Sun Valley is a resort city in Blaine County in the central part of the U.S. state of Idaho, adjacent to the city of Ketchum, situated within the greater Wood River valley. The population was 1,406 at the 2010 census, down from 1,427 in 2000. The elevation of Sun Valley (at the Lodge) is 5,920 feet (1,804 m) above sea level. The area is served by Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey, approximately 15 miles (24 km) south. Visitors to Sun Valley are relatively close to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, accessed over Galena Summit on Highway 75, the Sawtooth Scenic Byway.
Tourists from around the World enjoy its skiing, hiking, ice skating, trail riding, tennis, and cycling. Few of its residents stay year-round, and most come from major west coast cities like Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and more distantly Chicago and New York.
Among skiers, the term "Sun Valley" refers to the alpine ski area, which consists of Bald Mountain, the main ski mountain adjacent to Ketchum, and Dollar Mountain, adjacent to Sun Valley, for novice and lower intermediate skiers. Bald Mountain, or "Baldy," has a summit of 9,150 feet (2,789 m) and a vertical drop of 3,400 feet (1,036 m). With its abundance of constant-pitch terrain, at varying degrees of difficulty, coupled with its substantial vertical drop and absence of wind, Baldy has often been referred to as one of the better ski mountains in the world. The treeless "Dollar" at 6,638 feet (2,023 m) has a moderate vertical drop of 628 feet (191 m).
Union Pacific Railroad (1936–64)
The first destination winter resort in the U.S. was developed by W. Averell Harriman, the chairman of the Union Pacific Railroad, primarily to increase ridership on U.P. passenger trains in the West. The success of the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, spurred an increase in participation in winter sports (and alpine skiing in particular). A lifelong skier, Harriman determined that America would embrace a destination mountain resort, similar to those he enjoyed in the Swiss Alps, such as St. Moritz and Davos. During the winter of 1935–36, Harriman enlisted the services of an Austrian count, Felix Schaffgotsch, to travel across the western U.S. to locate an ideal site for a winter resort. The Count toured Mount Rainier, Mount Hood, Yosemite, the San Bernardino Mountains, Zion, Rocky Mountain National Park, the Wasatch Mountains, Pocatello, Jackson Hole, and Grand Targhee areas. Late in his trip and on the verge of abandoning his search for an ideal location for a mountain resort development, he backtracked toward the Ketchum area in central Idaho. A U.P. employee in Boise had casually mentioned that the rail spur to Ketchum cost the company more money for snow removal than any other branch line and the Count went to explore.
While Bald Mountain was one of the reasons for the selection of the site, it was not initially part of the resort. The plan was to eventually develop it as a ski mountain, but sometime in the future. Alpine skiing was still in its infancy in America, and it was believed by management that there were not enough accomplished skiers to justify its development in 1936. But it was quickly realized by the resort's restless Austrian ski instructors that this fantastic mountain needed to be opened to the skiing public (and promoted) as soon as possible. The instructors had hiked up and skied down Baldy on their off days during the resort's first few seasons. These men were among the best skiers in the world, and had fled Austria just before it had come under control of the Nazis in 1938 (Anschluss).
In the years before the World Cup circuit, the Harriman Cup at Sun Valley was one of the major ski races held in North America, along with the "Snow Cup" at Alta, the "Roch Cup" at Aspen Mountain, and the "Silver Belt" races at Sugar Bowl, north of Lake Tahoe. Originally known as the "Sun Valley International Open," the Harriman Cup races were the first major international ski competitions held in North America, beginning in 1937. The first three competitions of 1937–39 were held in the Boulder Mountains north of Sun Valley. Beginning in 1940, the Harriman Cup was held on the Warm Springs side of Bald Mountain, decades before chairlifts were installed on that north face of the mountain. American Dick Durrance won three of the first four Harriman Cups, stunning the overconfident Europeans.
In March 1975 and 1977, Sun Valley hosted World Cup ski races, with slalom and giant slalom events for both men and women, run on the Warm Springs side of the mountain.
Sun Valley has a lively arts community offering a variety of opportunities through over thirty presenting organizations. Local, regional and nationally known artists are represented through gallery exhibitions, concerts, theater productions, dance productions, film festivals, lectures, opera and symphonic performances.
Adaptive Sports for the Disabled
The Sun Valley region boasts a wide variety of year round adaptive sports programs for the disabled including the local DSUSA Chapter; Sun Valley Adaptive Sports, Wood River Ability Program, Sage Brush Equine Training Center for the Handicapped and Camp Rainbow Gold, a youth cancer program.
A small mountain saddle splits the city of Sun Valley into two sections. The northern section is centered around the famous Sun Valley Lodge, Inn, and the "village" complex of shops, condominiums, and original 18-hole golf course (27 holes by 2008), which winds its way up the Trail Creek valley to the northeast. This area is referred to as simply "Sun Valley."
The southern area, called Elkhorn, has its own condo complex and 18-hole golf course, and is in many ways quite distinct and separate (including a drier "sagebrush" appearance). This area, near Dollar Mountain, was initially developed during the late 1960s and 1970s. In July 2011 the Sun Valley Company took over day to day operations of the Elkhorn Golf Course and named Rick Hickman director of Golf Operations for the Sun Valley Company.
Adjacent to Sun Valley is the older city of Ketchum, which is just a mile downstream of the Sun Valley Lodge (along Trail Creek). Ketchum comprises primarily the 19th century town center (with its limited grid system) and lands adjacent to Bald Mountain: along the Big Wood River and Warm Springs Creek.