Exploring Sun Valley ID -> First Impressions & Connections
It’s been just one week since we arrived in Ketchum ID and we’ve had quite the whirlwind of activity. Our new home lies in an area broadly known as Sun Valley just south of the Sawtooth Mountain Range in Central Idaho. At ~6,000 ft elevation it’s a popular winter ski resort and blissful summer escape for folks living in the hot valley around Boise.
Although we’ve only just started exploring this place, we’ve been able to complete quite a few outings (one of the few advantages of being in a cramped RV park is that you’re really motivated to get out) so we’ve managed to get a decent feel of the lay of the land. Plus we’ve had a few meet-ups too, so I figured I would update you on that too.
Here’s how our first impressions panned out….
The Appeal Of A Ski Resort In Summer
One of my many weird quirks is that I’m chronically afraid of slipping. I blame control issues and a serious injury I got in my 20’s the first time I tried snowboarding the baby slopes of Lake Tahoe, CA (yes, I had to be rescue-sledded off the baby slopes), Either way I’ve never spent much time at ski resorts. The whole snow part obviously holds zero appeal for me, so the towns have never really been on my radar and we’ve generally passed them up in favor of other destinations.
Since we started RVing however, we’ve “discovered” a few ski-resort-type towns outside of the regular ski season (Nederlands, Telluride & Mammoth Lakes come to mind) and I have to admit they’ve grown on me. They’re typically packed full of good restaurants and cafes (skiers get hungry you know) and in summer the slopes transform from a snow wonderland to an outdoor hiking/biking utopia. The folks who live here really, really love the outdoors so when the seasons change they simply switch from snow shoes to hiking boots. If you’re a nature-lover that’s a very appealing draw.
But It’s Not Cheap
The one thing that always kind of bums me out about ski towns is that they’re not cheap. I get it of course. Skiing is an expensive pastime, and the locations tend to be pristine mountain hideaways so they attract folks with extra $$ looking for a classy getaway. It’s how these places develop.
A quick drive through Ketchum, population ~2,700 reveals the city certainly appears to match that mold.
Located at the base of several gorgeous mountains, Ketchum is jam packed with huge homes on huge swathes of land. If you have a few million (or 5) to spare you’ll have your choice of stunning properties to buy, but even if you just want a little condo you’ve got to be prepared to drop several hundred thou. The cost of living is ~53% higher than the U.S. Average and most of the restaurants rate two $$ or more on Yelp. I don’t think you can find a true “hole in the wall” eatery within 100 miles of town.
This also explains why the one and only RV park in the valley, which crams RVs together like sardines (and would be considered mostly so-so anywhere else in the country) can charge up to $50/night in high season (we’ve got their monthly rate which is much more reasonable, but still not cheap). It’s easy to drop some serious $$ in a short time here.
Influx of Cash Has its Advantages Too
All that money does come with some advantages though. One thing about upscale towns is that they’re usually pretty cute and Ketchum is both compact, well laid-out and pristinely clean. The ~30 mile bike trail that passes through the valley is in impeccable condition and looks like it was just paved and painted last month (seriously, the trail is as smooth as butter). The hiking/biking trails around town are all beautifully maintained, the local farmers markets are excellent, there are free music concerts all summer long and the restaurants and bars are all really good. Even the local hospital is surrounded by art sculptures and looks like it was built yesterday. Ketchum is not as fancy as say, Aspen (no Dior boutiques here), but it’s fairly upscale nonetheless. You’ve basically got all the amenities of a big city packed into less than 5 square miles.
It’s Drop Dead Gorgeous
And then there’s the surrounding nature. It really is drop-dead, gob-smacking, slap-in-your-face beautiful here. The mountains around Ketchum vary from grassy rolling hills plastered in wildflowers (right near town) to majestic 10,000 ft snow-capped stunners that rise from the ground like a Phoenix from the ashes just an hour north of here. Drive over the pass from Ketchum to Stanley and you might well die from the gorgeousness of it all. I literally haven’t seen a mountain range this stunning since we went to the Tetons last year.
It’s Mostly Undiscovered
The one other big, huge advantage of Sun Valley is that it’s *mostly* undiscovered.
One of the first things I noticed when we got here was that most of the license plates were from ID. As naturally gorgeous as this place is, it’s mostly a local getaway. You’ve got to make an effort to get to the Sawtooth Mountains. The road that leads up here takes you off the beaten track of I-84 to…basically…nowhere. There are no National Parks up this way, no major towns and it’s not really on the way to anywhere. The town of Stanley just 60 miles north of here (which is smack in the middle of the most gorgeous part of the Sawtooths) is nothing but a few blocks of tourist-type buildings with a steady population of only ~80. Unless you make an effort to go there, there’s no reason to be passing through.
Plus apart from the sprinkling of upscale ski towns along the way, the whole area is *mostly* natural forest and wilderness. The Sawtooth National Recreation Area covers an impressive 756,000 acres with the Sawtooth Wilderness at 217,088 acres. In the highest mountain area there are 40 peaks over 10,000 feet, 300 lakes and over 700 miles of trails! Basically as soon as you step out of town you’re surrounded by endless miles of natural beauty. There’s no end of hiking/biking, miles of river (this is a big fly fishing area) and tons of forest camping and boondocking.
And The Weather Rocks
The other thing that’s been a fabulous surprise is the weather. Unlike most mountain ranges we’ve visited this area is surprisingly dry and incredibly bug-free. So far we’ve been averaging highs of around 80’s, lows of 50’s, mostly sunny days, very few storms and we’ve not seen a single mosquito since we’ve been here (yea for mosquito-magnet me!). It’s the strangest mountain weather I’ve ever seen, and I’m curious to see if the rest of our month here plays out the same way.
We’ve Made Connections
In the short time we’ve been here we’ve even managed to connect with a few fellow RVers.
Earlier this week blog reader Nancy dropped by, and it turns out fellow solo nomad extraordinaire Interstellar Orchard was also passing through town. In typical IO style Becky decided to boondock in her Casita just a few dozen miles down the road and we connected through the magic of the internet. If you’ve never heard of IO, check out her blog and her two books (yes, she’s a bona fide published author) “Solo RVing On A Budget” and the newly released “The Little Guide To Dreaming Big“. She’s a wonderful inspiration for both regular RVers and solo ladies & guys looking to get in the road. Plus she’s just a really down-to-earth and lovely lady. We had a great hike last week and are getting together for another one tomorrow.
First Impressions Are Good
So basically first impressions have been good. Once we got over the shock of how tight our RV park is, Ketchum has slowly been growing on us. We’ve been getting outside to play everyday, partly to keep our sanity but also because the mountains are too darn gorgeous to resist. We’ve had a few outings to eat, hitting lunch time specials rather than evening meals (much cheaper). Plus we’ve discovered one of our favorite things in the world here, a really good B to B (Bike to Beer) -> Sawtooth Brewery is a mere 4 miles away from our RV door on the next-door bike trail, and it’s so delicious we’ve already become regulars. I predict it’s going to be a good month 🙂
Coming Up Next -> While we continue to explore the area, I’ll be posting a few general posts including an Easy RV Mod, maybe a few recipes and a full update on Polly’s rehab (she’s doing well, by the way). Stay tuned….SPONSORED LINK:
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