When we brainstormed our list of quintessential Sun Valley moments, we were tracking up near 50, which basically means, the best way to experience Sun Valley’s awesomeness is to become a regular. Or relocate here. Before you commit to that, tackle the shortlist. It’s the creme de la creme, and will give you a real insight into why this place has set its hook in so many. (Fact: 95% of people who visit Sun Valley plan to return and many make the trip every year.)
The Matador Network declared Sun Valley one of the coolest towns in the US for a reason, saying “...cool since before the word existed as anything besides a temperature measurement.”
Here’s a handful of the best ones.
Play James Bond
Hop in a helicopter and head out to get some of the lightest powder in the Rocky Mountains while Heli Skiing with Sun Valley Heliski Guides in the land where American heliskiing began. With the largest permit area in the US, covering three mountain ranges and over 750,000 skiable acres for all abilities, this the ultimate place to check this off your life list. Oh yeah, they can even pick you up on top of the resort, which really is a 007 way to fly. So get your Hot Laps and Cold Smoke on this winter.
Burn it to Aprés
Burn it up and bump it up on Baldy until you can hardly feel your quads and the dogs start barking. Then make one final turn at the base of the mountain into River Run or Warm Springs Lodge for the best Bloody Mary ever concocted and then head into town and sip on a famous Wolf-a-rita at the Pioneer Saloon, still in your ski boots of course.
Unleash Your Inner Yeti
This is not a comment on your inner hirsute tendencies, but a call to embrace your inner winter DNA and Mongolian yurt dwelling desires. Push off for Galena Lodge or one of Sun Valley Trekking or Sawtooth Mountain Guide's backcountry or front country yurts with kids, crew, or long lost pals for a night or two reveling starlit nights with only the sound of the fire and laughter of tales filling the air. Consider a moonlit cross country ski or snowshoe followed up with a gourmet dinner in the cozy sanctum of Galena Lodge.
Whisper in the Big Guy's Ear
Catch Santa while he is in a Sun Valley state of mind. Whisper in the Big Guy's ear, sip a hot chocolate or toddy and then catch the Nutcracker on Ice. The fireworks and torchlight parade down Dollar will put you in the festive spirit and engulf you in the holiday wonder which has made us famous as Saint Nick's favorite stop every year.
Go Out of Bounds
Go Out of Bounds. Experience the freedom of the hills in the Alps of America, with five distinct ranges emanating from within striking distance of the resort. Venture north to the Boulder, Smoky or Sawtooth Mountain Ranges and feel the pristine mountain air whistle through your hair as you drop into empty fields of untouched powder. Hire a guide from Sun Valley Trekking or Sawtooth Mountain Guides and let them show you the goods that will make you feel like you just stepped into the pages of Powder Magazine.
Do a Toe Loop Under a Winter Sky
Skate Under the Winter Sky. Drop into the outdoor Christina Potters Ice Rink for a family game of hockey, an impromptu figure skating contest, or giggle inducing round of sharks versus minnows. When ice freezes to create a two acre rink for outdoor play, it’s not sublimation, but it is sublime. (Pardon the geeky science joke..)
And note that Sun Valley Resort's Ice Rink is open year-round!
Go Star Gazing
Lore Lusting. The pictures hanging in the hallways of Sun Valley Lodge tell a story of quintessential cool (Ernest Hemingway at his standup desk putting the finishing touches on For Whom the Bell Tolls, JFK and family laughing on skis under a mid-winter sun, Marilyn Monroe dancing the foxtrot to the Glenn Miller Orchestra.) Go get inspired by the stories and the lore, before visiting Hemingway’s watering hole(s) or grave and the Sun Valley Museum of History.
Go Bird's Eye
Take a paragliding flight off of Baldy with Fly Sun Valley and see all the valley from the perspective of an eagle. Afraid of that much air under your wings? Take the gondola to Roundhouse for a glass of wine and fondue with the most spectacular view of the valley anywhere.
Put Your Pinky Up
Stroll Sun Valley’s numerous galleries on a gallery tour as you hobnob with private collectors, patrons and artists.
Gallery walks occur one Friday almost monthly, which is where you will find the free Chardonnay and brie. Or grab a map and take your own tour.
Take a Hike
Put vertical under your boots and lightness in your head, with a hike into the alpine or guide your family along Trail Creek for wildlife and wildflower peeping. With a myriad of trails starting right from town, the trip from trailhead to high point to watering hole is just too easy to overlook. Start out with a hike up Proctor Mountan, where one of the world's first chairlifts still stands and a remarkable view of town and the valley offers the perfect #Instamoment. More tips here!
Hit the Trail
Sun Valley isn't called the two wheeled nirvana by mistake. With over 400 miles of singletrack trails in the immediate area, you can literally disappear in a flurry of knobby tired obsession without repeating a single ride for weeks on end. Start with a mellow cruise around the White Clouds Trail and then head for the hills. Hire a shuttle and take an entire day to weave your way back to town via Fox Peak. More great ride beta is here!
Get a Culture Infusion
We’re talking more than probiotics. Find your cultural boost over a glass of wine and picnic at the Summer Symphony, on a wander through time during Wagon Days, by trailing some sheep, or admiring the triple axel sow cow savvy of the world's best figure skaters at the Summer Ice Shows at Sun Valley Resort. This is arts and culture country friends; make sure you get yourself a little while you are here!
Tickle Your Endorphins
Frequently referred to as a genetic experiment gone right, this is the endorphin capital of the world and home to one of the lowest resting heart rates anywhere. Exercise your demons at the Sun Valley Half Marathon, Ride Sun Valley Bike Festival, or the Baldy Hill Climb. Nothing is better than an afternoon aprés session well earned.
Stand in a River and Wave a Stick
Put some steel to an Idaho trout. Flyfish for trophy native rainbow trout right in town or choke on clouds of brown drakes on Silver Creek as massive browns feed with complete disregard to your presence. Just release what you catch and let the good karma roll. Extra points earned for ear to ear grin photos holding a real hog.
Head North! Jump in Redfish Lake, lounge on the beach, take a day trip down class 2-3 main Salmon river. Finish the day off with a wander around the funky streets of the western outpost of Stanley. It's the gem to the North that becomes a regular part of most peoples' vacations. With hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails and some of the most pristine and accessible high mountain lakes in Idaho this is a must for everyone's itinerary!