sun valley trip report.HEIC

Trip Report    

Global Adventure - Nordic Ski in Idaho's Iconic Sun Valley

Ketchum, Idaho has some of the West's best XC ski trails, and it is only a short flight or a one-day drive from Western WA.

  • Snow and ice on road
  • Sawtooth Mountain Range as seen from the drive out to Alturas Lake

    Ketchum, Idaho is a great cross-country ski town.  Ketchum is home to the  Blaine County Recreational District  (BCRD) which expertly grooms more than 210 km of XC ski trails which includes the Galena Nordic Lodge 25 miles north of Ketchum.  The BCRD also maintains a large fleet of grooming machines to keep all of their trails expertly groomed throughout the ski season. 

    The BCRD offers a variety of x-c ski terrain from easy to challenging. The Harriman Trail connects 30 km of easy and intermediate BCRD trails between Ketchum and Galena. This 30 km stretch has many trailheads on which to park, and the trails are mostly easy green and intermediate blue. The more challenging black ski trails are found at the Galena Nordic Ski Park, Sun Valley Nordic in town, and the Lake Creek Trail System. 

    In 2024 Ketchum, ID area was late getting their snow perhaps due to climate change. They finally had enough snow for XC Ski trail grooming by the end of January. This worked well for our February 10th arrival. Lesson learned: plan a trip after the snow has arrived and before it melts in mid-March.  

    We encountered new wet snow several days in a row, which slowed down our skis on the trail. One person's ski skins stuck to the wet snow on a groomed trail at the Sun Valley Nordic Center and received an injury.  Fortunately, we were in town and had phone reception, so we called the Sun Valley Lodge for assistance. The Nordic lodge sent out a small snow tractor truck and picked up our injured skier and a helper.  Once the injured skier was back at the lodge, another one of our skiers transported the skier to St. Luke's Hospital in Ketchum to be seen and treated. 

Ketchum, Idaho is well laid out for the cross-country skier. The small town of Ketchum meets all of the needs for a week-long stay:  airport just outside of town in Hailey, SUV car rental from the airport, plenty of VRBO's to rent for a week, nice grocery stores, and two expertly supplied Cross Country Ski Stores.

Ketchum, ID is at 5,853 feet in elevation,  and the xc ski trails range from 6,000 to 6,800 ft. We spent the first two ski days getting acclimated to the higher elevations and skiing on green and blue trails before skiing the black trails at higher elevations. We typically skied 9-12 miles a day. 

The BCRD Winter Trail System and the Sun Valley Nordic Center trails are best for track and skate skis, not metal-edged skis, as this entire XC ski area is beautifully groomed most days of the week in winter. 

The BCRD requires ski passes which can be purchased online or in an XC Ski Store. The 2024 ski ticket prices are reasonable, $20 a day, 3 days for $54. There are volunteers on the trail checking for passes so be prepared to show your daily pass. 

There are many XC ski trail systems to ski in this area. See the Blaine Country Recreational District Winter Trails for a description of each. 

A private Nordic system can be found at the  Sun Valley Nordic Center in town. It is worth a one-day ski ticket to see their trails. We especially liked skiing the entire  Boundry Loop Trail. Their ticket prices cost more than the BCRD. 

The XC ski systems favored by our group included: Galena Nordic Lodge Trails, Alturas Lake and Billy's Bridge. 

Wild elk herds can be seen in the area.