EVERYONE SHOULD SPEND FALL in a ski town at least once in their lives. There’s something awe-inspiring in watching Old Man Winter descend on the mountains. As the season slowly starts to creep in over October and November, optimism is rampant as everyone readies themselves for what’s sure to be the best winter ever.

Conversations center on weather patterns and jet streams; speculation runs wild on the loose lips of local bar patrons. “Haven’t you heard El Niño is officially ON!?” Productivity-sapping daydreams of bluebird powder laps with friends and early morning speed runs are fueled by the endless stream of photos through your phone and computer screen proclaiming #winteriscoming. Hell yeah it is.

Like any good hometown boy, the only places on my mind this time of year are the mountains I grew up in. So here’s my offering to Ullr and the coming winter in 30 images of the greatest place on earth to play in the snow. Enjoy the ride.

1

As America’s first destination ski resort, Sun Valley’s history runs deep. The old gal is often referred to as the Grand Dame of American ski resorts, although I’ve always known her as that beautiful ageless aunty who plays the part of classy host flawlessly, and who, after a few cocktails, loves to tell stories about her wild and rowdy past. Of course, on the right day she’s still the life of the party. In this stunning Christmas Eve shot, the Grand Dame is dressed up in her holiday best.
Photo: Kevin Symns, courtesy of Sun Valley

2

Sunrise powder turns are the best. This is Reggie Crist halfway to town on his morning commute.
Photo: Author

3

Timing is everything in the mountains; if your timing is good, you’ll be there mid-week, mid-season, when it hasn’t stopped snowing for the past four days and the lifts are empty except for you and a good friend.
Photo: Author

4

If you've ever heard someone say "groomers are boring," then you know that person has never skied Bald Mountain. On an early January morning. Hitting terminal velocity over ballroom-smooth corduroy at 9am down Warm Springs, or laying trenches on Lower College (pictured here), will forever change the way you feel about groomed runs.
Photo: Author

5

Sun Valley was home to the world’s first chairlift in 1936, and the tradition of innovation continues today with a fleet of high-speed quads that allow more vertical feet to be shredded in a morning than you'll get in a whole day at most resorts. Chairlift rides also offer some beautiful scenery between runs, as captured here.
Photo: Nicolas Henry Hawthorne, courtesy of Sun Valley

6

Riding the trees on storm days shows off a completely different side of Baldy and Sun Valley. On the right day, "the Bald One" (as the main mountain is affectionately called) holds some of the best tree lines you'll find anywhere in the world. You just have to know where you’re going. Local boy and Matador Ambassador Yancy Caldwell knows all the right spots.
Photo: Tal Roberts, courtesy of Sun Valley

7

Bald Mountain is a wonderland for children, and I loved my years skiing with kids while working for the Sun Valley Ski School. It's always inspiring to see how much fun they have as they tear around the mountain with their buddies. Always reminds me of what skiing is supposed to feel like! Every run down the mountain is an adventure.
Photo courtesy of Sun Valley

8

Pioneering publicist Steve Hannigan was hired to promote Sun Valley when it first opened 79 years ago. He famously had the resort install two giant hot pools just outside the lodge and peppered national newspapers and magazines with images of glamorous couples hanging out poolside in the middle of winter so "people won't think skiing is too cold."
Photo courtesy of Sun Valley

9

Some things haven’t changed much in 79 years. Both pools are still in use today, and the Sun Valley Lodge hot pool remains one of the best places to spend a midwinter afternoon.
Photo courtesy of Sun Valley

10

With over 100 miles of Nordic skiing trails in the Wood River Valley, the options are nearly endless if you’re tired of letting those high-speed chairlifts and gravity do all the work.
Photo courtesy of Sun Valley

11

The next generation is alive and well in Sun Valley, with locals like Wing Tai Barrymore, pictured here, pushing strongly into the future and representing the mountain at the highest level of international competition. The sprawling and immaculately maintained Snow Park Technologies (SPT) superpipe and park on Dollar Mountain is full of ever-changing features for every level that keep folks from first timers to the world's top athletes well and truly entertained.
Photo: Tal Roberts, courtesy of Sun Valley

12

Here's Pat Lee exploiting another bluebird day in the Dollar Mountain 22' Superpipe.
Photo: Tal Roberts, courtesy of Sun Valley

13

American freestyle skier Simon Dumont on a run down the pipe.
Photo: Author

14

The iconic Sun Valley outdoor ice skating rink is home to countless childhood memories and makes for a great family activity. By far my favorite thing is to watch the young kids skate circles around their wobbly parents.
Photo courtesy of Sun Valley

15

Sawtooth Mountains

In my humble opinion, the mountains that surround the Sun Valley resort are really the stars of the show and what makes this place so special. There are five distinct ranges visible from the top of the lifts: the Smokies, Pioneers, Boulders, White Clouds (debatable if these are visible from the top of Baldy, but they’re out there for sure), and the Sawtooths. Exploring these peaks has been the life pursuit of guys like local guides Erik Leidecker and Zach Crist (pictured here). If you fancy some backcountry to spice up your trip to the hills, give the guys at Sawtooth Mountain Guides a ring. Here they are halfway up the Sickle Couloir in the Sawtooths.
Photo: Author

16

Erik Leidecker and Zach Crist topping out on Kent Peak in the Boulder Mountains.
Photo: Author

17

There are plenty of opportunities to earn your turns in these mountains. Here, Zach Crist reaps the rewards of sweat equity in the Sawtooths.
Photo: Author

18

Wyatt Caldwell uses the throttle to explore central Idaho.
Photo: Caldwell Collections

19

Reggie Crist finds his happy place at home on Bald Mountain. Untracked snow on a sunny day—if that doesn’t get you fired up for winter, nothing will.
Photo: Author

20

Zach Crist draws a clean line.
Photo: Author

21

Reggie Crist was an Olympic downhiller before moving from chasing gates to chasing big mountain lines around the world, but he's most at home finding his own line around Mother Nature's obstacles a few thousand feet above his house on Bald Mountain.
Photo: Author

22

An evening sleigh ride to dinner under an alpenglow sunset—there's a lot more on offer at Sun Valley than skiing.
Photo courtesy of Sun Valley

23

A moment of winter zen. Nothing quite like watching snow fall on pine trees.
Photo: Caldwell Collections

24

Sun Valley Resort, Idaho

Good morning beautiful. A sunrise ride in the helicopter with the guys from Sun Valley Heli Ski offers a nice view of Mt. Baldy while on the way further afield chasing untracked snow.
Photo: Author

25

My good friend Kyl Samway in the spot where we all want to be.
Photo: Author

26

While Sun Valley isn't known for its cliffs and steeps, they’re there if you look hard enough. Here's Reggie Crist finding what he was looking for.
Photo: Author

27

Wyatt Caldwell draws a smooth path in the Pioneer Mountains.
Photo: Author

28

Storm days on Baldy are always my favorite. Here's Yancy Caldwell sending it.
Photo: Ray Gadd

29

Laying down a frontside gouge in the bowls.
Photo: Caldwell Collections

30

A timeless view of the Grand Dame at her wintertime best. It's a special place, this small Idaho valley and the mountains that surround it, and winter is indeed coming. So enjoy the tail end of fall and keep one eye on the weather. Happy daydreaming.
Photo: Author

This post is proudly produced in partnership with Sun Valley Resort.