Dollar Mountain and its expansive terrain park offers skiing and snowboarding for people of all ages and abilities.
Photo by Roland Lane
Tips for enjoying the ultimate clan adventure in Sun Valley
Robin Sias, for Sun Valley Guide
Sun Valley is for families, and no matter whether your and your children's tastes tend to the refined or rad, you can captivate the senses and create memories to last a lifetime this winter. Here are some ideas to make the most of your family adventure.
Hit the slopes
Chances are you can't wait to get out into the Sun Valley area's vast white playground. From first turns to first tracks, the mountains in Sun Valley offer something for everyone.
Your headquarters for gravity-induced family fun? Carol's Dollar Mountain Lodge and the standard-setting SnowSports program. From the charming, squeaky-clean facilities, to hot lunches kids actually eat and instructors who are hand-picked and specially trained to teach children, your kids will beg to come back again. All-day group lessons are available for skiers ages 4-12 and snowboarders ages 6–12.
• Don't forget: Discounted lift tickets and rentals can be added to many SnowSports packages.
• Try: Experts recommend booking a lesson at the beginning of your vacation, allowing ample time to practice new techniques and skills and get the most out of your time on the slopes. Call (888) 490-5950 to reserve a lesson or to learn more.
Get some air
Until you are dressed and ready to hop on a lift, don't take your freestylers near Dollar Mountain. Once they see the epic jumps, challenging boxes, bonks, walls, rails and one of only two 22-foot Superpipes in the Northwest, they will want to get on them immediately. And who can blame them? Sun Valley's always-evolving terrain park is a playground for children of all ages.
• Don't miss: Try your skill on entry-level features on Quarter Dollar. You will feel like a Slopestyle star without having to get too far above the terra firma, or, hopefully, the terra powder.
• Remember: Even if park and pipe isn't your thing, you can ski or ride the traditional runs on Dollar while your kids catch some air.
• Try: Enjoy lunch on the deck at Dollar on a sunny day. It provides a great vantage point to take in the kids' derring-do.
Family ski day
If your children are intermediate-level skiers and above, you will most likely find yourself on Bald Mountain, at the entrance to the wildly popular Adventure Trails. These narrow, banking runs slice through trees and glades on every area of the mountain. The best way to approach Adventure Trails if your skis are longer than 130 centimeters is to take a deep breath and go for it. The experts who cut these trails for Sun Valley say there is no shame whatsoever in snow plowing.
• In the know: You can send your kids into the Adventure Trails and still stay within earshot of them on the groomers. Meet up at the bottom of the run.
• Wallet-friendly tip: Feeding the family on a group ski day need not require dipping into the college fund. Try the affordable taco bar at Lookout Restaurant atop Baldy, or in Warm Springs Village, both Irving's Red Hots famous hot dogs and Apple's Bar and Grill are family- and budget-friendly. If you eat in one of the mountain lodges, remember that the portions are generous and many children split a regular-sized entrée—grab an ample slice of pizza, or opt for special children's dishes.
Schussing the day away
Cross-country skiing is a surprisingly family-friendly activity and they don't call Sun Valley Nordic Town USA for nothing! Whether your clan is experienced on skinny skis or not, there is no more beautiful way to take in some spectacular scenery. Miles and miles of groomed trails will literally take you over the river and through the woods.
If your group is new to the sport, one easy way to get started is by taking a lesson in basic techniques. Sun Valley Resort offers instruction in both classic and skate skiing at the Sun Valley Club, located just east of the Sun Valley Lodge. Full equipment rental is also available at this facility, as is a restaurant and pro shop.
Galena Lodge, situated 23 miles north of Ketchum, also offers great instruction, full equipment rentals, a dining room and a real chance to get away from it all without having to go far. Both classic and skate ski rentals are also available at many local retailers, including Backwoods Mountain Sports and The Elephant's Perch in Ketchum.
• Try: Whether you are 5 or 55, jump onto the Rails to Trails system that connects the north and south valley. These 30 kilometers of trails are relatively flat and offer a great deal of scenic beauty very close to town. And the price is right: The Wood River Trail is a community-supported resource and no pass is required.
• In the know: Snowshoeing is a terrific activity for the entire family, as well. Every generation can enjoy the sport that does not require cumbersome, expensive gear or specific clothing. You will almost always find snowshoe trails where there is cross-country skiing.
• Consider: An overnight stay at Galena Lodge in one of their all-weather yurts can be a great family adventure. These large, round tent-like enclosures are heated by a wood-burning stove and appointed with bunks, cooking equipment and everything you and your family need to create a memorable, cozy night in the woods. Access to the yurts is by a short cross-country ski or snowshoe trek.
• Even better: Book a yurt at Galena during a full moon. The lodge offers delicious, intimate full moon dinners throughout the season. They fill up early, so call (208) 726-4010 to secure your spot.
The perfect start to a quieter day is breakfast in Ketchum at The Moose Girls Café or Perry's restaurant. Both offer a unique, comfortable atmosphere, hearty egg dishes, healthy hot cereals, lots of kid favorites and specialties galore. Then wander over to The Toy Store, a unique emporium that has delighted children with hand-selected items for more than 30 years. If the gang is hungry again, head across the street to Despo's, a family favorite offering tasty Mexican fare, or Smoky Mountain Pizzeria.
A dip in a pool might be a great way to spend a day off, too. Many local hotels offer year-round, indoor and outdoor heated pools and the Wood River YMCA in Ketchum has one that will make the kids' eyes pop. The huge waterpark features slides, a lazy river and a splash park. A day pass entitles you to everything else the Y offers, including an epic rock-climbing gym.
Maybe it's the perfect day for a movie. In Ketchum and Sun Valley, the Magic Lantern Cinema, Screening Room and the Sun Valley Opera House offer first-run films and almost always have family-appropriate offerings. In Hailey, the Big Wood 4 Cinemas offer stadium seating and 3-D versions of the most popular movies.
If the kids still have energy to burn, the historic bowling alley and game room at the Sun Valley Lodge offers old-school fun at its finest. Rent shoes, grab a lane, put up the bumpers—or not—and enjoy an afternoon or evening that reminds us that the simple things are often the best.
Not enough? Add to your list a horse-drawn sleigh ride to Trail Creek Cabin, figure skating at the iconic outdoor Sun Valley skating rink, sledding on Penny Hill (at the corner of Sun Valley Road and Dollar Road), tubing on the tubing hill at River Run or snowmobiling at Smiley Creek, over Galena Pass.
With nearly 80 years of providing guests with the ultimate experience on the slopes and off, Sun Valley is a place that is easy to warm up to. After all, it is the original American ski resort.