THE FIRST MODERN SKIER TO SPEND three perfect days in Sun Valley, Idaho, was Austrian Count Felix Schaffgotsch. In 1936, diplomatically destined Averell Harriman, the president of Union Pacific Railroad, commissioned Schaffgotsch to search for what could become the American West’s version of the popular Swiss winter sports center St. Moritz. Schaffgotsch hoped to discover a meteorological Rubik’s Cube: a perfect mix of freezing but not frigid temperatures and deep but not impassable or unskiable snow. He was looking for a place where indigo skies framed each day and powerful storms ruled the night. And he wanted it all surrounded by towering mountains. Last, this perfectly powdery place should have an authentic Western town.
Author Andrew Slough Photography Sally Gall
DAY TWO / Did your first day’s activity earn you sore muscles and a stiffened gait? Console yourself with eggs benedict or frittatas at Cristina’s Restaurant.
In the late 19th century, Wood River Valley miners used free-heel skis to travel across the snow from town to deep canyon mines and back. This morning, after you’ve made a 20-mile drive north on State Highway 75, you’ll follow in their tracks at Galena Lodge Nordic & Snowshoe Center. If it’s your first tour on cross-country skis, this is a great place to take a lesson. Ski the Boulder Mountain Trail southward along the Wood River, where Boulder’s pink, yellow, and gray strata soar above the undulating, groomed Nordic tracks. Or try a snowshoe tour.
Back at Galena Lodge, grab a shower and trade your damp Lycra for dry pile before savoring a grilled-salami sandwich with havarti cheese, tomatoes, spinach, and caramelized onions in the rustic log and stone structure. After refueling, continue three miles to the north side of Galena Pass and the Sawtooth Valley Overlook. From here, the jagged Sawtooth Mountains trace the Salmon River’s rapid northern course to the Snake River. After admiring the view, take State Highway 75 to Ketchum.
In town, gravitate toward the clothing boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, and coffee and ski shops that crowd central Ketchum’s East, Leadville, Washington, and First avenues. Bob Rosso started The Elephant’s Perch (named after an extreme climb in the Sawtooths) in a faded Victorian house on the corner of East Avenue and Sun Valley Road. Today, almost three decades later, The Perch is one of dozens of businesses in Ketchum’s commercial downtown. Others include Will Caldwell’s Gallery, where his local art evokes exotic cultures and ’50s classic cars; the fourth-generation Atkinson’s Market; and the Gold Mine Thrift Shop, where Sun Valley’s celebrities anonymously recycle designer suits, gowns, and handbags to benefit Ketchum’s library.
Follow Sun Valley Road one block northeast to Tully’s Coffee, where brokers make big-money realestate deals while sipping decaf, no-fat, soy-milk lattes in deference to six-pack abs. From Tully’s, walk down Sun Valley Road southwest to Washington, where you turn left to the corner of First Street. Ketchum’s original Forest Service Station now houses the Sun Valley Heritage and Ski Museum, where exhibits chronicle the lives of the indigenous Shoshone
Indians, early skiers, the 10th Mountain Division, Don and Gretchen Fraser, and Hemingway.
Sunset over Baldy triggers the awakening of Ketchum’s après-ski scene. Stop first at Cavallino Lounge, locally known as the Martini Bar, and then amble on to the Pioneer Saloon. Here, ancient percussion shotguns; mounted trophy elk, deer, and buffalo; and Western memorabilia recall Ketchum’s “hard rock” roots.
Tonight, you have a dinner reservation at Il Naso. Owners Shawn and Alyson Tierney’s incredible Italian cuisine, extensive wine list, and excellent service have made it difficult to just drop in on this Fifth Street and Washington Avenue restaurant. Try a signature dish like spaghettini alle polpette (meatballs) or the cioppino, crowded with clams, mussels, and shrimp all in a tomato fume with grilled croutons.