Sun Valley Ski Resort Review

Maps & Guides | Sun Valley
Sun Valley Trail Map

Sun Valley is a legendary North American ski resort known for its laid back, relaxed atmosphere. This seems to conflict since Sun Valley is also retreat for the rich and famous – but somehow both relaxed and the rich and famous come together well in Sun Valley. Like many world class resorts, Sun Valley is a total experience ski vacation destination. With its Bavarian – Austrian heritage Sun Valley brings a bit of old school Alps to the West, making this a stand out compared to the mining villages found at Breckenridge, Telluride, and Aspen.

I really emphasize the notion of Sun Valley being a “Ski Vacation” for all levels of skiers. You can pound the bumps, ski powder in the wide open bowls, and rip some groomers till your legs explode, but then…. take a long lunch or ski break at the very elegant and comfortable (5) on mountain lodges. These are more akin to Beaver Creek as log cabins with great views, wooden ceilings, monstrous fire places, couches, big screen tv’s, and great food. In town you’ll find friendly locals, and fun hangouts like the Pioneer Saloon.

At Sun Valley you won’t find extraordinary extreme skiing like the Alta Chutes of Jackson Hole, or the Palisades Cliffs atop of Olympic Valley, nor will you find the pushing and shoving by those hard core “gotta get after it” knuckleheads. Sun Vally is certainly more refined and relaxed compared to those types of resorts.

Here at Sun Valley the lift lines are short, and the runs are quite long drawing you into more of a wilderness experience. It’s about 3,000 ft from top to bottom so get your legs in shape if you plan to take some non-stop hot laps.

Bald Mountain from downtown Ketchum

Bald Mountain

This is the main ski area accessed by 2 main base lodge area’s from Warm Springs or up the Gondola in the town of Ketchum. Both have elegant and full base lodges where you can rent gear, buy some goggles, Stockli skis, Kjus ski outfit, or grab a hearty breakfast or lunch.

Be aware that Bald Mountain is for STRONG Intermediate skiers and above. Even though there are green and blue runs, most all of these have a rather steep angle compared to many resorts. In my opinion, Bald Mountain is best suited for Advanced and Expert skiers looking to test their skills on long fast groomers, bumps, tight trees, glades, powder bowls, and some chutes.

If you choose to head up from town, the Gondola is very uncrowded and get’s you up near the top in a few minutes. From here you can head up Christmas to access the entire mountain. If you’re more of an Intermediate Skier check out Seattle Ridge, where there is a good variety of modest runs to enjoy. For experts try out some of the steeps off of Mayday, back country style tree skiing off of Seattle Ridge, or steep bowls under the Broadway lift.

If you head up from Warm Springs, jump on the Lookout Express which also takes you to the very top of the mountain in a few minutes. The runs on this side of the mountain are more North Facing so expect flatter light, and cold snow conditions mid winter. That said, it’s an amazing pitch to ski back down to the Warm Springs lodge with a variety of bumps, groomer, and some tree skiing.

Dollar Mountain

Austrian Skier Sigi Engl started the Sun Valley Ski School back in 1953 and found that Dollar Mountain is one of the best areas in the world to teach (learn) to ski. With no trees and a modest pitch, the runs are wide open and easy to explore for beginner through intermediate level skiers. The Dollar Mountain Resort is just a few minutes from Ketchum and closer to the historic Sun Valley Lodge.

This is the perfect resort to get your legs and skills ready for Bald Mountain. If you’re an Intermediate Skier on their first few days of the season, you might want to ski Dollar Mountain your first day or two just to get your balance and confidence ready for the more challenging Bald Mountain runs.

Roundhouse Restaurant on top of the Gondola – Rated as a Top 10 On the Mountain Dining Experience in North America.

Topping off the resort experience, everyone should take a nice break up at the Roundhouse Restaurant. Grab a cold stein of beer, and some warm and gooey fondu and you’ll forget about all those things you left behind at the office.

The 2,400 acres of terrain is quite varied at Sun Valley offering amazing tree cut runs along with open glades at the summit of Bald Mountain. For me, what really stands out is the amazing length and vertical drop you can get on each run. With 3,400 vertical drop and mostly High Speed Quads there’s quite a bit of vertical you can rack up The slopes are perfectly manicured each night, and be certain to pack your carving oriented all mountain skis. In addition, Dollar Mountain is a sequestered ski experience designed for privacy and a relaxed pace for those learning to ski, or move up from beginner to intermediate.

Sun Valley Ranking
River Run6123.3 MinHigh Speed Quad
Roundhouse Gondola21607.9 MinGondola
Christmas13534.2 MinHigh Speed Quad
Broadway15855.2 MinHigh Speed Quad
Lookout Express27637.6 MinHigh Speed Quad
Greyhawk14884.2 MinHigh Speed Quad
Frenchmans15024.5 MinHigh Speed Quad
Challenger31429 MinHigh Speed Quad
Seattle Ridge13094.5 MinHigh Speed Quad
Mayday17394.6 MinTriple
Lookout 1707.8 MinTriple
Sun Valley Ski Resort Lift Stats

Beyond skiing there is so much to do from shopping in all the cool high end ski shops, epic restaurants and bars, ice skating, sleigh rides, and even heli skiing

Shopping is quite fun, and you can get yourself in a lot of trouble quickly. Since Sun Valley does have a “rich and famous” clientele the ski equipment and clothing selection is very high end. That said, if you want to get that killer kjus ski outfit or a pair of Stockli Skis…. Sun Valley is the place to shop – bring the black card.