Welcome to where it all started: Sun Valley, Idaho is steeped in history, being not only the first destination ski resort in America but also the location of the world’s first chairlift, fashioned from a cargo ship’s banana loading conveyor.
Sun Valley came into being in 1936 when Union Pacific tycoon Averell Harriman started looking for a location for a winter resort in order to increase passenger numbers on his UP train network heading west. Determined to create a destination on par with Switzerland’s revered St Moritz and Davos, Harriman enlisted an Austrian to travel America’s west and find a suitable site.
The task proved so difficult that the Austrian almost gave up when at the final hour a U.P. employee in Boise casually mentioned that the rail spur to Ketchum cost the company more money for snow removal than any other branch line. Sun Valley’s location was set.
A glamourous hotel was required straight away, and The Sun Valley Lodge was built near Ketchum. Harriman cleverly invited Hollywood’s elite from Marilyn Monroe to Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, and Kennedy family members as guests to put his new winter hot spot on the map and the resort has carried a star-studded reputation since. Harriman also invited the author Ernest Hemingway who completed For Whom The Bell Tolls while staying in suite 228 of the Sun Valley Lodge.
The resort village is built around the Sun Valley Lodge, Inn, and comprises a complex of shops, condominiums, and an original 18-hole golf course. About 1 mile (1.5km) away is the older city of Ketchum.
Sun Valley is still a high-end destination and a well-known place to spot anyone from Tom Hanks to Oprah Winfrey. Every part of its offering is carefully curated, from hand-picked children’s instructors to a unique “terrain that teaches” feature on its novice slopes to delightfully opulent on-mountain day lodges. Sun Valley lays claim to 280 days of sunshine per year and light, dry winter snow is typical.