"What's your all-time favorite ski resort?" Pose that question to any skier who's been around for a while and you'll likely hear: "Sun Valley!" Granted, "You can't get there from here," as one reader says. And the Idaho resort sits in the high desert and gets "little natural snow compared to other Western mountains." So what is it about this place that creates such stunning, indelible memories? They make snow as well or better than any mountain in the world, and they take excellent care of what they have. The sun shines a lot, and because Ketchum, Idaho, is hard to get to, Sun Valley radiates a feeling of serenity and casual elegance. There's an unhurried, uncrowded feel about the place, enhanced by the fact you rarely wait for lifts, and can, even at the last minute, reserve a table at one of the many exquisite restaurants. There's the history, the old celebrity photos, Sun Valley Serenade, which plays around the clock on TV in your Sun Valley Lodge room. Dollar Mountain may be the ideal place for novices to be tutored by Sun Valley's famous instructors, but Mt. Baldy is the star. "The mountain spoils you," a reader remarks, "with its gorgeous base lodges, best service anywhere, the best on-mountain food and bowls that outdo Vail's." It's a skier's mountain, with 3,600 vertical feet of "perfect pitch" to suit any shaped-skier's fantasies. It's this simple: If you have never skied Baldy at speed, banking off the sides of runs like Canyon and Warm Springs that follow the natural drainages, you have never really skied.
WHAT'S NEW Increased snowmaking on Dollar Mountain this year, and a new Dollar day lodge, designed in the Sun Valley style, next season.
A GOOD DEAL The pre-holiday package: Nov. 25-Dec. 17, $58 per person, includes lift ticket and one night's lodging; 800-786-8259.
MEDALS GOLD Grooming, Terrain, Challenge, Lifts, Service, Weather, On-Mountain Food, Lodging, Dining, Après-Ski, Off-Hill Activities SILVER Family Programs, Scenery.
HIGH/LOW RANK On-Mountain Food (2), Service (3), Lodging (4); Value (55), Snow (64), Access (70).
DON'T MISS Sun Valley General Manager Wally Huffman performing in the popular musical Forever Plaid in the Boiler Room, Sun Valley Village.
READER REMARKS (+) "Best single-mountain complex on earth, with more excellent skiers per capita than anywhere." "Love the locals."
(-) "Not for the faint of wallet!" "Very little ski-in/ski-out lodging."