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Area History


Sun Valley has become synonymous with rest and relaxation but the town has an incredible history as well. For hundreds of years, the Native American tribes would call this area home, but it wasn’t until the early 1900’s that the population boom would take off. Sun Valley hosts the United States' first destination resort and as the popularity of winter sports grew in this country, so did the population in this area. People would travel from all over the world to visit this unique resort and still do to this day.

The founder of the resort was W. Averell Harriman, the chairman of the United Pacific Railroad. He was seeking a way to increase the amount of traffic on passenger trains and after the Winter Olympics of 1932 and the reaction to the winter games, he hit on an idea to craft a new resort. Hiring an Austrian Count to search for the perfect spot, Sun Valley would eventually be chosen as the home of this new resort and revolutionary idea. The count was drawn to the area due to its natural beauty, the presence of Bald Mountain and the lack of wind. It was the perfect spot for both summer and winter fun.

Construction on the resort began immediately and soon, thanks to the railroad, it was completed in a record seven months. The total cost for construction was $1.5 million, a princely sum at the time. The publicist hired to promote the new resort settled on the name Sun Valley and the rest was history. The resort officially opened for business in 1937 and travelers began flocking from all over the world. Although it is not a new idea now, the resort contained two heated indoor swimming pools, an idea that was absolutely revolutionary for that time. This lead in a big part to the popularity of the resort and garnered a lot of publicity.

The resort would continue with their innovations. The world’s very first chair lifts were installed on the mountain in 1936, allowing tourists an easy way to get up the mountain. More lifts would soon be added and by 1939, three were in operation on the mountain. Many famous people would frequent the resort, and Ernest Hemmingway even completed his most famous novel while staying there.

The resort shut down briefly during World War II when it was used by the U.S. Navy as a hospital. After the war, it would reopen to great fanfare and resumed its earlier popularity. Now, ski races are held annually and the area is a favorite among skiers and extreme sports enthusiasts. However, the naturally temperate area has made it a popular spot for summer vacations and the activities in this region draw people all year round.

Today, there are numerous golf courses in the surrounding towns, such as Ketchum and there are plenty of places to stay and relax. Ketchum in particular is home to numerous fine hotels and restaurants. Development is continuing and visitors are treated to the best shops, hotels, and restaurants in the area.