Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Winter Wonderland Sun Valley, ID February 15-20

Sun Valley Resort and Mount "Baldy"
Well, life has been moving pretty quickly in our household.  We went to Disneyland, then my daughter returned to school, then it rained an awful lot but we still managed to get to Fan Fest, then it was my birthday, then my dad had heart surgery, then it was February/Winter break/Ski week.  A month and a half of the new year had flown by.

When you are in college, you don't get a February break, so we were going to have one less kid to pay for if we wanted to go somewhere.  Another issue that reared its ugly head was that the baseball season had started and it was generally frowned upon to leave town.  We got on this right away, and our answer was that it was better to go earlier than later, so we decided to leave Friday February 15 and be back by the middle of the following week.  We thought this was a great shot at some destination skiing.

We looked at all the usual spots.  Mount Bachelor in Bend is by far the least expensive, but our time was limited so we did not have much interest in spending 9 hours in the car each way.  We also considered Whistler but to keep the air prices down we would haveto fly to Seattle and drive four hours.  Also not so fun after a school day.  Utah offered a lot of options, but the idea of staying in Salt Lake City and the limitations on alcohol in that state were less than appealing.  Sun Valley Idaho required a flight to Boise followed by a two hour drive north.  We could leave after school on Friday and be there by 10:30 pm, so Sun Valley, ID it was.

Staying in Sun Valley-

For a town of only like 3200 people, there sure are an awful lot of places you can stay.  A LOT of people own vacation rentals in the area and there are plenty to chose from.  The last time we were here my husband booked us in some crappy downtown motel and after one morning of a single once in a lifetime attempt at snowboarding which left me feeling like I had been run over by a truck AND beaten with a baseball bat, I insisted that we get out the flea bag roach coach and we moved to the Sun Valley Lodge.  At over $300 per night for a standard room with 2 queen beds, staying there was not practical this time, so we needed to look for a condo.
You can stay in lots of different areas, Elkhorn, River Run, downtown Ketchum, Warm Springs, etc.  They are all within 5 minutes drive of both ski areas and are all serviced by the free shuttle bus service.
We did not know too much about the area so after night after night of pouring over VRBO trying to decide on a place to stay we came upon the crown jewel of Sun Valley accomodations, a 2BR 2 bath Snowcreek condo.
This is the link to the VRBO listing.  but the pictures are not accurate--if this is even the same condo, it has been completely updated.  Regardless, it's the same owner. Ask to be put in his nicer condo.
Snow Creek is a good location anyway.  We walked to the SunValley Lodge in about 12 minutes.  If you want to ski at Dollar Mountain, which caters to less advanced skiers (and is a lot cheaper), all you have to do is carry your skis out the back door and there lies the lodge.  If you want to ski on the much larger Bald Mountain , lovingly referred to locally as "Baldy", you can either wait for the bus or hop in your car and drive 5 minutes.  Parking at the mountain is a piece of cake, so we drove all three days and never used the bus.
But listen, I cannot say enough about this condo.  It was not luxury so the price was reasonable, at what turned out to be about 275$ a night, but dang it had everything you needed!  The kitchen and the bathrooms had been remodeled.  All the appliances are brand new and there is a lovely foam mat which protects your feet from the cold tile.  The floors in the master bath are, wait for it, heated!  OMG!  Such comfort.  There is a washer and a dryer.  The kitchen is well stocked.  Oh, and speaking of stocked--I LOVED that the dry supplies from the last renters were not completely cleaned out.  We were happy to have some necessities, like flour, sugar, coffee, oil, bread crumbs, sandwich bags, aluminum foil, and also some NOT necessities like half a bottle of vodka, brownie mix, oatmeal packets and hot cocoa.  We made use of it all!
Another fabulous benefit of the unit was the HOT TUB.  More on the cold later but dang, the hot tub was absolutely essential or you would never emerge from the skiing induced ice block.  We went to the hot tub, about a 75 yard run in your swim suit and UGG boots in 18 degree weather, every evening.  About 15 feet from the hot tub was a heated changing room, which avoided the need to put on all your clothes in the freezing cold and give yourself a heart attack running back to the condo.
Anyway, we would stay again in a second.


Unlike Mount Bachelor, there is absolutely nothing budget about skiing in Sun Valley. When we got there during the peak President's day weekend, it did appear that a 3 of 5 day pass on Bald Mountain was about 466$.  466!  Even with a multiday pass that is more than 150$ per day.  Remember that at Bend our 3 of 5 day in 2014 worked out to less than 60$ per day!  We did get a significant discount using the website getskitickets.com, through which we purchased our tickets at about $353 for the same 3 of 5 pass, but we had to buy the non-refundable adult tickets for the four of us about 90 days in advance.  Did anyone say trip insurance!  We sure did!
Renting ski equipment also costs a pretty penny.  Renting at Sturtevants of Sun Valley in downtown Ketchum costs a rather steep 140$ for 4 days (we rented an extra day to allow us to get the skis in the middle of the day before).  We chose them because they did offer an online discount once again if we purchased the package 3 months in advance.  The total was 420$ instead of 560$, which brought down the price to like 26.25 a day, instead of 35$.  But then they tried to charge us the balance, and then gave us some line about that we were lucky because we got a 20% discount twice, and then another line about the discount not including the tax.  Whatever!!!  No matter what they were saying, the numbers didn't add up at all.  The guys were nice and the equipment was good but the business practices lame.  It would be our choice to not rent from them again.
Anyway, let's talk about that glorious ski area.  Yes, expensive.  Yes, cold.  But WHAT a glorious mountain and what a swank ski resort.
First lets talk about that mountain!  Baldy is a 3400 ft mountain from top to bottom with 2054 acres of skiable area.  There are 14 lifts, including one 8 person gondola and seven high speed quad chairs.  There is a fair division of green, blue and black runs.  We may have been lucky with regards to the weather, but the entire mountain from top to bottom has good snow, no icy faces, no windy ridges blasting your nuggies off.  A run the length of the mountain (including lift time) can take near 30 minutes.  Even on President's day and the week following, no lift lines-NONE, ZERO.  Three days, no waiting..just skiing.
And the ski resort itself...Yeah, you pay for it, but it has some serious amenities I have never seen anywhere.  All the bathrooms everywhere are spotless--no water on the floor, no mud tracked it.  Each stall is individual and fully enclosed, with room to put all your stuff.  The lodges, even on the top of the mountain, have roaring fireplaces, enormous flat screen TV's, and nice furniture.  There is kleenex and water everywhere.  The lockers are first come, first served and are FREE.  There is no banishing of those who bring their own lunches to outdoor picnic tables.  They are just as welcome as those who bought their food at the cafeteria (we brought our lunch every day).  A waitress comes by occasionally and asks if you need anything from the bar.  The cafeteria has a full salad buffet and lots of variety of sandwiches and entrees (but expensive, we passed).  The resort is connected to the bus line servicing the entire area.  My favorite amenity?  The WAGONS available to haul your stuff to and from your car or to the bus stop (which really isn't that far!).
Pretty much we all confessed--this is our new favorite place to ski!
 On Bald Mountain with Ketchum in the background

 Better stay bundled up!

Snow fo' days

Day of Rest:

Well, we got in really late on Friday night, and we still hadn't picked up our skis, so we decided our "day off" was going to be the first day we were there.
Besides getting our lift tickets, picking up our skis and picking up a few groceries at the charming downtown Atkinson Market, there is plenty to keep you occupied on a day off.  Honestly, you could just go to a base ski lodge and sit by the fire and drink beer and listen to music all day, but we decided to walk on over to Sun Valley Lodge and Village, about a 12 minute walk from our condo.
The Sun Valley Lodge is a large and comfortable hotel, with a restaurant and a bar in the lobby. The lobby overlooks a large outdoor ice rink.  Craig and I skated here 20 years ago.  Today in 2019, it was nearly 80$ for the four of us to skate--that's expensive.  The customer service was pretty paltry and the rink music was terrible, but heck, when do you to skate when it's actually snowing and 25 degrees?  It was fun and good exercise, so we skated the better part of two hours.
Sun Valley Village is home to cute shops and restaurants.  Ski wear, mountain resort wear, furniture, candy, jewelry--you can find it all down there.  Lots of parking available--handy when we chose to eat dinner here a few nights later.  We wandered into the little cafe Konditorei, which was packed at the lunch hour, to oooo and aaaah over the delicious looking pastries.
Slowly we made our way back to the condo and headed for that hot tub while making use of that leftover vodka!

 Outside iconic Sun Valley Lodge

Ice Skating at the Lodge

The mouth watering pastries at Konditorei!


OK.  For everything that was absolutely wonderful about this place, these were the lowest temperatures I ever endured in my entire life.  The lowest temperature we saw while there was minus 2 (Fahrenheit everyone) and that was at 845 in the morning putting boots on at the car in the morning in the parking lot of the ski area.  By 10 in the morning on the ski slopes it was 3 degrees. 3.  I was wearing 8 layers--a sports bra, a camisole, thermal underwear, a T shirt, a cotton turtleneck, a fleece half zip top and a fully lined ski jacket, double gloved and double socked up to the knee.  It was absolutely necessary to cover every portion of your face with scarf and goggles, or die, and FORGET taking a glove off to text or some other ridiculousness.  One thing I do have to say is that there was no wind and it did not seem to be horribly colder at the top of the mountain, what a relief.  Really, and I never thought I would do this-we went in once or twice just to literally thaw out--but of course I said it was to go to the bathroom.
In contrast to the outdoors, a lot of the indoor areas are overheated-making me and my eight layers almost sick.
The nightly run to and from the hot tub in about 16 degrees was interesting, but necessary, and walking to dinner in jeans and a sweater and no helmet or ski socks when it was approaching 10 degrees was also interesting.
Summary, it was CRAZY cold.  Watch the weather forecast and do not come here unprepared!  California it ain't!

Okay, well let's look at some pictures!!

 We had to poke Nicky to make sure he was breathing.
That sofa sure is nice!

Uh, yeah...that's cold

Snowy downtown Ketchum in the morning..

Thank you for reading this post!  Next trip is a college tour in April!

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