SUN VALLEY RESORT GUIDE

Images courtesy of Sun Valley

Sun Valley

Sun Valley Resort Overview

October 2021

Bask in the sun, soak in stunning views and leave the crowds behind while skiing top-to-bottom burners at Sun Valley. You will dine well in Sun Valley's upscale mountain lodges and revel in the town of Ketchum, where the old west meets European luxury. Those are just a few of the reasons celebrities flock and many Olympic skiers call this place home. Sun Valley was America's first destination resort, built in 1936 by the Union Pacific Railroad. It was also the first resort to have chairlifts. It remains privately owned by the Holding Family (same as Snowbasin) and they continue to invest generously to make the resort plush and posh.


Bring your sunscreen, the aptly named resort averages sunshine 80% of the time. Annual snowfall of 220 inches lags that of most Western Resorts. Not to fear, you will still earn your turns at Bald Mountain with 3,000 vertical feet and an abundance of bumps and trees. A short ride away, Dollar mountain is dedicated to beginners and park junkies.


Only knocks, there is no ski-in, ski-out lodging and the resort is not the easiest to reach. Once there though, Sun Valley is easy to navigate and it is hard to match the relaxed vibe, while experiencing thrilling terrain and vibrant outdoor, art and après scenes. Sun Valley is an Epic Pass partner with 7 days on the Full pass and 2 days on the Local.

Snow Reliability

Family Friendly

Snow-Making & Grooming

Travel Convenience

Terrain Variety

Extreme / Off-Piste Terrain

Ski School

Accommodations

On Mountain Dining

Quick Take

Let's Go

  • Sun Valley is one of the birthplaces of freestyle skiing and the mogul runs are epic

  • Kethum has an authentic Western vibe, festive atmosphere and top notch bars and restaurants

  • The Sunrise expansion opened for Winter 2020-21 and vastly expanded Sun Valley's challenging terrain

  • Indulge with delicious food at the plush mountain lodges. Don't miss the fondue at the Roundhouse

  • There's tons to do off of the mountain too. Ice hockey at Hailey, cross country skiing or snowshoeing at Galena Lodge, or recover at the spa

Hesitations

  • There are few direct, commercial flights to Hailey, Sun Valley Airport (SUN)

  • Annual snowfall of ~220 inches is notably less than that of Western peers. The runs can become hard-packed and fast between storms

  • The dedicated beginner area is at Dollar Mountain. While comforting to novices, beware it is separated from Bald Mountain by a 10 minute drive, making it harder for groups of varying abilities to stay together

  • The green rated terrain on Bald Mountain is still fairly steep. Those just starting out should stick to Dollar Mountain

Insider Tips

  • The Challenger Chair is pretty all-time. It runs from the Warm Springs Base directly to the top of the mountain. You can lap this chair and ski perfect, steep groomers for days (e.g., Limelight, Warm springs, Picabo Street)

  • When conditions are good, make your way to the Mayday Chair. Conditions will determine if this area is even open, but when it is skiing well, all of the bowls under this lift (Easter, Lookout, etc.) are spectacular

  • Sun Valley has a vibrant uphilling scene. Head out before the lifts open or after they close to catch the sun rise or set. Equipment is easy to rent at Backwoods Mountain Sports

  • Start the day with a solid breakfast. The Kneadary is a Sun Valley institution serving fresh, local ingredients, visit Java on Fourth for coffee, or Gretchen's in the Sun Valley Lodge

  • There are two bases — River Run Plaza, closer to town, and Warm Springs. Both have ample parking and direct lifts to the Summit. Park at whichever is more convenient, just remember to return to the right base at the end of the day

Trail Map

For an in-depth breakdown of Sun Valley's terrain, head to our Mountain Guide. Top trails and mountain stats included. 

Sun Valley

Getting To & Around

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Cars are not essential, though can be convenient here. While there is no ski in/ski out lodging, parking is ample and free. Shuttle service is also easy and reliable. Having a car is convenient for going to/from Ketchum (especially if staying in a house), grocery shopping and exploring the sourrounding area.

Getting To

Closest Major City: Boise, ID

  • Distance: ~144 miles  West, Travel Time: ~ 2.5 - 3 hours drive

Closest Town: Ketchum, ID

  • Distance: ~1 mile, ~5 minute drive

Salt Lake City is the next, closest big city, ~300 miles away, 4.5 hours drive

Neighboring Resorts

Sun Valley was North America's first destinatin resort and it is relatively isolated in the Smokey Mountains in  There are a few smaller resorts nearby, but the closest major resorts are more than 5 hours away.


Epic Pass Resorts within 5 hours driving:

Destination Resorts within 5 hours driving:

Travel by Plane

Closest regional airport: Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey, ID (SUN); SUN has direct flights to 6 major cities in the U.S. and is also accessible by private plane

  • ~20 minutes drive to the resort


Closest major commercial airport: SLC (Salt Lake City International Airport)

  • ~300 miles South East, ~4 hours 45 minutes drive


  • Boise Airport (BOI) is ~150 miles, 2 hours 50 minutes drive

Travel By Bus

The public transit system around Sun Valley and Ketchum is free and easy to use. The bus system is run by Mountain Rides and serves Warm Springs, Ketchum, Sun Valley, Elkhorn, Dollar Mountain, River Run and more. See the full schedule here. Buses run frequently.


Airport shuttle services and taxis are also available to/from SUN

Travel by Car

A car is not essential when visiting Sun Valley. Ketchum and Sun Valley are very compact and Mountain Rides makes it easy to get around. The town is pedestrian friendly. 


A car can be useful if you are staying at an AirBNB/house in the area, with children, or if planning to visit Galena Lodge or other local areas

  • Ride shares: (e.g., Uber, Lyft) are available but not reliable here

Sun Valley