Set amid the soaring alpine peaks of central Idaho, Sun Valley is the nation’s original ski resort, the grand doyenne of mountain retreats boasting a myriad of natural diversions to complement every season. Equally alluring for snow-capped ski vacations in the winter, and for hiking, biking, and fishing excursions in the summer, rustic-chic Sun Valley and neighboring Ketchum have drawn a steady crowd of celebrities, jetsetters and travelers-in-the-know since the early 1930s.
When you only have a weekend, time is precious. Take our suggestions on activities, dining, and how to spend your 48 hours in Sun Valley, Idaho.
2 p.m. BARGAIN BASIN
Kick off your Sun Valley getaway with a shopping excursion at one of the destination’s premier retail complexes. Tucked between the Sun Valley Inn and Sun Valley Lodge, the quaint shops of Sun Valley Village offer a bounty of treasures for all seasons, including fine wool and cashmere clothing, local crafts, jewelry, home goods and toys. In the summer, rent a bike from Pete Lane’s Summer Village, or browse ski and sportswear in the high season at the popular Brass Ranch. You’ll also find a variety of ski apparel, boots and equipment in the small collection of shops at the Mountain Lodges.
6 p.m. SLEIGH BELLS
If your vacation falls in ski season, you’ll have the chance to experience one of Sun Valley’s most unforgettable attractions: a romantic horse-drawn sleigh ride through the resort’s snow-capped mountain trails, culminating at the rustic Trail Creek Cabin for dinner. Sleighs depart from the Sun Valley Inn each evening on the hour for a 30-minute jaunt to the restaurant, but the adventure doesn’t end with the ride; the cozy cabin, nestled within the slopes just a mile and a half from town, has been a favorite dinner spot since 1937, offering hearty, family-style comfort foods and an unmatched atmosphere of laid-back elegance.
8 a.m. PRISTINE PEAKS
Whatever season you visit Sun Valley, beautiful Bald Mountain is sure to please. At 9,000 feet, the soaring mountain offers an array of diversions year-round, with a range of intermediate and expert slopes for skiing and snowboarding in the winter, and a tangle of trails for hiking and biking in the off-season. Plan to spend most of the day – in fact, most of your entire stay – exploring this spectacular peak.
Summer in Sun Valley unveils an exceptional array of natural diversions, and as the region’s rivers spring to life, the area draws a loyal crowd of fly-fishermen to its banks. Whether you’re an expert angler or want to cast a line for the first time, enlist the services of Silver Creek Outfitters, Sun Valley’s premier fly shop and guide operation, then gear up and hit the waterways. In the company of an expert guide, you’ll explore revered rivers and tributaries such as Big Wood, Copper Basin, Silver Creek and the Salmon River, angling for an incredible variety of trout, salmon and mountain whitefish.
3 p.m. LACE UP
As temperatures dip, activity on the Sun Valley Lodge’s outdoor skating rink heats up. Grab a pair of rental skates from the on-site pro shop and hit the ice with your family, or reserve a group or private lesson to learn a few new tricks. You’ll be in the company of some of the elite names in the ice skating world here, as the year-round rink hosts a slew of Olympic medalists, competitive figure skaters and hockey greats each year.
Avid golfers will find ample diversions in the summer months, from the picturesque nine-hole White Clouds course overlooking the Wood River Valley – boasting 360-degree views spanning spectacular Bald Mountain, Dollar Mountain, and the Pioneer Mountains – to the challenging, Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed 18-hole course at Trail Creek. The latter, a 6,968-yard alpine track, has been rated as one of the top 75 courses in the nation by Golf Digest, and offers an array of challenging green-side bunkers and stream carries to test the skills of even seasoned players.
8 p.m. BISON AND BREWS
As evening falls, wander over to the venerable Pioneer Saloon on Main Street in Ketchum. Just a mile outside of Sun Valley, this historic, frontier-inspired venue has been one of the area’s most popular dining and nightlife spots since opening its doors in 1972. The saloon’s rustic interior is adorned in period antiques and mounted game, setting the scene for a rollicking night out, whether you’re sipping signature Pioneer margaritas or sampling a local craft beer. And since you’ve surely worked up an appetite after a long day of Sun Valley adventures, you’re in luck: the venue is also one of the best places in town for mouthwatering steaks and ribs.
10 a.m. BRILLIANT BRUNCH
For the finest Sunday brunch in Sun Valley, locals and savvy travelers know there’s only one destination. Nestled within a perky, salmon-pink cottage and tucked away on a side street in the heart of the ski resort, Cristina’s Restaurant serves a fantastic brunch spread including all the usual favorites – omelets, pancakes and French toast – with a few Tuscan-inspired surprises, such as homemade thin-crust pizzas and a selection of soups and pastas. Dine in the restaurant, then browse Chef Cristina’s wide selection of fresh-baked breads and pastries for a sweet treat to take home with you.