Friday, November 25, 2011

Nibble and nosh or wine and dine

From pizza to elk medallions, there are options a plenty on the mountain

Express Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Sun Valley Resort Diners enjoy some fine food and music at the historic Roundhouse on Bald Mountain.

Bald Mountain has long been famous for its consistent-pitch, challenging terrain and smoothly groomed runs. Now it's also becoming known for the quality and variety of its dining options.

Skiers needing sustenance to take on a final run, those just gearing up for the day, and even non-skiers who wish to take in top-of-the-world views have their pick from multiple venues and myriad edible options.

"That is a commitment the Holding family has made," said Jack Sibbach, director of marketing for Sun Valley Resort. "They build wonderful lodges you don't have anywhere else, and with great food that you don't find in other ski areas."

Skiers have taken notice. Sun Valley's on-mountain food offerings took the second-place spot this year in Ski magazine's annual reader survey, which ranks the top ski resorts in North America.

"We're very proud of that," Sibbach said. "Dining on the mountain is an experience."

The Roundhouse

The earliest dining option arose not from the ashes, but from a pile of leftover lumber.

In 1935, workers constructing the first three ski lifts on Baldy had $20,000 left over. They also had unused logs piled to the side. The leftovers seemed a natural fit for an unplanned amenity.

"They built Roundhouse mostly from materials they cut for lifts," Sibbach said. "It's the original warming hut on Baldy."

Since its opening as almost an afterthought, it's been expanded several times to accommodate demand.

"We use it now as a sit-down service for our lunch crowd," Sibbach said. "It's very well received."

Well received and well known at The Roundhouse is the cheese fondue. Other menu items may include soup, salmon, bratwurst and elk medallions or quail.

The Roundhouse is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with service downstairs at Averell's, too, for après-ski wine and beer and appetizers.

"Averell's is very popular because of the views," Sibbach said. "You can see the Pioneers and downtown area. When the stars are out and there's a full moon, you can see the lights twinkle in Ketchum. It's pretty spectacular."

Bird's-eye views aren't reserved just for skiers, however. Sun Valley's Roundhouse gondola transports nonskiers up to and down from the venue. It also serves as a means of descent for skiers who after a full meal or a hearty beer aren't up for the last stretch down.

Don't worry—you won't be alone in choosing eating over skiing. Sibbach said nearly 20 percent of people ride the gondola to the restaurant instead of skiing in.

The gondola also allows patrons to linger longer. Last runs down the mountain must start at 3:45 p.m. The last gondola ride leaves at 4:45 p.m.

"The food is wonderful, but it's just as much the experience as the food," Sibbach said. "It's very relaxing and a great thing to do."

Reservations are required for dinner. Call 622-2800.


On top of old Baldy, skiers can get their fix at the family-friendly, cafeteria-style restaurant Lookout.

The lighter fare includes burgers, pizza and tacos.

"The tacos are wonderful," Sibbach said. "That's one of the things they're known for."

Televisions show sporting events, and locals hang out and recuperate from thrills, and possibly a few spills, on the mountain.

"It's very low key," Sibbach said.

Hours are 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily during the winter season.

Seattle Ridge Lodge

Wrap-around decks at an elevation of 8,800 feet means there are no bad views from the Seattle Ridge Lodge.

"It's a very popular meeting spot," Sibbach said.

Its location near some of Baldy's more family-friendly, shorter and intermediate runs as well as slower-speed areas for beginners mean all ages and levels can fill up before, during and after venturing out.

Rotisserie meats, mesquite-grilled entrees, soups, pizzas, gourmet salads and an Idaho potato bar leave all appetites satisfied.

Open daily in the winter season from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Warm Springs Lodge

This lodge incorporates a rustic feel with modern amenities.

"This lodge, Seattle Ridge, and River Run were built in the same format—big logs, large stones, high ceilings," Sibbach said. "They're spectacular to walk in and look at, let alone eat in."

Food service is offered in stations, or cluster serving. Pasta, gourmet salads, grilled specialties, and wood-fired pizza are among the edible options.

"Warm Springs Lodge has one thing it's famous for—chocolate-chip cookies," Sibbach noted.

If you hear a bell, come running. It means the cookies are fresh out of the oven.

"Those cookies go real quick," Sibbach warned.

The people-watching at Warm Springs is part of the fun. The crowd ranges from ski-school kids and racers to older folks who have been meeting at the lodge for decades.

Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily during winter.

River Run Lodge

The biggest of Sun Valley Resort's lodges at nearly 30,000 square feet, River Run Lodge opened for the 1995-96 winter season.

A wok station sets it apart from the other restaurants.

"That's my favorite," Sibbach said. "You walk right up and they can make you chicken, beef, seafood or a combination, right to order."

River Run also is a draw for its après-ski entertainment on the weekends, beginning later in the season.

The lodge is lively with Sun Valley Resort hotel guests, who hop on the bus to ski, eat or shop at the stores that ring the plaza.

"That's become the place for a lot of people to start and finish their day," Sibbach said.

Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily during the winter season.

Carol's Dollar Lodge

Though not on Bald Mountain, Carol's Dollar Lodge caters to the appetites and abilities of skiers recreating on Dollar Mountain in Sun Valley.

"It's very kid-friendly," Sibbach said.

Snack on macaroni and cheese, rotisserie chicken, oven-fired pizza or other menu items.

You might be joined by ski school students, families or new skiers practicing tele turns or alpine form.

The lodge's hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will open for Thanksgiving weekend, then reopen Dec. 10 for the season.

Bon appétit!

Rebecca Meany:

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