Guide to Sun Valley’s Most Challenging Runs

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Sun Valley Resort, located within Idaho’s Wood River Valley, is a literal gauntlet of ski runs to suit all abilities. Photo courtesy Sun Valley Resort

A classic among ski destinations worldwide, Sun Valley Resort, located within the folds of Idaho’s historic Wood River Valley, brings to life the delights of sliding downhill. The fun-loving location is an outdoor recreation epicenter in the United States and has been for over 80 years.

Bottomline – Sun Valley Resort has had ample time to groom (pun intended) the crown jewel of its recreation retinue: skiing.   

Almost a century’s worth of terrain options swoop across the historic slopes of Bald and Dollar Mountains, and this guide has the goods on all of its most thrilling angles.

Read, ski, and repeat…

Runs, Upper and Lower Warm Springs connect to create a single steep, steady, leg-burner lap. Photo courtesy Sun Valley Resort

Upper-to-Lower Warm Springs

Descending the full length of Warm Springs, Bald Mountain’s famous back face, is a run of the same namesake that has proven to be a mainstay of Sun Valley Resort ski culture. But make no mistake, while Upper to Lower Warm Springs is certainly no secret, neither is it for the faint of heart.

Well-known as a bountiful harvesting grounds for stacking up vertical, north-facing Warm Springs measures a leg burning 3,300 vertical feet—that’s 2 miles on a steep, steady pitch that many list among the best ski runs in the United States.

“There isn’t another run like Warm Springs anywhere in the world,” says U.S. Ski Team member and X-Games gold medalist Zach Crist. “Wide open, consistently pitched, and immaculately groomed, Warm Springs offers the kind of uninterrupted speed usually only found on World Cup race courses.”

In fact, in 1940, the Warm Springs ski run was host site to North America’s first international ski race, Harriman Cup.

These days the trail begins as a blue run atop Bald Mountain’s high-speed quad chairlift, Challenger. There via its still wide and consistent pitch, Warm Springs offers swooping momentum that carries skiers past turnouts, Pete’s Lane, Kenny’s, and neighboring chairlift, Greyhawk.

Along with that well-groomed but sparsely populated course, Warm Springs has melded from the moderate difficulty of a blue square to the pleasurable cruise of a green circle, yet it is also at this stage that fatigue begins to play a part.

Even the most seasoned skiers have been known to need a quick breather while descending Warm Springs. It’s a ski run long enough to elicit the wonder, “Man, is this trail EVER going to end?”

An aerial challenge; Wyatt Caldwell demonstrates Terrain Parks at Dollar Mountain to be a ski runs of an elevated nature. Photo courtesy Sun Valley Resort

Terrain that Teaches

Sun Valley Resort’s Dollar Mountain or just ‘Dollar’ for short, plays the role of famous smaller brother to now more developed-and populated-Bald Mountain. At a mere 628 vertical feet, its features are further enhanced by educationally-based, constantly evolving terrain options.

State-of-the-art snowmaking, expert grooming, a groundbreaking Snowsports School, and cutting edge park crew meld at Sun Valley to create zones as progressive as they are diverse. Beginner zone, Prospector offers the never-ever a dreamscape for getting started. Its two parallel spines instruct, via natural body movement, the application of outside edge ski technique that builds skiing skills rapidly. Nearby, Mine Shaft gradually ups the amplitude. Here the mini-shred encounters a cleverly condensed, slalom-esque course offering increase definition alongside increased size.

“Our progressions help our guests develop skiing and riding skills at a faster pace,” said Children’s Program Manager at Dollar Mountain, Krista Clayton. “This year we’ve really looked at terrain and how, with snow, we can make it more inviting for our guests as well as our families.”

In addition, Sun Valley Terrain Park Crew also consider the aerial minded. Trestles transition park deals out what Park Manager Nate Sheehan describes as, a non-linear approach to freestyle–more skate influenced than traditional park construction.

A mechanical armada makes terrain building possible. Sheehan directs the movements of three snowcats and a mini-excavator in the creation of Sun Valley’s freestyle zones.

“It’s about offering different lines to ski and opportunity to be creative,” Clayton added. That pretty well sums up Sun Valley Resort’s ‘Terrain that Teaches.’

Inside the trees outside the piste at Sun Valley Resort. Photo courtesy Sun Valley Resort

Tower Runs

At Sun Valley Resort the snow-slider is understood to be spoiled for choice by its spectacular quiver of terrain or feature options, but that shouldn’t imply there’s no proverbial ace-up-the-sleeve.

The ski world knows that the goods aren’t always marked upon trail maps. And while “stash spots” are usually hush-hush–they might actually be right before the eye.

When POW strikes (or even days after) that eagerly sought white gold waits on Sun Valley slopes as gorgeous veins that follow the towers of the chairlifts themselves, hiding in plain sight.

Seattle Ridge, for example, is a geographical extensión of Bald Mountain that offers a delightful topographical panoply fit for the whole family. And its high-speed quad chairlift passes above an awesome, quick-hit POW cache.

Duck the trees along Gretchen’s Gold or Muffy’s Medals to enter an often deep, bump-n-run ribbon, enhanced by small undergrowth and a captive audience. The adventurous here find they’ve been delivered to the very stoop of Seattle Ridge drive station where a quick ride is hitched so a repeat run may be enjoyed. And that’s only one lift, on a mountain that spins twelve.

Encompassing thousands of diverse acres, Dollar and Bald Mountains are a pick-your-pleasure of ski options. Photo courtesy sun Valley Resort

Fire Trail

The shoulder runs can be easy to miss, especially on days when the weather is either so white-out (or so epic) that the eye is naturally fixated on the few feet directly ahead.

Fire Trail ski run semi-hides at the far margin of Bald Mountain’s Seattle Ridge.

The plug-in here requires a snappy dip from the skier’s right border atop run, Gretchen’s Gold. The reward is the almost instantaneous embrace by tall, strong trunks and bending boughs that hide some seriously challenging tree skiing.

Under boot root systems provide the framework for starkly contrasted mogul formations here. The ground loops and swoops through a forest full of deep powder pockets. Two tips: mind the snowy risers as there’s likely a stump, root, or stone lurking to turn the day on its ear. And hammer down through the new growth. Those young shoots will only be too happy to make way for you!

The daily commute across Bald Mountain with Seattle Ridge pictured in the rear. Photo courtesy Sun Valley Resort

Easter Bowl

Out the back doors of Bald Mountain’s summit eatery, Lookout Day Lodge unfolds a panorama not soon forgotten. And part ‘n parcel to that wonderful scene is a series of vertical streaking bowl runs that spring instantly into the mind of any local when snow is inbound.

Ski run Easter Bowl roosts among this ripe terrain to whet the appetite of the eager powder chaser.

Here, there are varied options for access. Lookout chairlift cranks an atypically horizontal course to span the bowl-laden slope below and from its off-load station many runs await, including Easter. In fact, on the REALLY great days, there might be a queue so get there early.

Drop-in is steep, arcing, and wide open—ideal for gaining speed. Ahead wait for groves of trees coloring the flanks and tops of ridges rising gently to both skier’s Left and Right.

In and amongst these trees, the options are nearly endless and one is hard-pressed to NOT find untracked snow. Also handy to note are the bountiful groves of mogul growing at treeline, so prep the knees.

“The bowls are tough,” said Sawtooth Brewery co-owner and Wood River local Kevin Dawson Jones. “But you can usually find good stashes which make the bottom leg burning worth it.”

The Broadway ski run waits at the exit of that bump bonanza and by this stage that groomer-smooth trail looks like a welcoming mat. From there it is a relaxing carved pathway to either Mayday or Seattle Ridge chairlifts for a repeat performance.

The Mountains of Sun Valley Resort stock the goods to suit all skill levels. Photo courtesy Sun Valley Resort

…best of all is the knowledge that the list above is but a few of from among the many thrilling ski runs descending Sun Valley Resort’s Bald and Dollar Mountains. Here there is a place for all abilities, disciplines, and walks of life.

The historic destination strives to provide many options for guests to suit any taste and insomuch there are choices aplenty to be explored at classic Sun Valley Resort.

Seek and enjoy!

Challenge completed; a toast to another thrilling day of skiing at Sun Valley Resort. Photo courtesy Sun Valley Resort

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