And its allure endures: 2,000 acres of skiable mountain terrain — including Bald Mountain, a perfect-pitch vertical slope; beginner downhill tracks; and trails designed for kids. It also has nearly 25 miles of cross-country trails, the world’s largest snowmaking operation and, of course, delightful spots for après-ski respites, glamorous hotels and lodges, and cozy mountainside restaurants with riveting views. And with world-class golf courses, fly-fishing, and hiking and biking trails that boast exquisite views, it dazzles in the warmer months, too.
But the chance to spot an A-lister comes with a hefty price tag, one not tied to other outdoor-sports destinations. A more down-to-earth mountain town sits a few hours away.
Location: Sun Valley is about 155 miles east of Boise.
You’ll see notables of another feather in the much more low-key, although no less enchanting, resort town of McCall. There, you can take to the Idaho Birding Trail to catch glimpses of hundreds of species, including Great Gray Owls, bald eagles, and an assortment of hummingbirds and hawks.
Situated on Payette Lake, a glacial basin with sandy beaches and sporty options such as water skiing, kayaking and paddleboarding, McCall is buzzier in the summertime than in the colder months, but that’s not to say it’s quiet in the winter. Brundage Mountain, which gets 300 inches of snow annually, has wide, groomed runs with a consistent pitch for easy-access powder skiing.
Shore Lodge, on the waterfront, remains the “it” spot more than 70 years after it opened. It’s cozy, with timber beams and other rustic touches. The bar, which has epic views of the lake and mountains, specializes in whiskey, making it a fine spot for après ski or an aperitif before dinner at the Narrows Steakhouse, the hotel’s restaurant.
Idaho is the second-largest hop-producing state in the country, and locals take advantage. McCall, home to only 3,500 year-round residents, boasts three brewpubs, each one showcasing both classic and forward-thinking styles. Salmon River Brewing is a sleek new downtown operation, long-standing McCall Brewing is pub-like, and taxidermy adorns the minimalistic tap room at Broken Horn Brewing. Those three spots plus 24 bars and restaurants in the vicinity make up the McCall Ale Trail.
Dining options can be an activity in their own right. Blue Moon Yurt, which was located in McCall’s Ponderosa State Park for 20-plus years, has a new location in the woods of 1,410-acre Jug Mountain Ranch. Snowmobile or ski up to the cozy yurt for a prix fixe communal meal among the pines.
Outside town, consider family-owned Burgdorf Hot Springs, a rambling, secluded property about 40 minutes away where, besides soaking in the natural mineral springs, you can unplug and commune with nature.
Location: McCall is about 108 miles north of Boise.