Growing up in the Midwest skiing meant driving to Wisconsin where our “mountains” would be considered bunny hills to true skiers. When I moved to Los Angeles, ski trips took on a whole new meaning. I now had access to real mountains via a short car or plane ride. For the past ten years I have taken trips to Mammoth Mountain, Big Bear and Tahoe… California ski destinations. This year was different. Instead, I hopped on a plane to Sun Valley, Idaho.
As a guest of Visit Sun Valley, I spent two days exploring the resort town that is the home of the world’s first chairlift. Although my time was short, I quickly fell in love with the “Sun Valley” region including Sun Valley and the surrounding towns of Ketchum and Hailey. Sun Valley felt as if I had been transported into a real life snow globe, almost too perfect to be true. These adorable small towns nestled between five mountain ranges offer beautiful mountains and picturesque views of a storybook winter wonderland. But even better, it was the most non-touristy ski town I’ve ever been to. Instead of feeling like a tourist, I felt like a local and was welcomed as one. Here’s six things to in Sun Valley, Idaho.
1. SKI OR SNOWBOARD BALD (OR DOLLAR) MOUNTAIN
Topping the list of things to do at Sun Valley is hitting the slopes on Bald Mountain (known as “Baldy”) for intermediate and advanced levels. When I asked locals what makes Baldy special I repeatedly was told it is one of the best mountains to ski in the US due to its vertical and consistent pitch. Spanning 2054 acres of Sawtooth National Forest, Baldy has a 3,400 feet drop.
After a full day of skiing Baldy, I can confirm the locals were correct. I was lucky enough to visit during a snowstorm so was able to ski in perfect powder and conditions. What shocked me the most, on a Saturday in February – peak ski season – there were barely any crowds! In comparison to my California experiences, Sun Valley was empty! That alone is reason enough to visit Sun Valley.
If you’re a beginner, make sure to start off at the nearby treeless Dollar Mountain. With a vertical drop of only 628 feet it’s a great spot to learn. If you’re visiting, check out Sturtevant’s for all your rental needs. Founded in 1948 it’s one of the oldest ski shops in the country! With a friendly staff and top of the line gear they’ll make you feel like a million bucks, even if you’re only hitting up Dollar (or Baldy).
2. TAKE THE GONDOLA RIDE TO ROUNDHOUSE
Whether you’re on the slopes or not, one of the best things to do in Sun Valley is a gondola ride up to the Roundhouse restaurant and bar. The ride offers stunning views of the entire valley. As you ascend you get a breathtaking birds-eye view of the Sun Valley region. At the top you are treated to panoramic mountain views of a winter wonderland. And when you get too cold, head inside the Roundhouse. The smell of melted cheeses and fondue alongside a crackling wood burning fire offer a welcoming and warm oasis.
3. HOT TUB OUTDOORS IN THE SNOW
After a day of hitting the slopes nothing is more rewarding than unwinding in an outdoor hot tub in the cold. The best spot to warm up your bones is Zenergy. This modern health club and spa has multiple state of the art workout facilities along with high-class spa amenities. Its outdoor pool and spa area serves up the perfect amount of zen. And if you’re in the mood for a drink, the spa serves alcoholic beverages (for purchase).
4. STAY AT HOTEL KETCHUM
When you walk into a hotel and the first thing you see is a fireplace with the quote, “Life was meant for good friends and great adventures” you know you’re in the right spot! Stepping foot in Hotel Ketchum my expectations were high and after my 2 night stay, they were exceeded putting it on my list of things to do in Sun Valley. This boutique hotel boasts the motto, “settle in, set out” because it acts as a home base for your bigger Idaho-inspired adventures. Its trendy design, modern decor and community spaces made me look forward to returning to my home away from home. My absolute favorite part? The mountain facing windows in my room! Looking out the windows was like staring at a live painting. I could have spent all day watching the falling snow.
5. EAT AT PIONEER SALOON
If you walk by Pioneer Saloon and sneak a peek through the windows you’ll likely think, “what’s going on in there!?” It looks like an old-time wild west saloon decorated with deer mounts, antique bullet boards, western posters, sculptures and Ernest Hemingway memorabilia. Fun Fact – Ernest Hemingway frequently visited Sun Valley to write, fish and hunt and is buried in Ketchum Cemetery. Pioneer Saloon is known for its perfectly aged beef and giant Idaho potatoes. It’s my favorite meal in Idaho making it a must on my list of things to do in Sun Valley.
6. DRINK BEER AT SAWTOOTH BREWERY
One of my favorite things to do in any new city is explore the craft beer scene. Sawtooth Brewery is the largest brewery in Sun Valley making 1000 barrels of craft beer per year. I was in beer flight heaven with 30 beers on tap to choose from. Sawtooth has been open since 11/11/11 and was the first brewery in Sun Valley to can its beers in 2015. In addition to beer, its Ketchum location is a family friendly restaurant making it a drinking and dining spot with options for everyone.
7. FLY INTO HAILEY (SUN) AIRPORT
If you’re coming from Los Angeles, there are direct flights from LAX to SUN making it easily accessible. However, be prepared that winter weather conditions may prevent flights from operating out of SUN. If this happens, airplanes are redirected to nearby airports and your travel plans may need to adjust. I was on an outbound United flight that was redirected. The morning of my flight United gave us enough warning time to get to the SUN airport. We then took a bus to the nearby airport to board our flight.