Surrounded by the grand snow-capped mountains of Idaho, you may find yourself in a peculiar situation. Technically, driving through the basin, the encompassing region is referred to as Sun Valley. However, located within this idyllic area are a number of small towns – including Sun Valley. Yes a region and a town by the same name and home to the oldest destination ski resort in the United States, this Idahoan version of the “New York, New York” conundrum is full of surprises that will make you fail to recall which Sun Valley you’re in.
Off of the major success of the first U.S. Winter Olympics in Lake Placid in 1932, skiing was becoming an extremely popular activity for the American public. Seeing an opportunity, Union Pacific rail magnate W. Averell Harriman sent an Austrian count on a unique mission: to find the best spot for a ski resort in the United States. It had to be close to one of Harriman’s railroad stations of course, but that was quite a lot of ground to cover—a 7,000-mile trip. Searching the various nooks and crannies of the Western US, the Count had almost given up on finding the perfect spot when he happened across Sun Valley and the Ketchum area. The resort site was soon chosen.
Dating back to 1937, The Ram is Sun Valley’s original restaurant and have stayed true to their roots. Travel back in time and taste one of their many historical dishes, including pork tenderloin schnitzel, Hungarian goulash, and the famous Ram fondue. Your tummy can thank us later.
There is no Opera at this Opera House. The Sun Valley Opera House is not an opera house at all, but rather a movie theater … and always has been, since they opened their doors in 1937! Though sometimes they do host youth performances — every night at 5pm, there is a showing of the 1941 classic “Sun Valley Serenade”. Pass the popcorn please!
This is no ordinary pavilion and it doesn’t host just any summer music festival. The pavilion is made of 1,000 tons of travertine marble extracted from the same quarry that supplied St. Peter’s in Rome.Every year, it host the Sun Valley Music Festival which is recognized as one of the best classical music festivals in the country.
Welcoming you to Sun Valley, this historic barn is hard to miss.Built in the 1880’s, it is thought that it was used to service ore wagons that traveled Trail Creek Road.Today, the bright red building is the most recognised landmark in town and arguably the most photographed.
There’s no better way to take in the scenery than a horseback ride through the mountains. Since 1936, the stables have been offering horseback lessons and winter horse-drawn sleigh rides through the Valley. With a top speed of 3 to 4 miles per hour, you’re sure to be able to relax and take in the views.
Seventeen enterprising women from the Sun Valley area founded the Community Library in Ketchum in 1955. Each contributing $1 to create the Community Library Association, the all-female team laid the foundations for the region’s reading rooms, and sought to create a public learning space for their neighbors. With a desire to dodge censures that were hitting public libraries under American McCarthyism, the women opted to run their library as a private enterprise so that any and every book could make it to the shelves. But how would they fund the operation? Well, by opening the Gold Mine Thrift Store in a small log cabin. They raised enough to fund the library, and in 1957, the first Community Library building was completed.
This museum his home to 7 original 1880’s massive ore wagons are the only ones of their kind in existence. These larger than an average freight wagon were built to withstand the extreme stresses while traveling the road over Trail Creek Summit while loaded with gold and silver ore. Once a year, the wagons are pulled from their displays and driven with a team of eighteen horses in the Wagon Day Parade, a town tradition since 1958.
Founded in 1971, the Sun Valley Museum of Art is the oldest arts organization in central Idaho’s Wood River Valley. It received accreditation status from the American Alliance of Museums in recognition of its adherence to the highest standards of operation and programming. Only five percent of America’s arts and cultural institutions share this distinction.
Now known for its margaritas as well as displaying one of the author’s hunting rifles, one could assume Hemingway today would be more than happy to continue hanging out at the establishment—especially for its infamy as an illegal gambling den in the bar’s early history.
One of Hemingway’s favorite bars was in Ketchum and a neighborhood staple since the 1920s. Legend has it that Ernest indulged in many conversations with the bar’s owner, Slavey Werry, and one time was invited to go on a local hunting trip as long as he was there at 5 am. When the clock struck 5:05 am the next morning and Hemingway was nowhere to be found, Werry’s hunting party left without the author. As the story goes, Hemingway was never late for a hunting excursion again.
Family owned and operated since 1963, Silver Creek Outfitters takes fly fishing seriously. Evolving from a small family-owned fly shop to a highly respected family-owned retailer, complete with a fly fishing library.
With a rotation of exhibits covering topics such as ski history, Ernest Hemingway, regional historical events, and the documentation of cultural change, The Regional History Museum showcases Central Idaho’s heart and soul.
With an elevation of 9,150 feet, Bald is one of the highest summits of the Smoky Mountains of Idaho. Affectionately known as Baldy, attracts skiers, hikers, mountain bikers, and even paragliders who travel from far and wide to enjoy their preferred sport atop this mountain.
America’s original on-mountain dining experience was surprisingly an afterthought. When workers erected the first lift on Bald Mountain for $20,000 less than was budgeted, they decided use the leftover cash for a restaurant.However, this is no ordinary restaurant.It is located at an elevation of 7,700 ft., and the only way to get there is by hiking or a gondola ride up the mountain.
Puppies to the rescue? Behind every easy day on the slopes, a talented team is hard at work ensuring it stays that way. At the oldest destination ski resort in the United States, Sun Valley’s ski patrol stands ready for an avalanche, storm, or perhaps a visitor who isn’t the sharpest at slalom. While equipped with the most modern technology, their most valued team members are actually a few four-legged friends. Continuing a centuries old tradition, it turns out that “Man’s Best Friend” is also the best avalanche rescue tool of them all.
Sun Valley is not only home to America’s first ski resort, it is also where the world’s first chairlift was born.While the lodge provided a picturesque backdrop, the mountains had no infrastructure to bring avid skiers up the slopes. The solution to the problem? Bananas. Jim Curran, an engineer for Union Pacific, came up with the idea for the lift by modifying a contraption designed to bear the weight and carry banana bunches via a pulley system for the railroad, and thus, the first ski lift was born.
Cementing Hemingway’s love affair with Sun Valley, it’s here one can find his memorial. Surrounded by trees along a rumbling creek, a simple shrine to the author can be found along Trail Creek Road. A bust of Hemingway looks out into the distance as if forever looking out upon the valley that enraptured the rambling man. As the shrine’s epitaph alludes, “..the high blue skies, now he will be a part of them forever,” the author is continually tied to the many attractions of Sun Valley.
Built in 1937, Trail Creek Cabin quickly became Ernest Hemingway’s favorite place to celebrate everything from birthdays and New Years, and he wasn’t the only one. The cabin was a who’s who of celebrities from Gary Cooper to Ann Sothern who enjoyed dinner and dancing here through the years. Rumor has it the bunny hop and the hokey pokey were invented here.
Have you ever dreamed of sleeping under the stars but couldn’t find any stars to sleep under? Well, look no further than the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve. Established in 2017, the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve is the first international dark sky reserve in the United States and the 12th worldwide. Encompassing a total area of 1,416 square miles or 906,000 acres, the Reserve spans four counties and five communities. With a “Gold Tier” status (the highest designation given by the International Dark-Sky Association) and most of the Reserve being public land, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a spot to snuggle up under the stars.
Located 25 miles away from Ketchum, Galena boomed as a mining town only to become a ghost town only two years later. While scoring silver was a thing of the past, the town became gold for fishing, sheep ranchers, and timber and thanks to the development of Sun Valley resort, the town was booming with winter sports enthusiasts. The Galena Lodge was constructed with remnants from the ghost town and it became known as a remote Nordic Ski resort for the first time but there was a problem. The lodge was SO remote it was difficult for guests to access and upkeep was expensive and once again it sat cold and empty. But the community rallied to raise enough funds to save the lodge and donated it to the Blaine County Recreation District. Today, the community owned lodge is once again booming with guests looking to enjoy the great outdoors and cozy up in one of their remote yurts for a night or two.
Resting along quiet Route 75, miners have been replaced with RVs at Smiley Creek Lodge. Currently run by the Crist Family, the historic lodge has been a home base for outdoor enthusiasts since 1953, providing lodging, sustenance at its restaurant, as well as gas for the rambling passerby. Like Levi Smiley, visitors to the lodge will discover a fantastic secret of the Sawtooth—an ice cream parlor full of mouth-watering ice cream and milkshakes famous around Central Idaho.
Known as “The Gateway to the Sawtooth Wilderness”, the small town of Stanley is the perfect place to get away from it all. With a population of less than 200 people, you are likely to run into more elk than humans. No matter the season, there are plenty of outdoor activities to keep you entertained and a handful of restaurants to fuel up before heading back out into the wilderness.
Founded in 1994 by a small group of local gardeners and environmentalists, this 5-acre community garden houses native and cultivated plants that flourish at high altitude. The garden was built for a visit from the 14th Dalai Lama, who blessed the garden and a finely carved 400 pound Tibetan prayer wheel filled with over one million written mantras, one of only two erected in the United States.
Hailey, Idaho is home to a one-of-a-kind archery experience for all skill levels. This studio is the perfect destination for those looking to “hit the bullseye” and escape the cold. Visitors can take aim at a variety of targets while learning proper form and technique from certified instructors. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a “newbie” to the sport, the studio offers private and group lessons to suit your needs. So, if you’re looking for a unique and exciting way to “arrow” your time in Hailey, this is the place for you!
This indoor skating arena is perfect for anyone looking to enjoy the ice away from the elements. Home to a state-of-the-art rink that is frosty fun for those looking to ice skate, catch a hockey game or curling match. Whether you’re a seasoned skater or a newbie on the ice, Campion Ice House is the perfect destination for visitors looking to glide into some fun in Hailey.