The Best Ski Resorts in North America: 14. Sun Valley Resort

Sun Valley, Idaho

Sun Valley Resort.     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Sun Valley’s ski school dates back to 1936. Today, its top instructors are Olympian Terry Palmer and Carol Levine, who helped pioneer women-only groups. “Little Spud” sessions are for ages three and older, and the Burton Learn-to-Ride program equips snowboarder wannabes with skills.

While Sun Valley, which is on the pricier side, does excellently in many of the categories we measured, like environmentalism and off-hill recreation, it must be said that its snow quality and conditions aren’t the greatest—though many ski-related amenities are offered.

Its inches of annual snowfall clock in at just 220, so only nine percent of days per season see six or more inches of powder. There’s a diverse variety of lifts (19) and trails (75, descending 3,400 vertical feet), three terrain parks, three on-hill equipment shops, and a 69-person ski patrol whose members include paramedics.

The resort has 1,600 winter employees, some who make their living as ski valets, while others help run the 148-room Sun Valley Lodge and the 109-room Sun Valley Inn, neither of which are ski-in/ski-out. The resort also offers good-sized cottages to rent, and campsites aren’t hard to find.

You’ll find most of what you’ll want at the resort itself: an ice-skating rink, a 1950s-themed bowling alley with billiards, a spa, sleigh rides, kids’ mountain-adventure trails, heated swimming pools, and indoor golf. A newish 56-car gondola takes passengers on a scenic journey to Roundhouse Restaurant, which overlooks the resort from atop Bald Mountain.

A free shuttle does go into nearby Ketchum, where there’s a ropes course, a climbing wall, the Galleria Shops, and a 1937 opera house that serves as a cinema—if you eat at Bald Mountain Pizza, Trail Creek Cabin, the Ram, or Gretchen's, they’ll give you free movie tickets. Also free here, with the purchase of each lift ticket, is a van ride to the airport.

To say that the wonderland scenery here is worth protecting is quite the understatement, so Sun Valley partnered with the U.S. Forest Service to help conserve its surrounding lands and has done much to save energy, recycle, and compost.

If XC’s your speed, plan to be here between January 26 and February 3, when the Nordic Festival comes to town, bringing with it the Norwegian Olympic team, races, demos, and a snowshoe challenge.

CONTACT: (800) 786-8259,
SEASON: Mid-December to early April
TICKETS: General: $95 ($69 for a half day; discounts offered to military personnel), ages 12 and younger: $54, ages 65 and older: $62

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