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Ketchum, Idaho, USA | Elevation: 5,853ft | Population: 2,791
Ketchum is located in Central Idaho. Nestled near the Sawtooth Mountains and settled in the Wood River Valley, Ketchum and the Sun Valley area put skiing on the map in the US. One of, if not the oldest ski towns in the country, Ketchum is often overshadowed by ski mecca’s such as Vail, Aspen, or Jackson. However, offering world-class skiing both downhill and Nordic, shopping, dining, art galleries, hiking, backpacking, fly-fishing, mountain biking, ice skating, and more, Ketchum is one of our favorite winter adventure towns in the West. You’ll avoid the crowds while enjoying some of the best outdoor adventure access in the country.
The best way to get to Ketchum is by flying into Boise which offers direct flights daily from many cities on the West Coast, then you’ll rent a car and drive 150 miles and arrive in downtown Ketchum. For those who would prefer to fly right into Ketchum, the nearest airport that serves Ketchum and Sun Valley is the Friedman Memorial Airport and it’s only 13 miles from downtown Ketchum. While it’s a much smaller airport than Boise it has a consistent winter service to support tourists traveling in for epic winter adventures!
Ketchum is a year-round adventure paradise, but as we approach winter and ski season, we wanted to share how to spend the ideal winter adventure weekend!
Local Adventure Vibe:
The Ketchum-Sun Valley area was founded in 1880 by fur trappers and miners. After the mining wealth became quickly depleted, shepherds drove their sheep flocks north of Ketchum into the Sawtooth Mountains. Ketchum quickly became the sheep herding center in the West. In great thanks to the railroad boom a rail service line went through Ketchum drawing in tourists in search of a mountain escape. In 1936 – Sun Valley was born – the first winter destination town in the US. The Ketchum and Sun Valley area at the time were not well-known but the surrounding mountains, plentiful sunshine, and large snowfall totals made it an adventurer’s dream location. Ketchum hasn’t looked back since the 1930’s. Reaping the benefits of the perfect year-round temps that make all outdoor adventures so inviting and the addition of beautiful lodging, lively art galleries, and fine dining Ketchum has cemented itself in top adventure towns. Whether you’re looking for world-class downhill skiing, miles of Nordic tracks, plentiful rivers for fly-fishing or mountain biking trails – all of it can be found in Ketchum.
Ketchum and Sun Valley laid the groundwork for all future ski towns to come. In 1936 the first ski lodge opened with the Sun Valley lodge and not too long after the world’s first chairlift was installed in 1936. This chairlift served famed Dollar and Proctor Mountains. Ketchum was also fondly called home by Ernest Hemingway – where he claimed he did some of his best writing. A Hemingway Memorial was dedicated to his legacy in 1966. Hemingway is thought to have led the charge of celebrities making Ketchum their quiet mountain escape. The quaint town size, incredible mountain adventure access, fine dining and luxury homes have drawn in celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Tom Hanks, Clint Eastwood, and more. The unique charm of Ketchum is once you arrive, no one is a celebrity – it’s a safe haven for anyone who loves enjoying the outdoors. Many do not know this, but Ketchum and the surrounding Central Idaho area was named a dark-sky reserve in 2017 and was the first gold-tier dark sky preserve in the United States. A dark-sky reserve means that there is minimal to no light pollution to allow for some of the best opportunities to view the billions and billions of stars.
Food & Drink:
The boom of celebrities and wealthy families making Ketchum their vacation destination is deserving of taking credit for the fine dining scene in Ketchum. For a town with population under 3,000 people, there is no shortage of fine dining and drinking experiences. The top of the restaurant list is the Pioneer Saloon. The landmark restaurant boasts – “If you haven’t been to the Pioneer Saloon, you haven’t been to Ketchum!” and this sentiment isn’t an exaggeration. An Idaho classic, no-frills steakhouse will fulfill your desire for a rustic Western dining experience. The dining room and bar area is comfortably outfitted with dark wood, dim lighting, and mounted game animals. Setting the atmosphere to take you back in time while you enjoy good drinks and excellent prime rib.
Have a finer palate and are craving a fine dining experience after a long day of skiing? Look no further than Enoteca or Michel’s Christiania. Enoteca will satisfy your hunger with a thoughtful and delicious Italian menu featuring hearty pasta dishes or wood fired pizzas. Michel’s Christiania, known as the Christy to locals will transport you to France for the evening. Chef and Owner, Michel Rudigoz is the former coach for the US women’s Olympic Ski team and his restaurant aesthetic gives nod to his past with ski memorabilia while serving French classics like escargot, pate, oysters, lamb shank and filet.
Need a place for après skiing? Be sure to stop by the Casino, Grumpy’s or if your idea of après starts before you get off the mountain, then Averell’s is your place. Casino Bar opened on Main Street in 1936 and has been pouring stiff drinks and hosting good vibes since. Low ceilings, pool tables, dart boards, tattered with stickers, and one-long wooden bar make for a cozy spot to post up after a day of shredding. Grumpy’s is affectionately called the greatest après dive bars in the US – and not just by the Ketchum locals. If you want to rub shoulders with locals to hear their tales of Ketchum this is the place to visit. For more of an elevated après experience, Averell’s is perfect. Located in the lower level of the Roundhouse Lodge at the top of Bald Mountain, Averell’s offers incredible views of the Wood River Valley and Pioneer Mountains and is a special location to enjoy post-skiing cocktails and snacks. If you’re lucky you’ll spot a few celebrities enjoying the high-class restaurant.
The Kneadery is a staple for a big breakfast to fuel you before a long ski day. The Kneadery has been ranked as the #1 breakfast spot in Ketchum for years – the fluffy pancakes, fresh homemade cinnamon rolls, and cozy rustic décor are likely what made this homestyle breakfast joint so deserving. Anything on their menu will fill you up before you head to Bald Mountain.
Another breakfast favorite is Konditorei Restaurant in the Sun Valley village area. Konditorei is within walking distance from the Sun Valley Lodge, this Austrian inspired joint will satisfy your breakfast sweet tooth with fresh baked pastries, delicious hot cocoa, and classic breakfast dishes. Eating at Konditorei will make you feel as though you’re in a European ski chalet with its alpine chalet inspired décor.
As pictured above, the Seattle Ridge Day Lodge is the perfect intermission for your ski day. Voted by Ski Magazine as one of the best day lodges in the country – either for its sweeping views on the deck or its elevated lodge food menu; both are quite impressive. You’ll find wood-fired pizza, made to order salads, burgers, and grilled steaks will fill you up before heading back to the mountain to tackle the rest of the day.
Find a Hotel in Ketchum, Idaho
Places to stay:
The Sun Valley Lodge is hands down the most iconic place to stay during your winter weekend getaway in Ketchum. This famous lodge first opened its doors in 1936 and its cozy charm will make you feel at home from the moment you step on the property. Over the years upgrades have been added to make the experience more luxurious and more enjoyable. The Sun Valley Lodge now features 108 guestrooms, a spa, fitness center, yoga studio, multiple pools and pool side café, new restaurants, and meeting spaces. The Sun Valley Lodge expansive property also has a full-sized ice-skating rink, Nordic center, movie theater, bowling alley, and more. With a shuttle service on the property, you’ll be able to be at the ski hill or the center of Main Street Ketchum in a matter of minutes. The Sun Valley Lodge will effortlessly give you a special mountain weekend experience not to be forgotten.
If you prefer to stay right in the heart of Ketchum along Main Street, then the Limelight Ketchum is for you. Limelight Hotels is a small boutique hotel group that specializes in ski town hotels. With their other locations in Aspen and Snowmass, their Ketchum location defines chic mountain town luxury in a prime location. With 99 rooms and 14 residences the Limelight will be your home away from home for your winter weekend. The Limelight wants every guest to focus on having fun and enjoying all that Ketchum has to offer. On site they have rental services for skiing or other winter sports, a restaurant and bar for your après plans, pets are welcome, and they offer Audi vehicles for test driving experiences. Limelight Hotel Ketchum promises to fit all of your luxury lodging needs with its cozy rooms, prime location, top notch service, and amenities be sure to check it out!
If you’re looking for a full immersive winter adventure and enjoy a winter camping trip here are some awesome campsites to consider! We recommend using The Dyrt Pro site to browse various campsites in the Ketchum area.
A few of our winter picks include the Lake Creek Rd campsite, just a few miles north of Ketchum and nestled near the Sawtooth mountains this campsite is an ideal home base if you’re looking to do Nordic skiing or snowshoeing. The site features plots for tents or RV hookups but no othe amenities. This site is for those who enjoy remote camping. If you’re wanting to stay a little closer to the Sun Valley Ketchum area, then Boundary Campground will be your spot! A developed campsite on Trail Creek has tent and RV hookups, picnic tables, toilets, fire rings, and trash disposal. The Boundary Campground is along Trail Creek which is a great location for Nordic skiing and snowshoeing. To check out more campgrounds in the Ketchum area visit The Dyrt.
Rent A Cabin Or House With VRBO
For those planning a big winter weekend ski trip – a cabin or house rental would be more practical than individual hotel rooms. Ketchum and Sun Valley have beautiful vacation home rentals available for groups of any size. VRBO is our preferred site to find a cozy cabin for all of our friends.
Here are three cabin rental options that would comfortably fit a group for a fun-filled ski weekend.
This 4-bedroom condo is all about location! Able to sleep 8 guests, spacious living room, cozy fireplace, and gorgeous views of Bald Mountain, while leaving the condo might be hard – it’s just a short walk to the Bald Mountain gondola and River Run lodge – it doesn’t get much better than this!
The Snow Star Skylight 3-bedroom condo will sleep 7 adults in a beautiful sunlit condo with breathtaking 270-degree views of Bald and Frenchman Mountains. This condo sits on the Wood River bike path and is a quarter mile from the River Run Lodge and ski gondola. For those who don’t ski the condo is just half a mile from main street in Ketchum. This condo also features a hot tub – the perfect way to end a long ski day on Bald.
Located within walking distance of downtown Ketchum, this stylish and very chill in-town condo is sure to please! Inside, you’ll find an open floor plan with soaring ceilings, a gourmet, island kitchen with seating for six, and a cozy living area with a large, cable and Netflix-equipped flatscreen TV. This home also features a small, furnished balcony off the living area when you want to step outside for some fresh air.
To see other vacation rentals in the Ketchum Sun Valley area be sure to visit VRBO!
Now that you’re settled with your lodging and fueled from the incredible restaurants in Ketchum, you’re ready to tackle some outdoor winter adventure. Ketchum is a paradise for anyone who chases adrenaline and outdoor adventure. Some could argue which season is best enjoyed in Ketchum – both winter and summer have world class experiences to offer. Ketchum was founded as a ski town and Sun Valley Ski Resort has earned its reputation as some of the best skiing in the West.
Alpine / Downhill Skiing:
Sun Valley Ski Resort is a world-class mountain. Known for its long steep runs and sweeping views, Bald Mountain has a vertical over 3,400 and 2,400 skiable acres, 30 of these acres are dedicated glade skiing. Sun Valley recently increased their skiable terrain on Bald Mountain by 20% with the addition of Cold Springs Canyon. The Cold Springs Canyon addition makes backcountry skiing more accessible. You’ll be able to enjoy a wide-open bowl before ducking into steep glades to discover fresh powder – all while still skiing within bounds. The lift lines won’t be as overwhelming at Bald Mountain with 13 chairlifts and 65 runs. Bald’s partner mountain is Dollar Mountain – a whole mountain dedicated to kids and beginners. Sun Valley recently joined the EPIC Pass group so if you have the EPIC Pass for other mountains all over the US the pass will work at Sun Valley as well. After a long ski day, be sure to grab a snack and drinks at River Run Lodge, you’ll feel right at home in this cozy lodge. Sun Valley is an under the radar ski mountain in the West but between Bald’s steep pitch and Dollar Mountain’s priority on beginners, any one of any ski level will be able to enjoy all that Sun Valley has to offer.
Not a downhill skier? Not a problem! The Ketchum area has been coined “Nordic Town USA” and rightfully so, with over 200km of perfectly groomed and connected trails it’s one of the largest Nordic trail networks in the country. Never been Nordic skiing but feel energized by Ketchum’s vibe to start?! There are plenty of local shops to get you started and out the door. Gear rentals, lessons and event guided tours happen at Galena Lodge and Sun Valley Nordic Center. Other trail options include the Blaine County Recreation District which has 160km of trails that will take you on an adventure through the beautiful Wood River Valley. Have a full-blown Nordic skiing obsession, be sure to plan your trip to Ketchum in January for the Sun Valley Nordic Festival. Seasoned Nordic skiers have shared that their favorite trails are – Prairie Creek Loop, Harriman Trail and the Wood River Trail – with hundreds of other options you can’t go wrong!
The expansive trail network for Nordic skiing makes snowshoeing just as easily accessible in Ketchum. You’ll be able to rent snowshoes and other necessary gear at Galena Lodge, the Sun Valley Nordic Center, and other local shops in town. Some town favorites that offer beautiful views include Trail Creek Road, Adams Gulch, or Lake Creek Road. Snowshoe trails that are more remote include Galena View, Senate Meadows, and Pioneer Cemetery – all accessible off Highway 75 just north of Ketchum.
More of an adrenaline chaser? Snowmobile rentals or guided tours will satisfy that desire! Similar to Nordic skiing, there are hundreds of miles of trails in the Ketchum Sun Valley area to explore at top speeds! Smiley Creek Lodge and Sawtooth Traxx are two locations to rent snowmobiles. Smiley Creek Lodge is a cozy hub for snowmobilers to rent, fuel-up, grab a snack or even stay for the night. Smiley Creek Lodge is at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains allowing for perfect access to incredible trails and scenery. Unsure where to start in the area? Smiley Creek Lodge has experts that would love to take you on a guided tour.
Even though these activities are specific to a perfect winter weekend in Ketchum, be sure to make another trip during the summertime to enjoy fly-fishing, hiking, and mountain biking.
Since it’s earliest days in the 1930’s Ketchum was destined to be an outdoor adventure town. It has fully delivered on its promise to provide small town with big life! Whether your winter trip is dedicated to enjoying the scenery by skiing, snowmobiling, or Nordic skiing or your speed is enjoyment from one of their many fine dining restaurants – Ketchum truly offers everything for a winter get away!
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