Sun Valley: The Emerging Wonderland With A Secret Past

When it comes to enjoying the American outdoors, the Rocky Mountains provide a vast playground for avid skiers, hikers, and nature enthusiasts. Its national parks spanning millions of acres are home to several tourist landmarks. Lovers of roads less traveled are setting their sights on Idaho, a state high in breathtaking beauty and low in population density. Nestled among the snow-capped mountain peaks lies a resort town Sun Valley. Booking your next getaway here will put in you the company of Marylin Monroe and Ernest Hemingway. They both loved the luxury and privacy of Sun Valley. With ample room for scenic adventures, it has been a secret wonderland for decades.

Sun Valley Village view from above.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sun Valley.

Flying into Sun Valley’s small airport already is an Instagram-worthy panoramic experience. The planes make dramatic landings on a runway between adjacent mountain peaks. America’s first destination ski resort opened in Central Idaho in 1936 and cultivated the reputation of being a “quintessential mountain town minus the attitude”. The blend of old-world heritage, top notch cuisine and modern excellence in hospitality attracts visitors year after year. A skier’s paradise, its two mountains make long wait lines non-existent and varied terrain welcomes skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels. The smaller Dollar Mountain is practically free of trees and perfect for beginners to build confidence. It guarantees a certain safety level while maintaining real big mountain feel. The local ski school is a major attraction for families new to mountain sports. Bald Mountain, or “Baldy”, has earned accolades as one of the world’s finest ski mountains, with constant pitch. The more difficult runs and lack of wind make it appealing for intermediate to advanced skiers. Mountain guides offer free daily tours for a special introduction to the mountains. Turns out, there’s a ski run named after Terminator himself. The Arnold Run celebrates the relationship between the former Governor of California and the local community.

Baldy Mountain

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sun Valley

After a day of adventures, returning to Sun Valley Lodge is a magical time-traveling experience. Decorated by the famous Newport socialite Majorie Oelreichs Duchin, it has not changed its vibe since the opening day. “There is enough white outside!” The legend suggests she had banished the cold palette. Instead, yellows, oranges and greens are complimented by red carpets spanning the lobby and the hallways. The Duchin Lounge was renovated but maintains its charm. It used to be an exclusive outpost of Saks Fifth Avenue supplying high-end skiwear and cocktail attire to celebrities of the era. From Louis Armstrong to the Kennedys, the lodge’s walls are filled with pictures of notable guests. The history is energizing. The stylish doormen, live music and an extensive cocktail menu complete the luxurious ambiance. A few blocks down, Limelight is providing an aesthetically opposite experience. This contemporary hotel opened its modern, airy space in 2017. The past and the future coexist stylishly in this town.

Groomed trail in Baldy Mountain.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sun Valley

Sun Valley is a foodie’s dream. Combining diverse inspirations into complex dishes with a modern twist, it’s a dance party for anyone’s taste buds. Begin at The Ram, the town’s original restaurant welcoming diners since 1937! This rustic spot still serves perfectly marbled steaks, legendary throughout the Rockies. Continue to the quaint Village Station for lunch or happy hour drinks in a no-rush atmosphere. Make sure to swing by Konditorei: a pastries lover’s paradise with a European-style bakery on site. A must-visit Gretchen’s Restaurant is named after the first American Olympic Alpine gold medal winner Gretchen Fraser. You can enjoy the New American cuisine (try its delicious frittatas or short rib goulash) while overlooking a premier ice rink where many other Olympians such as Sasha Cohen and Johny Weir had skated. Perhaps, you will spot the next prodigy! For something different, try the historic Roundhouse restaurant perched 7,700 feet above the valley. Guests often spend quite some time out on the patio with cameras in hand before enjoying soul-warming drinks and Austria-inspired dishes.

Baldy Mountain view in the winter.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sun Valley

If downhill skiing isn’t your forte, Sun Valley has great options to enjoy the outdoors. The Nordic & Snowshoe Center is an architectural wonder itself. It oversees perfectly groomed trails for unforgettable snow trekking experiences. Beyond the wilderness, you can relax in picturesque hideaways like the town of Ketchum, accessible by a free shuttle. Visitors don’t get bored of its vistas and the air so clean it makes you want to sign up for deep-breathing yoga classes! The Covey is a local hotspot drawing crowds to the dishes prepared on an open fire, a real feat for any chef to accomplish. Fans of beer should check out Warfield, a brewery and distillery serving seasonal and organic plates and pints. In fact, Idaho is gaining popularity among the craft beer aficionados thanks to many of its unique producers and official annual initiatives like the Craft Beer Month (which is April, by the way).

Roundhouse restaurant on top of the mountain.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sun Valley

If all of that isn’t enough, culture is on the agenda, too! The Sun Valley Film Festival is in its eight season, attracting the likes of Chelsea Handler, Aaron Paul and Meg Ryan for intimate and free conversations with the public. The newly built Argyros Performing Arts Center curates programming under a terrific banner: “The Wonder Comes Indoors”. Its summertime Wellness Festival and a TEDx event in the fall are already building a steady following. Perhaps, the most atypical ski town in the United States, Sun Valley is a destination that should be at the top of every outdoors enthusiast’s bucket list. History awaits around every corner to reward you for making your own memories here.