Sun Valley

A grand destination with outstanding skiing. The last special ski resort.
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A grand destination with outstanding skiing. The last special ski resort.
2012 #5 Sun Valley

The more things change, the more they stay the same at Sun Valley. America’s oldest ski resort celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, but its cardinal virtues—and few shortcomings—have endured since Sonja Henie filmed Sun Valley Serenade here in the 1940s.

Getting to Sun Valley has never been easy. But once you arrive, you discover that Sun Valley’s isolation also keeps the crowds away. It’s a “well-kept secret and the locals like it this way,” whispers one reader.

Baldy offers top-to-bottom fall-line skiing, featuring “leg burner” runs that are “long, fun and world class” for accomplished skiers. One visitor wishes the mountain was “more challenging,” while another contends that “the blues are blacks.” Last season’s less-than-optimal weather cycle left some patrons wanting for snow, but the resort still received high marks for its silky grooming. On-mountain dining is another strong suit, earning a solid No. 3. No wonder. At Seattle Ridge, one of the resort’s “extraordinary daylodges,” they’ll cook trout to order. Upscale appetites will flock to the renovated Roundhouse restaurant and the “nice addition” of the new gondola that serves it.

But Sun Valley’s calling card might just be its No. 3–ranked service. The staff gets high marks for everything from “remembering names and faces” to “carrying skis from the shuttles.”

The overall effect: “You’re treated like royalty.” The “old school ambience” extends to Ketchum where restaurants like the Pioneer Saloon draw raves. All this adds up to making Sun Valley a truly “grand destination” that’s “being reborn.” One fan sums it up as “the last of the really special ski resorts.” Which only seems fitting, since it was also the first. —Allen St. John

What’s New: More than 20 new features in Dollar’s expanded freestyle park.

Don’t Miss: Ernest Hemingway’s gravesite in nearby Ketchum.

Mandatory Run: Lefty’s: This ungroomed blue is a prime powder-day spot, and on less than snowy days often has better snow for longer than Baldy’s other bowls.

Local Tip: Since Sun Valley also owns most of the on-mountain amenities, its unique Lift Ticket Exchange program allows you to swap part of a multiday lift ticket for an ice skating session. Or a massage.