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A Winter Wellness Getaway In Sun Valley, Idaho

North America

In partnership with Visit Sun Valley.

The best things to do in Sun Valley in winter for non-skiers

Places are funny. Most enter our lives and then fade into a distant memory innocuously enough. But then there’s a different type of place. The type that sticks with us long after we’ve returned home – as if we were already tied to it by some intangible cosmic connection. A connection that calls us back when we least expect it.

Growing up in Washington, Idaho has always been in my backyard. We would see each other on occasion as neighbors tend to do, exchanging pleasantries from a distance, or a passing smile on a cross-country road trip. But for years we remained strangers. 

Then last fall, I spent some time exploring the Sawtooth Mountains and soaking in natural hot springs around Stanley, Idaho. I was only there a few days, but sometimes that’s all it takes. I knew even before I left that I would be leaving a little piece of myself behind. So when the opportunity to visit Sun Valley this winter popped up in my inbox, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. Because of course, Idaho was already calling me back.

Sun Valley is America’s first destination winter resort. As such you can find everything you would expect to find in a resort town—world class skiing, a picturesque alpine town, and the occasional celebrity siting. 

Granted, those things alone are enough to put it on any ski enthusiast’s bucket list. But there’s a lot more things to do in Sun Valley in winter than powder runs and apres ski. 

It’s also the perfect spot to plan your next wellness getaway. These Sun Valley winter activities are sure to leave you feeling healthy and happy this winter in North America—even if you never hit the slopes!

Sun Valley ski resort at lit up at night in the base of the valley surrounded by mountains covered in snow.
Sun Valley ski resort at dusk

Break A Sweat At Zenergy Spa

Zenergy Spa is a wellness oasis in the heart of the town of Ketchum. If you’re looking to sweat it out, this is the place. Their state of the art cardio & weight training fitness center is sure to get your heart pumping. Or you can choose from a wide range of weekly classes in their group fitness, indoor cycling, and yoga studios.

But Zenergy isn’t just a gym. Far from it! The luxury spa offers a wide variety of services, including massage, acupuncture, and reflexology for your sore muscles. But my favorite amenity is their heated outdoor saline pool and hot tub jacuzzi.  

Overlooking Bald Mountain, the soothing water is the perfect way to wrap up any workout. Especially if you can time it with sunrise. As it turns out, there’s no better way to start the day than with a great workout, a good sweat, followed by a smoothie and sunrise soaking session!

Jess doing yoga in the yoga studio at Zenergy in Sun Valley, Idaho with a snowy scene outside the window
The yoga studio at Zenergy in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Jess in a steamy spa pool looking across a lap pool with pink sky and snowy mountains in the distance
The spa at Zenergy overlooks the lap pool.

Experience Magic Above The Valley 

When the sun fades in the valley, the lights down in Ketchum begin to glow, and the resulting views are nothing short of magic. There are a number of vantage points above town to take it all in. Some look down over the town toward Baldy, while others look out toward the Pioneer Mountains. Some are easy to access, while others are more involved. But all are beautiful!

In the winter the easiest way to capture views looking out over the Pioneer Mountains (not shown here), is from the Bald Mountain trail. Take the chairlift during the day or skin/hike up to it after 4pm. 

The best view is located at the bottom of “Lower College” on the ski hill. Alternatively, for stunning views of Bald Mountain, hike up to the top of the original Proctor Mountain Ski Lift. Snow shoes and poles highly recommended!

Jess wearing a winter jacket, scarf and hat at the top of a valley overlooking a lit up ski resort at night
Wearing: Marmot Montreal Jacket

Day Trip To Galena Lodge

Located in the heart of the Boulder Mountains, Galena Lodge is about 30 minutes north of Sun Valley Resort and Ketchum. Galena Lodge is home to some of the best cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the United States. 

The North Valley Trail System has over 50 kilometers of Nordic skiing trails and over 25km of snowshoe trails for you to explore. If you’ve never tried snowshoeing or cross-country skiing before, not to worry. Galena Lodge has something for all skill levels and outdoor enthusiasts.

Show up at the Sun Valley lodge in the morning to rent your gear and spend the rest of the day traversing through a winter wonderland – one of the most fun things to do in Sun Valley in winter! When you’re done playing in the snow, warm up by the fireplace in the lodge with a hot chocolate. 

If you’re up for a bigger adventure, there are also a number of semi-backcountry yurts on the property you can book for overnight excursions.

Jess snowshoeing in Sun Valley, Idaho
Snowshoe adventure near Sun Valley, Idaho.

Take A Drive along the Sawtooth Scenic Byway 

Part of the Sawtooth Scenic Byway, Highway 75  between Sun Valley and Stanley is the stuff road trip dreams are made of. Except this road trip will only take you an hour! 

The drive is jam packed with spectacular mountain views year round in the summer months too, but there’s something particularly special about seeing the mountains all dressed up in their winter whites. 

If you make the trip to Galena Lodge, you will have already done the first 23 miles of the drive, so you might as well keep going! Some of the best views are only a few minutes further up the road at the Galena Summit Overlook. 

From the overlook you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the vast Sawtooth Valley, Sawtooth National Recreation Area and the surrounding Sun Valley area.

A long snow covered road disappearing into the mountain range in the distance
The Sawtooth Scenic Byway.
Wearing: Marmot Montreal Jacket, and Sorel Caribou Boots

Get Cozy! 

As much as I love playing outside in the snow, one of my favorite things to do when temperatures drops, is to snuggle up with a good book and no distractions. The balance between adventure and chill time that’s key to any successful wellness getaway is exactly what you’ll find at Hotel Ketchum and relaxation is just as much fun as adventure!

Newly remodeled, and brimming with modern charm, Hotel Ketchum was the perfect place for exploring downtown Ketchum and for bigger adventures in the area. 

They enthusiastically helped with hike recommendations, and photography logistics, and even loaned me gear for my excursions. And at the end of the day, I was always excited to get back to my room!

Jess in bed at a hotel looking out a window at the snow covered landscape
My cozy room at Hotel Ketchum.
Looking down on a warm hotel lobby with a sofa in the centre, a patterned rug and hanging light features
The lobby at Hotel Ketchum is full of fund details and features a beautiful fireplace to warm you up after a long day in the snow.

Eat Dinner On Top Of A Mountain 

Perched atop the Roundhouse Gondola on Baldy, the Roundhouse restaurant has been serving up panoramic views and soul soothing food in Sun Valley Idaho since 1939. 

Even though the restaurant is located on the slopes, you don’t have to be a skier to enjoy the experience! If you want to revel in the views without the day of skiing, you can take the Sun Valley gondola up to the top of Baldy and then return the same way after your meal. Oh, and the views on the way up aren’t too shabby either!

Jess visiting a restaurant on the top of a mountain covered in snow
The Roundhouse restaurant is an awesome spot to enjoy a meal while you take in views of the valley.
The view from inside the Roundhouse restaurant with a wall of windows showing the snowy mountain range
Inside the Roundhouse.
Jess riding up the mountain in a gondola with a view of the mountains
Riding up Mount Baldy on the Roundhouse Gondola

Winter can be a particularly stressful time for people – myself included. When the days are short and cold we stop getting outside and doing the other activities that keep our mind, body and spirit healthy. It can feel like the only way to get moving is with a lift ticket. But that doesn’t have to be the case!

In a place like Sun Valley ski resort that was built with recreation in mind, there are all sorts of ways to reconnect with that happier/healthier version of you that tends to hibernate in the winter.

Photographs created in collaboration with Quin Schrock.

In Case You Missed It!

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The Stories Behind Your Favorite Posts Of 2018

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a winter wellness getaway to sun valley idaho

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  1. Kim says:

    I haven’t been to Sun Valley in years. And when I went it was in the summer; up the tram with mountain bikes then down! Some hiking, but never in the winter. I love to ski but am becoming a “fair weather skier” so reading your blog has introduced me to numerous non- skiing possibilities! Thanks so much❄️

  2. Taniya Dietz says:

    Now I really want to go!!

  3. Kirtan P. says:

    Such a fun read! Thanks for sharing, Jess. Which book were you reading at Hotel Ketchum and is your favorite?

    • Jess Dales says:

      Hey Kirtan! I was actually writing in my planner in that photo, but I just finished reading "Less," and now I’m working on "All The Light We Cannot See." Picking a favorite book is hard! But off the top of my head some of my favorites are, "The Devil in the White City," "In The Heart of The Sea," "The Beach," "Destiny of the Republic," "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay," and The Kingkiller Chronicle books. Kind of all over the place, and I’m sure I’m missing a bunch! How about you?

  4. Kellie says:

    Loved this blog and especially the photos. I am an author with a series set in Sun Valley (I used to live there). I would love to use those photos for promotion (with credit given of course). Did you take the photos and would you be willing to allow me to use them? I’d be using on social media and perhaps future book covers. My email is kelliecoatesgilbert@gmail.com My website is http://www.kelliecoatesgilbert.com Thank you! ~K

    • Jess Dales says:

      Hi Kellie! I’m so glad you liked the blog. The photos were taken by Quin Schrock (@everchanginghorizon). You are welcome to use some of them on social media, please just make sure to give Quin photo credit. If you’d like to use a photo for a book cover you would probably need to talk to him. The best way to contact Quin is through email: everchanginghorizon@gmail.com. Best of luck!

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Hi, I’m Jess, an outdoor enthusiast based in Seattle. I grew up exploring the Pacific Northwest, and early on was infected with the travel bug. I tried to suppress my wanderlust in pursuit of a traditional career path, but after a short stint as a lawyer, I left the confines of my office to get back in touch with my roots. Now, I wander the world taking photos, making memories, and sharing my love for travel with others!

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