If you have a family that loves to ski, then Sun Valley is the place to be. From the endless terrain options of two ski mountains to all kinds of fun off the mountain to the ease of getting here and getting around, it’s awfully tough to beat America’s original ski resort. Here’s a rundown of activities to make the most out of your family’s ski trip to Sun Valley.
It’s Easy to Get Here
Flying into Sun Valley has never been easier. Nonstop flights to Sun Valley are now available from Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Seattle. And better yet, it’s only a 20 minute ride from the airport in Hailey to the slopes in Sun Valley, meaning you can literally fly into town and be on the lifts in practically no time!
Plus, Alaska, Delta and United airlines offer various deals throughout the season for everything from discounted flights to special deals on ski lessons, lift tickets and rental packages.
It’s also an easy drive of just over two-hours from Idaho’s biggest—and booming—city of Boise. The drive is even shorter from the smaller regional airports in Idaho Falls (serviced by Delta/Skywest, Allegiant Air and United Express) and Twin Falls (serviced by Delta/Skywest).
photo: Sun Valley Resort
Lots of Great Places to Stay
Over the last few years, Sun Valley has made a big effort to become more family-friendly and this new trend is easy to see by the hotel options.
The Sun Valley Resort has gone through some major remodels over the last few years. The legendary Sun Valley Lodge now offers modern and roomy suites and rooms ideal for families. The new Limelight Hotel in downtown Ketchum is very family and even dog friendly. Other options like the two Best Westerns (Kentwood Lodge and Tyrolean Lodge), Hotel Ketchum and the Tamarack Lodge offer top-notch and affordable options for families.
Slopes for Every Ability
Sun Valley is unique in that we actually have two ski mountains. For the big kids, Baldy offers 3,400 vertical feet and over 2,000 acres of skiable terrain with more than 70% of the 100 runs considered beginner or intermediate. There’s plenty of black diamond runs and bowls for more advanced skiers and riders as well. Famous for having some of the best groomed runs on the planet and some of the fastest lifts in America, it’s easy to get plenty of turns on Baldy.
For the younger crowds—or those who prefer to play on the terrain park—Dollar Mountain is the place to be. Just across town from Baldy, Dollar offers more than 600 vertical feet of ideal conditions for young skiers and snowboarders. There are three terrain parks with boxes, rails and jumps for every ability.
Sun Valley’s Snowsports School has been one of the best on the planet since it first started teaching folks to ski in 1936 and there are plenty of options to fulfill all your lesson needs.
Hot Chocolate Heaven
If your family is anything like mine, no day on the slopes is complete without some hot cocoa. Luckily, Sun Valley has lots of great options for this tasty sweet treat. Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge dedicates a part of their café to hot chocolate. Both base day lodges on Baldy—River Run and Warm Springs—are also great spots for hot chocolate. And if you’re in Warm Springs Lodge, be sure to keep your ears peeled for the bell announcing the next batch of fresh chocolate chip cookies coming out of the oven. The Konditorei Bakery in the Sun Valley Village and Perry’s Restaurant in Ketchum are also beloved for their hot cocoa and sweet treats.
Family-Friendly Dining Options
Most restaurants in Sun Valley offer kids menus, but my family has a few favorites.
For breakfast, it’s tough to top the rustic home cooking of The Kneadery, and the European-style Konidtorei is another favorite, especially for their baked goods.
Lunch spots include all the day lodges at the two ski areas where the variety is sure to please any palate. Bigwood Bread and Cafe’s two locations (one in downtown Ketchum and another in the light industrial area) are great sandwich spots with nice dessert options, KB’s is the best spot for burritos and WrapCity on Main Street Ketchum is perfect for lighter, healthier options.
For dinner, the title of best burgers in town is an ongoing battle between the laid-back, classic ski town bars and grills of Grumpy’s and Lefty’s, which are also good spots for mom and dad to enjoy a big beer or two. Both The Cellar Pub (with their killer fish and chips) and Whiskey Jacques offer laid back fun and game-filled options for families. Despo’s is the best spot in Sun Valley for great Mexican fare, with altitude, as their motto says, while Wiseguys and Rico’s Authentic Italian are good spots to grab a pizza. The Village Station in the Sun Valley Village is the newest family hot spot, while no trip to Sun Valley is complete without some prime rib or fresh trout at the legendary Pioneer Saloon.
Off the Slopes Family Fun
Perhaps the best part of taking a family ski trip to Sun Valley is how much fun you can have off the slopes. Swimming and winter don’t go hand-in-hand in most places, but no matter how cold it gets around here, swimming is always an option. The Sun Valley Resort has three outdoor heated pools for hotel guests (day passes are available) and they all offer poolside food and drink options. The Wood River Community YMCA also has a variety of indoor pools, including a lap pool, a hot tub and kids pool with a slide.
The Y also has a Rock Climbing Gym and bouldering room with all the equipment you need to let the kids literally climb up the walls. Since it’s hard to find any kid who doesn’t like to bowl and play video games, the old school and newly remodeled Sun Valley Bowling Alley is a great spot for some family fun—although it’s usually only open after 3pm.
Skiing isn’t the only popular winter sport around here either. Sun Valley loves ice skating, too. Your family can take to the blades indoors or out just about every day of the year. Check out this blog for local ice skating options.
Catching a good movie is another family tradition and our area offers three unique options. The classic Sun Valley Opera House has a lost in time feel, but state-of-the-art projection and sound equipment showing current films. The Magic Lantern Cinemas in Ketchum always offers the latest flicks (but come prepared because they only accept cash) and the Big Wood Cinemas in Hailey offers stadium seating and daily matinee specials.
For a few other ides, please check out the off mountain family fun guide.