12 Things to Know About Sun Valley

Sun Valley Idaho Winter Baldy

Sun Valley Resort Ranked #1 by Ski Magazine

The ski resort that invented ski resorts in 1936 is still setting the pace. 3400’ vertical, 2500 acres. Sun Valley boasts the best snow-making, terrain for all levels, and spectacular views of five mountain ranges from the top of Baldy. And no lines. We were just ranked the #1 Resort in the West by Ski Magazine. 

If you need equipment, here are some of the Valley's best options for renting or buying gear for skiing, snowboarding, Nordic skiing, or snowshoeing. (And if you are here in the summer, most of these shops have all you need for mountain, road, and gravel biking too!)

Sturtevants | Pete Lane's | PK's | SkiTek | Backwoods | Elephant's Perch | Black Tie Ski Rental

If you want to read up on the history of the Sun Valley resort and area and other books by local authors, there are some excellent books available. (If at all possible, please buy locally!)
Skiing Sun Valley by John Lundin | Sun Valley: An Extraordinary History by Wendolyn Holland | Hemingway's Sun Valley by Phil Huss | The Perfect Turn by Dick Dorworth | Freedom Found by Warren Miller | The Sun Valley Story by Van Gordon Sauter

Seattle Ridge Lodge Baldy Sun Valley
Seattle Ridge Lodge near the top of Baldy


Direct Flights into Sun Valley (SUN) from SEVEN Major Hubs

You can get to Sun Valley non-stop flights from LAX, SLC, Denver, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, and SFO. The municipal and private air terminals are in Hailey, just 15 minutes south of the ski area and Sun Valley Resort. 

Click on Friedman Airport to see the schedule of commercial flights, and click on Atlantic Aviation to learn about the private air terminal.

Commercial airline routes to Sun Valley
A map showing the non-stop flights serving Sun Valley/Ketchum/Hailey


Four Distinct Towns in One Valley, Plus One

Ketchum, Sun Valley, Hailey, and Bellevue, all have different looks, histories, and feels. No matter what type of lifestyle you are looking for, you can surely find it in one of these four cities that make up the Wood River Valley.

Just over Galena Summit (29 miles north of downtown Ketchum) is Stanley and the Sawtooth Basin, known as America’s Alps for its rugged appearance and the hundreds of lakes scattered within the moujntain ranges. 

Read our full Sun Valley Area Guide here. You will be an expert in all the various cities and neighborhoods in no time!


Water, Water, Everywhere

Winding through the valley and with over 25 public access points (click here for access point maps), the Big Wood River connects us all in the Wood River Valley. Whether fishing, floating, walking along the banks, or finding a swimming hole, the Big Wood River allows Sun Valley-area locals and visitors alike the chance to recreate naturally.

30 miles south of Sun Valley is world famous Silver Creek (click and scroll down for map), one of the most magical fishing and birding spots in the country (ask Ernest Hemingway!).

Heading north to the Sawtooth Basin, dozens of mountain lakes offer picture-perfect recreating opportunities. Redfish Lake is the most popular, and others like Pettit and Alturas offer substantially different scenery and activities. 

The Salmon River, known as the River of No Return, is just over Galena Summit. It offers world-class fishing and exciting white-water opportunities.

To the northeast, over Trail Creek Summit (closed late fall through early summer) is the Copper Basin and the Big Lost River, and many alpine lakes accessible only after a few miles of hiking.

So whether you want to fish, float, walk along water's edge, swim, or waterski, Sun Valley has got the water! 

There are several great gear stores and outfitters that can help with fishing and floating expeditions. Here are just a few:
Picabo Angler | Lost River Outfitters | Silver Creek Outfitters | Sun Valley Outfitters | Sawtooth Adventure | White OtterThe River Company

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Fishing at Boulder Lake in the Pioneers


World-Class Outdoor Opportunities

The access locals and visitors have to outdoor recreation here in the Wood River Valley and beyond is some of the very best in the entire West.

Winter
Sun Valley Resort offers world-class skiing and snowboarding. We have over 120 miles of groomed Nordic ski trails, and hundreds of thousands of acres avaialble to backcountry-skiing enthusiasts, in addition to heli-skiing in Sun Valley. There is an endless network of snowmobiling trails and areas, dedicated snowshoe trails in Sun Valley, sledding at Penny's Hill, winter fly fishing in the Big Wood River, outdoor ice skating and hockey at Sun Valley, Atkinson's park, and the Hailey Rodeo Grounds. People in the know take advantage of the many hot springs in the area.

Summer
While Sun Valley is known as the original Winter Wonderland, it is now a year-round destination for more and more people. Among the activities that make locals stay and visitors try to find a way to call Sun Valley home are 700 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, and hundreds of miles of gravel roads perfect for ATV-ing, horseback riding, gravel biking and motorcylcing. Fishing opportunites (discussed above) are endless. Other options include parasailing high over Baldy, golfing at one of the 5 courses in the valley, heading southeast to Craters of the Moon, camping at one of the official campgrounds or at any of the unofficial spots along the river and in the mountains, and whatever else your imagination suggest. There is excellent hunting and horseback riding as well. And don't miss our guide to where to see the best fall colors--from mid-Spetember through October, the Wood River Valley is ablaze with color. 

The best and most useful link that will help anyone fulfill their interests is visitsunvalley.

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Mountain biking on Baldy in Sun Valley, below the River Run Gondola


A Local Community that is “All In”

With a myriad of non-profit organizations and volunteering opportunities, Sun Valley residents take their role as stewards of the valley's people and land very seriously. As part of this community-wide effort, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Sun Valley Properties made significant donations to several non-profit organizations, including The Advocates, Men's Sober Living, The Hunger Coalition, Senior Connection, Holiday Baskets, and NAMI. Everyone in Sun Valley tries to "do their part" and the results are tangible.

Other local organizations who have year-long fundraising efforts and do a phenomenal job supporting those in need in the Wood River Valley and beyond are Higher Ground, Swiftsure Ranch, ARCH, The Nature Conservancy, Camp Rainbow Gold, The Wood River Land Trust, and the local Human Society among dozens of others.

Swiftsure Ball Auction Sun Valley Idaho
The Annual Swiftsure Ball and Auction in Sun Valley


Local Parks and Preserves

Hidden nooks and crannies dot the landscape, offering refuges in the trees and on the water. Some favorites are Lucy Loken Park, Memorial Park, and Forest Service Park, where the Sun Valley Heritage and Ski Museum is housed (it's a great and fascinating museum!). 
Ketchum Parks | Hailey Parks

Sun Valley Lake Picnic
Sitting on the shore of Sun Valley Lake, in the heart of the village


Mountains that Look like Mountains

In the 1970s, Sun Valley created the “hillside ordinance,” which placed restrictions on hillside building. This means the views in our valley are of mountains, not developments and trophy homes. Combine this with our status as a Dark Sky Community, and you get dazzling views of the Milky Way all year.

We point this out because Sun Valley locals and visitors alike comment on how refreshing it is not to have all the hillsides and mountainsides covered with opulent homes. While this may keep some who are hoping to build a trophy home high above everyone else away, for our local community it means that mountains look like mountains and much less environental degradation of our hillsides.

Sun Valley homesite hillside ordinance
Sun Valley homes are built on the valley floor, keeping the moutnainsides more pristine


Olympic History (and Future)

Over 36 Winter and Summer Olympians have called Sun Valley home, which makes sense, given all the access to recreation. And even beyond the Olympics, Sun Valley has long been host to some of the most important national and global ski racing competitions. Here is another fascinating read about the history of Sun Valley racing. Some of the names and figures most associated with the history of Sun Valley ski racing include: Dick Durrance, Gretchen Fraser, Christin Cooper, Picabo Street, Kaitlyn Farrington, and Bill Janss. 

The Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (known locally as SVSEF) is one of the country's leading competitive ski programs, coaching winter athletes in all disciplines, from Alpine to Freestyle to Nordic to Big Mountain. With some of the finest coaches in the coutnry, even a year in this program makes a significant difference for winter athletes.

Sun Valley Ski Racing Dick Durrance
Dick Durrance, the famous Sun Valley-based ski racer from the 1930s and 1940s


Year-Round Festivals and Events

All year, locals and visitors can be entertained by some of the most interesting and charming festivals in the West. Wagon Days, Trailing of the Sheep. The Sun Valley Tour de Force, the Wine Auction, the Film Festival, bike and ski events, live music, symphonies, ice skating shows, speakers, and so much more. For a full calendar of events, go to Visit Sun Valley--you'll be amazed at all there is to do in our little mountain town.

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The summer-long Sun Valley Music Festival attracts hundreds of listeners for many summer evenings


Sawtooth National Recreation Area

Offering over 756,000 acres of beautiful, rugged, and always untouched mountainous terrain, the SNRA is full of lakes, creeks, camping areas, and trails. And it starts just eight miles north of town.

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Canoeing in Redfish Lake


Sun Valley is Still a Mountain Town

There was a time when mountain towns were down-to-earth, uncrowded, and easy, an inspiring and relaxing place for people and families and animals to spend time and make life-long memories.

You can still do that in Sun Valley. Unlike many resort towns in the West, we are still relatively quiet and do not have the torrential cowds that you might find in other small mountain towns and areas. Sure, we are getting busier, but there is a very strong and tangible attitude that locals exude, an ethic that encourages all of us to keep Sun Valley the decent, quiet, and friendly place it always has been. 

Of course we have great restaurants and bars and festivals and sophisticated cultural events, but we all strive to enjoy "the goods" with an attitude of respect and humility. The Wood River Valley population is in touch with its history, thoughtful about growth and progress, and above all, thankful that we can call this beautiful and uncrowded pocket of Central Idaho home.

"Quality of Life" is something you can feel in Sun Valley. It's in the stars, in the water, in the sunshine, and most importantly, in all of us.

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Kayaying in Sun Valley Lake