2001 Number 15 Resort in North America: Sun Valley, Idaho

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It personifies class, refinement and tradition. Sun Valley also drips with gold-medal accolades from SKI readers, in many, many categories. "Day in, day out the best place in North America. The queen of resorts," says one reader. Spoiled aficionados around the world insist the long runs on Mt. Baldy, uninterrupted by flats, constitute the best lift-served skiing anywhere. Period. "A difficult place to get to: 14 hours travel time from the East Coast," argues another. True. But that may be the point. Tough access spells uncrowded slopes, no liftlines, unstressed staffers, seats in the posh on-mountain lodges, last-minute dinner reservations and the comfortable ability to get to them through the streets of Ketchum. Sun Valley understands it is in the service and uphill-transport business, as reflected in lift capacity that outweighs skier population. There also is passion and pride of ownership everywhere. "Everyone here thinks they own the place" is how one resort senior executive explains it. Some guests have stayed in the same room at the Sun Valley Lodge for 55 years. Alpine skiing is king, but not the only game in town. There is cross-country skiing, sleigh rides, live entertainment, swimming and ice skating on one of two uncovered year-round rinks in the world. Best of all, chef Scott Wamsley's legendary Sunday brunch in the Lodge dining room takes an entire issue of The New York Times to get through. In fact, walking through the door of the Lodge is a time-warp experience that takes you back at least 30 years to skiing's glamour days.

WHAT'S NEW Continuity. The slowly evolving, consistent air at Sun Valley is refreshing, especially when rapid changes at other upscale resorts make them unrecognizable from one year to the next.

A GOOD DEAL Pre-Holiday package: Includes one night's lodging, one day's skiing, Nov. 26-Dec. 16, starts at $57 per person. Call (800) 786-8259.

MEDALS GOLD Grooming, Terrain, Challenge, Lifts, Service, Weather, On-Mountain Food, Lodging, Dining, Après-Ski, Off-Hill Activities; SILVER Scenery.

HIGH/LOW RANK On-Mountain Food (2), Lifts (3), Service (3); Snow (47), Value (54), Accessibility (71).

DON'T MISS A lesson with the likes of Konrad Staudinger, who has been commuting from Kitzbühel, Austria, for 42 years-and never wears a hat.

READER REMARKS (+) "Luxurious ambiance masks a superb mountain, ideal for experts who love speed." (-) "Tough for beginners." "Spendy!"