Nov 06, 2008
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 svtrek.com.
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; premier-sunvalley.com). Or get a room in Ketchum at the Tamarack Lodge for better access to the restaurants and bars (from $89; tamaracksunvalley.com).
Elevation: 9,150 feet Vertical Drop: 3,400 feet Snowfall: 219 inches Acres: 2,045 Info: sunvalley.com
GO: Where to stay
This time of year in Central Idaho means corn skiing at Sun Valley Resort, backcountry touring in the Sawtooth Mountains, and Steelhead fishing on the Salmon River. We spent the week doing all three while testing gear from First Ascent and helmets and eyewear from Smith Optics. The trip was as good as they get. Check out our gallery here.