It's a new dawn for Idaho's Sun Valley Lodge

Tribune Newspapers

The grand dame of U.S. ski lodges — Sun Valley — has taken a dip in the fountain of youth to celebrate its 80th birthday.

Built in 1936 by politician and businessman Averell Harriman, the lodge was a magnet for celebrities from the entertainment and sporting worlds. Despite some sprucing up through the years, by the late 1990s the historic property was showing its age.

Now part of late billionaire Robert Earl Holding's Little America hotel group, the lodge underwent major changes to bring it up to today's standards. After being closed for the 2014-15 ski season, Sun Valley Lodge has reopened and reclaimed its spot among the elite.

"We knew that a simple renovation wouldn't be enough," said Jack Sibbach, director of marketing and public relations for Sun Valley Resort. "We stripped the building down to its 13-inch-thick concrete walls and started over. It really was more of a rebirth than a rejuvenation."

The result is a more welcoming lodge, immediately evident in the expanded lobby, where large windows showcase fabulous views. The lobby's formerly dark, clubby Duchin Lounge has been brightened and opened, creating a bubbling apres-ski destination.

The number of rooms dropped from 148 to 108, all but 27 of them suites. The rooms are spacious with large, modern bathrooms. The 27 standard rooms all have king beds and may be the largest standard rooms I've seen in a ski resort.

The reborn lodge also added a 20,000-square-foot spa with 15 treatment rooms. The fitness center and heated outdoor saline pool were expanded, and a family-sized whirlpool and fire pit were added.

A few of the original's iconic touches remain. The halls are still lined with vintage photos of famous visitors, such as Ernest Hemingway, Clint Eastwood, Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedys. And the six-lane bowling alley gives off a retro vibe, along with its video games and pool table.

Overnight rates start at $369.

Randall Weissman is a freelance reporter.

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