Sun Valley, Idaho: Rank 6 West, 1998

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Like a mature leading lady who's finally getting her due, the 63-year-old Sun Valley resort rocketed from No. 19 to No. 6 this year. No wonder. Sun Valley earned Top 5 rankings in Lifts, Service, Food, Lodging and Dining. The resort's elegant base lodges now set the standard for the industry, while its lift system is rightfully rated No. 1 in North America. On this mountain, if you can see it, you can ski it. And you will want to ski it. Skiers earn their bump merit badges on Exhibition and Holiday while intermediates flock to Upper College, Flying Squirrel and Seattle Ridge. Sun Valley's bowls may not have the expanse of Vail's, but their artistry is unequaled. One reader bestows the triple crown on Sun Valley: "Great skiing, great grooming, great lifts." Off mountain, there's the "best ski town around," a reader applauds. Mike Murphy still stages one of the funniest après-ski shows (at the Boiler Room) in ski country. Dine at Otter's, the Pioneer or the Ketchum Grill. Dance at the Roosevelt. Indulge in the classic Sunday Brunch at the Sun Valley Lodge. One reader puts a positive spin on the resort's biggest drawback: "No one can get here, so it's never crowded." Flights into town are few and expensive, with many skiers opting for the 150-mile drive from Boise. So Sun Valley can be a pain to get to. Papa Hemingway wouldn't have had it any other way.

What's New Free ski storage at the River Run Lodge.
A Good Deal Two nights' lodging and lift tickets, Nov. 30 to Dec. 20, start at $118 per person. Call (800) 786-8259.
Medals Gold Grooming, Terrain, Challenge, Lifts, Service, Lodging, Dining, Après-Ski, Off-Hill Activities; Silver Weather, Scenery.
High/Low Rank Lifts (1); Access (69).
Don't Miss A cocktail in the elegantly historic Duchin Room in the Sun Valley Lodge.
Reader Remarks "Elegant facilities, history, terrain. "Shh, don't tell anybody." "Difficult to get to. No on-slope lodging. Snow can be poor."