Want to judge a resort? Look at its residents. Sun Valley attracts real skiers. They work hard. Ski just about every (decent) day. Raise ripping kids. And then ski some more. They don’t view it as a big deal because that’s the natural rhythm of skiing’s Shangri-La: lots and lots of turns and very little attitude, which is surprising considering the celebrity lure of this place. Two undeniable draws remain the quiet confidence about its rich legacy and its classic long, elegant fall lines. The we’re-cooler-than-you-are local vibe that can intimidate visitors at some of the big-name skier’s mountains (you know who you are) isn’t part of the culture here. Running a tight operation is, witness the No. 1 in Lifts and No. 2 in Grooming rankings, supported by “real mountain lodges that are a beautiful common ground for all skiers and boarders,” a reader applauds. Roll in the so-called soft category rankings of Character (No. 2), Service (No. 2), Lodging (No. 3), and Après and Dining (No. 4), and you’ve arrived at, well, an alpine Shangri-La. Sure, there’s a reason the resort was named Sun Valley rather than Powder Valley… but not last year, which boasted the 2nd highest snowpack in about a decade. Combine the snow with what many readers tout as “the best natural slopes in North America,” and you’ve got yourself a real vacation—or a home away from home. Plugging into the SV gestalt tends to be a soul-warming experience—whether you’re looking for it or not— and makes some readers downright poetic. “Residents are grateful to live in a time out of place, off the fast track, and we find a high frequency of open hearts.”
WHAT’S NEW Upgrades and renovations of the classic Ram Restaurant and adjacent Ram Bar. And with the applauded $50 million Sun Valley Lodge relaunch behind ’em, a recasting of the Sun Valley Inn is underway. BRAGGING RIGHTS Think you’re tough? Prove it. Straightline the bumps of Inhibition to measure your old-school mettle.
SLEEP TIGHT The Limelight in Ketchum opened last season and is every bit as lively as the Aspen original. The Lounge is the beating heart of the place.