Visit Sun Valley now for last of skiing, plenty other outdoor fun

  • By Roger Phillips Idaho Statesman
  • Friday, March 27, 2015 10:57am
  • LifeSports

KETCHUM, Idaho — Sun Valley is a bit of a trip, but it’s gorgeous in the spring.

Maybe you think it’s not worth the hassle of traveling, but you may want to reconsider, especially if you’re still hankering to do some skiing.

But that’s not the only thing Sun Valley has going, so let’s take a look at some reasons why you should go:

Mount Baldy: Sun Valley has something other Idaho ski areas can’t match: elevation. The lifts on Baldy top out at over 9,000 feet. Elevation helps keep the snow in good shape, and it tends to get better in the afternoon.

You can take the gondola up the mountain and ski between 7,000 and 9,000 feet, and you don’t even have to come down for lunch or snacks. There’s food and beverages at the upper lodges.

The vibe: Spring skiing is about relaxing and having fun. There’s no powder to race for, there’s no lift lines to wait in, and the weather is inviting, not punishing.

People are in a good mood and enjoying the sun and slopes.

On warm days, the parkas come off and it’s T-shirt skiing. Don’t be surprised if you see people skiing in shorts.

The casual vibe extends to the lodges, decks and patios. People are taking their time and savoring the experience. It’s not about just skiing and boarding, it’s about relaxing.

The views: Not that you will ever see a bad view from the top of a ski resort, but you get views of so many peaks surrounding Baldy that it’s like a who’s who of famous Idaho mountains.

Then you look down into the Wood River Valley and the town of Ketchum and Sun Valley resort and know why this area attracts an international clientele; it’s world class.

Dollar Mountain: The terrain park looks like something out of a magazine because, well, it’s been in a bunch of them.

For those skilled and brave, the park offers a chance to show off their best tricks in the Olympic-sized halfpipe, but that’s only the start.

There are jumps and features for all abilities, and outstanding local skiers and boarders make it fun to watch even for those not ready to jump into the park.

Sun Valley added to its long history of Olympic medalists when Kaitlyn Farrington won gold in Sochi, and you might see a future medalist jumping, spinning and flipping in the terrain park.

Dollar Mountain is a great place for kids to get their first turns on the mellow slopes on a warm, sunny day, or make their first forays into the jumps at the progression park, which has beginner-friendly terrain-parks.

The sun: They don’t call it Sun Valley for nothing. Not only is it frequently sunny, the air is so clear it seems to magnify the views.

Standing at 9,000 feet and feeling the sun’s radiant warmth and glistening snow, you almost have to remind yourself you’re standing on a frozen surface. It feels more like an enormous, sugary beach transported to a mountainside.

The deals: Sun Valley isn’t a cheap place to hang out, but it’s more affordable in spring. There are deals on lift tickets and lodging, and also lift ticket and lodging packages.

That’s not the only deal going. Check out the end-of-season sales in the shops. You may find that gear you lusted after early in the season is suddenly at a price that not only can you afford, but one you will feel stupid not buying.

The food: Sun Valley has a well-earned reputation for dining. Go ahead and splurge on a nice meal. When was the last time you did it and regretted it? And don’t feel like you have to go someplace fancy. There’s lots of casual dining that has outstanding food, from burger joints to brew pubs to pizza parlors. They all seem to be a step up from your standard fare.

And it’s not just at the resort. The whole Wood River Valley is full of tasty restaurants. Check out the hot wings at the Powerhouse in Hailey. They will blow your mind.

No mountain-town meal would be complete without a craft beer, and there are a ridiculous number of them available.

Multisports: Sun Valley is a resort town that’s filled with a ridiculous number of outstanding athletes. They’re not just carving the slopes in the spring. Bring your bike and ride the roads and bike paths around Ketchum and Sun Valley.

Mountain bike trails in Hailey open early in the spring. Take a hike from one of the local trailheads.

You can also Nordic ski and snowshoe at nearby Galena Lodge.

You have lots of options to make a multi-sport day or weekend, and if conditions aren’t prime for one activity, odds are fair-to-good they will be for another one.

End of the season party: It’s bittersweet to see the ski season end, but rather than mope, why not throw a party?

Sun Valley throws a big one with live music, games and contests, costumes etc.

Think of it like a pregame tailgate party mixed with Mardis Gras on the slopes.

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