We welcome you to enjoy this selection of early images of Sun Valley. As you’ll see, not much has changed! The Sun Valley Lodge, Challenger Inn, the ice rink, outdoor heated swimming pools and surrounding beauty provide the same backdrop today as they did for tourists since 1937!
Sun Valley was the first destination winter resort in the U.S. It was developed by W. Averell Harriman, the chairman of the Union Pacific Railroad, primarily to increase ridership on U.P. passenger trains in the West. A lifelong skier, Harriman determined that America would embrace a destination mountain resort, similar to those he enjoyed in the Swiss Alps, such as St. Moritz and Davos. During the winter of 1935–36, Harriman enlisted the services of an Austrian count, Felix Schaffgotsch, to travel across the western U.S. to locate an ideal site for a winter resort. The Count toured Mount Rainier, Mount Hood, Yosemite, the San Bernardino Mountains, Zion, Rocky Mountain National Park, the Wasatch Mountains, Pocatello, Jackson Hole, and Grand Targhee areas. Late in his trip and on the verge of abandoning his search for an ideal location for a mountain resort development, he backtracked toward the Ketchum area in central Idaho. A U.P. employee in Boise had casually mentioned that the rail spur to Ketchum cost the company more money for snow removal than any other branch line and the Count went to explore.
Schaffgotsch was impressed by the combination of Bald Mountain and its surrounding mountains, adequate snowfall, abundant sunshine, moderate elevation, and absence of wind, and selected it as the site. Harriman visited several weeks later and agreed.
The world's first chairlifts were installed on the resort's Proctor and Dollar Mountains in the fall of 1936. (Proctor Mountain is northeast of Dollar Mountain). Single-seat chairlifts were developed at the U.P. headquarters in Omaha in the summer of 1936. The chairlift went on to replace primitive rope tow and other adaptations seen at ski areas at the time. The original Proctor Mountain Ski Lift is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Sun Valley and its surrounding communities offer year-round recreation and hospitality for millions of visitors. Visitors to Sun Valley are close to the spectacular Sawtooth National Recreation Area, accessed over Galena Summit on Highway 75, the Sawtooth Scenic Byway.
Tourists enjoy its skiing, hiking, ice skating, trail riding, tennis, and cycling. Few of its residents stay year-round, and most come from major cities like Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and more distantly Chicago and New York.