This Small Town in Idaho Is Known for Skiing — but It's Worth Visiting in All Four Seasons

Sun Valley, Idaho is an all-seasons dream.

Sun Valley is a breath of fresh air, both literally and figuratively. It’s a place where visitors can leave their worries behind, trading in time on their computers for time with Mother Nature instead. It’s an all-seasons destination where every kind of outdoor enthusiast can certainly find their slice of paradise, from skiing to golfing, hiking to fishing, and so much more. However, a trip to this small town (home to fewer than 2,000 full-time residents) does require a bit of planning. Here’s how to plan the perfect trip to Sun Valley.

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Aerial view of Ketchum, Idaho, in autumn

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When to Go to Sun Valley 

There’s no “bad” time to visit Sun Valley. However, there may be times that are more optimal for your interests. For example, if it’s skiing or winter activities you’re after, head to Sun Valley between December and February, when the town receives its best snow (it averages about 100 inches of snow a year). For warmth, make your way to Sun Valley from June to early September, when you can expect temperatures at least in the 70s, with average temperatures topping out at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, according to WeatherSpark. Though don’t sleep on its fall shoulder season either, when the foliage hits its peak between late September and late October

Things to Do in Winter

Skiing at Sun Valley, Idaho

Courtesy of Sun Valley Lodge

Hit the slopes.

The Sun Valley ski resort is hands down one of the best in the country, offering a variety of terrain ideal for all skill levels. However, it is an absolute gem for those with experience who want to test their limits on runs like Inhibition, which comes with a healthy 70% grade. Those looking to meander can also take a three-mile run that weaves all the way from the top to the mountain’s very bottom. 

Go off-piste.

Want to get away from the crowds? Book a day with Sun Valley Heli Ski, who will happily take you on a full-day excursion that includes 6 runs per person, with each run typically ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 vertical feet. 

Hop on a snowmobile.

Those looking to adventure in the snow without having to hop in a heli can book a day tour with Smiley Creek Lodge. Guests can choose to ride solo or take a double snowmobile through some of Idaho’s most pristine wilderness. Guests can also choose to go it alone or book a guide who can show them a few secret powder stashes. 

Go skating.

The Sun Valley Outdoor Ice Rink is the place to go for a twirl or to watch the pros at work. Either way, you’re bound to have fun. The best part? This rink is open year round, so you can take a lesson any time you visit. (Note: The ice rink is undergoing renovations and is expected to reopen in summer 2023.) 

Things to Do in Summer

Hit the links.

Sun Valley offers 18 stunning holes at its Trail Creek championship course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Those looking to play halfway can visit the nine-hole White Clouds course. Those hoping to practice can hit the driving range and chipping green at Trail Creek, too. 

Set out on a hike.

There are plenty of excellent trails around Sun Valley to explore on your own, but if you're looking for a richer experience, try booking a Sun Valley History Hike. On the four-hour hike, a local guide will share a bit about Sun Valley's history, local legends, geology, wildflowers, and wildlife. Hikers will also get to stop at several vista points to check out Sun Valley and Bald Mountain along the way.

Cast a line.

Find a little more tranquility (and perhaps catch your dinner) with a day out on the river on a fly fishing excursion. Visitors can set off on a guided fly-fishing tour during half or full-day trips, which typically take place on the Big Wood River and Upper Lost River.

Sun Valley Hotels 

Aerial view of Sun Valley Lodge in winter

Courtesy of Sun Valley Lodge

Sun Valley Lodge

Made up of rooms, suites, and condo-style apartments, Sun Valley Lodge is ideal for every kind of traveler, from solo escapists to family adventurers. It’s also conveniently located near everything and sits next to the famed ice skating rink mentioned above. Don’t miss the lodge’s massive spa and heated outdoor pool.

Sun Valley Inn

Book a few nights at the Sun Valley Inn for a classic stay. The inn, which originally opened its doors in 1937, recently underwent a significant upgrade to its rooms and restaurants, providing all the modern amenities travelers are looking for in a getaway. This spot is located in the Village Station, making it a breeze to walk to restaurants or catch the shuttle to the mountain.

The Limelight Hotel Ketchum

The Limelight in Ketchum is just a quick five-minute drive from the ski resort, making it an ideal choice for visitors. The hotel features 99 rooms and suites and 14 residences, giving people plenty of choice in their accommodation. It also has a gorgeous lobby surrounding a roaring fire so visitors can get to know one another while cozying up together. 

How to Get to Sun Valley

The easiest way to get to Sun Valley is by flying into the Friedman Memorial Airport (SUN). From there, it’s just a short 20-minute drive to town. Travelers can find direct flights from Los Angeles, Seattle, and Salt Lake City. 

How to Support the Locals

Sun Valley is going through a challenging housing shortage. To best support the community, book a hotel rather than a vacation rental. This way, you can support the local economy without further driving up home prices. And the easiest thing you can do is simply be nice to the land by leaving no trace, as well as to the locals by saying hello. The tourism board even created a campaign called "Stay Sunny" to remind people that being nice is the absolute minimum we all should be doing while vacationing in someone else's hometown. 

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