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John Grossman's Sun Valley

Bald Mountain is nationally known for its great snow.

Gary Cooper, Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe helped put Sun Valley, Idaho, on the map decades ago. The ski town, blessed with a stunning natural location, is still popular with Hollywood’s glitterati. That makes a lot of sense to Laguna Beach fan John Grossman, who loves to brag about Sun Valley, where he grew up. “I may be biased, but I think it’s the best small ski town in the nation, and I traveled as a ski racer, so I’ve been to quite a few of them.” Grossman is a managing partner and creative director for Classic Hotels & Resorts, which owns and operates the Inn at Laguna Beach and the Laguna Beach House. Working in the hospitality industry has stoked Grossman’s love of travel. “For me, it’s all about the people and the culture.” His favorite vacations are active, including things like whitewater kayaking or cycling. “Getting off the beaten path via a sport is really a great way to have interesting chance encounters with locals,” he says. That’s a particularly easy thing to do in his favorite ski town. -He spoke with Rosemary McClure

Why Sun Valley?
It’s one of the nation’s best, and first, destination ski resorts, renowned for the recently renovated Sun Valley Lodge, which was built by the Union Pacific Railroad in 1936. The resort also boasts the world’s first chairlift. Beyond that, it’s a classic mountain town with a compact downtown that’s walkable and vibrant, with a great food and nightlife culture.

Best bite
Grumpy’s is a favorite of locals, known for surly bartenders and 32-ounce schooners of draft beer. But it also has the best burgers in town. And drink one of those giant schooners while you’re there.

Time is right
Most people think of Sun Valley as a great place to ski, and certainly it is a wonderful place to visit this time of year for winter sports. But Sun Valley is terrific year-round and for me, the best time to go there is in the summer. There’s a ton to do, including hiking, mountain biking, waterskiing and lake surfing. And the weather is absolutely perfect then.

After dark
Start with an aprés-ski drink at the Celler, then make your way to Enoteca for a glass of wine and a bite to eat, hit up Whiskey Jacques’ for live music and dancing, and then walk across the street to the Casino (oldest bar in town, former brothel, 220 N. Main St., Ketchum) and close it down. They serve booze right up until 2 a.m.

Secret tip
September is the best month. There’s no one here, and the weather is great – cold and crisp in the morning and warm and sunny in the afternoon. A drive north to Galena Summit yields fantastic viewing of the changing aspen leaves.

Buy in
Downtown is small, quaint and easy to navigate on foot. There are lots of great shopping options and a very solid art gallery scene. If you’re looking for high-end ski- or sportswear, try the Brass Ranch; for gear, don’t miss Pete Lane’s Mountain Sports.

Must do
First on my list would be to ski Baldy (Bald Mountain), which is nationally known for its great snow, big elevation drop and lack of windy weather. It has 13 chairlifts and 65 runs, plus themed adventure trails for kids, and 30 acres of glade ski and boarding terrain. Next on my list would be to get a steak or ribs at the Pioneer Saloon in Ketchum, about a mile from Sun Valley, where you’ll feel like you’re stepping into the frontier era.  

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