUN airport. Sun Valley Resort also offers courtesy transportation for all guests staying at the resort. (For more information contact Sun Valley Resort’s Bell Service (208) 622-2122 or e-mail [email protected]. Reservations must be made to guarantee a seat upon arrival.)
What about alternative airports? The coldest major airport is in Boise, the capital of Idaho. It’s roughly a 2.5-hour drive to Sun Valley. Alternatively, Salt Lake City is home to a major airport and is just shy of a 5-hour drive from Sun Valley.
8 Can’t-Miss Things at Sun Valley Lodge & in Ketchum
While flying down the slopes may be the main draw, Sun Valley offers a plethora of other fun activities.
1. Sleigh Rides
An echo of the region’s past, sleigh rides treat you to a taste of slow romance. Rides are roughly 30 minutes long as they stretch through the snowy hills.
At the heart of Ketchum, Enoteca’s wood-fired oven acts as a beacon — an inferno that warms the soul and the belly. The menu here is an exquisite selection of Napoletano-style pizzas with blistering crusts and wood-roasted New American cuisine.
3. Ice Skating
The Sun Valley Outdoor Ice Rink attracts world-class skaters throughout the year. (It’s one of the few year-round outdoor ice rinks in the United States.) Want to share the ice with an Olympic skater? General session skate times are available to all visitors. But the real hit here are the shows.
4. Live Music
Thursday through Monday during peak seasons (read winter and summer), The Lounge at the Limelight hotel offers live music from 3 to 6 PM. The lineup is comprised of locals, budding talents looking to spread their wongs, and long-beloved mainstays you’ll want to hear again and again.
5. Sample a Local Brew
Warfield is Ketchum’s only distillery. Locally owned, its brewers have remained true to classic brewing methods, heating their mash with fire and bringing malt in and out of the brewery by hand. In addition to its 14 original beers and seasonal pours, Warfield’s delectable gastropub menu and its rooftop bar make it a favorite.
Looking to seriously change up the ski trip? Wander on into Sun Valley Resort’s bowling alley. Open daily, no reservations are needed.
7. Fuel Up a Local Coffee Shop
Despite having less than 4,000 residents, Ketchum is home to more than seven coffee shops. Particularly unique is Java. It’s been around for more than 20 years, brewing cups and slinging hand-crafted baked goods that echo its founder’s Southern California roots. A newbie in comparison, Maude’s Coffee & Clothes opened in 2017. It sells an eclectic mix of contemporary and vintage clothing, jewelry, and locally roasted organic coffee.
Give your body a break in the serene oasis at The Spa at Sun Valley. The full-service spa offers everything from classic mani-pedis and massage therapy to hair cuts and redlight treatment.
Kids Skiing & Activities at Sun Valley Ski Resort
There are few things as beautiful as watching your child’s confidence grow as they learn to maneuver the slopes. Dollar Mountain was specifically designed to create an approachable environment where young and beginner skiers and riders could develop their skills.
It features two high-speed quads, a full-featured terrain park, and the Wundercarpet, an effortless uphill transporter for kids.