Sun Valley Resort has the unique ability to expand, improve, add new exciting programs and facilities, and still stay true to the traditions that people long to experience again and again. Western Home Journal drops by Sun Valley Resort to see what visitors may expect this winter. By Ann Zimmerman

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Sun Valley is known for the loyalty of its clientele, as one visit to the iconic resort inspires a return and then another, until it is a family custom. For those returning this winter, Sun Valley’s traditions are alive and well. The resort will continue to offer its vibrant traditional holiday celebrations, welcome visitors to its lodging with its anticipated warm hospitality, dish up satisfying meals with fresh ingredients prepared with inspired creativity, and thrill skiers and boarders with Baldy’s perfect pitch and Dollar Mountain’s Terrain Park and 22-foot superpipe. Like every year, a team of stout horses will steadfastly pull a jingling sleigh to Trail Creek Cabin for a dining experience to remember. And, like every year, the resort has come up with new ideas to make a stay at Sun Valley even better.

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Jack Sibbach, spokesman for the Sun Valley Resort, takes time to chat. The priority question is: what’s new this year? “Effective December 12, United Express will offer a new seasonal direct flight from San Francisco to Sun Valley. We are really excited, because this links Sun Valley to the national and international connectors tied to United’s San Francisco hub. In less than two hours, travelers can reach us. In celebration of this new direct flight, we are offering passengers who present their boarding pass at the ticket window the day after their arrival either a free demo ski or boarding package, or a free two-hour group morning lesson.”

Sun Valley now has direct air access from four major cities: Seattle, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco. What has marked this difference? “Hailey’s Friedman Memorial Airport has been substantially upgraded with $34 million of improvements. It is now compliant for regional jets and operates much more efficiently,” responds Sibbach, who notes that Sun Valley will continue to provide complimentary shuttle service for the 17-mile drive between the Friedman Memorial Airport and the Sun Valley Resort. Also, the resort offers car rentals for those wishing to take a day trip.
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For those with an eye on deals, according to the resort, a promotion timed with this season’s new air access is a lodging package from January 6 through March 29. Worth checking out, the rate is $143 per person (based on double occupancy) and includes passes for skiing or boarding.

“The other exciting new deal is expanded skiing with our Sun Plus and full season pass,” adds Jack. “Sun Plus has the benefits of full ski access both here at Sun Valley and at Snow Basin north of Salt Lake City, plus some substantial lodging discounts in Salt Lake. However, we have just announced “Sweet Deal,” a new reciprocal arrangement with Sugar Bowl.

Now holders of Sun Plus and full season passes may enjoy the benefits of season-pass-holder access to Sugar Bowl in the Truckee/Donner Pass area of Northern California near Lake Tahoe. Similarly, season pass-holders to Sun Valley Nordic have full reciprocal pass benefits to the Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski Area. Sugar Bowl has been operating since 1939, is open to both skiers and boarders, and it will offer our pass-holders a solid experience with some varied and challenging terrain.”
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In recent years, Sun Valley has continued to enhance its kids, youth, and family programs with new additions like adventure trails, courses for ski cross, and Dollar’s terrain park and 22-foot superpipe. “We are again offering the popular Ride the Beast, a drawing for the opportunity to ride the snow cat, and Ski Patrol 101. Guests can have the chance to be the first on the mountain with our professional ski patrol and learn the ins and outs of that job. What’s new for this year? The Sun Valley SnowSports School is introducing a terrain-based learning program for early learners and intermediate skiers or boarders that blends traditional teaching with learning and discovery.”

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The other question for Jack is whether last year’s Sun Valley holiday events will continue this year, as well as the traditional fare. “Yes, we will continue with the Village lighting display starting the first week of December, and as Christmas approaches, we have scheduled the carolers to stroll the Village. Santa will return to the Dining Room to breakfast with his young friends on the weekend before Christmas, and that same weekend we will have our traditional Sun Valley tree-lighting ceremony with refreshments, carolers, and a visit from Santa. Our grand tradition for Christmas Eve continues. This year the complimentary ice show will be ‘The Nutcracker on Ice.’ Skiers will form a torchlight formation down the mountain, and we will serve refreshments.”
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Last summer, Western Home Journal featured best-kept summer secrets at the resort. Does Jack have any to share for winter? “I can share a couple. The River Run Plaza at the base of Baldy is a great stop for après ski. There is bar service daily, lively entertainment, and it is adjacent to the Big Wood River. The Big Wood River suggests another idea: winter fly fishing. My other suggestion is to snowshoe on the 13 kilometers of trails at the Sun Valley Nordic and Snowshoe Center, and with a hearty appetite from sunshine and exercise, to enjoy a fireside lunch at the Sun Valley Club.”

As always, the Sun Valley Resort is bustling with winter activities. For a current schedule of events, check the schedule section of the web, and whether a traditional event, a newly introduced program, or another little-known secret of Sun Valley, there is plenty to enjoy.