History

Archaeological evidence indicates that as far back as 10,000 years ago, the Wood River Valley was home for Native American people. Not until the 1870’s, when gold was discovered in the West, did the European settlers and prospectors begin to populate the valley in search of fortune.

By the early 1880’s, Ketchum was not only a booming mining town, but it also was famous for its healing hot springs. The Guyer Hot Springs Resort, located on Warm Springs Road, was popular with people from around the country for its mineral waters, croquet, tennis, and fun. By the end of 1884, Ketchum boasted 13 saloons, four restaurants, two hotels and all types of businesses necessary for a thriving town.

When Count Felix Schaffgosch arrived in the valley on January 16, 1936, the once prosperous mining town of Ketchum had transformed into a sleepy little town with a year round population of only 100 people. The mining boom had come to an end and Ketchum’s population had moved on, leaving only a few behind. The Count had been hired by Union Pacific Chairman Averell Harriman to scout the West for the finest spot on which to build a destination ski resort. Within three days of arriving in Ketchum, the Count wired Harriman: "Among the many attractive spots I have visited, this combines the more delightful features of any place I have seen in the United States, Switzerland, or Austria for a winter ski resort." In less than a year, the luxurious Sun Valley Resort was completed and the doors were open to international publicity. The Sun Valley /Ketchum area was on the map.

With the grand opening of Sun Valley, "America’s First Destination Ski Resort," celebrities flocked to the area to see America’s new grand dame of ski resorts. Ernest Hemingway fell in love with Sun Valley and eventually made it his home; he finished For Whom the Bell Tolls in Suite 206 of the Sun Valley Lodge. Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman... they all came to play at the glamorous, new winter wonderland.

Evidence of Sun Valley’s star-studded history can be viewed at the Sun Valley Lodge; black and white photos of smiling stars with a Sun Valley backdrop line the walls. Other history of the valley can be seen at one of their three museums and at local libraries.

Location and Climate

In central Idaho, the Wood River Valley is located in Blaine County, at the edge of the Sawtooth and Challis National Forests; the majestic Sawtooth Wilderness is located immediately to the north. Almost surrounded by U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands, the valley’s heart is the Big Wood River. Between the sagebrush and lava drylands to the south and the forested mountain ranges to the north, the valley has a mountain desert climate. With an average humidity of only 30%, and 15 inches of precipitation per year, the northern latitude creates long days, with 15 hours of sunshine in the summer. Dry sunny summers and mild sunny winters gave the resort community its well-deserved name. Average summer temperature is 78 degrees and average winter temperature is 23 degrees, with an annual snowfall of 150 inches.

The cities of Sun Valley and Ketchum are at an altitude of 5,750 feet, dwarfed by the ski mountain, Baldy, at 9,150 feet. The river valley slopes down to the cities of Hailey and Bellevue at 5,300 feet. Four large lakes in the Stanley Basin to the north and two large reservoirs to the south offer recreational opportunities. Hundreds of streams and alpine lakes can be found in the mountains and valleys surrounding the towns.

Lodging

Sun Valley's lodging choices are diverse and appealing. You can be assured that wherever you stay, you will be made to feel at home.

During the summer months, overnight camping is available in sites near Sun Valley, Ketchum and Stanley. Or for unique lodging opportunities, a number of lodges and ranches are available in the towns adjacent to the Sun Valley/Ketchum area.

Dining

With more than 80 restaurants, dining in Sun Valley brings together tastes from all over the world. Whether you are looking for an elegant meal or a quick bite, Sun Valley restaurants cater to your needs.

Shopping

Sun Valley's stores offer a wide selection of merchandise ranging from the perfect piece of art to a fleece vest. The ideal gift or souvenir awaits.

Travel Services

Visitors have the choice of flying directly into the Sun Valley area on:

7-8 daily SkyWest Airlines (the Delta Connection) flights via Salt Lake City, UT
2-3 daily Horizon Air (the Alaska Connection) flights via Seattle, WA.
1 daily Horizon Air (the Alaska connection) flight via Boise, ID

They can also take any one of 60 daily flights into Boise, ID, their major airline gateway, 2.5 hours west of Sun Valley. Visitors can either fly from Boise to Sun Valley via Horizon Air or catch a ride on a shuttle that will take them directly to their Sun Valley/Ketchum area property. Delta Airlines, Horizon Air, Northwest Airlines, SkyWest Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines all service the Boise airport. Contact any of the local expert travel agents listed below for assistance in booking your trip to Sun Valley.

Summer Recreation

The Sun Valley area boasts nearly one million acres of surrounding wilderness and just about as many summer activities. Guests are invited to enjoy the many natural wonders -- flyfishing in beautiful Silver Creek, hiking through teeming fields of wildflowers on Bald Mountain, or riding the rapids of the Salmon River. Thirty paved miles of bike trails, award-winning golf courses, a skateboard park and chairlift rides add a multitude of man-made marvels to Sun Valley's stunning backdrop. For winter recreation options click here.

Forest Service User Fee
The Ketchum Ranger District and Sawtooth National Recreation Area are participating in a national demonstration test of recreation user fees. This program requires a vehicle Trailhead Parking Pass for parking at 38 specific trailheads. The Trailhead Parking Pass is available as a 12-month vehicle pass and as a 3-day pass. The passes are transferable from vehicle to vehicle. This is part of a national program approved by Congress to help fund maintenance and support of these areas and to keep them open.

Passes may be purchased from Forest Service offices, private businesses, the Chamber of Commerce and by mail.

Winter Recreation

Not every Sun Valley winter activity requires a lift ticket. The surrounding area supplies visitors with an endless variety of spectacular scenery and sporting diversions. Spend a day mushing a pack of huskies, turn a few circles at the famed Sun Valley ice rink, cuddle up in a cozy yurt or hop a horse-drawn sleigh for a hearty dinner at the legendary Trail Creek Cabin. With so much to occupy your time, a return trip to Sun Valley will definitely be in order. For summer recreation options click here.

Forest Service User Fee
The Ketchum Ranger District and Sawtooth National Recreation Area are participating in a national demonstration test of recreation user fees. This program requires a vehicle Trailhead Parking Pass for parking at 38 specific trailheads. The Trailhead Parking Pass is available as a 12-month vehicle pass and as a 3-day pass. The passes are transferable from vehicle to vehicle. This is part of a national program approved by Congress to help fund maintenance and support of these areas and to keep them open.

Ski Mountains

The majestic peaks of the Central Idaho Rockies captured the imagination of America's skiing public in the '30s. And these spectacular vistas and seemingly endless runs have kept skiers and snowboarders talking ever since. In fact, the readers of Ski Magazine, Ski, Condé Nast Traveler, and Gourmet magazines all recently voted Sun Valley the #1 ski resort in the country. Skiers can also cut loose on their own in the backcountry powder, or experience a guided tour via snow cat or helicopter.

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