Sun Valley Review

Sun Valley, Idaho

Ahh…Sun Valley.  This is a wonderful place where you will feel pampered and privileged.  Baldy is a surprisingly steep mountain and the runs are very long.  I (Ron) was first at Sun Valley in 1973 as a child learning to ski, so this was a homecoming of sorts.

Since 2013 when we first skied it together, Vail resort started to include Sun Valley as part of the Epic Pass perk. Because of that, we have been back multiple times to appreciate the various faces of Sun Valley.  This review is based on multiple visits under various conditions but we’ve never really caught a great powder day.  Alas, Sun Valley jumped ship to the Ikon pass in 2022 so there probably won’t be any more visits any time soon.

View of Ketchum from the Blue Grouse run at Sun Valley, February 2020

View of Ketchum from the Blue Grouse run at Sun Valley, February 2020

Stats and Rating

Real Vertical ? 3,400′, Rank: 13
Size 2,054 Acres, Rank: 43
Annual Snowfall ? 220″ claimed / 196″ actual, Rank: 89
Ski Pods ? 9, Rank: 24
Distinct Trails ? 80, Rank: 47
Review Date Multiple visits in 2013 to 2020
Number of visits 4
Our Rating ★★★★
Resort website https://www.sunvalley.com
Sun Valley trail map 21/22

Sun Valley trail map 21/22

Sun Valley Review

We usually stay in Ketchum. It is really close to the River Run access and the drive was only a few minutes.  River Run has a lot of parking and a gondola and is the preferred starting point.

Our Routine

From the top of the gondola,  we would go straight over to Seattle Ridge.  It’s a north-facing mellower ski pod than the rest of the mountain.  We found the greens there to be similar to easier blues elsewhere.  This is where we discovered something unique about Sun Valley vs most other western resorts — the snowmaking.  

Seattle Ridge area

Seattle Ridge area, December 2013

The legendary snowmaking

They have automated guns on all the major runs, and they run them 24-hours a day.  They rotate among the more popular ones during the day to freshen up the surface, and it makes a huge difference.  When it doesn’t snow for weeks at other places it becomes a skating rink, but at Sun Valley it was pretty awesome.  The grooming and slope preparation there is second to none.

River Run

Seattle Ridge gets crowded early. From there we would head back to ski the runs on River Run before lunch when the lines started to build.  At River Run we learned about the other unique thing that Sun Valley offers,  which is very long runs with large vertical drops.  The Lookout Express chair is 2,600′ and the Challenger is over 3000′.  Along with the great grooming and lack of lift lines, it is easy to rack up a lot of vertical in a short amount of time.

A lot of the runs at Sun Valley are either on ridge tops or in gullies.  The gullies are fun because you can use them as natural half pipes.

Sun Valley groomer, February 2020

Sun Valley groomer, February 2020

Lunch and lodge

We usually have lunch at the base of the Warm Springs area. We found the food there to be great and surprisingly cheap compared to other larger resorts. The lodges are spectacular log construction, and the bathrooms are the best we have ever encountered at any ski resort.

Frenchman’s in the afternoon

The Frenchman’s area was particularly fun in the afternoon because it was completely empty and had a nice variety of runs open.

Empty run at the bottom of Warm Springs

Empty run at the bottom of Warm Springs, December 2013

The good

  • Sun Valley is unique for its long fall-line runs and lifts that bite off a lot of vertical in one ride.
  • The grooming is fantastic and their snowmaking is second to none.
  • The town of Ketchum is charming with a great main street to walk down.
View of Seattle Ridge from Christmas Ridge at Sun Valley, February 2020

View of Seattle Ridge from Christmas Ridge at Sun Valley, February 2020

The bad

  • Since it is a steep mountain, most people end up skiing on the few green runs like College and at Seattle Ridge.  This makes it crowded and icy when you need to go on those runs.  College in particular is bad because it is the only way to get to certain areas.
  • More natural snow would certainly make things better and more scenic.  Looking out on brown mountains when you are skiing is not exactly what you look for in a ski vacation.
Christmas Bowl at Sun Valley, February 2020

Christmas Bowl at Sun Valley, February 2020

Don’t Miss

For dinner, go to the Pioneer Saloon on Main Street in Ketchum.  The typical wait is over an hour, so plan accordingly.  It’s a piece of Sun Valley culture and makes for a fun time.

Our best experience

We had a blast skiing the really long runs like River Run and Warm Springs.  The scenery changes as you go down and makes for a very interesting experience.

Double-black rated Fire Trail at Sun Valley, February 2020

Double-black rated Fire Trail at Sun Valley, February 2020

Would we go back?

We have been back two more times since our first visit. Each return trip was planned for at least 2 days so we can ski the whole mountain. Sun Valley would be hard to beat when it is a good snow year.

Ridge Run, December 2013

Ridge Run, December 2013

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