Sun Valley — Mountain layout
The main drawback to Sun Valley is the split in the ski areas. Bald Mountain (called “Baldy”) is best suited for intermediate and advanced skiers, while beginners and first-timers should stick to Dollar/Elkhorn. Mixed-ability groups may not be thrilled, unless they truly don mind being separated. This also means there will be no mealtime rendezvous, as Dollars base is a full 15–20-minute bus trip away.
|Expert, Advanced: Baldy’s terrain is best known for its long runs with a consistent pitch that keeps skiers concentrating on turns from top to bottom, rather than dozing off on a flat or bailing out on a cliff or wall. Mile-long ridge runs lead to a clutch of advanced and intermediate bowls.
Limelight is a long, excellent bump run for skiers with strong knees and elastic spinal columns. Of the other black-diamond descents, the Exhibition plunge is one of the best known. Fire Trail, on the ski area boundary, is a darting, tree-covered descent for those who can make quick, flowing turns. The Seattle Ridge trail with hypnotic views curves around the bowls. The bowl area below is a joy. The downhill skiers right is a little easier, skiers left a little tougher, and you can catch the sun throughout the day. There are sections to take 50-yard-wide turns, but there is no easy terrain where you can relax your quads. The only flats are on top.
|Intermediate: Baldy is good for this level, too. Trails are not quite so wide as at other Rocky Mountain resorts, but are—for the most part—long, very long. The best warm-ups are either the Upper and Lower College runs leading to the River Run area, or the Warm Springs run. Both descend from the top and head to the base (College takes a little jog and joins with River Run near the bottom). Warm Springs is labeled blue-square, while College is labeled green. but there’s not much difference. Both are long, moderately steep, very well groomed and loads of fun.Other good spots are Cozy, Hemingway and Greyhawk in the Warm Springs area. These are often less crowded because the trail map shows a black-diamond entry (there’s an intermediate cat-track entrance a little farther down that isn’t as obvious on the map) as well as the Seattle Ridge runs, marked green but definitely for intermediates.
If you want to follow the sun, start your day in the River Run area, then shift to the runs dropping off Seattle Ridge and finish up cruising the Warm Springs face.
|Beginner, First-timer: Do not be fooled by the green-circle markings on the Baldy trail map. Beginners should not ski Baldy. The runs are seriously underrated for difficulty. Yes, yes, we
are well aware that the green-blue-black ratings system reflects the relative difficulty of the trails at each individual resort. Sun Valley followed the rules and marked the “easiest” runs on Baldy with green circles. Compared to other resorts, however, these runs are blue—royal blue. If you are at all tentative about your skills, start out at Dollar/Elkhorn. However, this means you’ll be isolated for lunch and après-ski from family and friends who are skiing Baldy. When you feel you’re ready for Baldy, first try the Upper and Lower College runs.Skiing parents can enroll their children in ski school at the River Run Lodge and Skier Services building at the base of the River Run trail on Baldy. The ski school will transport children enrolled in novice lessons to Dollar. Adult first-timers should head directly to Dollar. The terrain here is perfect for learning and good for intermediates perfecting technique or starting out in powder. Skiing on the Dollar side of this mountain is shorter and more limited than on the Elkhorn face, which offers a small bowl with greater pitch and more challenging runs.