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The Sun Valley Resort.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a vintage poster from the golden era of a 1940s ski chalet?  If you have, you need only visit The Sun Valley Resort to experience that exquisite feeling.

The Sun Valley Resort exudes classic charm and beauty.

America's first ski resort — Sun Valley Resort, Idaho.

Union Pacific Railroad Chairman Averell Harriman and expert skier Count Felix Schaffgotsch traveled more than 5,000 miles in search of the best ski terrain. While traveling they discovered the beautiful area now known as Sun Valley. The approach to the resort is breathtaking.

Lobby of Sun Valley Resort Lodge.

The road winding through the little towns to Sun Valley — Ketchum, and Hailey, Idaho heightens the anticipation. Pristine snow covered mountains surround the road to the lodge; the bellman whisked away our luggage to our room as we were urged to have a glass of wine in The Duchin’s Lounge where we went back in time when the jazz was smooth and the people who hung out here were even smoother!

The Duchin Lounge has always been a favorite spot for socializing and dancing to live après ski and evening entertainment;  located off the lobby and open daily from noon — 1:00  a.m., with jazz in the evenings.

The drink specials are one of kind such as the amazing and delectably delicious Duchin Hot Buttered Rum. If you aren’t warmed by this drink the snow really has frozen your heart! A few of the other winter warm ups include:  Coffee Nudge, a Duchin favorite made with brandy, Kailua and dark Crème de Cocoa; or the Peppermint Paddy, a delightful blend of peppermint Schnapps and hot chocolate. Yum! They have a delicious selection of bar appetizers as well. Sample the house favorite, Duchin Buffalo Wings. They are so tasty!

All of the greats in Jazz have played here. There are marvelous black and white photos of the various people who have sipped a drink or two in this once smoky lounge. The photos depict all of the lovely swells, as they were called back then. You can almost feel their presence even today. The Duchin lounge is not named for the famed band leader Eddie Duchin, but for his lovely wife Marjorie Oelrichs Duchin. She was the original decorator of the Sun Valley Lodge interior.

The beautiful River Run Lodge.

Our comfortably appointed room offers an overstuffed sofa beckons to sink into its soft pillows and cuddle up with a great book. The king size bed also overflows with big pillows that will cradle me in peaceful slumber after a day on the well-groomed slopes just outside the window.

Mountain Views from a Guest Room.

The 148-room Sun Valley Lodge was built in 1936 and is a complete luxury hotel with two notable amenities; the adjoining glass enclosed outdoor pools and Sun Valley's famous indoor / outdoor ice rink and Terrace.  

Today, the hotel provides 109 rooms and a new state-of-the-art Convention Center. Guest rooms are newly remodeled with elaborate and gracious décor appointed with the finest European fabrics, carpeting, and ornate wall coverings.

Dining opportunities include the historic Ram Restaurant, the new Lobby Lounge serving light fare and cocktails, and the family friendly Bald Mountain Pizza and Pasta.

Fine dining at The Ram Restaurant.

The high elevation makes me especially hungry! We peruse the menus of the restaurants located on The Village Mall and on the mountains — yes, I said mountain dining! Sun Valley Resort offers 14 restaurants with every food  choice. Our first night was fine dining at The Ram.

On the Village outdoor mall is found everything from hand-dipped chocolates to diamonds. There are unique shops for technical sportswear and footwear to the latest in specialty designer ski and sportswear and outdoor gear,  including bikes, skis, and  fishing,  The twinkling lights along the path to the mall are breathtaking and awe inspiring.

We arrive at The Ram Restaurant adjacent to the Sun Valley Inn.  Sun Valley celebrated its second Christmas season with the opening of the Challenger Inn in 1937. Renamed the Sun Valley Inn in the 1970s, the inn was inspired by the set in Paramount’s “I Met Him In Paris,” filmed near the resort in 1937.

The historic Sun Valley Inn.

The Ram is both charming and relaxing. The pianist  tinkles  softly in this special place. The Ram offers a seasonal menu that blends American and European cuisine ranging from Gruyere cheese fondue and Escargot to Idaho lamb, stuffed pheasant and fresh seafood.

The Ram has provided a cozy setting for intimate Sun Valley dining since 1937. During the summer months, dining is extended to the Inn Terrace overlooking the duck pond and Inn esplanade.

We enjoyed two of the Ram’s signature entreés: the famously delicious tomato basil soup highlighted the certified angus rib eye served with potato-leek gratin, treviso, with ram-ichurri sauce; also exceptional was the the eight hour pork braised Berkshire pork shoulder, with yellow grits, braised red cabbage, and marsala-mustard sauce.  The delicious  dinner was completed with the friendly service. The Ram is  open for dinner every night except Wednesday from 6—9:30 p.m.

The heated pool in a serene setting.

Snow fell softly along the way to our room so we stopped to warm ourselves at the outdoor bonfire at The Boiler Room, a nightclub featuring music and Mike Murphy,  a local favorite  comedian.

Back at the Lodge we check out the glass enclosed heated outdoor pool. We pad through the lobby wearing soft fluffy robes and comfy slippers provided by the resort.  We quickly get into the warm inviting heated pool with the steam rising, frosting the trees and partially obscuring  a full moon and star filled night. It is a perfect setting! We welcome the total relaxation.  After our time at the pool we float up to our room for a wonderful slumber excited for the new adventures for the next day.

An exercise room adjoins the outdoor swimming pool. A gift shop and concierge are located in the Lobby; and for kids of all ages there’s a six lane bowling alley and game room.

The resort was originally marketed to the rich and famous, including Hollywood favorites, from Marilyn Monroe to Clint Eastwood, and local favorite Ernest Hemingway, who wrote For Whom The Bell Tolls from his home above the rim of the trees.

We meet our host in the lobby the next morning for our ride to the River Run side of Bald Mountain. We are ushered into the ski and boot rental ski chalet.   After we are equipped we are ready for our private ski instruction with Bob, an instructor at Sun Valley for over 19 years. His bright smile and quick wit leaves us with the notion we are going to have a grand time skiing!

Baldy Mountain rises to all skiing expectations.

River stone fireplace at River Run Day Lodge.

Bob did not disappoint!

He knew all of the best places to ski and we were enthralled by his great stories and amazing ability to whip us into shape! What a fantastic day of skiing was had! We finish the ski day at the River Run Day Lodge Plaza dining room for a welcoming cup of hot chocolate. Extra whipped cream please!  Overlooking the Big Wood River at the base of Baldy on the River Run side, the River Run Plaza Restaurant provides a magnificent setting for skiers and non-skiers alike. It is open for breakfast, lunch, and après ski. The grill offers a lavish salad bar, deli with Idaho potatoes, wood-fired pizza, a grill, and the popular wok station. Open for breakfast, lunch and après ski. Winter Season Daily: 8:00 am — 6:00 p.m.

We say goodbye to our new found friend Bob and jump on the complimentary bus service to The Lodge. The Mountain Rides Transportation Authority system provides free transportation throughout the Wood River Valley, including continuous round trips from the Village to both Dollar and Bald Mountains and to the town of Ketchum and Elkhorn Springs. Along the short 15 minute ride we regale each other of our favorite stories of the day.

Gretchen's Family Restaurant.

After a late start breakfast at Gretchen’s due to the altitude and the cool crisp air that kept me snuggled under my blanket for a few extra winks it is another day of skiing, eating, and enjoying some the best hospitality we have ever encountered.  

Named after Sun Valley's own legendary Gretchen Fraser, the classic family restaurant is located near the Sun Valley Lodge Lobby, and serves homey breakfast fare, specialty salads, great hamburgers, delicious sandwiches, and evening entreés, including salmon, beef, and Idaho lamb.

We order our favorite,  Eggs Benedict. A fine choice! Simply yummy!

Open for breakfast, lunch & dinner. daily, 7:00 a.m.—10:00 p.m.

Our evening includes a wonderfully romantic sleigh ride to a remote cabin for a delightful night of amazing food and exquisite entertainment. We meet our cowboy sleigh driver at the Ram Lounge. 

Romantic sleigh ride to Trail Creek Cabin.

We are encouraged to order a hot chocolate warm up drink for the 25 minute ride to the cabin.  We load into our sleigh, drinks in hand, and snuggle under the warm wool blankets for a beautiful ride that starts with a lurch and a tinkling of the bells on the two large horses. Sleighs depart for the Trails Creek Cabin from the village near the Sun Valley Inn during the ski season, or you can drive.

The full moon and the clear starry night greet us from above. We are whisked through a forest of large Douglas firs sprinkled on every branch with beautiful snow that lightly sprays our faces from the slight breeze. It is a moment we will cherish forever. I pinched myself and wondered if this was all real. We got the feeling we were in a 1940s Hollywood movie. The crunch of the snow under the sleigh’s weight and the tinkling of the bells and the horse hoof beats were mesmerizing. The anticipation is mounting. We round a bend and the cabin is spotted in the short distance. Is this a dream? A romantic hideaway since 1937, Trail Creek Cabin is a must Sun Valley dining adventure.

The Trail Creek Cabin is an isolated evening of romantic dining.
(Yurts are available for overnights.)

The Bar at The Trail Creek Cabin.

After arriving in style we are seated at a little corner table and soak up the flavor and charm of this enchanting place. The food was delivered with style and flair by the most amazing staff.  The seasonal menu has a western flare with locally raised beef, Idaho Trout, baby back ribs, and the Hemingway meat loaf. All complimented by a great wine list and a full bar. Soon we are serenaded tableside by a virtuoso of the accordion.  I requested Edelweiss, a special song for my husband.

I didn’t want the evening to end! It was an night of enchantment, peace, and romance.  Located 1.5 miles east of the Sun Valley Lodge (half a mile past the Sun Valley Club), Trail Creek Cabin is open Tuesday—Saturday nights for dinner from 5—10 p.m.

Our Sun Valley Resort host, Jack, is waiting for us when we arrive back at the Inn and asked us if we would like  a snowshoeing trek to top off the evening? We drive up to The Nordic Center. This is an amazing building. The owners, Mr. and Mrs. Cummings have a saying: "If something is worth doing, its worth overdoing."  They didn’t disappoint.

The Nordic Center outfits snowsports enthusiasts.

We get fitted with our snowshoeing gear and set out on our trek for just over a kilometer, following a trail through the Douglas firs and past the mountains so close you can almost touch them! The sky was so clear, the stars lit up the night! We fight for every breath in the high altitude but we feel invigorated by the exercise. A night to truly remember!

The Sun Valley Club is open for guests and the public and doubles as the Sun Valley Nordic and Snowshoe Center in winter. Wrap-around terraces overlooking the 18-hole Sawtooths Putting Course and Trail Creek Golf Course, lure guests outside for al fresco dining and cocktails in the summer.   Inside, the restaurant and bar are surrounded by glass walls and river rock; a lively spot to watch all the favorite sports on four large-screen TVs.

The Nordic Center is located at Sun Valley Club and Restaurant.

Located one mile east of the Sun Valley Lodge, the Club is open daily for lunch from 11:00 a.m.—3:00 p.m.;  bar opens daily from 11:00 a.m.—5:00 p.m. For dinner reservations call 208/622-2800 . Guided Full Moon Nordic Skiing & Snowshoeing also available.

Alas, our last night to savor the superb hospitality and the new friendships we have built is about to end. We amble slowly to our room exhausted but happy. Sleep comes fast, accompanied by wonderful dreams to be cherished.

We awaken to a surprise; we are whisked aboard the Express Round House Gondola for a delectable lunch at the famous Round House Restaurant atop Baldy Mountain. What a breathtaking ride. From the restaurant in the round, we could see for miles and miles in every direction. We are overwhelmed!

The Express Gondola to Round House Restaurant atop Baldy.

Baldy's  is situated on the River Run side of Bald Mountain and is the first restaurant on the mountain.  Regardless of the time to wine or dine, this trip is  sure to become a memorable Sun Valley dining adventure.

Round House Restaurnt entertainment.

The Round House is user friendly for foot-passengers, skiers, and boarders. We order the specialty medallions of elk loin with Mediterranean couscous and port infused game sauce.

Open daily: 8:30 a.m.—10:30 a.m.  Foot Passengers: $30 includes breakfast and roundtrip gondola ride. Foot Passenger: No breakfast $20 adults/$10 youngsters under 12. Skiers: First Tracks Breakfast $15. Does not include lift ticket. Winter Season:  Daily: 11:00 a.m.—4:30 p.m. Sorry, no reservations.

Averell's Bar has amazing majestic views and serves wine, beer, and light appetizers. Skiers must depart Averell's by 3:45 p.m. (Winter Season); last gondola ride of the day: 4:45 p.m. (Winter Season). New for 2010/2011 — Evening Dining at the Round House.

This new Sun Valley tradition began offering an upscale, casual dining  experience, Thursday through Saturdays, 6  to 9 p.m. mid-way up Bald Mountain at 7,700 feet.  Full table dinner service may be reserved in Averell's (for parties up to six), and in the main dining area of the Round House Restaurant. Complimentary Round House Gondola evening transportation will be reserved for dinner guests only. Patrons are asked to arrive 15 minutes prior to their scheduled dinner reservation time.

While in the gondola on the return trip we look around at the amazing scenery zooming by and profess to each other that this enchanting place requires a return adventure — maybe in the summer for hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing, and horseback riding!

Sun Valley Resort Lodge website

Sun Valley Resort Lodge is also open for summer.
(Click photo for their website.)

— Feature by Gwen Drake, Jetsetters Magazine Idaho Ski and Adventure Correspondent; photos courtesy of Sun Valley Resort.

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