Sun Valley Resort took second in SKI magazine’s 2020 Reader Resort Survey, trailing only Aspen in the publication’s annual ranking of Western destinations released last Wednesday.
Along the way, it scored top honors in a poll-leading seven categories, earning the No. 1 slot for lifts, service, lodging, off-day activities, family-friendliness, charm and overall satisfaction.
Readers docked points for Baldy’s lack of serious steeps—it ranked 22nd in challenge—and central Idaho’s isolation, which stood 29th for access. That doesn’t bother locals or loyalists, though SKI Senior Editor Samantha Berman noted there’s some concern about whether Sun Valley’s place in Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass will adulterate its allure.
“While there is a regional airport in Hailey, 13 miles south and served by several major U.S. cities, know that flights can be diverted to Twin Falls or Boise in inclement weather,” Berman wrote. “On the flip side, it’s what keeps this gem relatively hidden. While it remains to be seen how the Epic Pass will impact Sun Valley, it’s safe to say that if any resort has the history, community, and spirit to handle it, it’s this one.”
The No. 2 ranking can serve confidence to people on the fence about booking a trip to central Idaho—especially coming from the “core” skiers that make up the magazine’s readership, according to Scott Fortner, executive director of Visit Sun Valley, a regional marketing group.
“In what we do, we put a high value on third-party endorsements,” Fortner said. “People don’t want to hear what the destination’s marketing department has to say. They want to hear about the experiences other people have had.
“When you get something like this, from readers like this, it’s something to celebrate. It validates the hard work everyone at the resort has put in.”
The 2020 poll keeps a good run rolling for Sun Valley. Last year, it took third for “Overall Satisfaction” in a slightly different version of the ranking; in 2018, it earned second in the West, behind Deer Valley.
“We’re really pleased by the support from the ski community,” Sun Valley spokeswoman Kelli Lusk said. “Seeing those No. 1 rankings is huge—it reflects what we’re trying to provide to our guests.”
The poll also provides a measure of feedback, Lusk said, and soon the resort’s biggest project—Bald Mountain’s 380-acre Cold Springs expansion—may move the needle once more. Crews logged a new lift line out of the drainage this fall, and Lusk expects the new chairlift to be installed next summer. In the meantime, Sun Valley ski patrollers and instructors will run guided tours of the terrain, which includes the oft-poached Turkey Bowl off of Seattle Ridge.
Conditions permitting, both Bald and Dollar mountains are slated to open on Thanksgiving Day—Thursday, Nov. 28. The resort will update skiers and riders on other openings as the date nears.
“The weather is cooperating, and our snowmaking is off to a fantastic start,” Lusk said. “We’re excited for the season to get going.”