DEPARTURE: Friday, March 2: Our group of 22 met up at Washington Dulles and were fortunate to leave on time, flying into what became a fierce weekend wind storm. As the weather at our ultimate destination included wind and snow, we were diverted to Twin Falls, Idaho. United was well organized and bused us to Haley/Sun Valley Airport, where literally mounds of snow, and the Sun Valley Resort shuttles awaited us. We stuffed into the shuttles, reunited with two of our three independent travelers and headed off.
Upon arrival at the Lodge, we were swept into a generous welcome reception, received our keys and lift tickets, and had a brief introduction from the resort’s group sales representative to the resort and the mountain. Door2door.com delivered skis. It was a long day of travel, but all went well!
In response to preferences from club members, for the first time, the Club offered a choice of either Lodge rooms or two-bedroom condos. We were able to accommodate virtually everyone with their first choice. The newly renovated Lodge rooms were, as advertised, large and sumptuous. (the condo dwellers may have had a bit of lodge room envy).
Having the group distributed over the lodging options – together with the lack of offer of a breakfast buffet in the Sun Valley Lodge – limited options for group members to regularly meet and socialize over breakfast. Members basically split up taking breakfast either in their condos, or at the SV Gretchen restaurant (a la carte), or in the Konditorei Café a few steps away from the Lodge and a good value by DC standards (US$2 espresso). A bus shuttled the skiers to the Bald Mountain River Run Base or Dollar Mountain Base every 15 minutes. A future trip might propose meeting over breakfast in the River Run Day Lodge (at the base of Bald Mountain).
Saturday: March 3: Our first day of skiing was a bit of a challenge. The resort was blessed with approximately 18 inches of new snow, but low light and winds kept the snow swirling and visibility low. Some runs were closed due to avalanche concerns.
Skiers spread out to the slopes on both Bald and Dollar Mountains (the latter with appealing options for beginners and intermediates). Unfortunately, it turned out that the price for lessons was very high. Most other skiers enjoyed the resort’s remarkable slope side day lodges and the restaurants on the hill. The Round House restaurant at the top of the gondola, and the Seattle Ridge Lodge were especially memorable. At the end of the day, many skiers took advantage of the complimentary overnight ski storage at Baldy’s base. That evening, some of the group decided to attend the Family of Women Film Festival – the last three days of the weekend long festival coincided with our arrival. Our final independent traveler arrived so the group was complete!
Sunday, March 4: With the snow behind us, the sun broke out and our group explored the mountain. Some of us took the Mountain Tour which meets daily at 10:30AM in the River Run Day Lodge. The notional limit of only 10 skiers per day turned out to be very flexible and some groups were very large. The tour provided a leisurely introduction to the mountain, and the history of the resort; others sought out powder stashes and enjoyed the snow and a few explored nearby Dollar Mountain. Still others explored the town of Ketchum.
Monday: March 5: Sun Valley more than lived up to its reputation today with bright sunshine and outstanding snow conditions. One skier diverted from mountain skiing and tested, with immense pleasure, the tracks around the SV Nordic Skiing Center. Costs for an introductory lesson of an hour was US$85. About half of the group participated in Monday Night Bowling at the lanes in the Lodge. Notwithstanding a couple of stand- out performances, the group apparently is composed of better skiers than bowlers.
Tuesday: March 6: Another spectacular sunny day of skiing. Some people participated in the ‘Ski with a Ranger’ Mountain Tour. This one – hour tour covered some of the history of the resort and how it was developed – part of the resort is in a national park. We held our first group dinner at Rico’s Authentic Italian Restaurant in Ketchum – we were able to offer a choice of three entrees.
Wednesday: March 7: More sunshine! And more activities. Today, two skiers ventured out to the Nordic Center, where – as it seems – they were in the same room with Clint Eastwood (yes, Clint Eastwood!) during lunchtime in the restaurant (without recognizing him though, has to be admitted). This is Sun Valley!! After skiing, a group of 11, organized by Judy Edstrom went on a fabulous sleigh ride which delivered them to a generous four course dinner – and afterwards to what all participants considered a most amazing experience, to a ride home under the pitch-black sky – no light pollution!-with millions and millions of stars and the milky way clearly visible. Luckily, we also had a guide on the sleigh who was able to point out to us most of the constellation across the sky.
Thursday, March 8: Our final day of skiing. The weather closed back in with low light and light snow. Many retired from skiing and devoted the final afternoon to packing, snowshoeing at the Nordic Center, exploring Ketchum and hot tubbing. We held our farewell dinner at the Sawtooth Clun in Ketchum which accommodated us comfortably.
Friday, March 9: We departed as planned from Hailey/Sun Valley airport rather than Twin Falls and returned to Washington Dulles on time.
Trip Summary: All-in-all, the group had an exceptional week with great skiing and luxurious accommodations. Sun Valley delivered on its reputation as an iconic destination. Its history as the first destination ski resort in the United States and home of the world’s first chair lift is well documented throughout the Lodge in photos and posters. The recently renovated Lodge is luxurious and included access for all guests to a fitness center, and hot pool/jacuzzi. The resort spa, open only to patrons, offered a wide range of services. The adjacent village offered attractive dining and retail options, a skating rink, and a movie theater. The town of Ketchum was minutes away by free shuttle bus, Uber, by tipping the valets to drive you, or a 20-minute walk on well-maintained paths.
The only drawback to the resort was that some of the condos had the master bedroom located in a loft – a spacious loft but nevertheless a loft and unexpected. The two mountains, Baldy and Dollar, were very much as advertised. Dollar was ideal for beginners and Baldy offered wonderful skiing and truly remarkable on mountain restaurants. The Greens and Blues are very dark green and very dark blue (as in more challenging compared to greens and blues at other resorts). The Blacks are on par with most other resorts.