The ski community has spoken, and Sun Valley, Idaho is the top, must-visit ski destination of the 2020 to 2021 ski season. Ski Magazine, which each year releases their Reader Resort Survey Rank, announced Sun Valley as the #1 spot this season. Sun Valley has been climbing the ski charts for more than five years, but the top spot has previously gone to iconic resorts like Deer Valley, Utah and Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia. Sun Valley’s impressive ascent is thanks not only to the skiing (they’ve unveiled new terrain this year) but the culture both on the mountain and in the surrounding town. Here, we’ve put together a guide to skiing Sun Valley and identified the dining, hotels, and hotspots that make this Idaho enclave the #1 ski destination of the year.
Everything to Know About Skiing Sun Valley
The main skiing hub of Sun Valley is Bald Mountain, though beginners can hop on over to Dollar Mountain as well. Sun Valley is finally on Epic Pass this year, a huge victory for avid Western skiers, and daily lift tickets are available for $144. Bald Mountain’s summit crests at 9,150 feet, offering a 3,400-foot elevation gain from the base and 18 ski lifts across 2,500 skiable acres. Dominated by intermediate terrain, there are still plenty of trails for both the beginners and advanced skiers—and Sun Valley is known for having some of the best groomed trails in the U.S. Dollar Mountain, on the other hand, is really a beginners-only slope, geared toward those learning to ski and snowboard. Day tickets (from $89) grant access to Dollar Mountain’s four lifts.
The biggest winter news out of Sun Valley—and no doubt an important factor in the area becoming the #1 ski destination of the year—is their Sunrise terrain expansion, which opened an additional 380 acres of skiable terrain as of this season. Sunrise is home to a brand new high-speed chairlift, Broadway, as well as wide-open bowl skiing and more tree-dense glade skiing.
Luxury Ketchum Rentals and Sun Valley Hotels
Part of Sun Valley’s rise to the top is, of course, attributable to the luxury lodging options. The cold-weather paradise is set to welcome an Auberge Resorts Collection property in 2022 in Ketchum, Idaho. Here, a few other top-of-mind lodging options that have crowds flocking to the Sun Valley/Ketchum area.
Limelight Hotel Ketchum
Boutique hotel chain Limelight Hotels is becoming synonymous with upscale ski town lodging that appeals to the in-the-know traveler, à la Gravity Haus. They now have three properties, each in notable ski areas: Aspen, Snowmass, and Ketchum. Limelight Hotel Ketchum, which opened in 2017, has just 99 rooms and 14 residences.
Sun Valley Lodge
Sun Valley Lodge saw a recent renovation that left the property with 108 brand new rooms and an expanded spa. The now refreshed 80-year-old institution has state-of-the-art yoga facilities, a glassed-in pool, and multiroom suites.
Renting an over-the-top chalet is the best way to post-up long term in a ski town. And a quick gander on Airbnb Luxe shows you exactly how many luxury ski residences have popped up in the Ketchum area over the last decade. Only select destinations are on Airbnb Luxe to begin with, which is a clear signifier that the high-end rentals in Sun Valley are a cut above. You’ll find these opulent Airbnb Luxe Sun Valley rentals downright impressive.
Sun Valley Cottages
Serving a similar niche as the Airbnb Luxe rental market, Sun Valley Cottages operates through the resort and is another testament to the rising cachet of Sun Valley vacation homes. Sun Valley Cottages, from the exposed wood beams and lake views of Dollar Cottage to the magnificent stonework of Symphony Cottage, offer a way to enjoy Sun Valley as a larger group or even stay for the entire winter season.
Sun Valley Dining and Culture
It should be noted that Sun Valley dining is touted as some of the best ski mountain fare in the country. In fact, on Sun Valley’s journey to the top ski destination of the season, it was also honored by Ski Magazine for the on-mountain food (coming in second place, following Deer Valley) and ranked third in terms of “Local Flavor.” With that in mind, let’s dig into the dining, culture, and après-ski that makes Sun Valley great, and the Western “local flavor” that keeps travelers coming back.
In terms of on-mountain dining, skiers are forever raving about The Roundhouse as a Sun Valley favorite, nestled into Bald Mountain and accessible by gondola. The Roundhouse is known for prix-fixe weekend dinners, their sensational cheese fondue, and Averell’s Bar at The Roundhouse, which is an essential après-ski haunt. Beyond The Roundhouse, you’ll find three day lodges on Bald Mountain: Warm Springs Lodge, River Run Lodge, and Seattle Ridge Lodge. Each known for different specialities—Warm Springs has freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, River Run has a great bar, and Seattle Ridge is an oft-recommended skiers lunch spot with mountain views—the day lodges on Bald Mountain encourage you to come to the mountain for the atmosphere as much as the powder.
For those keen on exploring Ketchum—once an old mining town, for the skiers who love the ol’ Western vibes of Telluride—you’ll find a burgeoning cultural scene that offers fine dining, arts, and perhaps most importantly, excellent local libations. For a proper tour de Ketchum, you’ll want to do breakfast at The Kneadery, an afternoon at Gilman Contemporary art gallery, a more upscale dinner at Cookbook, and an après-ski drink at Whiskey Jacques for that prized old-school Western culture.