A Traveler’s Guide to Sun Valley, Idaho

One of the West’s most venerated ski towns offers some new thrills in 2024. Warning: The urge to yodel may be overwhelming.

Skiing on Bald Mountain is just one way to take advantage of this winter wonderland. / Photo by Hillary Maybery, Courtesy of Sun Valley Resort

There are countless places to hit the slopes in the West and East, but very few can rival Idaho’s Sun Valley resort area, which rose to fame as a winter playground for some of old Hollywood’s biggest names (Monroe, Gable, Flynn, and Cooper, to name a few). With its stunning scenery, lively village scene, and nary a lift line in sight, America’s first true ski destination remains at the top of its game. Ketchum, the town next to Sun Valley, balances a laid-back, old-West vibe in its saloons and eateries with a European flair that will leave you feeling like you’re in a Tyrolean village high in the Alps. Warning: The urge to yodel may be overwhelming.

See all »


The fun begins on Bald Mountain, which features more than 100 trails and more than 2,000 skiable acres. This is also where the first chairlift in North America was designed and installed in 1936 by James Curran of the Union Pacific Railroad—before that, you hiked up the hill (the horror!). Though most of the slopes are long and groomed to a splendid corduroy that’s ideal for intermediate skiers, there are some steep back bowls for intrepid powder hounds. The gentle sloping of the Seattle Ridge section of the hill, meanwhile, is ideal for novices, as is the neighboring Dollar Mountain. Slated for 2024: two state-of-the-art lifts at the Warm Springs base, including the high-speed, six-person Challenger lift, which can whisk guests up 3,000-plus vertical feet in just eight minutes.

Indulging in retail therapy at Sun Valley resort. / Photo via Idarado Media

For more outdoor adventure, head to Christina Potters Ice Rink—one of the largest outdoor ice rinks in the Northwest—to channel your inner Michelle Kwan. Or be bold and enjoy “fat biking,” which involves riding a mountain bike with super-chubby tires over groomed snowy trails. It’s a surprisingly serene way to appreciate the majestic scenery of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

If that sounds like a bit too much exertion, get a glimpse of the town’s past at the Wood River Museum of History and Culture. In addition to the great displays on antique ski equipment and the town’s mining history, it features a fascinating exhibition on the life of one-time resident Ernest Hemingway, who was buried here in Ketchum after his final bell tolled.

Ernest Hemingway’s typewriter is on display at Wood River Museum of History and Culture. / Photo by Cydney Conger Photography, Courtesy of Wood River Museum of History and Culture

Perhaps one of the most unique activities in Sun Valley is stargazing at the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve, which is the first recognized Dark Sky Reserve in the United States. An evening hike up Knob Hill above Ketchum provides extraordinary views of shooting stars and the rarely seen Milky Way.


There’s no shortage of charming mom-and-pop shops in town, but Independent Goods is a great place to start. It offers everything from goods made by local craftspeople to ceramic flasks and collectibles. The interestingly named Huck + Paddle sells a variety of locally sourced sundries, mountain-themed gifts, and home goods.

The cozy ambiance at Trail Creek Cabin. / Photo by Steve Dondero, Courtesy of Sun Valley Resort


If there’s snow in the forecast, dining at the rustic Trail Creek Cabin at Sun Valley resort is a must. Hop aboard a horse-drawn sleigh ride that takes you to a charming 1937 log cabin, where you can enjoy spectacular views of the valley before sitting down for a hearty mountain meal. For spicier fare, check out Barrio75 in Ketchum, which offers a mouthwatering selection of street-style tacos and more than 40 kinds of tequila. Not satiated just yet? Head down the street to the Cellar Pub for a nightcap, favored by locals for its tasty Moscow mules and free shuffleboard table.

A sleek room at the Limelight Hotel Ketchum / Photo by Kevin Syms, Courtesy of Limelight Hotels


Just a short shuttle ride from the mountain, the Limelight Hotel Ketchum is located near the heart of town and offers 99 rooms and suites and 14 residences, plus an outdoor pool and hot tubs. The on-site restaurant, The Lounge, is often hopping with live music and serves up wood-fired pizzas, fresh-cut Idaho truffle fries, bison meatballs, and more. New for this season, the hotel also offers a one-of-a-kind “Boulder Yurt Dark Sky Dinner”: Led by a local tour company, guests access a secluded yurt via snowshoes or cross-country skis and then enjoy an evening of delicious food and stargazing.


Daily flights to the nearby Friedman Memorial Airport are available via Delta and United Airlines and include a quick stop in Salt Lake City or Denver.

First published in the print edition of the February 2024 issue with the headline, “Boston Traveler: Sun Valley, Idaho.”