Sun Valley

Sun Valley’s terrain—ranging from high-speed rippers to wide-open bowls—never gets old.
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Sun Valley’s terrain—ranging from high-speed rippers to wide-open bowls—never gets old.
5. Sun Valley, Idaho

Sun Valley oozes history. In 1936, it debuted the world’s first chairlift and became a full-fledged destination resort, drawing visitors like Marilyn Monroe, Ernest Hemingway, and Louis Armstrong. And in 1946, Warren Miller started making ski movies there. Today, Sun Valley’s the home of ski-film stars Zach and Reggie Crist and the premier heli-ski outfitter in Idaho. But the real reason it’s a resort for the ages: Sun Valley’s terrain—ranging from high-speed rippers to wide-open bowls—never gets old.

Quick Tip: Flying into Sun Valley’s Hailey Airport can be expensive and risky. In the winter, you run a 50 percent chance of being diverted and bused in. Instead, book a ticket into Boise, rent a car, and drive the two hours to Sun Valley.

Start Here: Warm up on Christmas Ridge while the morning sun is still on it. If you’re lucky, the wide, tree-speckled ridge was groomed the night before. Otherwise it’ll be chunky crud.

Must Hit: Get to the Bowls, the local term for the eight northeast-facing valleys like Mayday and Easter. Ride the Mayday chair (a.k.a. the Bowl chair) and take your pick of northern or southern aspects.

The Stash: Follow Siegfried Line on skier’s right of Christmas Ridge and take a soft right into Bowl 75. There you’ll find untracked, wooded, narrow steeps littered with rock bands.

Powder Day:  The Bowls will be packed. Instead, head down Flying Squirrel to a track through the trees on skier’s right to reach Frenchman’s South Slopes. A 10-minute hike up the ridge will get you to low-angle, gladed powder.

Three Days Later:  Fire Trail, a steep shot through the trees, is camouflaged in the intermediate terrain off the Seattle Ridge chair. For stashes, hit the trees just skier’s right of  Gretchen’s Gold.

Park and Pipe:  With no true park, Sun Valley tries its damnedest with an immaculately groomed superpipe on Lower Warm Springs. Or try the flat, open area flanked by old storage trailers, nature-made rails, and skier-made hits at the top of I-80 nicknamed Grandma’s House.

Backcountry Access:  Drop off the back of 9,150-foot Baldy into the 2,000-vertical-foot out-of-bounds Turkey Bowl. The 2007 Castle Rock Fire burned almost 50,000 acres in the area—and opened up new glades. Check avy conditions or hire a guide online at

Weather:  They don’t call it Sun Valley for nothing. The sun shines 80 percent of the time. The other 20 percent, it dumps. Last year, the mountain received 232 inches.

Après:  At Apple’s, next to Warm Springs Lodge, beer flows and most skiers wear ski gear into the early evening. Less than two miles away in Ketchum, Lefty’s has burgers, hand-cut fries, drafts from the local River Bend Brewery, and personalized mugs hanging from the ceiling.

Fuel:  Start your day with java from the Coffee Grinder, on East 4th Street, or crab-cake eggs Benedict and cheesy home fries from the Rustic Moose, on Highway 75 north of Ketchum. For lunch, get a chili dog with the works from Irving’s Red Hots, the stand at the base of Warm Springs.

Up All Night:  The oldest and boldest bar in town, Whiskey Jacques, burned down this fall. So your best bets are shuffleboard at The Cellar or old-timers’ tall tales at the saloon-like Casino.

Digs:  Rent a condo slopeside at Edelweiss, which has a heated pool with views of the lifts, full kitchens, and a free downtown shuttle that stops outside the front door (from $146; Or get a room in Ketchum at the Tamarack Lodge for better access to the restaurants and bars (from $89; 
—Katie Matteson

Elevation: 9,150 feet Vertical Drop: 3,400 feet Snowfall: 219 inches Acres: 2,045 Info: