by Deirdre Frost
In choosing Sun Valley, a getaway winter resort that has drawn Hollywood celebrities and famous literary figures as a favored destination for almost a century, I joined locals and visitors coming to this friendly small town in central Idaho to experience the relaxation and luxury of a premier resort.
Ideally located in a stunning mountain backdrop that is spectacularly beautiful, the unusual beehive-shaped mountains and snow capped peaks dominate the inspiring landscape that offers some of the best skiing out West.
Skiing in the Idaho wilderness evokes images of seclusion, serenity, and beauty. Yet, it is the expectation for high adventure, wild exploration, and challenge that captured my imagination. Images of the first explorers and adventurers enjoying the unfettered freedom of open space feature prominently in Sun Valley’s history. From the glorious days when mining was a way of life in this rugged and formidable mountain terrain, where prospectors came to seek their fortune to locate gold and other precious metals in the Ketchum – Sun Valley area.
Seeking fortune and fame has always been a part of Sun Valley’s culture. Land developer and Union Pacific Chairman, Averell Harriman,
envisioned his dream resort Sun Valley Lodge. just outside of Ketchum that continues to attract celebrities, and the rich and famous. Current resort owners, members of the Sinclair Oil Corp. continue to maintain the high standard of a world-class destination ski resort.
Top athletes also come to ski and enjoy the all-mountain experience. Legendary hometown skier, Gretchen Kunigk Fraser, became the first American to win gold in alpine skiing at the 1948 Olympics.
Even now, glowing recognition is bestowed on Sun Valley, receiving the top ranking as the #1 ski resort in the U.S. Annual Ski Resort Awards by SKI Magazine.
I took the local Aardvark Taxi & Shuttle from the airport in Hailey to my well-appointed accommodation at the Habitat on Trail Creek in Ketchum. The woodland setting provides complete privacy and a wonderful feeling of comfort. A real benefit is the property’s proximity to the center of town’s stores and attractions. I also had access to Sun Valley’s River Run Lodge and gondola by hopping on the complimentary Mountain Rides shuttle bus.
I rented equipment from Sturtevants, which has a convenient downtown location (next to the Limelight Hotel).
The friendly capable staff offers suggestions on how to optimize the ski experience. Using rentals eliminates the carrying of my own and provides equipment that is calibrated to my ski level and performance. A real advantage is the option to return my skis at any of their retail locations.
Just outside this rental shop, I pick up the shuttle for the short ride to River Run and within minutes, I am on the slopes ready to conquer Bald Mountain, better known as “Baldy”. Gazing up at the snowy peak, I contemplate skiing this high summit of the central Idaho Smoky Mountains. Skiing Bald Mountain is an awesome challenge.
Noticing no lift lines, the gondola is a quick ride to new heights that allow me to view the amazing scenery of Ketchum in the midst of this rugged mountain range. Once atop the summit, the shrouded mist spurs me into action and I ski down to the new lift Broadway, before taking an encore run.
One of the most scenic spots is at Seattle Ridge, which offers astounding views overlooking the distant mountain vistas. This ridge also provides access to some exciting expert terrain to enjoy the secret powder stashes, rock drops, steep chutes, and glades. However, skiing less arduous terrain gives a feeling of escape and contentment.
One of the latest features is the resort’s backcountry yurts and huts system that includes a network of basecamps for extending your outdoor adventures in the mountains. Adventurers can base out of one location, rather than moving accommodations nightly, which makes for a more enjoyable experience.
The focus here in Sun Valley, on outdoor winter sports attracts not only sportsmen, but also athletes and celebrities. Among the most famous celebrities was the great Ernest Hemingway, who became a full time resident after writing “For Whom the Bell Tolls” in Suite 206 of the Sun Valley Lodge. Hollywood celebrities and other illustrious figures grace the walls of the Lodge including Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, and Ingrid Bergman. Now, high powered tech and media executives fly in on private planes to enjoy this exciting getaway.
Apart from the bustle on the ski slopes, the après ski scene brings with it a lively atmosphere and a local vibe. After a hard day of skiing, Sawtooth Brewery & Tap Room in Hailey and Ketchum is a friendly spot to enjoy some of the best local craft beer. Founding owners, Kevin Jones and Paul Holle, know how to brew exciting beer varieties. The brewery produces over 1000 barrels of craft beer per year that is sold all over Idaho and distributed in nearby western states. A popular choice is Mountain Time Golden Ale, which is available in fourteen states including some on the East Coast.
Among exciting dining options, a popular local bistro is Rasberrys, featuring delicious, Southwestern inspired soups and salads.
The owners, Callie and Maeme. would not let me leave without trying their homemade baked goods, especially the freshly-baked cookies that are sold right from the counter. The relaxed setting and personable service appeal to a well-heeled clientele who feel this eclectic establishment is one of the top lunch spots in town.
Exploring Ketchum, there seems a real fascination with everything associated with Hemingway whether it is the Hemingway Memorial overlooking the gently flowing Trail Creek, his Trail Creek Cabin or the town graveyard.
According to museum records in Ketchum, Hemingway was invited by Harriman to stay at the Sun Valley Lodge for two years without charge. The author liked the area so much that he bought his own hideaway. This rustic property remains isolated, even though it is now part of the Community Library and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visiting this hillside home reflects Hemingway’s passion for the outdoors with its sweeping views of the Big Wood River and the Sawtooth Mountains beyond.
For all its changes, Sun Valley’s rich and storied past continues to attract those adventurous spirits who find solace in the mountain surroundings. The uplifting, fresh mountain air and the open space are still pristine and untouched.
Sun Valley offers a golden opportunity to spend days in the mountains that are exceptionally beautiful and exhilarating, and no doubt a much needed respite from the mundane.
For more information:
Sun Valley Resort – (800) 786-8259; www.sunvalley.com
Sun Valley Nordic Center – (208) 622-2250
Sawtooth Brewery & Tap Room – Hailey (208) 788-3213; Ketchum (208) 726-6803; www.sawtoothbrewery.com
Sturtevants – (208) 726-4501; www.sturtevants-sv.com
Habitat on Trail Creek – Reservations: (208) 360-1824; Management: (208) 339-5835; https://habitatontrailcreek.com/about-us/; email: email@example.com
Raspberrys – (208) 726-0606; www.rasberrys.net; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Aardvark Taxi & Shuttle – (208) 721-7682; www.aardvarktaxi.com; email: email@example.com