Sun Valley ski resort is frozen in time. Walking into the Sun Valley Lodge and gazing at the photographs of dignitaries and starlets who have graced the resort, it's hard not to feel like you're in a black and white movie. Harkening back to the golden age of the sport, it is the birthplace of the modern ski resort. Sprinkle some balmy weather, absence of crowds, plus a mountain that claims the most consistent pitch in the U.S. and you have a dream for intermediate skiiers.
Step into Sun Valley, America's oldest purpose-built ski resort, and you can feel the echoes of an era when Hollywood stars, writers, socialites, and European nobility were lured here to ski and play. On December 23, 1936, the Sun Valley Lodge opened for its first winter season, complete with the world's first chairlift. Railroad tycoon Averell Harriman wanted to develop America's first grand destination ski resort to promote passenger traffic on his Union Pacific Railroad. After an extensive search, Harriman was ready to give up when he learned of a beautiful corner of the Sawtooth mountains near Ketchum, Idaho.
Harriman selected Sun Valley for its abundant sunshine, mostly treeless and wind-sheltered slopes, and pure snow quality. A gracious mock-alpine resort was built to lure the likes of Errol Flynn and Ernest Hemingway. These stars put Sun Valley on the map, together with the Hollywood blockbuster "Sun Valley Serenade," which starred none other than Olympic gold medalists Sonja Henie and Gretchen Fraser.
Almost 80 years later, a new generation of skiers are drawn to Sun Valley by the same attributes that first made it famous in the 1930's. The lodges are still just as grand and the skiing is just as good. It's hard not to fall in love with Sun Valley and even harder not to feel like you yourself have stepped into Hollywood's golden age just by walking into the lodge.
The resort is actually comprised of a main hill (Bald Mountain) and the much smaller, more intermediate- and beginner- friendly terrain of the resort's original hill (Dollar Mountain). Although Sun Valley receives less snow than many western resorts, it compliments its snowfall with one of the West's most powerful snowmaking systems. As a consequence, while Sun Valley is not powder-sure, it is certainly snow-sure.
The village of Sun Valley is located a short shuttle ride from Bald Mountain and is home to the Sun Valley Lodge, Sun Valley Inn and the Sun Valley Opera House. At the base of the mountain, the town of Ketchum provides a wonderful Old West counterbalance to the grandeur of the hotels in the village of Sun Valley itself.
Whether lured by the sunshine, steep groomed terrain, world-class lift system or luxurious lodging, every skier who takes the road less travelled to Sun Valley is happy he did.
Updated for Winter 2014-2015 - David B. Cronheim