1. Where to Stay
Recent concessions to modernity at the venerable Sun Valley Lodge (from $209; $179 at the Inn) include flat-screen TVs in even the coziest British Colonial–inspired rooms. Built in 1936 for Americans who wanted to ski like the Swiss, the resort is now a total Alps experience for the whole family, with winter sleigh rides and summer ice shows.
Satisfy your inner Von Trapp at the floral-motif-obsessed Knob Hill Inn (from $250) in the main town of Ketchum. The location and staff attentiveness, not the European-style amenities (read closet-size “fitness room” and kitschy breakfast nook), justify the Relais & Chateaux rating.
To live more like a local, there’s the Featherbed Inn (rooms from $95), a homey bed-and-breakfast where individual porch decks and patios overlook towering pines on one side and the neighbors’ RVs on the other.
The rooms are small but comfortable and the homemade brownies impeccable at the family-run Inn at Ellsworth Estate (from $85), a 1915 craftsman-style mansion near the airport.
The budget option is Ketchum’s Lift Tower Lodge (from $85; 703 Main St. S.; 208-726-5163), located a few yards from the bike and ski trails where you’ll be spending most of your time.
2. Where to Eat
A carb-loaded breakfast is essential in Sun Valley, so start off early at Cristina’s (520 Second St. E.; 208-726-4499) with a chorizo-and-cheddar omelette or berry-drenched French toast. Not that hungry? Have a muffin and the steaming chocolate-and-coffee “Bowl of Soul” at Java on Fourth (191 Fourth St. W.; 208-726-2882).
The Pioneer Saloon, grilling thick-as-your-wrist steaks since 1950, is the Peter Luger of Ketchum, but with mounted bison heads on the walls.
Rickshaw (460 N. Washington Ave.; 208-726-8481) brings Asian fusion to the bucolic Mountain West with such cosmopolitan inventions as sake mojitos and seaweed-and-ahi salads.
The most innovative local cooking lies seven miles out of town at CK’s (320 S. Main St., Hailey, Idaho; 208-788-1223), where a slow-food ethos means free-range local lamb and homemade sorbet.
3. What to Do
Rent a bike from Elephant’s Perch (from $15), the outdoor outfitter in Ketchum. The staff will direct you to climb to the summit or stick to the flats on the Adams Gulch trails. They can also provide maps for the premier day hike to Pioneer Cabin, where rising elevation takes you past multiple vegetation zones and the occasional sheepherder.
Wade into the Big Wood River and find your fly-fishing rhythm after getting a day license and rod at Lost River Outfitters ($275 to $390 for guided day; $12.50 for license and map).
4. Insider’s Tip
Skip the raucous Ketchum bar scene on weekends and head 25 miles north for a quiet night at the Galena Lodge, where locals like to arrive by bike on Sunday mornings in the summer, refuel with a pancake brunch, then head home. In winter months, rent snowshoes at the lodge and make a brief trek to your own private yurt ($100), heated by a wood stove.
5. An Oddball Day
Because you won’t have really experienced Idaho without participating in at least one bizarre or grueling physical challenge, enter one of the area’s regular weekend cross-country ski races (forms available at the Elephant’s Perch). Afterward, soak your aching bones at the Frenchman’s Bend Hot Springs, a short drive down Warm Springs Road, ten miles out of town. Check with the local Forest Service office (208-622-5371) about avalanche danger before dipping in.
6. Related Links
Visitsunvalley.com is the most comprehensive online guide to area lodging and dining.
Scan the Wood River Journal for an authoritative scoop on local zoning battles and recent ski accidents to better converse with your liftmates.