|Sun Valley Resort: Keeps Getting BetterNo matter how many times you have visited Sun Valley, there’s always something new to experience. With so much to do and see, it’s nearly impossible to take it all in, and Sun Valley Resort is on the move to make more experiences available and to make time spent at the resort all the more enjoyable.Last year marked the opening of the spacious Sun Valley Club, the new golf clubhouse and crosscountry ski center; the first year for the White Clouds nine-hole alpine-links golf course; and the opening season for the Sun Valley Pavilion with its luminous tensile membrane and copper roof. The architecturally stunning outdoor concert facility just finished its first season with the comment that it sounds as beautiful as it looks and performances that featured popular entertainers, benefits, a free symphony concert series, and concluded with the Sun Valley Music Festival.With the excitement not yet calmed down from last year, this year will mark even more expansions. Jack Sibbach, a long-time executive at Sun Valley agrees that it’s unexpected to improve and expand a resort during an economic downturn. “It’s really a testimony to the resort’s owners, the Holding family, and their love of the area and their commitment to the community that they make innovations and improvements in these down economic times. They balance these improvements while preserving the Sun Valley experience.”
A new gondola will get skiers, boarders, sightseers, and the disabled up the mountain. Traveling 2,000 vertical feet in just eight minutes, the new Roundhouse Gondola can carry 1,800 passengers per hour from River Run Plaza along the same route as the new Sleeping Bear ski run to the Roundhouse Restaurant. The new technology, Doppelmayr CTEC detachable-grip, features 56 eight-passenger cabins. For intermediate-level skiers and boarders, the gondola adds convenient access to the Seattle Ridge area. The gondola offers warm comfort and is wheelchair accessible and ADA-approved, noted Sibbach.
With summers now busier than winters at Sun Valley, the gondola adds another fun summertime adventure, and allows diners year-round access to enjoy the Roundhouse Restaurant. The Roundhouse has always been a favorite destination with its four-sided fireplace, strolling accordion player, sit-down service, and comfortable decks.
Dollar Mountain Terrain Park, Tubing, and a Streamlined Ski School
Bald Mountain isn’t the only part of the ski area with something new to offer. There are big changes aimed at more fun for the younger skiers and boarders at Dollar Mountain. Dollar Mountain, which was the home to the first chairlift and has the reputation in the ski world as the best teaching mountain, isn’t resting on its past laurels. It now has a new terrain park designed by Snow Park Technologies, the X Games experts. “You can expect that all skill levels will be challenged by the design,” explained Jack Sibbach enthusiastically.
More changes at Dollar Mountain include relocating the tubing area. It will now be nearer the lodge so parents can watch the fun. The new tubing area will also initiate evening operations and provide more family activities late afternoons and evenings after the lifts stop running.
“We’re aware that families that visit our resort are multi-generational and want activities that interest everyone—parents, children and grandchildren,” mentioned Allan Patzer, Director of the Ski School who is launching the Teen Adventure Program (T.A.P.) this year. T.A.P. is a new all-day program aimed at competent intermediate to advanced teen skiers and boarders that will run during the holidays: Christmas through New Years Day, and Presidents’ Day week. Mornings will focus on skill-building, and afternoons will provide a different experience each day like maneuvering the bumps, mastering powder, racing skills, challenging the terrain park, or exploring the relatively unknown parts of Bald Mountain.
“We are also streamlining ski school so that it’s easier for parents to get their children outfitted and in ski school. By making it easier and faster, we want parents to enjoy more of their day on the mountain,” added Katie Hagen of the ski school staff. “We have online booking, and we encourage families to book online and save all those minutes of their vacation.” Katie mentioned that the new packages combine lift tickets, rentals, and classes. “By renting our equipment, the kids will have boots that fit and the most up-to-date equipment, so there won’t be problems to slow them down.”
From arrival to closure of the ski school at 3:15, the children are well attended. From the staging area they go to a secure “parent-free” zone and separated into groups by age and entertained until the lesson begins with lunch included. “Under the new all-inclusive lesson package, the ski pass covers the entire ski area. Kids can start the day at Dollar Mountain and finish the day at Baldy with the same pass,” added Allan.
Easier, Expanded Transportation
With improved bus service, it’s easier than ever to get around Sun Valley without a car. After parents drop their children off at for ski school at Dollar Mountain, a bus comes by every few minutes to take them to Baldy, the cross-country ski center, back to the Village, or into Ketchum.
“We’re making a renewed effort to make transportation easier so that guests don’t have to bother with a car,” explained Jack Sibbach. “In addition to our continuous resort shuttle, we have van service from the Boise airport to Sun Valley three times per day.” He explained that there is a program with Avis where guests can rent a car at the airport and turn it in at the resort without any extra drop-off charge. Avis cars are available to be rented at the resort for sightseeing, or for transportation back to the airport. “You don’t need a car while you are here, so turning it in when you get here means there is one less thing to worry about,” said Jack.
Live at White Clouds
A spectacular, beautiful place like Sun Valley can grab your heart and whisper home. Now, for the first time in 30 years, Sun Valley is offering residential lots for sale in a new residential neighborhood on the resort’s northern edge with the sites carefully nestled into the land surrounding the new nine holes of the Sun Valley Golf Course. Wallace Huffman, managing partner for the resort’s new property arm, summed up the significance of this first offering in 30 years. “Earl Holding is a buyer, not a seller, but he is becoming a seller of preferred property.”
Preferred property carries many associations. The new White Clouds development is specific about the features that set it apart—care in development to protect the views and the land, demanding design criteria and procedures that mandate low water use and promote green design and energy conservation, and a carefully prescribed building envelope and design standards to provide neighbors assurances of what will be built around them initially and in the future. Shorthand is that it all is being done in the “Sun Valley way,” meaning done right and with an eye to the future.
The cliché about real estate is location, location, and location. Five miles of new and improved trails run the perimeter of White Clouds and connect to the 28-mile Sun Valley biking and hiking trail system. Surrounded by open space, the lots are walking distance to the new clubhouse (the hottest lunch spot in town, many say) with indoor driving and putting ranges. When the snow flies, the clubhouse doubles as the cross-country ski lodge and the start of 25 miles of groomed trails. Sun Valley Golf Course offers a total of 27 holes. Eighteen holes are along Trial Creek, and nine comprise the challenging year-old alpine-links course that overlooks the White Clouds’ lots and has been receiving rave reviews from golf journals. Plus there are all the other activities the resort is famous for like ice skating, riding stables, fishing, cultural events, the gun club, and (of course) alpine skiing.
Each lot is distinctively named to evoke Sun Valley’s history and sense of place. The views vary by the lot’s orientation: the Pioneers, Trial Creek Canyon, the Devil’s Bedstead, Sun Valley Village, the ski area, the golf course, Ruud Mountain, Prospect Hill, Bald Mountain, Morgan Ridge, the Club House, and Dollar Peak. Becky Zimmermann, a planner designing the White Cloud development, noted that the development is designed for owners who wish a maintenance-free lifestyle and homes sized for their use.
Summing up the results of Sun Valley declining to develop land while the surrounding property built out, Wally Huffman said of the new property offerings, “The result is now we are left with the best.”
Sun Valley is America’s first destination resort, and it continues to delight and surprise first-time as well as returning visitors with new offerings. There’s always something new under the sun. ~ By Ann Zimmerman