It’s hard to believe that Sun Valley Resort (sunvalley.com) is in the midst of its 80th ski season.
While all that fresh powder hasn’t changed over the years, technology has come a long way since Union Pacific Railroad’s Averell Harriman debuted the European-inspired resort on Dec. 21, 1936.
Besides being the first destination ski resort in the U.S., Sun Valley also had the first chairlifts in the world. James Curran, an engineer for Union Pacific, came up with the design for three chairlifts after reimagining banana-conveyor belt systems that were used to load fruit onto cargo ships.
Today, the resort boasts 2,154 acres of skiable terrain accessed by 18 lifts — including a gondola, nine quads, three triples, two doubles and three surface lifts — that take skiers and snowboarders to different access points high atop Bald and Dollar mountains.
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After carving through fresh powder all day, the resort offers a plethora of fun stuff to do. Check out the eye-popping holiday lights display at Sun Valley Village, where you can peruse a dozen or so shops ornately bedecked with vintage Christmas decorations. Catch a current-run movie (or the classic flick “Sun Valley Serenade”) at the Opera House, which recently received a new digital projection system and other modern upgrades.
Spend the night at the newly renovated Sun Valley Lodge and continue to spoil yourself in the nearby 20,000-square-foot spa and wellness center.
Enjoy an après ski dinner in the Village at Bald Mountain Pizza and Pasta or at The Ram, an upscale steakhouse concept with European touches.
The Village also is home to the Short Line Deli and Konditorei Bakery and Café, where you can score a steaming cup of cocoa, yule log cakes and other sweet treats.
At the lodge, Gretchen’s dishes up breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, and the Duchin Lounge is a great spot to warm up with a hot buttered rum.
Take a sleigh ride to Trail Creek Cabin, a rustic restaurant about a mile and a half east of the resort, for the Northwest-inspired cuisine and incredible views of Baldy.
Sun Valley Resort recently joined the Mountain Collective, which offers killer deals ($409 adults, $99 children 12 and under) for skiers and snowboarders to enjoy 22 days of fun at 11 of the best ski resorts in the West.
Once you’ve purchased the pass (go to mountaincollective.com), it’s time to hit the road for two nights of skiing at each resort. Besides Sun Valley, the list includes Snowbird, Jackson Hole, Taos and Whistler-Blackcomb in British Columbia, to name a few.
Carnival time in McCall
You might want to make hotel reservations soon if you plan on whooping it up at the upcoming McCall Winter Carnival on Jan. 29-Feb. 7.
This year’s theme is “Beyond Tomorrow,” which pays homage to movies such as “Back to the Future” and “Tomorrowland.” Don’t be surprised to see different incarnations of Doc Brown and Marty McFly pop up at the Mardi Gras parade and other icier versions at the snow sculpture display that takes place all over town.
For lodging information and to see an event schedule, visit mccallchamber.org/winter-carnival.
Soldier Mountain changes
It didn’t take long for Soldier Mountain Ski Area near Fairfield to sell, especially with an asking price of $149,000.
In early November, Matt and Diane McFerran, from Bend, Ore., purchased the resort, which includes the lodge, miscellaneous equipment and 36 ski runs (accessed by three lifts). The couple doesn’t own the land itself, but instead operates the area under a special permit agreement with the U.S. Forest Service.
If all goes well, Soldier Mountain Ski Area should be open for skiing and snowboarding any day now.
For updates, go to www.soldiermountain.com.
Pomerelle’s new lift
Pomerelle Mountain Resort, in south-central Idaho near Albion, added an E-Z Rider triple chair system this season, replacing the 40-year-old double chairlift that once serviced the mountain.
Pomerelle, which boasts 24 groomed runs with spectacular views, opened for skiing and snowboarding on Thanksgiving weekend.
For snow reports and ticket information, go to www.pomerelle.com.
Adventures closer to home
▪ Check out The Orchard House’s annual Christmas at Sunnyslope event slated to happen on the two Wednesdays before Christmas (Dec. 16 and Dec. 23) from 5 to 9 p.m. The family-friendly event features a visit from Santa, an impressive holiday lights display, a candy shop, a big bonfire and Clyde the Camel.
The Orchard House, at 14949 Sunnyslope Road, Caldwell, is in the heart of Idaho’s wine country. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/theorchardhouse.
▪ Thunder Mountain Line in Horseshoe Bend once again has a full schedule of holiday trains planned through Dec. 30. Take a ride on the Santa Express or book a dinner train ride. For tickets and schedules, go to www.thundermountainline.com.
James Patrick Kelly, restaurant critic at the Idaho Statesman, is the author of the travel guidebooks “Moon Idaho” and “Spotlight Boise.” He also teaches journalism at Boise State University.