Sun Valley History: Get to Know This Ski Vacation Destination

Today, Sun Valley, Idaho, ranks among the top ski destinations in the U.S. However, many don’t know that the area once housed Native Americans, gold prospectors and travelers. It was also home to the first ski lift and ski resort in the U.S. Keep reading more Sun Valley history and get to know this Idaho hot spot.

Sun Valley History: A Glimpse Into the Past

Before Skiing

Historians state that Native Americans occupied Wood River Valley some 12,000 years ago. They called the area home until the late 1800s, when they were forced to move due to the mining era. By that time, Sun Valley had become a hot spot for mining, hot springs, sports and things to do. In fact, the area housed hotels, four restaurants, 13 saloons and other businesses by 1885.

The Ski Resort Launches

The area’s size overwhelmed Count Felix Schaffgtosch in 1935, when he went on-site for Averell Harriman, chairman of Union Pacific Railroad, with the job of finding the ideal location for an upscale resort.

Schaffgtosch had searched across western America. While he found many places, none reached the level of excellence he searched for. When he visited a promising location in Ketchum Valley, the count immediately contacted Harriman. Schaffgtosch had found the perfect winter resort destination location.

Harriman purchased over 4,000 acres, which became Sun Valley just seven months later. The resort opened for business in 1936 to luxury seekers, movie stars and Olympic champions.

Continued Resort Success

Sun Valley resort was taken over in 1977 by R. Earl Holding, whose family has continued to make Sun Valley a jewel in the world of resorts. With refurbished buildings, rooms, exemplary dining and additional day-lodges, Sun Valley still retains its title as the “American Shangri-La.”

Even celebrities noticed. Sun Valley has hosted Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Tom Hanks, Oprah Winfrey, Jaime Lee Curtis and Bill Gates. Many celebrities even owned homes in Sun Valley, as the area provides a retreat from busy city life. In addition to Hollywood celebs, Sun Valley has also played a part in shaping Olympian greats.

After sampling Sun Valley history, check out the top local attractions and where to buy Sun Valley souvenirs.