We don’t care what Scrooge or the Grinch said. Christmas is an incredible time of year. It’s as if once the Thanksgiving dishes have been cleared, the season’s greetings and excitement start infiltrating the air! All the sudden, pine and evergreen smells so delicious. Traditional sugar cookies begin to appear. Family members start talking about what they want to find under the tree. Moms never have enough Scotch tape. There are office parties and social functions. And, even though we may tire of the abundance of sweet treats and rich foods, we know that Christmas is an extraordinary event. Even swatting away cobwebs while searching the attic for holiday decorations has a certain appeal because soon your home will be transformed into a world of greenery and lights bringing the magic front and center.

Wait – hold everything! There is a new sheriff in town! This year, your family has opted for something different. That’s right folks – you and yours are spending Christmas in Sun Valley, Idaho. And, you are stoked! You have booked your vacation rental property with Alpine Lodging Sun Valley. You have booked your flights. You have secured your rental car. You have reached out to a few local ski shops to discuss ski equipment rental packages. You are set.

But wait, you want Christmas morning to be unique for your family. After all, how will Santa know where you are? And, even though you realize a week in Sun Valley will be amazing, the traditions and wonder of Christmas have always been your favorite part of the holiday.

Here is what we know:

Depending on your arrival date, the magic of Christmas can be just about everywhere. A walk-through town reveals trees with twinkling lights. The storefronts are decked to the nines. Traditional Dickens-style carolers are singing as they walk from business to business. There are festive theatrical productions and Holiday concerts to attend. There is last minute shopping and wrapping. There are tree lighting ceremonies valley-wide. There is an opportunity to visit with our favorite man in red. There is the tradition of being at Sun Valley Lodge on Christmas Eve to witness first hand its Winter Wonderland ice show and the annual torchlight parade coming down Dollar Mountain. Plain and simple, there is magic in the air.

But, how does your family celebrate Christmas with all the trimmings when away from home? The quick answer is visitors during Christmas hire one of the many local companies available to decorate your vacation rental before you arrive. Yes, the tree with its lights shining brightly can welcome greet you as you start your vacation. And, of course, the stockings will be hung with care. Can’t you see the awe in the eyes of your kids? We can!

What about the traditional Christmas feast? Christmas dinner and holiday meals can be handled with the help of a private chef either dropping off breakfast, lunch or dinner or coming to your house to prepare meals. There is even the option of delivery from your favorite restaurant. It is that easy.

Spending Christmas in Sun Valley is an opportunity to create great family memories. Yes, there is skiing, snowboardingice skating, and sleigh rides, as well as the Bubbly Bash and night skiing on New Year’s Eve. But there’s more…..you are in a fantastic winter wonderland, and your family is a captive audience to the great outdoors. It is quality time at its best. With today’s world moving at warp speed, having quality time with family is one of the best gifts ever. Don’t you think? We sure do.

See you in Sun Valley.

There is no question about it! Sun Valley, Idaho is one of the most awesome winter sports towns in the United States.  Besides having fantastic downhill skiing options, the Wood River Valley is home to over 200  kilometers of Nordic trails.  You read that right! 200!

While I’ve lived in mountain towns for the past decade, I’ve never tried Nordic skiing, either classic or skate skiing.  Like many, downhill has always been my thing.  Still, when the right person asks, I’ll try just about any sport.

The first rule about skate skiing is GET A LESSON! Free clinics are sometimes available, but I was extremely happy taking a private lesson at the Galena Lodge ($65 for one person, $100 for two).  The instructions lasted about an hour, but believe me, that was plenty of time to get both exhausted and hooked!

Galena Lodge offers equipment rentals, as does Sturdivant’s, the Elephant’s Perch, and Backwoods Mountain Sports.  Make sure you ask if the rental fee can be applied to purchasing equipment because you will want your own equipment at some point! Like I said. I was hooked!

My goal of the first day of skate skiing was to not fall too much.  In other words, getting comfortable on the skis is half of the battle.  If you are a fan of classic Nordic skiing, the movements connected to skate skiing will come easier than if you are a downhiller, like me.  I fell twice the first day, which I thought was a miracle. I guess my years of rollerblading back in the 90’s helped, but this was like rollerblading with 6’ long shoes and no heel pad to slow you down.  But, don’t worry, your instructor isn’t going to put you on something you can’t handle.

After an hour of giving this sport a try, we had covered a little over a mile and were breathing hard and soaked in sweat.  Did I mention not to overdress?  Layers are your friend!  Just starting out, we learned to skate without poles, the most basic V-1 move and learned how to stop.  My partner tried the next move, V-2, but I guess I’m a slow learner.  In the end, both of us felt good enough to try the trails on our own – in a few days.

Both Classic and Nordic skiing offer many ways to reach incredibly beautiful locations around Sun Valley.  It’s seldom busy, and it’s incredibly good exercise.  Also, dogs are welcome on some trails, but not all.  The advantage of skate skiing is that it can be a much faster glide than classic.  Being a devoted downhiller, this appeals to me.

While you can pick up the basics rather quickly, our instructor assured me that there is a lifetime of technique to learn.  I guess we’ll need to take more lessons.

After just one lesson, I bought equipment and put in 3 miles on my second outing.  The third time out was 7 miles.  I’m still a slow learner – can’t get the hang of V-2 yet.  But, I’m loving it.  I’m not ready to hang up my downhill skis (or my snowboard), but I am ready to regularly add skate skiing to my list of winter activities.

See you out there!

You can see it now! The halls are decked, and the stockings are hung with care. Ho! Ho! Ho! You are spending Christmas in Sun Valley, Idaho – the most magical of all winter wonderlands where kids of all ages partake in the season’s joy. Ketchum and Sun Valley will be wearing their best festive greenery accented with over-sized red ribbons and twinkling lights. You have booked your travel arrangements. You have secured a rental car. You can almost feel the excitement and anticipation in the crisp, cold, winter air.

Yes, there is plenty of Alpine skiing and snowboarding on Baldy and Dollar. There are lessons and clinics. There is ice skating. There is Gallery Walk. There is adventuring out to natural hot springs. There are excellent coffee shops and cuisine sprinkled through town. Yes! A vacation in Sun Valley is pretty incredible. But, what can you explore during your vacation to make it even better? It sounds like a day trip to Galena Lodge might just do the trick.

A day spent at Galena Lodge will not only get your adrenaline going but also rejuvenate your soul. Approximately 30 minutes north of Ketchum, Galena Lodge is a picturesque and historic log structure boasting rustic charm, a gourmet restaurant, a ski rental shop, and an outdoor deck.  Situated just below the summit and offering extraordinary views at every turn, Galena Lodge is the hub of access to skate skiing, Nordic skiing, and snowshoeing trails. Whether you choose to relax inside with a micro-brew and a delicious meal or tackle the trails, Galena Lodge is calling your name.  And, you are ready!

Galena maintains over 25 kilometers of snowshoe trails for all skill levels making it a great place to give this favorite sport a try. Imagine being deep in Idaho’s backcountry as you follow the twists and turns of a snow-packed trail exploring what’s around. There are towering pines. There are open meadows. There are peaks. There is wildlife. There are views unlike any other place in the world. Snowshoe outings can range from 30 minutes to 4 hours depending on your sense of adventure. A snowshoe trail pass costs $5 and dogs are welcome to tag along for free. Everything you will need is available for rental at the ski shop and guides are available.

Want to give Nordic a try? You are in luck! With the North Valley Trail System and the Boulders as a backdrop, Galena Lodge is in the middle of some of the best cross-country skiing trails in the country! I kid you not! There are over 50 kilometers of groomed trails perfect for all abilities and skill levels. There are mellow loops and steeper inclines. The Harriman Trail, 30 kilometers south of Galena, offers gradual rolling trails and views! Whether adventuring out for skate skiing or cross-country, this will be fun for the whole family.

Okay – so now you have an appetite! Open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00pm, Galena Lodge serves lunch from11:30am to 3:30pm. Occasionally, Galena Lodge will host dinners for special occasions like Thanksgiving, New Year’s, and Valentines.  They work with mother nature to plan Full Moon Dinners and their favorite wineries for the occasional Wine Dinner. Depending on your travel dates, check their calendar to see what’s cooking – literally and figuratively. And, if you can make it for dinner, bring your skis (or rent theirs) for a little après dinner adventure on the trails. Either way, you will add to the flavor of the night and your Christmas in Sun Valley experience.

Yes, it’s true! During Thanksgiving week, it happens in Sun Valley. Whether you are a local or vacationing, it’s the time of year when all of us stop and reflect in the hopes of showing gratitude. Maybe that means enjoying a hike on the crisp fall day. Perhaps that means meeting friends for coffee or lunch followed by a bike ride. No matter what you do, we know one thing. Spending your Thanksgiving in Sun Valley is one for the record books.

First and foremost on the agenda, is the fact that Thanksgiving Day is always opening day for Sun Valley’s Ski Season on Baldy. Go ahead! Throw the tradition of watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to the wayside. It’s time to grab your skis or snowboard and grab your pass. You have been waiting for this day since the mountain closed last April. And, here it is!

Since Mother Nature is the lady of the house, so typically the mountain will not be fully open right away. But, one thing is for sure. You can count on an infectious dose of anticipation and excitement for the limited runs open on the Warm Springs side of Baldy.  And with the largest automated snowmaking system in the world, there will be snow!

Want to be on the first chair up Baldy?  Some local folks have been known to spend the night at the foot of Warm Springs in the hopes of doing just that. If you are lucky enough to get first dibs on the first ride, count on your photo being front and center on the cover of the Idaho Mountain Express. Whether craving the first carve or a gentle S turn, Baldy is officially open Thanksgiving Day from 9 am – 4pm and will remain at your disposal through the middle of April or longer – Remember, Mother Nature holds all the cards!

Prefer to sleep in a bit? Why not participate in another Thanksgiving Day local tradition? Just a short 15-minute car ride south of Ketchum is the starting point for Hailey’s Annual Turkey Trot sponsored by our Valley’s Chamber of Commerce. The race/walk/stroll starts at 10am from Sturtos Hailey on Main Street and winds its way through the Draper Preserve continuing south through the Della View subdivision before turning north again. The family-friendly event brings out over 650 folks every year in support of our local Souper Supper and Girls on the Run after-school programs. You can register online or the morning of the event. If you want a Turkey Trot T-shirt – and, you know you do – we suggest registering in advance. Visit the Wood River Chamber for details.

After a day on the hill or running around Hailey, your appetite will be hearty and good to go. You can always prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at home. Reserve a private chef to prepare your feast. Or, you can dine out and avoid the dishes! Can you smell the sage, garlic, and onions cooking now? Suggestions for enjoying the local ambiance and flavors of the season are Galena Lodge, or the traditional Thanksgiving feast held annually in the Limelight Room at the Sun Valley Inn.  Click here for a list of local restaurants offering fresh roasted turkey, savory stuffing and all the trimmings.

Of course, every day after Thanksgiving offers more skiing in Sun Valley but what about retail therapy? After all, it’s Black Friday!  Ketchum and Sun Valley are full of savvy and smart boutiques loaded with unique clothing, art, jewelry, books, unusual gifts for the home, and so much more. You can even find something special for the four-legged friends in your life. Starbucks, Java on Fourth, or Maude’s can caffeinate your energy level and satisfy your sweet tooth while lunch is available at local favorites like the Kneadery, Perry’s, Grumpy’s, or Despo’s. With your belly full and your shopping underway, why not sit back and relax. You are on Ketchum time! Is it time for a massage or a mani-pedi? Is an afternoon movie is in order? Sun Valley Serenade plays every day at 2:30 pm at the Sun Valley Opera House. You won’t want to miss it.

After the day is done, freshen up and head out to Ketchum’s Gallery Walk from 5-7 pm. Each of the participating Galleries offers new art and artists selected for the month as well as refreshment. Mix and mingle with locals and artists alike as you take in the sights and sounds of a night on the town. Because it’s a busy weekend in town, consider making a reservation for dinner after Gallery Walk. You’ll be glad you did.

Saturday after Thanksgiving may seem to bring some downtime… but looks can be deceiving. Hidden on the backstreets of Ketchum and Sun Valley are the classic tidbits that bring vacationers back year after year. There are antique stores and a new/used bookstore. There are retail window displays that will dazzle with sparkle and shine. There are movie theaters showing new and obscure releases all day long. There are historical museums preserving Idaho’s rich history. There are literary events with world-renowned authors at the Community Library. There are pottery and art classes. There is ice skating. There is bowling. There is a  music recording studio at the local YMCA. There are incredible consignment and thrift stores for all occasions. There is live theater, live music, and late-night entertainment. There are fabulous dining options for families as well as more intimate dining for two.

Yes – Sun Valley is a place for all seasons and all people! And, the lifestyle here makes it easy to give thanks for all of the magnificent things this valley has to offer.

Go ahead!  

BOOK YOUR SUN VALLEY VACATION RENTAL NOW

Not much is as highly anticipated as skiing is in Sun Valley, Idaho. Yet Warren Miller’s beautiful and invoking movies which strive to capture the essence of skiing are a close second. It has been 67 years since Warren Miller attempted to capture the excitement, the adventure, and the soul of skiing and snowboarding. Miller has made 55 films over his career, and although he is no longer currently directing these films, they still contain the same message which Miller began his career upon.

Since Miller first began his quest to demonstrate the wonders of snow sports to the world, his crew has traveled the globe seeking out the most stunning and gnarly slopes out there. Their travels have taken them far and wide, and at times it seems as if there are no more mountains for them to summit, lands to conquer or slopes to shred.

Yet Miller’s newest film, Warren Miller Here, There, and Everywhere promises to be one of his best movies yet. Take a wild freeskiing journey with ski legends Wendy Fisher and Ingrid Backstrom in Crested Butte, tour the rugged, stunning terrain of Eastern Greenland by dogsled, then experience an enchanting Swiss holiday aboard the Glacier Express. Explore the glacier backcountry of Montana, and catch big air at Fenway Park! The crew takes the audience on a transcending voyage throughout all of these incredible destinations, and many more.

Warren Miller Entertainment gives the audience a special treat this year, as Warren Miller himself nostalgically reminisces about his youth, traveling the world and finding the hidden, snowcapped corners of the Earth.

And best of all, Here, There, and Everywhere is coming to Sun Valley on December 28th and 29th! Warren Miller’s movies are an annual tradition here in the valley and are a time when the whole community comes together to watch the thing that they love most. The movie will be shown at the iconic Sun Valley Opera House. Is there any better place to watch a movie about skiing? I dodn’t think so. Narrated by John Mosely, Here, There, and Everywhere has an incredibly important message, one which is currently socially pertinent. The movie emphasizes the importance of maintaining our world’s natural beauty, which is currently being diminished at an alarming rate. This film reminds us of the incredible world which surrounds us, and well, I guess it is fair to say that we get taken Here, There, and Everywhere.

Here in Sun Valley, we take our winter sports about as seriously as life itself. In our little slice of paradise tucked away in between rows of snow packed peaks, there is a stunning culture of child development and growth. And this is demonstrated no better way than through our devotion to teaching children the beauty of skiing/snowboarding, and the sheer joy which comes with them both.  In 1963, the Sun Valley Ski Club established a junior race committee with the purpose of putting children on junior national teams, and eventually, going so far as the greatest amateur competition in the world, the Olympics. Founded by members Jack Simpson, Jane Kneeland, and Pete Lane, the program was established as a non-profit and the SVSEF was born. Since then, the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation has instilled the values of sportsmanship, citizenship, character, teamwork, creativity, passion, and perseverance into the young minds of Sun Valley. Today, the SVSEF teaches the sports of alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, snowboarding, and Nordic skiing to children of all ages. They are continuing their dedication and focus on creating talented and successful athletes, yet more importantly, they are driving home the values and characteristics that all kids should have to better their wellbeing. The SVSEF mission is this: “To provide exceptional snowsport programs for the youth of the Wood River Valley thereby enabling each participant to reach his/her athletic potential, while developing strong personal character through good sportsmanship, strong values, and individual goals.” The Sun Valley Ski Education was founded not with the sole purpose of creating champions who will bring some form of glory to the valley, but the idea that through sports, it is possible to teach children values that they will be able to carry with them the rest of their lives. I myself was once a part of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, and my sister currently is a top Nordic skier in her age group. One thing that we have both noticed is the incredible level of enthusiasm the coaches bring to training every day, and the awesome involvement of the upper levels of the organization within the community. Groups like this, whose only goal is to help future generations grow and prosper in this world, is a large part of what makes our little valley so amazing.

By Jack Keating
In 1936, one idea revolutionized the concept of skiing- this idea became known as a chairlift. The very first ever chairlift was built upon the back of Proctor Mountain in Sun Valley, creating a foundation for the massive ski resort that we all see and love today. The actual Sun Valley Resort was created by the Union Pacific Railroad as a destination resort in order to increase the number of people riding on the railroad. They created a number of lifts, the first ever being the one on Proctor. Interestingly, the design of the lift came from a completely different place than Sun Valley itself. They were built based off of machinery that was originally used for loading and unloading, oddly enough, bananas off of ships. The two different uses for the relatively similar machinery stand in stark contrast to each other, one being to transport bananas, and another to transport skiers. Proctor Mountain and its infamous ski lift created an entire valley and for lack of a better word, a skiing revolution which took over the country, and the world.

Yet in the modern age people seemingly disregard the one thing that created the infrastructure of their home. Proctor Lift is no longer in use, and it has not been for many a year. Now, Bald Mountain has set a skiing dynasty within the valley, as it is one of the most popular places to ski in America. A massive trend in society has been made clear time and time again. Out with the old, in with the new. And the Proctor Lift stands as a perfect representation of this concept. It is relatively sad to see it up there, unused, seemingly unwanted. Yet it continues to watch over the valley and the resort that it once helped create, stoically baring the pain of never being used or rarely even thought of, year after year.

Last week, I had my first opportunity to visit Sun Valley.  I’ve skied many of the resorts in Colorado and Utah, but I’ve never made it up to the great state of Idaho.

Every year, I vow to ski my age.  At 52, that means I need to pace myself on the slopes.  That said, I couldn’t resist putting in 5+ hours and 30,000 vertical feet of downhill in for each of the two days I skied. I absolutely loved the Sun Valley mountain.

First, a couple of observations about the area:

  1. Sun Valley isn’t the easiest place to get to, and that’s great.  The area is never going be overrun with people.  Boise offers the most flight options, but the drive in will take 2 1/2 – 3 hours.  Twin Falls, is nearly 2 hours away and is a good compromise between flight choices and distance to Sun Valley.  However, the most convenient, by far, is to fly into Hailey (SUN), which is a quick 15 drive from Sun Valley.
  2. The town of Ketchum is the main commercial center.  Sun Valley is more of a resort community.  Obviously, anyone who’s ever been here before knows this, but I’m a newcomer.
  3. There are a plentiful selection of restaurants and stores in the area.  As you might expect, the prices are a bit higher than the suburbs of a big city, but very much in line with prices of other resort towns.
  4. The people are wonderful.  Whether it was at the restaurants, stores, or on the lifts, nearly everyone was friendly and seemed genuinely happy.

Comments about the ski area:

  • This is a drive to ski area, even though the towns of Ketchum and Warm Springs are quite close.  There are very few true ski in-out rental properties.  However, the free parking lots are served by shuttle buses and are only a short 5 minute walk from the lifts.
  • At first, I didn’t understand that the real beginners learn on Dollar Mountain before moving to Bald Mountain.  As a result, the vast majority of the skiers on the mountain were good to great.  I LOVED THAT!  No beginners to dodge.
  • Runs on Bald are long and at a fairly constant pitch.  At most resorts, runs tend to alternate between a steeper pitch and a flatter area.  Not at Sun Valley.  For those who like speed, like me, this is fabulous.
  • There is an amazing amount of snow making equipment on the mountain, though this winter there’s been plenty of natural snow.
  • The bowls are absolutely fabulous!  They were big, long, had plenty of power, and best of all – empty.  Most skiers on the mountain seemed to prefer the groomers, which was totally fine with me.
  • I didn’t notice a lot of difference in difficulty between the green runs and the black runs, at least not compared with other resorts.  Greens at Sun Valley were more like blues elsewhere, while double blacks at Sun Valley would at best qualify as a black at a resort like Telluride.  That said, for an advanced intermediate skier like myself, this resort was heaven.
  • Signage was generally good, except for directions out of the Seattle Ridge area.
  • NO LIFT LINES!  I visited on MLK weekend and never stood in line for more than 2 minutes.

I can’t wait to come back and try some spring skiing in Sun Valley.   Thanks to the folks at Alpine Lodging for helping me find lodging, and that’s the guys at Door 2 Door Ski Rentals for the excellent service.