revisit sun valley
In the shadow of Bald Mountain, history colors the landscape.
Whether you are a first-time visitor or a longtime local, delving into the rich history of the Wood River Valley can reveal secrets of the past that still color the present.
In the late 1800s, fortune seekers came from points near and far to work in the booming mining industry. Ore was extracted from the surrounding hillsides and carried by mule trains to smelters in the valley.
The mining boom eventually subsided, but in the 1930s a new chapter in the valley's history unfolded. The vast Brass Ranch to the east of Ketchum was converted into the nation's first destination ski resort. When it opened in 1936, the Sun Valley Lodge was a state-of-the-art, full-service mountain resort.
Immediately, the quaint hamlet at the end of the Union Pacific Railroad line attracted numerous celebrities, including actors Gary Cooper and Clark Gable. Resort brass even brought in acclaimed writer Ernest Hemingway as a guest to maintain its high profile. Hemingway fell in love with the place and continued to visit to write, hunt and spend time with friends in Ketchum restaurants and saloons.
From the beginning, Sun Valley Resort installed top-notch facilities for its guests. Trail Creek Cabin northeast of the Sun Valley Lodge became a favorite hangout for the Hollywood elite. The Roundhouse on Bald Mountain became a luxurious refuge for skiers seeking food and warmth.
The sites that give one a feel for the true history of the Sun Valley area are many, but one need only visit a few of them to discover what the early days were like. Here's a list of sites where that history is revealed:
- The Roundhouse—The original luxury mountain lodge on Baldy that still serves mountain visitors today.
- Ketchum-Sun Valley Ski & Heritage Museum—The place to learn about the early days of skiing and ski life.
- Ruud Mountain chairlift—A short hike gives access to the third chairlift developed by the resort, installed in 1938.
- Ernest Hemingway Memorial—Along Trail Creek Road northeast of the Sun Valley Lodge, find a peaceful resting place that honors the great author.
- Trail Creek Cabin—Just past the Hemingway Memorial is a favorite dining spot that evokes the past.
Ketchum-Sun Valley Visitor Center—This renovated bank building is the hub for information on tours and activities.
- Ketchum Ranger Station—This U.S. Forest Service facility can offer information on backcountry recreation and camping.
- Ore Wagon Museum—Next to Ketchum City Hall is this small museum that houses a unique collection of well-preserved ore wagons.
- The Community Library—The library's Regional History Department offers an abundance of resources to learn about the valley.
- Sun Valley Lodge—Photo displays on the walls of the first destination ski lodge give glimpses into its colorful history.