A “Stay-cation” Sun Valley-style

A local family enjoys a few days in America’s original ski resort

Vacations in Sun Valley are fun for the whole family.

By Nicky Elsbree

In recognition of one’s dedication to Sun Valley Company, they offer "R & R" packages to employees who have reached certain milestones in their careers. At the end of my 5th season of teaching skiing, I was awarded a three-night stay, all food and activities included, at a Sinclair Company (Sun Valley’s parent company) run resort.

The vision of scooting down to Utah and experiencing Snow Basin’s light and fluffy powder seemed attainable. The reality of our energy levels, however, caused my husband and me to reconsider. In other words, we were tired and the thought of loading up and traveling five hours south with two young kids didn’t sound as glamorous or easy as it once did.

So, instead of letting the certificate collect dust for a couple more years, we took action. With one of their nicest resorts right next door, Spring Break Sun Valley-style here we come!

The view from the Sun Valley Lodge.

At 5 o’clock on Sunday afternoon we loaded Clayton (7) and Hadley (3) into the car with DVD player and drinks available (their bags stashed secretly) for our long road trip. "Hot Springs?  Camping?  Boise? C’mon! Where are we going?"

As we took a left onto Saddle Road and crossed Highway 75, they were really befuddled. Without saying much, we pulled into Sun Valley’s parking lot and walked to the big doors of the Lodge where we were treated like royalty,  as everyone is.

It was not until I presented a key to Clayton and told Hadley to hit the elevator button to the third floor that they started to engage in the possibility of…drum roll please…being able to spend the night at a hotel here in their hometown.

Yes, room #325, staring out at Baldy and over the hot pool, beckoned us. The kids were delighted as they chose their beds and took a few spins around the room, trying on bright white robes and too big spa slippers and even discovered a tiny box wrapped in gold ribbon hiding some fancy chocolates. For a moment, I think they forgot where they were… the transformation from locals to visitors was complete.

At Bald Mountain Pizza the atmosphere was relaxed, but we still reminded our kids of their manners. Our waiter Jonathan was cool and engaging without, you know, over doing it.

When he drifted back to the kitchen, we discussed the idea of "being from somewhere else," in effort to make ourselves more, well, touristy. Clayton promptly decided he wanted to be from San Jose. I guess the fact that he’s a hockey fanatic and a huge Sharks fan came into play. So as we gobbled up pizza, we had fun trying on our new identity and then weaved our way back to the Lodge.

The birthday boy gets hugs from Clayton and Hadley.

Clayton even got nervy enough to tell another elevating family when asked, that we were from San Jose. The mom, who mentioned they were from Idaho Falls exclaimed, "Wow, we’ve never met anyone from there before and isn’t that exciting?" Clayton’s everlasting grin grew even bigger.

The next day the rain came crushing and I actually felt bad for the "real" visitors.  Skiing in the rain can be good, but this was a soaker and back-up plans, which included raincoats, came into play. For us it was breakfast at Gretchen’s followed by feeding the ducks and out to the hot pool.  The temperature dropped just enough for the rain to transition to large wispy whiteness floating down. My daughter, Hadley, thought the flakes looked like the swan feathers she had found outside by the pond. They did and it was magical.

It felt like camp when we received a message in our room about an impromptu matinee showing "The Big Miracle," with Drew Barrymore.  As all good movies do, it provided an escape out of our own little world into someone else’s.

Ah let’s see, what next, a little bowling. We saw local friends and a plethora of visiting families as kids wore their cool kicks and hurled bedazzling balls down the lanes.  Parents tried to remember how to score as a few "oh yeahs" and "oh shucks" echoed throughout.

It's easy to keep the kids happy when you're hanging out in Sun Valley.

Dinner in the Lobby Inn and ambling about the Sun Valley grounds brought us up to 9 o’clock.  After reading the kids "Little Clyde, Horsing Around in Sun Valley," falling asleep to an NHL game on TV was an easy end to an enjoyable day.

The next morning was filled with a series of "Happy Birthdays" shrieked to my husband, Mark. Good thing we were on the end room as to not disturb many people with our off-tone singing. We marched to the Konditeri for a casual breakfast and out to the hot pool for a finale soak prior to checking out.

Two nights and a couple days of crossing over into Sun Valley’s fancy laid-backness gave us a refreshing perspective on the town next door. No, we didn’t ski and it was too wet to skate, but we did what young kids inherently like to do. Sleep in a hotel bed, ride the elevator and get tired out at the pool. It was fun to play the "we are from San Jose" game and easy to understand why people travel great distances to experience this special resort. With the pop of our tourist bubble, we hopped back in the car for our 12 minute drive home out Warm Springs Road.

And then the birthday boy grabbed his skis and headed for Baldy, the reigning king of Sun Valley, while the kids and I unpacked from our stay-cation.