This Idaho Resort Has Some of the Best Spring Skiing in the U.S. — Plus a Spa, Bowling Alley, and an Outdoor Heated Pool

Sun Valley is a rare ski area with small-town charm and big-time shredding.

Skiers going down the mountain at Sun Valley Resort

Lydia Price

The views were nothing short of sublime. I stood atop Sun Valley’s crowning jewel, Bald Mountain, a full half hour before lifts officially opened. White hills billowed around me as far as the eye could see, and the town below was nestled between peaks like a fairy-tale village. It's no wonder this Idaho ski area is an oasis for both visitors and locals. 

Bald Mountain, fondly known as "Baldy," lies at the epicenter of five colossal mountain ranges: the Sawtooths, the Boulders, the Pioneers, the White Clouds, and the Smokies. On its summit, you’re treated to 360-degree views of the snow-covered ranges.

Sun Valley is a small town — there are some 2,000 full-time residents — that has 3,400 vertical feet for skiers to enjoy. Its trails are long and steep. Those who want a full-throttle experience can rip uninterrupted run after run. Though I'm a seasoned skier — I was shoved into ski boots as soon as I could walk — pointers from my mountain guide, Christine KJenner, had me shredding with more poise than ever before, in spite of the challenging terrain.

But even skiers taking the hills slow and steady get something special to enjoy: the beautiful panoramic views. “I don’t even know what to take a picture of,” I told KJenner as we made our way up a chairlift. “It’s all so beautiful.”

The views would be hot-ticket photo ops at other resorts, with skiers waiting their turn to snap the same enviable backdrop. But at Sun Valley, waiting around simply isn’t a thing: lift lines are usually nonexistent. Even after the mountain opened to the public, I never found myself restlessly waiting or carefully maneuvering around kids and nervous beginners. Again and again, locals and loyal visitors answered my incredulous question the same way: “Yes, it really is always this empty.” 

The Seattle Ridge Lodge Deck at Sun Valley Resort

Lydia Price

The sparse crowds can be partially attributed to nearby Dollar Mountain, where more leisurely paced skiers are happily sequestered. As beginners and greener intermediates enjoy their own gorgeous mountain, adrenaline-seekers freely shred through Bald Mountain's gullies and catwalks.

While reservations aren’t required, purchasing tickets ahead of time increases your odds of snagging the best rates. Full-day adult lift tickets for Bald Mountain and Dollar Mountain start at $107. Both mountains are also on the Ikon and Mountain Collective passes. Private ski lessons on Bald Mountain come with a chance to get early-morning access to the slopes.

Booking a stay at the Sun Valley Lodge, the resort's 108-room hotel, gives you the quintessential Sun Valley experience. The property has welcomed the likes of Tom Hanks, Lucille Ball, and even writer Ernest Hemingway, who worked on “For Whom the Bell Tolls” in a second-floor suite.

The property has an air of whimsy, courtesy of the swans living on the lodge’s pond and a sea of trees adorned with lights. The manor-style hotel has suites, cavernous bathrooms in every room, a bowling alley and arcade, and a massive outdoor heated pool. Its 20,000-square-foot spa offers massages, cupping, acupuncture, and an intention-setting ceremony every new moon.

Chairs around the heated pool at Sun Valley Resort

Lydia Price

After a few runs, KJenner declared it was time to participate in a treasured Sun Valley pastime: lodge hopping. Each of Bald Mountain’s three main ski lodges — Warm Springs Lodge, River Run Lodge, and Seattle Ridge Lodge serve excellent après-ski comfort food.

At the River Run Lodge, I dined on a mouthwatering Thai green curry and a heaping portion of butter chicken. The Seattle Ridge Lodge, towering at an elevation of nearly 9,000 feet, offers mulled wine, wood-fired pizza that satisfied my New Yorker tastebuds, and incredible views from an enormous deck. And at Warm Springs Lodge, a ringing bell told everyone when the freshly baked cookies were ready.

There's no shortage of eateries and lodges for delicious food in Sun Valley. You can start your mornings with European-inspired pastries, brunch foods (like crepes, waffles, and omelets), and artisanal coffee next to the fireplace at Konditorei. There’s also The Roundhouse, a cozy, elegant restaurant built in 1939 that serves reservation-only lunches near the top of the gondola. I popped in for an afternoon mimosa from its rustic bar.

The less formal Lookout Lodge, a favorite among locals, offers tacos and chili in a bunker-like summit building that delivers what its name teases: stellar views. At The Ram, American Wagyu steak from Boise-based Snake River Farms makes for a heavenly follow-up to the fondue-dipped pork belly appetizer, while chic eatery Enoteca boasts a succulent panko-crusted Idaho trout and an extensive list of northwestern vino.

Duchin Lounge, located on the first floor of Sun Valley Lodge, has an impressive cocktail menu including a lavender gin drop and chocolate espresso martinis. The ambiance is both homey and luxe — think Ivy-League common room meets Western grandeur — with views of skaters twirling on the ice rink outside and a pianist performing every evening.

An aerial view of the Sun Valley Resort in Spring/Summertime

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The exterior od Sun Valley Resort in the spring/summertime

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

You'll find jovial locals at every stop, as a deep love of mountain life permeates the community. Residents gather on Baldy for a myriad of alpine events, from a weekly Town Series race that’s often skied in costumes — there were human-size strawberries wandering around Warm Springs when I visited — to the legendary closing-day bash.

The region’s spring season is packed with events, including live music each Saturday and Sunday in one of the base lodges; March’s KinderCup, a decades-long tradition that’s given future Olympians their first taste of racing glory; and a host of activities for International Women’s Week. On April 2, the U.S. Alpine Championships kick off on Bald Mountain.

Anyone who’s experienced it can sing Sun Valley’s praises until the elk come home, but you’ll never truly understand its invigorating spirit until you get a taste of it yourself.

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