Celebrating 80 larger-than-life years, the iconic Sun Valley has earned a reputation for being a stellar destination year-round. Sun Valley Resort really shines in the summer, although its beloved ski season has drawn celebrities and regular folk alike to its legendary lodges since 1936.
It was Union Pacific Railroad that bought a nearly 4,000-acre family ranch and built Sun Valley Lodge and its surrounding village to draw tourists year-round. Hollywood flocked to the debut and the stars are still coming. In 2015, the little town with big fun enjoyed a complete renovation of the famed Sun Valley Lodge, keeping the rustic look of its original designer (who also crafted lodges at Yosemite and Yellowstone) but now modernized for today’s traveler.
Leaving on a Jet Plane
Sun Valley sees the second most visitors coming from the Dallas airport. There are flights out of all major Texas airports that either fly direct or through a connection like Denver or San Francisco. It’s a 20-minute shuttle ride from the airport to the resort. Or, you can fly into Boise (cheaper tickets), rent a car and drive 2.5 hours to Sun Valley Resort.
Laying your Head
Sun Valley Resort accommodates all types of visitors. There are seven homes on property for larger parties. The small Sun Valley Inn is a delightful Austrian-inspired inn, whereas Sun Valley Lodge has 108 rooms, including five celebrity suites (named after celebs who frequented the lodge such as Marilyn Monroe, Clint Eastwood and Ernest Hemingway). The lodge rooms have 400+ square feet, and include a living room with a foldout sofa, a separate bedroom and renovated bathrooms now triple their original size.
If you want access to a kitchen, choose a condo or lodge apartment. If you’re traveling with a family, request two or three adjoining apartments; you’ll have a main apartment featuring a full kitchen, living room and dining space with a separate king bedroom and bath, plus adjoining guest rooms with either a queen bed or two singles. With this option, you have three bathrooms for the family and can cook meals, with plenty of space to move around.
Bald Mountain Pizza & Pasta can be found in the village (near the Inn) and is the ideal spot for a family to carbo-load the night before hiking or skiing. Kids will love the fried mozzarella sticks and their hearty selection of calzones and pizzas. Adults can start with an antipasto or caesar salad and then fill up on pasta favorites such as baked ziti or pasta alfredo, paired with a robust Cabernet or local beer.
For breakfast, fuel up for a day of outdoor activities at the adorable Austrian-inspired Konditorei. They are known for their fresh-baked pastries, locally roasted coffee and Old World hot cocoa. You have the choice of a sweet breakfast entrée like a nutella crepe or a protein-packed omelet (choose your own additions like sausage, spinach, mushrooms and Colby jack cheese) or eggs benedict.
One evening, take the sleigh (in winter) or horse-drawn wagon (in warmer months) and ride a few miles down the road to Trail Creek Cabin. Here, you’ll be welcomed into a 1937 cabin that was once a private hideaway for writers like Hemingway, but is now a cozy restaurant. Crackling fireplaces, a full bar and comfort food await. Their famous four-course dinner pairs perfectly with a soundtrack of old country music from the likes of Alabama, The Oak Ridge Boys and Texas’ own Willie Nelson.
After hiking or skiing Bald Mountain, have lunch at The Roundhouse, perched way up on the mountain with Instagram-worthy views. Start with the cheese fondue to share and follow it up with a hearty roasted chicken or beef stew. If you’re feeling adventurous, pair those with a nice glass of wine or local beer.
If you’re hiking or skiing Dollar Mountain, take a lunch break at Carol’s Lodge cafeteria where you can grab easy lunch items like soup, salads, wraps, burgers or a big ‘ole (Texas-sized) burrito. You’ll give your feet a nice break and fill your tummy for the afternoon of calorie burn.
When it’s hot in Texas, it’s mild in Sun Valley (think mid-80s) so the locals rave about all the fun activities in the summer months.
- 45 holes of golf
- Mountain biking
- Hiking and trail running
- Horseback riding
- Gun club
- 17 tennis courts
The resort made a name for itself through skiing. The first chairlift in the world was built at Sun Valley, and this is where so many Winter Olympic athletes train for alpine skiing.
- Skiing Voted the 2016 No. 1 kid-friendly resort in Ski Magazine, Dollar Mountain is ideal for learning to ski (they have over 300 instructors in the ski school) and Bald Mountain is fun and challenging for intermediates to experts. One of the best features of Sun Valley is that you won’t wait in lift lines (30 seconds here versus 30 minutes at some of the large Colorado resorts.) Lift tickets are $115 for adults, $65 for kids.
- Ice skating The rink is open year-round, but most seasonal in winter. Enjoy spinning around to music, located next to Sun Valley Lodge.
- Sledding The Lodge has sleds for guests. Climb the adjacent Penny Hill and take off!
- Snowshoeing, cross country skiing, fat tire biking The Nordic Center can get you set up for any of these fun snow activities.
- The Spa at Sun Valley What better way to end a day’s hiking or skiing than with a top-notch spa treatment? In a word: bliss. I recommend the popular White Cloud Massage (opt for the longer 80 minutes for $180) where you can choose one of four aromatic oils such as Reboot (lemongrass, peppermint and basil).
- Pools There are two large pools on the resort and the Lodge pool is a delicious 100 degrees in the winter; ideal after a day of skiing.
- Bowling Don’t miss the vintage bowling alley at Sun Valley Lodge where you can enjoy music, food and drinks, along with arcade games.
- Shopping and movies The Village features restaurants, boutiques and a movie theater.