Spending Christmas in Sun Valley has been a long-standing tradition since 1936, when the Sun Valley Lodge opened as the nation's first destination ski resort.
That winter, guests traveled long distances from points all over the map to celebrate the holidays in the remote mountains of Central Idaho.
Although a lack of snow prior to Christmas 1936 prevented most of the guests from skiing, many found entertainment while riding horses, playing outdoor paddle tennis, swimming in the resort's heated pool, and waltzing on ice to live accordion music.
Today, people from across the nation still travel long distances to spend Christmas in Sun Valley. Many return year after year and some stay in the same room at the Lodge visit after visit.
For those who ski, modern snowmaking equipment now assures they will be able to schuss down Bald Mountain. And, off the mountain, many of the same diversions offered in 1936 are still part of the Sun Valley experience.
"It's tradition, history and family," said Jack Sibbach, Sun Valley Resort director of marketing and public relations. "There have been families coming here to Sun Valley for some 40-plus years, and now their kids and grandkids are doing it."
This year, the resort is offering a long list of traditional holiday festivities, and is also seeking to start a new Sun Valley tradition.
On Saturday, Dec. 18, Sun Valley will present the first annual Lumière Festival in Sun Valley Village. At 6 p.m., carolers will sing familiar Christmas songs as the scene is illuminated with festive holiday lights.
On Christmas Eve, one of the Wood River Valley's best-loved traditions will continue, as throngs of guests and local residents convene to celebrate the season.
The Christmas Eve celebrations this year will begin with a gathering at 5 p.m. on the terrace of the Sun Valley Lodge, adjacent to the resort's famed outdoor ice rink.
Starting at 5 p.m., carolers will perform for the crowd, followed at 5:30 p.m. by the resort's "Christmas on Ice" show, featuring a vast lineup of world-class skaters. Free hot cocoa, cider and cookies will be served.
At approximately 6 p.m., members of the Sun Valley Ski School will lead a serpentine torchlight parade down the snow-covered slopes of Bald Mountain, to the west of the village. To cap off the parade, a brilliant fireworks display will light up the sky over Ketchum and Sun Valley.
After the last flare is launched, Santa Claus will guide his sleigh to the ice rink to hand out candy canes to children eager enough to brave the often-chilly temperatures.
Following the Christmas Eve festivities, many guests head into the Lodge for a sumptuous holiday dinner in the Lodge Dining Room.
In addition, other Sun Valley traditions will continue this year throughout the holiday season.
Starting Friday, Dec. 17, Sun Valley will offer daily sleigh rides and sleigh-ride dinners, which bring guests to historic Trail Creek Cabin—1.5 miles east of Sun Valley Lodge—for a hearty family-style meal.
From Dec. 18 through New Year's Day, cheerful carolers will serenade holiday visitors throughout Sun Valley Village and at Trail Creek Cabin.
In the resort's Boiler Room, Duchin Lounge and various restaurants, local entertainers will produce ensembles of smooth jazz, classic piano sing-alongs and other musical styles.
On Sunday, Dec. 26, in the Boiler Room, the resort will present "Forever Plaid," a 1950s' era musical comedy known to delight audiences of all ages.
On Thursday, Dec. 30, a "Glow in the Dark Party" in the Limelight Room of the Sun Valley Inn will offer music, gourmet food and special glow-in-the-dark cocktails.
On New Year's Eve, Dec. 31, Sun Valley will kick off 2005 with a festive late-night party at the Limelight Room. Doors open at 7:45 p.m.
For additional information about Christmas Eve events and other holiday activities in Sun Valley, call Sun Valley Resort at 622-4111.