Crème de la Crème: The Sun Valley Lodge

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Crème de la Crème: The Sun Valley  Lodge

Ketchum, Idaho

I entered the Sun Valley Lodge for the first time last winter, but I felt as if I'd been there before. You see, the lodge is haunted. Ghosts of seasons past and future reside here. Walking the halls, I could feel their presence. Sonja Henie's spirit still glides around the lodge's rink. And Claudette Colbert and Errol Flynn still lounge in the Duchen Room. Their auras lend a timeless quality to the place that I've never felt at any other American hotel. And though the unassuming concrete structure has been renovated several times in the 60 years since it was built, the paneled and Idaho-stone decor retains its original elegance.

The lodge was born as the solution to a marketing problem: In 1935, the Union Pacific Railroad needed a Western destination-and quickly-so company President W. Averell Harriman sent out a scout. Mesmerized by Ketchum's natural endowments-snow, temperature, sunshine and elevation-the scout sent word that he had found the spot, and over the next seven months, 400 workers scrambled to construct the lodge. On Dec. 21, 1936, tradesmen sneaked out the back door as bellmen whisked Clark Gable's bags through the front. My check-in was more leisurely. Guests in terry cloth bathrobes, traces of Boston and New York in their banter, kept stopping en route to sumptuous suites to embrace new arrivals who were also old acquaintances. While prices at the lodge are not extravagant, there's a sense of old money here. Likewise, service is sincere and habitual, never forced or obsequious. One morning the bell captain seemed genuinely pleased not only to wake me, but also to deliver me by van to a predawn meeting-hours before the regular buses ran. Outside the entry portico, a snow sculpture of the Sun Valley sunburst caught my eye. Warm sun had dulled the symbol's sharp points the day before, but by morning they had been carefully renewed-much like the lodge itself.

LOCATION A complimentary shuttle ferries guests three miles to the slopes. The lodge is 12 miles from the Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey and 150 miles from Boise.
DETAILS There are 148 rooms, including 13 suites, a pool, ice skating rink, two restaurants and a state-of-the-art spa.
DIGITS Rates run $159-$399. Reservations: 800-786-8259 or 208-622-4111; www.sunvalley.com