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Sun Valley & Ketchum - Idaho

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Sun Valley Serenade

During the 1930s, railroad magnate Averell Harriman was so impressed by the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, and by European skiing resorts, that he commissioned an Austrian -- Count Felix Schaffgotsch -- to find a suitable western site for an American ski resort which would have the ambience of the European mountain resorts. The result was Sun Valley, America's first destination ski resort, and the first in the world to have chair lifts.

Sun Valley Resort is set in a side valley just outside the town of Ketchum -- a destination in itself for many who wish to "get away from it all". Ernest Hemingway was the most notable of Ketchum's residents. His grave is in the little cemetery in Ketchum, and there is a memorial to him near the Sun Valley Golf Course, beside Trail Creek.

 What to See & Do

Sun Valley is a large resort complex which does not reveal its size from the entrance. Instead, the complex is comfortable, with a 1940s-style and ambience which can't be matched by any of the more modern Rockies resorts. And it's nestled at the foot of the Sawtooth Mountains which continually provide a jagged scenic backdrop. With 380 rooms in its two hotels (The Lodge and The Inn) there are accommodations for romantic hideaways or for family vacations. The rink made famous in the Glenn Miller/Sonia Henie 1940s movie "Sun Valley Serenade" is there, winter and summer. Today's top figure skaters provide shows on summer Saturday nights. The rink is part of the Lodge's dining and entertainment area. You can even relax at 5 pm in the Lodge, to see the movie.

For summer visitors, the Sun Valley resort has two 18-hole golf courses, tennis courts and swimming pools.

Skiing

In winter months, Bald Mountain provides 1200 acres of downhill skiing with 12 lifts including three high-speed quad chairs. Dollar Mountain is more of a family skiing operation with four lifts. Tickets for the two mountains are interchangeable.

Ketchum and Sun Valley also have two cross-country ski centers and there are two more in the Sawtooth National Recreation Center which is just north of the resort area. In all, there are 175 miles of groomed trails including skating lanes. Snowmobile tours are popular as well. In summer, there are 80 miles of hiking trails in the Recreation Area.

On winter evenings, horse drawn sleighs take visitors into the woods for gourmet dinners. Restaurants in the resort complex range from the Konditorei -- with outdoor deck eating -- to the deluxe dining room in the Lodge.

The other large vacation operation, with 132 rooms and five restaurants, is Elkhorn Resort, located just south of Ketchum off Highway 75. This is a newer hotel resort with an 18 hole championship golf course, cross-country trails and the same skiing arrangements as Sun Valley with ski lifts on Dollar Mountain rising from the Elkhorn base.

Visiting Ketchum

In the town of Ketchum, life is more down scale (but not much), compared to the social whirl at the two resorts. There are cozy European style lodgings, bed and breakfast inns, modern accommodations in old, historic buildings, and several larger and modern hotels and motels. In the winter, this is a ski town.

During summer and fall months, the town draws thousands of outdoor types, interested in exploring the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and enjoying the rustic environment which the town provides. The recreation area is even miles north of Ketchum. Over 300 alpine lakes lie in the Sawtooth Range and a network of hiking trails criss cross the area. There are campsites (public and private) throughout the area including several along Highway 75, the main route. There are cabins for rent as well as rustic lodges. It's a good idea to stop at the Recreation Area's information center, just north of Ketchum, for an overview of the recreational attractions of this vast mountain wilderness. The Sawtooth National Fish Hatchery raises more than three million salmon each year and it goes without saying that the area is an angler's paradise. There are boat ramps on several of the lakes including Alturas, Redfish Pettit and Lake Stanley. Highway 75 takes you north through the recreation area to to the town of Stanley.

Ketchum, Sun Valley and Elkhorn Village have a full range of summer and winter festivities. The Sun Valley Winter Carnival is held during the third and fourth weeks of January and includes a food fair, dances. and a celebrity ski race. The Sun Valley Music Festival is held during July and August, featuring classical music and jazz. The festival is organized by the Sun Valley Center for the Arts and Humanities.

Summerdance at Elkhorn brings renowned dance stars to the mountains, a counterpart to the summer dance school here. The town of Ketchum celebrates its pioneer mining history at the Wagon Days Celebration (end of August) with flapjack breakfasts, band concerts, dancing and a melodrama. A newer entry is the Sun Valley Swing 'n Dixie Jazz Jamboree, held in mid-October at the resort.

National Forest Campgrounds

Aside from the recreation area camping facilities farther north, there are several campgrounds in the Sawtooth National Forest closer to Ketchum. There are two campgrounds on East Fork Road, southeast of town (Federal Gulch and Sawmill). West of Ketchum, on Warm Springs Road, there are two units which offer private camping (with one unit tach). Cottonwood is 5.5 miles from town, Penny Lake is 4 miles from the highway. Northeast of town there are three campgrounds on Trail Creek Road. Boundary campground has a picnic area with 24-hour camping only. Park Creek and Phi Kappa campgrounds have 36 sites with grills and picnic tables.

Resorts

Sun Valley Resort
(208) 622-4111 or 800-635-8261 (outside Idaho)
or 800-632-4104 (in Idaho)
Located on Sun Valley Road, just east of Ketchum, this is the oldest, and many say the finest, of the ski and summer destination resorts. The Inn and the Lodge provide varied accommodations, the dining in the lodge is superb, and there are more restaurants and lounges, along with golf courses, ice skating, swimming pools and all the expected resort amenities. Write: Sun Valley, ID 83353.

Sun Valley RV Resort
(208) 726-3429
This complete RV campground offers 80 spaces with full hookups, whiripool, pool, mini golf and more. It's located south of Ketchum.


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