Sun Valley Idaho is this fascinating intersection of nature and culture in the middle of America’s west. While not as easy of a hop skip and a jump from the east coast, it’s a quick flight from California and other west coast city hubs like Salt Lake City, Denver, Las Vegas, Missoula and Phoenix, and it’s only about a four hour drive from Boise, which is a quick Southwest shuttle flight from Oakland CA.
It wasn’t my first trip to Sun Valley this past April, however it was my first trip in a long long time. Some dozen or so years ago, I drove through Idaho on an exploration of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and the surrounding states. It was then summer and all of our activities were centered around hiking, long drives, camping, drinking in dive bars and saloons and eating at diners.
Spring in Sun Valley is unique in that you can still take in some of the Spring skiing that Sun Valley has to offer (note, they have the largest snow making machine in the country, so I was still able to get some decent runs in – see our separate write up on the Sun Valley Lodge and the Sun Valley Resort including stunning views from Baldy Mountain).
Aside from skiing, I was there for the DENT Conference to hang with and learn from fellow geeks, entrepreneurs, investors and media for several days. The event was atypical in so many ways in that in addition to traditional panels and talks, there were side trips and activities, which included a wolf “walk,” taking a bus to a mountain lodge and drinking beer around the fire, restaurant and bar hopping with Buick, Southwest Airlines and others, and getting entrenched in the music of inspiring performers.
One of our adventures was a hike with a group of photography and nature lovers.
In addition to walking along Trail Creek, we took side hikes, which unfortunately from a photography perspective, was smack in the middle of the day. This meant that the weather was fabulous, and the sun was warm, but it also meant that our light wasn’t the best for shooting.
The below shots should give you an idea of the sheer beauty of the surrounding area.
Author Ernest Hemingway apparently completed For Whom the Bell Tolls while staying in the Sun Valley Lodge back in 1939. Averell Harriman had invited Hemingway and other celebrities to the resort to help promote it at the time, which brought on folks like Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, Lucille Ball, Marilyn Monroe, and several of the Kennedy’s.
Hemingway was a part-time resident for over twenty years and eventually relocated to Ketchum (“Papa” and his fourth wife are buried in the Ketchum Cemetery). The Hemingway Memorial, dedicated in 1966, is just off Trail Creek Road, about a mile northeast of the Sun Valley Lodge. There’s a fabulous statue of him that rises into the trees with stunning views beyond.
While the sun shone bright, the snow still danced in the near distance, reminding us that winter wasn’t quite over just because April had graced us with her presence.
But, signs of spring were emerging from the ground and it couldn’t have been a more perfect day to explore the area by foot.
Me, among that fabulous group of inspiring nature and photography lovers I was telling you about….
Sun Valley isn’t just a place for skiing, hiking and golf however. For such a small community in a relatively obscure part of the world Sun Valley has a fairly extensive art scene. ArtPlace recognized the area as one of the Top 12 Small Art Towns in the United States validating the quality, diversity and sheer volume of arts programming in the community.
Like Hemingway must have discovered, the location is idyllic for painters and writers alike, and had there been more time, I am sure my writing would have been a lot more inspirational on-site than reflecting on my experience several weeks later.
Imagine a setting in the middle of the mountains, with pristine backdrops and crisp blue skies in the distance. After a hike or a ski, you can take in art galleries, and over the summer, watch live music concerts on the lawn. They also have a number of theater performances as well throughout the year, including musicals, plays, drama, poetry and staged readings, operas and lectures.
In addition to the activities presented by the Sun Valley Center for the Arts throughout the year, they are also known for the annual Sun Valley Film Festival, an event which attracts some of the most exciting films, producers, and actors to the valley each March. On this past trip, I only missed it by a month.
Museums & Art Galleries
Sun Valley’s art galleries are some of the most unique in the west. Artists from all over the world are represented in over 20 local galleries, and the art ranges from depictions of local beauty to unique sculpture to the avante-gard in all mediums. Below, I met a wonderful duo — Sandy Gregorak and Thomas Bassett — two of the owners of the Wood River Fine Arts Gallery on 360 East Avenue in Ketchum.
I attended a wine tasting at their gallery while I was there and fell in love with the artists they chose to represent. The Gallery is named for the Wood River Valley, home to the historic mining and sheep-herding town of Ketchum and to Sun Valley.
There is a diverse collection of Native American art, and I liked the work of Dave McGary, an internationally acclaimed sculptor, who has sculpted some pieces on the First Nations people. His projects include Chief Washakie, which was commissioned by the State of Wyoming for placement in the Senate Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Dave also created Emergence of the Chief, a monumental work for Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec; The Founding Of Santa Fe for the US Federal Building in Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Battle Of Two Hearts for the University of Wyoming.
In the midst of the DENT Conference, Spring skiing, hiking, taking photos, the gallery tours, my visit to Globus and other great Sun Valley restaurants (see our write up on Globus, Sun Valley restaurants and great picks for foodies), my visit to Zenergy and soaking in Sun Valley Lodge‘s massive hot soaking pool, restoration at the Knob Hill Inn, I met a fabulous cast of characters who live in the town and surrounding region. They are warm, culturally interesting, engaging and eclectic. In other words, I can’t wait to return for a deeper exploration of the area and to hang out with the locals.
Hats off everyone who made my Sun Valley experience so remarkable — you know who you are!