In 1994 at the Olympics in Lillehammer, Picabo Street, a bright-eyed, freckle-faced 23 year old from Sun Valley, Idaho, nabbed silver in the downhill. The feat cemented her place in ski-racing history and Sun Valley lore. After the 1994 Olympics, her name became synonymous with ski racing and Sun Valley named a run in honor of its hometown champion: Picabo’s Street.
Street went on to win gold in the super-G at the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan, along with two World Cup downhill titles, making her one of the most successful American female racers of all time. These days, Street is retired and lives in Utah and Alabama, but she stills calls Sun Valley, one of the oldest ski resorts in the U.S., home.
“For me it’s home and you can’t beat home.” After all, it was this mountain that groomed her to be a speed queen. “I remember chasing my dad down Mid-River Run, trying to keep up.” Even though she’s a two-time Olympic medalist and the first American to win the downhill title, Mid-River remains one of her favorite trails.
Today, she still loves to let it rip down Sun Valley’s 3,241-vertical-feet of steep, corduroy groomers, some of the best in the country, because she doesn’t have to hold back. “There’s a pretty high level of skiing there, and I can ski at my level there whereas at a lot of other places I can’t.”
Aside from the skiing, Street loves Sun Valley’s off-hill amenities, which blend high-end Hollywood posh—several celebrities, including Tom Hanks, own homes there—with a downhome vibe. “There’s great food, good entertainment, but honestly, it’s the healthy, outdoorsy, lifestyle that people move there for,” she says. “The bike paths, nutritious food, the active lifestyle, community programs, arts and entertainment. There’s just so much to do.”
And Street’s right. From watching the local hockey team’s games and dining at one of the resort’s high-end eateries to skiing the mountain’s 2,054-acres of cruisers, bowls and glades, there’s something for everyone. Read on for the inside line on how to maximize your next trip to Sun Valley. And when you go, look for Street. You’ll most likely find her on Plaza chair, which overlooks her namesake run.
Street practices her tuck in an amateur race in 2013.
Copyright: Katie Perhai/USSA
A PICABO INTO SUN VALLEY'S MUST-DO'S
Best lift: I’m always a fan of the slow lifts, so Plaza is probably my favorite chair. I like it because it’s old, a single bench, and it goes over my run, Picabo’s Street.
Best trees: Sun Valley has fantastic trees. It’s a tough one, but I really love the trees on Seattle Ridge. I’ll also forever love the trees hard right looking down on Warm Springs, right below the Plaza lift.
Best groomer: If you’re into some vertical drop and like steep pitch, Warm Springs, top to bottom, is insane. It’s like no other place in the nation. I also like to jump into Mid-River run—it’s probably my favorite run on the mountain.
Secret stash: Stay to the left in the trees underneath the Seattle Ridge chairlift.
Best month to ski Sun Valley: The Christmas holiday time is breathtaking and absolutely memorable.
Best month for powder: January and February. That’s when the big storms roll through.
Powder-day itinerary: On a powder day, you’re going to want to hit the bowls. So, take the gondola to the top. Then take the Mayday chairlift and drop down Christmas ridge and into the bowls.
Best on-mountain dining: You’ve got to go to the Seattle Ridge Lodge—not so much for the food, but for the views and the magnificent lodge.
Best meal on the mountain: Roundhouse Lodge. Order the Idaho baked potato, a piece of meat and a hot apple cider.
Best restaurant in town: Michel’s at the Christiania.
Best après: Apples.
Best hotel: Knob Hill Inn.
Insider secret: Grab a hot chocolate at A La Mode. They have an amazing hot-chocolate menu.
Best hot tub: The one with the most powder around it.
Best off-mountain activity: Ice-skating at the outdoor rink is super fun. Go watch the Sun Valley Suns play hockey at the indoor rink on Dollar road or head over to Boulder Mountain Clay Works to make your own pottery or souvenir.
Best ski or snowboard shop: Sturtevants for skis and Board Bin for snowboards.
Best skis for Sun Valley: There’s such a big vertical drop on Sun Valley that you really need a big side-cut on your skis to arc big turns down the groomers, but those aren’t always fun in the crud or in the bowls. So, if you can, bring a quiver.
If you’re going to Sun Valley, don’t forget to bring: Your camera—because you might run into a celebrity—your sunglasses and your favorite skis.
You go there on purpose to experience the resort, the people that live there and the culture, so it’s like a stop off spot. You have to put some effort into getting there and it’s worth it. There’s an eclectic mix of blue-collar bedroom community to Hollywood and everything in between. So there’s really a niche for everyone.