A few rides on the lift can say a lot about an area. At Idaho’s Sun Valley I was reminded of its friendly vibe and older population of very good skiers.

Sun Valley with Ketchum and Baldy in the background

Anyone reading this knows Sun Valley is one of America’s oldest and most celebrated resorts. In the late 30s to the 60s/70s, Sun Valley helped establish the glamor of skiing by attracting celebs like Ernest Hemingway, Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, and Ingrid Bergman. The 1941 romantic comedy, “Sun Valley Serenade” starring Olympic skater Sonya Henie; actor, John Payne, and bandleader, Glenn Miller (“Chattanooga Choo Choo” was one of its songs), is played 24/7 on a resort TV channel.

All of that might be lost on Millennials, but as part of the SeniorsSkiing.com demographic, the importance of Sun Valley should not be lost on you.

It’s the location of the world’s first chairlift. It’s where Warren Miller spent his post-WWII years, and it was and continues to be home town for Olympic champions such as Gretchen Fraser and Picabo Street.

Sun Valley is the resort community adjacent to the town of Ketchum. There are two places to ski: Bald Mountain, in Ketchum, tops out at 9,150′ and has 2,054 acres of almost every type of terrain. At a lower elevation (6,638′), Dollar Mountain mixes terrain parks with blues and greens.

The day of my visit, I got an early start; parking at the River Run lot and taking a short, downhill stroll to the lodge. At the drop-off area there’s a fleet of fat tire wagons to carry equipment the short distance to base lodge. For the most part, Sun Valley’s day lodges are posh and serve excellent food. Restrooms are as nice as in a fine hotel; well-maintained, private stalls, and high-end fixtures. One minor downside is that typically they’re at the bottom of a flight of stairs.

The gondola goes to mid-mountain, where you have access to the rest. From there, I chose a chair that got me close to the top of Warm Springs, the face with more than 3000′ vertical.

About 6″ had fallen overnight and the run, first on black, then blue, was a great way to start. Back at the top, I headed down a ridge where sun-exposed snow was starting to firm. Several chairs and runs later, I stopped in Seattle Ridge Day Lodge to rehydrate and enjoy the great views.

Baldy is about to expand by 380 acres. Cold Springs Canyon, a steep pitch adjacent to Seattle Ridge, is expected to open next season with a new detachable quad.

The cost of skiing Sun Valley is a mixed bag. Seniors (65+) can purchase lift tickets in advance for $89 a day, significantly less than $135 for the youngsters. But there are no senior discounts for season passes. Sun Valley is a Mountain Collective participant. That pass includes two day passes and 50% off the price of subsequent days. If I planned to ski there five or six days, I’d probably use Mountain Collective, currently selling for $409.

I stayed at the newly remodeled Sun Valley Inn. My room was large and tastefully decorated. Off the lobby is the beautiful and understated Ram Restaurant. The menu is diverse, the room has a casual elegance, and the service is excellent. Hemingway could still be perched at the bar.

The Pioneer Saloon

In Ketchum, about a mile down the road, is The Pioneer Saloon, the classic bar and meatery that has been attracting locals and visitors for decades. One evening I met friends at Sawtooth Brewery for first-rate pub food and beer.

Delta, Alaska Airlines, and United have daily direct flights to nearby Hailey from Chicago, Denver, Seattle, Portland, LA, San Francisco, and Salt Lake City.


Sun Valley, America’s first destination ski resort, is a classic. I know it’s on a lot of bucket lists. But, like Warren used to say, “Why wait another year? You’ll only be that much older.”


  1. I loved the ambience of Ketchum. But, I’ve skied there on two separate week long trips and both times, while there was plenty of snow, the condition of the snow was very disappointing. For the time and effort, I’d recommend skiing in Eagle or Summit Counties in Colorado.

  2. David Berkey says:

    I have only been to Sun Valley twice to ski at a PSIA function and once in summer with family. I have enjoyed both seasons, as Ketchum is more relaxed than Vail, Aspen or Steamboat, where I spent much of my youth. No, the skiing is not the same deep powder, but the runs are absolutely awesome. One pitch for 3K vertical vs the slope-to-table kind of skiing at Vail and most of CO. Hence, SV offers a lot of skiing, lots of leg burn and fantastic spring skiing. SV always has lived up to its name, being sunny, even this last April when it was predicted to be cloudy. Of course, I like spring mush, which I understand is not everyone’s favorite. So late March and April create some of my best memories. This last April was no exception. Fantastic experience. FYI – I asked at the ticket counter about senior rates. I was told they charge $75/day for seniors. Our passes were less, but again we were at a PSIA function, which included 5 divisions. Also, Sun Valley will be joining the Epic Pass community next year. I’m sure rates will rise. Wonder how the fast ripping locals will like that? I heard they complained when we 500+ additional instructors hit their slopes.

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