With more fun events, improved facilities, lodging/ski packages, and the same beautiful destination where people have been returning year after year through its 77 seasons, it’s time to tune those skis for an exciting winter. By Ann Zimmerman

Once people experience Sun Valley, they return. It’s been that way since it became North America’s first winter destination resort. But, it is not a resort that rests on its laurels, as each year the owners seek to make its name more synonymous with quality. This winter, expect more activities, a different twist on dining, changes on the mountains aimed at the younger enthusiasts, an expansion of the popular lift exchange, and even some package deals.

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Winter Wonderland Festival

The span between Thanksgiving and New Years may be called the holidays, but Sun Valley’s first Winter Wonderland Festival is determined to make them feel special like holidays. Starting with Thanksgiving, festive activities are aimed at filling these days with the magic that makes for lasting memories. It’s the first year for what will likely become treasured traditions, especially in the setting of Sun Valley with its thousands of twinkling holiday lights, decorated trees, and famous snow.

The Festival begins November 23rd, and Saturday, December 1, is the date of the Winter Wonderland Gala, when the gingerbread village unveils in the Boiler Room. There are plenty of activities that day for children: a scavenger hunt tied to the Holiday Window Stroll, wagon rides, and a visit by the old gentleman in red, Santa.

The Holiday Window Stroll is an activity that is expected to engage multiple generations in an exploration of holiday celebrations from cultures around the world through three-dimensional window displays prepared by renowned artists. Jack Sibbach of the resort explains, “The stroll includes a passport, and it leads to 13 international art displays set around the resort. Participants get their passports stamped in the retail stores representing each display, and when the passport gathers all thirteen stamps, the reward is a holiday confection. It is free and open to the public.”

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During the three weekends following the Gala, Santa will return to the resort for breakfast in the Lodge Dining Room and avail his lap to children who wish to whisper their hopes for Christmas. On December 8th, there will be a holiday concert featuring the Boise Philharmonic Brass Quintet, and December 15th marks the Sun Valley Annual Tree-Lighting Celebration. Music continues on December 18th when costumed carolers serenade, and the resort hosts the Fifth Annual Holiday Classical Christmas Concert on December 21st. The following day the resort sponsors a gingerbread-decorating event for children. December 24th has long been a favorite tradition at the resort, and this year it presents “Nutcracker on Ice” at the rink, the traditional skiing torchlight parade, and hot chocolate and fireworks.

There will be special activities in the Village shops. On December 8th, the Brass Ranch Shop will host an open house in celebration of Bogner ski apparel’s 80th year. “Additionally, several of the shops will offer ‘Share the Spirit’ opportunities to give back to schools and non-profits,” says Jack, and he adds, “The resort will be offering a special lodging rate through December 20th for those who wish to schedule a stay during the festivities.”

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dollar and baldy have more to offer

Every year the terrain park at Dollar Mountain expands, and this year the Super Pipe has been extended to 22 feet, the Olympic standard. It takes its place in the progression parks where skiers and boarders can move up to new challenges. The family cross course on Dollar proved to be very popular last year, and it has been lengthened. The competition cross course, also at Dollar, is expected to host a number of events that will delight spectators.

Last year marked the initiation of six adventure trails on Baldy. Following on their popularity, the resort has created two more this year, and each has its own flavor and challenges.

Another innovative program is launching this year: “So You Want to be a Ski Patroller?” In two sessions, skiers and boarders learn safety and experience the duties of a ski patroller. They learn the challenges of opening up the mountain at the beginning of the day and sweeping the mountain at the end. Each week, two participants will be selected by a drawing to join the pros for real-life patrolling.

Changes in the Kitchens

Something is cooking at the resort—Sun Valley has hired John Murcko, Utah “Chef of the Year,” to head food and beverage. “He had quite a following in Park City and Salt Lake, and we expect great things,” remarks Jack. “We will also be reopening the Lodge Dining Room for dinner seven nights a week. The mountain lodges’ menus will be more themed and specific to the lodge, and we will continue dinner two nights a week at the Roundhouse with access from the Gondola. The Konditorei in the Village will return to a bakery atmosphere and serve breakfast, lunch, light dinners, and offer crepes, as it did years ago.”

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Chef John Murcko holds some impressive credentials. He graduated from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, and in 2012 was a semi-finalist for a James Beard award. Murcko’s specialty is mountain contemporary cuisine using fresh, seasonal ingredients from local farms. Those following his work note his unusual food pairings and artistic presentations.

NEW HEIGHTS

This is a particularly good year to check out all that is new at the resort. “We are continuing our lift exchange program. It expands the resort experience and opens options for enjoying a massage at the spa or shopping in place of one of the days skiing. We also have some excellent lodging deals that include a free ski pass,” mentions Jack.

A stay at Sun Valley is always pleasure, but this winter boosts the fun to new heights. Research demonstrates that once someone selects Sun Valley for a resort vacation, they are extremely likely to return. This year, there is more to do and many more events, as well as the return of favorite traditions. Gingerbread, carolers, characters from the Nutcracker Ballet spinning on skates, and now the Winter Gala are certain to instill an excitement for the season. On the mountain, the same wonderful skiing continues to get better with more activities to engage families and challenge young skiers. There are lodging packages and discounts for those who want to experience it for the first time, or those eager to return. Explore the changes at the resort: it is more beautiful than ever with newly planted trees and oodles of upgrades, and changes in the kitchen. So why not celebrate winter in the glorious snow of Sun Valley?