The state with the most wilderness acreage is Alaska. 52% of Alaska is still wilderness. #2 is California with 14%. #3 surprised me. It’s Idaho. Most of its true wilderness is in the center of the state with the Bitterroot Mountains my favorite part. Idaho’s wilds contain 1,800 miles of trails, jagged peaks, incredible valleys. etc. Two still partially wild rivers run through it, the Main Salmon and its Middle Fork. Southeast of the Sawtooth Wilderness is the area’s only population center–Ketchum, Sun Valley, Hailey, etc.
Ruth & I spent some time revisiting Sun Valley in summer, 2016. It’s changing but still values it’s small town resort feel. It’s visitor center, for example, is in the local Starbucks. However, Aspen Ski Company is increasing its presence in town with Limelight,a $35 million hotel with 108 guest rooms and 14 residences. It’s scheduled to open in December, 2016. The venerable Sun Valley Lodge has just finished remodeling and is now offering 108 new, larger guest rooms to celebrate its 80th birthday. The Auberge Resort Sun Valley Hotel will open in 2018 across the street from Limelight. When we were there, The town was still buzzing from a recent Bill Gates gathering that rented almost every upscale accommodation in town. Seventeen leaders of Fortune 500 companies, for now, have residences here.
Also across the street from Limelight is Sun Valley’s very modest Heritage and Ski Museum. It’s in an old forest service building, for now, and is strong on the history of Sun Valley’s resort, mines, railroads, sheep. A current special exhibit is about Ernest Hemingway, one of Sun Valley’s most famous residents. He completed his novel For Whom the Bell Tolls in Suite 206 of the Sun Valley Lodge 77 years ago. Yes, Sun Valley is that venerable. Its resort history began in 1936. Vail didn’t happen until 1962. Sun Valley skiing was and still is dominated by Bald and Dollar Mountains. Baldy has no flats. It’s all downhill. Dollar had the world’s 1st chairlift.
Sun Valley was the United States’ first destination winter resort. It was a major Hollywood playground in the 1930s. Eight movies have been made, at least in part, in the area. However, 7 of them were made before 1984. Pale Rider was perhaps the most memorable. I learned in the museum that the resort’s initial staff wore Austrian outfits because it was considered an Austrian-style destination ski resort. The rich and beautiful loved its heated pool.
Sun Valley’s 81st ski season begins November 24th.