Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sun Valley named 5th best ski resort

Resort moves up from 9th place in Ski magazine survey

Express Staff Writer

Bald Mountain, the centerpiece of Sun Valley’s winter activities, looms over Ketchum. Express file photo

Preserving access to Sun Valley, especially by way of a local airport, has become a hot political issue facing the Wood River Valley as it struggles through the recession. Access is already considered difficult by some visitors, but perhaps it's worth noting that the very isolation that merchants and politicians fear most could be an attraction for many skiers.

Sun Valley rose four spots this year to fifth place in the annual Ski magazine reader survey, which ranks the top ski resorts in North America. Deer Valley, Utah, was once again rated No. 1.

The survey, now in its 24th year, provides an opportunity to see Sun Valley as the rest of the world does.

The competition is based on 18 categories of evaluation covering on- and off-mountain amenities, including terrain, scenery, nightlife and guest services.

Sun Valley ranked in the top 10 in 12 of the categories, taking first in the lifts category, and second place in the grooming, service, on-mountain food and character categories.

Area restaurants ranked third in the dining category.

The resort did not place in the top 10 categories for weather, value or access, but those skiers who managed to find their way to Sun Valley liked what they found, on and off the hill.

Only Whistler-Blackcomb in British Columbia and Heavenly in California ranked higher with regard to off-mountain activities.

Telluride, Colo., a well-known party town, ranked lower than Sun Valley in the nightlife, character and overall satisfaction categories.

So why did Sun Valley move up in the ranks? It has as much to do with what Sun Valley doesn't have as what it does. Ketchum is described in the survey as the "original funky ski town."

"Readers bemoan the isolation, but that is how Sun Valley keeps its character," the magazine reported.

The magazine gave a nod to Sun Valley's illustrious history, but activities favored by locals gained the most attention. They include shopping at the Gold Mine ("the ski world's best thrift shop"), taking the kids sledding on Penny Hill and soaking at Frenchman's hot springs west of Ketchum. Perhaps the legendary "Moss Man" of Frenchman's hot spring will see a revival this winter.

Sun Valley also got points for new terrain parks for kids and a first-class lunch at Seattle Ridge.

"This is utopia," said one surveyed reader. "I measure every other resort against this one."


Ski's Top 10

1. Deer Valley, Utah

2. Vail, Colo.

3. Whistler-Blackcomb, B.C.

4. Snowmass, Colo.

5. Sun Valley, Idaho

6. Park City, Utah

7. Beaver Creek, Colo.

8. Steamboat, Colo.

9. Breckenridge, Colo.

10. Telluride, Colo.

Tony Evans:

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