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The first destination ski resort in North America is an old hand with the know-how to create memorable experiences for guests, but it is not resting on its laurels. This winter, Sun Valley is gearing up to offer everyone’s favorite activities and events with some new twists. Snowmaking got a big boost with 47 new guns to make certain that regardless of the weather forecast, skiing will be open Thanksgiving Day and remain ample throughout the season.

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Sleigh Bells, Carolers, and the Nutcracker

Over Christmas, it will be festivities as usual despite the major remodel of the historic and iconic Sun Valley Lodge. The Sun Valley Carolers return to the Village to brighten the sidewalks with melodies beginning Saturday, December 20th, when they will serenade the traditional Lighting of the Trees, a favorite event, and they will continue through December 30th. Sun Valley always makes Christmas Eve a memorable evening, and this year it presents the Nutcracker on Ice at the outdoor rink, a dramatic torchlight parade on skis down the mountainside, fireworks, and traditional hot chocolate.

While the Lodge is sidelined during the holidays, there will be no shortage of gala holiday dining. The Limelight Room at the Sun Valley Inn, the Ram Restaurant in the Sun Valley Village, and the Trail Creek Cabin will be open for a choice of fresh, largely local, and impeccably prepared meals. The Trail Creek’s tradition of horse-drawn sleigh rides to the cabin continues, and it offers an unforgettable holiday memory.

Sun Valley Lodge Transformation and New Spa

The Sun Valley Lodge has been the image of Sun Valley since it opened in December of 1936. Architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, known for the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite and the Old Faithful Lodge in Yellowstone, as well as others, designed the X-shaped lodge and ordered it constructed from acid-stained concrete to be fire resistant after a devastating fire to one of his other log designs. It has remained polished, improved, but structurally unchanged until Mrs. Holding (Carol) initiated this major revamp. June 15, 2015, is the date it will reopen, and the new transformed Sun Valley Lodge will be the focal point of the 80th year celebrations the following winter.

Since the remodel was announced, the question on many minds is will it be the same or different? The answer is the same where it counts and different where it counts. “The outside walls will be retained, so expect the same beautiful presence on the grounds,” explains Jack Sibbach, executive at the resort. “But everything else is moving into the future. It’s a big commitment by the family. One of the goals is comfort, and the windows will be new, and we will have new efficient heating and air conditioning. The other goal is to update the spaces to meet the public’s expectations for a luxury vacation destination. It has been 80 years since the first design, and comfort and luxury now have different meanings. Plus, our guests are more family-centered than when the Lodge was first constructed.”

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An indicator of the scope of the lodge’s redesign is the reduction in the number of rooms. It will move from 148 rooms to 94 since the Lodge footprint will be the same and the rooms will be larger—the bathrooms four times as large. “In addition to rooms for families, there will be Terrace Suites, Celebrity Suites, and 65 of the rooms will have fireplaces,” notes Sibbach. “There will be a new pool, and the spa. It is very exciting. More than a remodel, it is a rebirth.” Connected to the Lodge is a new 20,000-square-foot spa with 15 treatment rooms adjacent to the new pool.

Great Ski Year

With the new snowmaking gear, it promises to be a great year for winter sports. This year 25 more acres of glade skiing open as part of the Healthy Forest Partnership, and now there are 182 total acres available for a memorable experience glade-skiing Baldy.

The Snow School continues its effective terrain-based learning program for beginners, and the school has added masters, race, and women’s classes. Passes make it easier for more people to ski more. This year the resort initiates a new College Pass, and it continues the range of mountain passes it has had in the past, including the popular program for reciprocal passes to Utah’s Snow Basin and California’s Sugar Bowl.

Sun Valley hosts the US Masters Alpine National Championships in March for eight days of exciting racing with 350 of the best qualifying racers competing.

While alpine skiing and boarding get the most attention, enthusiasts are finding Sun Valley and its trail system a great place for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Winters, the Club House shifts to focus on cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, and a series of well marked trails lead from the Club House. Returning adventurers may enjoy the fire and a full lunch menu plus bar service at the Club House.

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Dollar Mountain has become a destination hub for fun-loving families. The recently completed terrain park features 76 rails and a 22-foot superpipe. Families can have a competitive match at the family ski-cross course or spend a few hours tubing. Carol’s Lodge is close by, and the menu caters to a broad age range of tastes.

New Air Accessibility

This year, non-stop regional jets will offer flights to five cities: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Denver. “It’s the most accessibility we have ever had by air,” comments Jack Sibbach, mentioning the free shuttle service offered by the resort to the airport in Hailey. Once at the resort, buses take guests around the area, including to Ketchum and to the Baldy lifts, so there is no need for a car. For those who choose to tour the area, car rentals are available in the Village.

Environmental Responsibility

Even those very familiar with Sun Valley may not know of the resort’s commitment to environmental responsibility. Sun Valley’s efforts have been recognized in Ski Magazine’s rankings, and in 2013, the Ski Area Citizens Coalition, a national non-profit group, awarded Sun Valley an “A” grade for environmental stewardship. The rating addressed nearly 40 environmental criteria.

Sun Valley has initiated and continually upgrades an active recycling program, it operates a yard and kitchen waste composting effort handling 126 tons, and it has moved toward efficient (and less hazardous when disposed than compact florescent) LED lighting. Lighting retrofits have already saved 91,182 kilowatt-hours of energy, and new modifications will save 691,000 kW-hr more. The 47 new replacement guns for snowmaking save energy and heighten efficiency. Laundry upgrades are saving 75 percent of previously consumed water and a proportionate reduction in soap and washing chemicals.

The recent wildfires are fresh in everyone’s memory, and there is similar concern at the resort. Sun Valley has entered into a partnership with the US Forest Service and Ketchum Ranger District to protect Bald Mountain from the Douglas fir bark beetle and rid the high fire risk from sick trees and deadfall.

In so many ways, Sun Valley keeps up with the times, values its history, and just gets better. This year promises to the best yet. More details are available at www.SunValley.com.