Farewell To Arms – All There Is To Skiing Bald Mountain Sun Valley

Skier enjoying sunny day at Sun Valley Ski Resort Photo by: Local Freshies®

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When picking a destination to visit, you’re attracted to it because of what you read, saw, or heard about. That’s the facts. You already have a perception before you even arrive. Maybe it’s the amount of snow. Or that it’s about the party scene. Ketchum and the resort of Sun Valley have never called me. It was too old. It didn’t get a ton of snow. It was where the wealthy came to play. Why would I like a place like this? I was about the hardcore resorts. And guess what… I was VERY wrong. Ketchum and Bald Mountain Sun Valley enchanted me.

I Had To Mature

Since I’ve always chased powder and sought uncrowded slopes, Sun Valley has been a resort I’ve pushed to “next year.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was because I needed to mature. Like an 18-year-old Scotch, I had to gain the wisdom and understanding to see what makes Bald Mountain Sun Valley and Ketchum special. It isn’t just about the skiing, which is unbelievable. It isn’t about world-class dining which it has a ton of for all price ranges. What it’s about is the culture that this place holds. It isn’t a ski town or an outdoorsy mecca… but a place of its own. A New York City of the mountains… unlike anywhere else. Until you visit, you won’t understand. Simply put, Sun Valley Never Goes Out Of Style.


Drink Where Ernest Hemingway Drank

Casino bar ketchum idaho sun valley
The Casino – one of the many Ernest Hemingway haunts we visited – Photo: Local Freshies®

My heroes aren’t people who climb the tallest peaks or ski the steepest lines. Rather, it’s the storytellers. These are the painters of the world. They invoke emotion. Create a sense of place. Make you wish you were there to experience that moment. And so when I finally visited Ketchum, I needed to visit the places Ernest Hemingway hung out. Maybe his watering holes would inspire me to write the next great American novel.

You’re Famous? Who Cares!

Most ski towns with names like Aspen or Whistler, the wealthy are put on a pedestal. People are attracted to them like LA. Ketchum is more like NYC. A place where everyone is an equal regardless of class or attitude. Throughout town you get that vibe. It’s no wonder why Ernest Hemingway became so enchanted with it.

Planning a trip to Sun Valley / Ketchum?

Don’t miss out on our travel guide for Ketchum. We give you the scoop for all seasons, where to stay, what to eat, and even things to do besides skiing.

What About The Skiing

Ok, so the town is awesome. We know what you’re going to ask next… what about the skiing? We’re here to ski! Canadian stalwarts like Whistler and Revelstoke have HUGE verticals but most of the time the weather doesn’t allow you to ski the full vertical. Jackson WY, on the other hand, you have to wait in the legendary line for the tram. On decent powder days, this can be hours long.


Short Lift Lines And Big Vertical

Sun Valley’s vertical may not look huge on paper but in fact it’s MASSIVE. It is possible if you’re fast enough to rack 70,000′ vert in a day, or for us mere mortals, 20-30,000′ is easily doable with a leisurely lunch packed in. Your legs will be crying uncle before the mountain does. This is because of the high-speed lifts and next to nothing lift lines.


view of Bald Mountain Sun Valley Ski Resort from Dollar Mountain
Photo by: Local Freshies®

One of the cons you may hear from others is that it doesn’t have super steep terrain. What it lacks for steep faces, it more than makes up in consistent fall-line terrain. We’re not talking a mild grade either. There are NO flats or steep sections with rollovers. Rather, Sun Valley’s terrain is relentless. It just keeps coming at you. At a pitch that’s a bit steeper than most would feel comfortable on to just let ‘er rip fall-line. It’s no wonder this place has produced a long list of Olympians since the beginning.


Something New – Something Old – Something Gold

Speaking of Olympics, you may notice a few of the trails are named after Olympians. We’re not talking maybe or has beens but rather you NEED to win a gold to have a trail named after you. Another spot you’ll find this tradition is at Apple’s. A tiny watering hole surrounded by giant mansions that serves up affordable burgers and cheap beers. If you WIN an Olympic medal and give it to them, you get to drink free beer for life. And there’s a lot of medals.


exterior of Dollar Mountain lodge at Sun Valley Ski Resort
The interior of Dollar Mountain Lodge is even more impressive – Photo by: Local Freshies®

Baldy can be intimidating for the 1st timer. We recommend beelining it over to Dollar Mountain. We’re not suggesting a bunny hill, but a fully dedicated mountain separated from Sun Valley’s Bald Mountain. Nothing at Dollar Mountain is a secondary thought. It’s just the terrain is perfect for you to learn on. The Day Lodge is like a fancy country club building. Beautiful floor to ceiling windows in the dining room. A boot room that’s fit for a king or queen. If you do want to ski on Bald Mountain, the mellowest terrain is off of Seattle Ridge. To get off the mountain and skip the steeper stuff, you can then take the Gondola down.



Sun Valley is an intermediate paradise and just steep enough to make you push your limits. Start at the top of Lookout Express and head skier’s left via Upper College. Take in the jaw-dropping views of the Sawtooths as the pitch slowly increases. Then pick your poison off the zone that descends down to Frenchman’s chair. Flying Squirrel, Graduate, or Can-Can are fun. Be on the lookout on what’s been groomed the night before.


What it lacks in huge cliff-bands and tight chutes, it more than makes up in non-stop fall-line skiing. All the bowls off of Mayday will get your heart-pumping especially if you let your skis run. And if it does snow, head directly to the Sunrise zone. Sun Valley’s newest section features it’s toughest skiing. Expect tight glades, steep chutes, and lots of fun stuff to poke about in.

Ski Early

Even though the nightlife is legendary… get up on the mountain early. They’re known for their grooming but with folks shredding all day long, the soft snow gets scraped off by the afternoon. At least that’s what we experienced on our trip.

snowboarder carving at Sun Valley Ski Resort
If you can’t get there early – skier’s left of Challenger is where it’s at for afternoon shred session – Photo by: Local Freshies®

Best Snow In The Afternoon

If your legs are up for it in the afternoon or you got a late start, head over to Warm Springs. The terrain skier’s left of the Challenger gets the least amount of ski traffic so we found the snow stays soft into the afternoon.

Big Middle Finger To Ma Nature

snowboarder riding through snowmaking at Sun Valley Ski Resort
Even mid-season Sun Valley turns on the guns if the terrain needs a lil sprucing up – Photo by: Local Freshies®

Ski resorts talk about providing the highest quality product but are they really? What happens when Mother Nature gives you a big middle finger? Most western resorts shrug their shoulders and say too bad. Not so at Sun Valley. Even in the middle of winter when the resort is fully open, they continue to make snow when it doesn’t. At a minimum, you can expect high quality groomers to shred to your hearts content.

When To Go

Despite Sun Valley being located in central Idaho, big storms typically correlate to the California storm track versus the Pacific Northwest flow. With that being said, mid-January and February are the best months to ski it. The temps are consistently cold and there’s a high probability that they’ve received enough snow to open all the terrain.

Like a good meal, Bald Mountain Sun Valley enchanted us not because of one thing but its combination of ingredients. A heaping spoonful of laid back vibe. A sprinkling of consistent conditions. A big plate of fun culture in Ketchum. All of this and more mixed together to create something special. When mega-American Ski Resorts become more homogenized, Sun Valley is different.

6 thoughts on “Farewell To Arms – All There Is To Skiing Bald Mountain Sun Valley

  1. I was in the process of planning a trip to Sun Valley but bailed because of the travel logistics. Fly to Boise and rent a car? Fly to tiny Sun Valley airport (limited flights and airlines)? It gets tricky, especially when looking at other resorts closer to their local airports. How did you get there and what might you have done differently?

    1. Hey David,

      Since we live in Tahoe we just drove it. Our friends that have flown into Sun Valley did so via the Sun Valley airport since it has more non-stop flights than even Reno (shocking right?). You can get there directly via Chicago, Denver, SF, SLC, Seattle, and LA which is just as good as flying into Jackson. Be sure to look at their WINTER flight schedule though: https://iflysun.com/check-sun-fares-first/

      I’ll be honest flights anywhere right now suck. We’re planning on heading to Japan this winter and have to drive to San Francisco first (4 hour drive one-way) to hop a flight.

    2. Best to drive if you have the time and great road trip besides. Skied nearly every resort in the Western USA an Sun Valley is definitely #1. Don’t miss the Hemingway haunt Pioneer Tavern downtown.

  2. I don’t know about you guys but Sun Valley has always held a special place for me. When I skied there it was back in the 70’s and we were amazed at the quality of the grooming. Coming from southern Ontario in March which was the end of our season to the pristine and immaculately groomed Sun Valley was always my first choice to return. Keep it up Guys !!!!!!!!! stephen

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