Misconceptions and wives tales about Sun Valley are as plentiful as the sunny days out here. Some of the stories are worth their weight in tabloid gold while others are just flat out flabbergasting.
Well over two decades ago I had the good fortune of being able to call Sun Valley home. Throughout my tenure, I have heard more than my fair share of fictitious stereotypes about this little mountain town somewhere in the middle of Idaho.
I’ve found it only fitting to bring my loud-mouthed, beer-loving local dad persona about to tackle some of the most common misconceptions. So here are responses to the Top 10 hair-brained, half-cocked myths about Sun Valley.
1. It’s All Old People
We don’t appreciate age-discrimination around here. We don’t care how old or young you are. If you can shred, you can shred and you’ll fit right in to our mountain town. It’s doesn’t matter if you’re a toddler or a teenager, a twenty-something or an octogenarian, you’ll always feel welcome to pursue your passions here amongst like-minded folks.
Sure, we are home to America’s oldest ski resort and people from all over the country like to retire and buy second homes here. Who can blame them? There’s so much to do here to keep youngsters entertained and the rest of us young at heart that sometimes it feels like the fountain of youth flows through Sun Valley.
From the slopes of Baldy and the endless Nordic skiing, to the miles upon miles of single track and hiking trails, to a lifetime’s supply of fishing holes, you’re bound to see folks of every age enjoying these pastimes around Sun Valley. If you love to get out there, get after it and have fun, no matter what your age, well then you’re the type of person we appreciative in our tribe.
2. We Only Eat Potatoes
It’s true. We do love potatoes in Idaho. Heck, we don’t even really care if you call us “Spuds.” But you’ve got to admit that potatoes are pretty special. You can bake them, twice bake them, mash `em, sauté `em and fry `em up like McDonald’s so famously does with our beloved Idaho potatoes.
While potatoes are great and our most famous export, the Gem State also has an exceptionally strong ranching and farming history. One that is helping us evolve into a forerunner in the farm to table movement. Just about every restaurant in the area features freshly grown or produced items on the menu. For the spud fans, check out our guide to finding the best potato dishes in town.
3. It’s Too Hard to Get to
I usually feel sad for people when they says it’s too hard to get to Sun Valley. It’s a weak excuse, and even if it is occasionally a challenge to get here, we all know nothing worthwhile is ever easy.
If you think it’s hard to get to Sun Valley, then you might as well never try to go to those other hard-to-get to destinations like Bachelor, Big Sky, Mammoth, Telluride or Taos. All of those fellow ski towns can be just as challenging—if not more so—than Sun Valley. And none of those places is tucked into the heart of Idaho!
There are non-stop flights from 7 major cities in to Sun Valley’s Friedman Memorial Airport along with a slew of daily flights in to the capital city of Boise a mere 2.5hr drive away. See all the options on getting to Sun Valley here.
4. The Lodge is Ancient
Yes, the exterior of the Sun Valley Lodge is from an era long past. Made of concrete mixed to a wooden color, the walls have never been touched since the resort was built in 1936—oh, the stories they could tell.
The outside walls are, however, the only part of the original lodge that still remains, everything else has been updated with a modern yet classic ski lodge look and feel that has been a big hit since it reopened in 2015.
The Sun Valley Inn has also recently been remodeled and the new Village Station next door is the hottest après ski spot in the Valley.
Yes, Sun Valley is definitely holding onto some of its ancient history, but when your history is as impressive as Sun Valley’s, it would be foolish not to.
5. We Don’t Get Enough Snow
photo: Tal Roberts
While it’s true, we don’t average as much snow as some other places, what we do get is usually light, dry and lasts a long time. And while Mother Nature continues to throw curve balls around the globe each winter, we never have to worry about it here.
Since the ‘70s, Sun Valley has had some of—if not the best—snowmaking in the business. Dennis Harper and the crew at Sun Valley make snow well enough to impress the Ski Gods, Ullr and Skadi.
That’s why the saying around here is that no matter how much snow falls, the skiing is always good at Sun Valley.
6. Sun Valley is for Skiers Only (and fast ones at that!)
photo: Tal Roberts
Yes, it’s true that Sun Valley is a downhill skier’s dream-come-true. Baldy has given birth to the careers of some of the fastest skiers in the world, beginning with Gretchen Fraser. In 1948, Gretchen brought home to Idaho America’s first Olympic medal in skiing, a gold in slalom.
And, yes, it’s also true that Sun Valley is officially known as “Nordic Town USA” since we’re blessed with some of the best cross country skiing on the planet.
But we also love to snowboard here, too. Ice skating and hockey are very popular in Sun Valley as well. In fact, our last few locally-grown Winter Olympic athletes have been snowboarders (Chase Josey 2018 and 2014 Gold Medal winner Kaitlyn Farrington) and the captain of the U.S. Women’s Hockey team, Hilary Knight.
As for the fast part, well, that’s true. One of the hallmarks of most Sun Valley skiers—or snowboarders—is a love for hauling ass downhill.
7. There’s Nothing to Do But Ski
It’s tough to argue with this one. I mean, if you don’t like world class culinary and arts scenes then you’re not going to like this place much, especially if you don’t like top notch film and wellness festivals, or great coffee shops, wine bars, bookstores or shopping. In that case you probably also dislike listening to lectures from the world’s top minds or going to the spa, swimming in heated outdoor pools, star gazing or seeing wildlife. Fly fishing, forget about it. It’s terrific here year-round and it’s almost as impressive as the views—who wants to deal with that kind nonsense?!
The mountain vistas around Sun Valley are also so stunning that it’s easy to simply enjoy doing nothing but admiring them, but that might drive some folks crazy, too.
So, this misconception is true for some people. There’s nothing to do but ski, although it would help if they’d be more specific. Is it alpine ski, cross country ski, skate ski, après ski or water ski?
8. There’s No Nightlife
Sun Valley was literally built on it’s nightlife—skiing wasn’t that big in the 1930s. Most celebrities and fun-lovers came up to Idaho to party first, ski second.
While Sun Valley may not have a Wobbly Barn like Killington or a Mangy Moose like Jackson Hole, we do have an impressive variety of watering holes and one of the best and most famous live music venues in the ski scene.
For over 40 years—and after rebuilding from one major fire—Whiskey Jacque’s on Main Street in Ketchum has hosted concerts of all kinds. It’s one of the best music venues in the Gem State. While lots of other local spots offer live music throughout the year, Whiskey’s is the hub of the nightlife in Sun Valley most evenings.
If you decide to end your night at the legendary Casino Club across the street from Whiskey’s, well then you’d better put on your big boy, or girl, pants.
As the publisher of The Sheet, a weekly newspaper in California’s Sierra Nevada and a former Ketchum resident has been known to say, “A lot of towns like Mammoth, Truckee and Aspen think they party hard, and they do. But no one’s in Sun Valley’s league. Those people can seriously drink.”
9. There’s No Place to Stay Besides the Resort
In this era of AirBnB, the options for staying in nice hotels seem to be disappearing, but that’s not the case in Ketchum. The Limelight Hotel has remade Main Street, offering the heart of this old Idaho town a more modern and urban vibe. The Knob Hill Inn on the north end of town was named one of 2018’s Top 25 Small Hotels in the U. S. by Trip Advisor. The hip and stylish Hotel Ketchum is the newest place to stay and has helped raise the bar, too.
Sun Valley’s first hostel, the Hot Water Inn by the Warm Springs Lodge, not only offers affordable accommodations, it also offers live music and comedians throughout the year.
We’ve picked out a few unique places to stay in the area here.
10. The People Aren’t Friendly
Okay, if you don’t think we’re friendly around here, well then why don’t you shove that ski pole right up …. into that ski rack located a short walking distance from the bar?
Any good and proper Idahoan prides him or herself on being friendly and courteous to others, even people from Nevada. We like to wave and say “Howdy” to strangers as we pass by. So if you ever meet anyone rude around here just remember they’re probably just a transplant from someplace like Reno or Heavenly. Most of us are stoked to see you here, enjoying and appreciating the place we love.