Sun Valley Resort, Idaho
Entertaining families for generations
Story and photos by Ruksana Hussain
Nestled in the state of Idaho is a resort famed equally for its winter skiing as its summer golfing. Since it was built in 1936, Sun Valley Resort offers a multi generational travel destination no matter the season. Popular with Hollywood celebrities and sports stars, locals and visitors, this is America’s original destination ski resort.
A nod to the ski resorts of Switzerland that inspired it, Sun Valley menus include Swiss delicacies such as fondue. Fondue is a recommended menu option at The Roundhouse Restaurant, which has been open since 1939 and is one of seven restaurants on site, each with its own unique offerings. Dining at an altitude of 7700 feet is an experience to cherish but better yet is the express gondola ride to and fro, offering a bird’s eye view of Sun Valley Village neatly laid out below.
To truly grasp the historic significance of the resort, stop by The Ram for a meal. The bar and lounge leading into the dinner area offer a glimpse of the glory days in years past. Pay attention to details like the cowbell artwork along the walls and also the heritage dinner menu, which serves a taste of the resort’s historic grandeur.
At The Ram, the staff has resurrected a selection of dishes from the famed restaurant’s long and storied culinary tradition. A special plate is offered at a flat rate each day of the week so plan ahead if something sets your taste buds tingling. Some of the heritage dinner offerings include liver and onions, pork tenderloin schnitzel, and the Hemingway Hasenpfeffe (peppered rabbit and bacon stew with winter roots and herbed spätzle).
The famed author Ernest Hemingway’s name appears all around Sun Valley. He stayed at the lodge while completing For Whom the Bell Tolls, was a part-time resident for more than 20 years, and eventually relocated here—he and his fourth wife are buried in Ketchum Cemetery; The Hemingway Memorial is just off Trail Creek Road, about a mile northeast of the Sun Valley Lodge.
The Trail Creek Cabin, Sun Valley’s romantic dining destination, was originally built in 1937 as Hemingway’s hunting cabin. The mountain-style log cabin sits next to the soothing waters of Trail Creek, providing a rustic, Western setting, with cozy décor for a relaxed intimate dinner. Dine on locally caught trout and other game here.
In the winter, Sun Valley Resort is a snow lover’s delight. Two mountains, Dollar and Bald, provide beginners and professionals ideal conditions for a thrilling run downhill. Varied terrains and features can challenge your skills while deluxe day lodges are available for rest and relaxation.
Fun fact: the world’s first chair lift was built at Sun Valley in 1936; the original Ski Lift is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The resort also has indoor and outdoor ice-skating rinks, and is known for the Sun Valley Nordic Center offering Nordic skiing, fat biking, and snowshoeing. Many Olympians including medalists like Gretchen Fraser—the first American woman to win a gold medal in Alpine Skiing at the Olympics—Christen Cooper, Picabo Street and Kaitlyn Farrington have career roots in Sun Valley.
In the summer, the Nordic Center is the heart of all outdoor activities, as the area is primed for golfing, walking, running, hiking and horseback riding. There’s even a bowling alley and game room here, which is one of the oldest bowling alleys in the Northwest. The retro 1950s vibes with six bowling lanes, high tech features, and video games make it worth heading to the resort’s basement.
No matter where you turn, celebrity connections are hard to ignore. Walking around the hotel, every floor displays a wall of who’s who among former guests, some of whom even called Sun Valley home for an extended period of time. Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Lucille Ball, and Marilyn Monroe were all frequent visitors. The Sun Valley Film Festival draws crowds, with celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Bosworth attending.
A short walk or bus ride down to the village offers more to enjoy, whether you’re in the mood for dining, shopping or other leisure activities. Since it first opened, Sun Valley Resort has been a magnet for entertainers and entertainment, a place where generations come together to enjoy the seasons. Bring your appetite for good food, camaraderie and favorable climes to America’s original destination ski resort.