About halfway through For Whom the Bell Tolls—arguably Ernest Hemingway’s greatest novel; inarguably one of the greatest ever written—the protagonist muses, “I will marry her. Then we will be Mr. and Mrs. Robert Jordan of Sun Valley, Idaho.” Tucked in the foothills of the state’s central region, the valley not only made this brief appearance in this great tome, but was where the author wrote the book, lived for a time, and—ultimately and tragically—died.
Much of the writing of the aforementioned title was completed at the Sun Valley Resort—a luxurious ski lodge on the edge of the town of Ketchum where you can actually stay in the very room where Hemingway once wrote in. For winter sport enthusiasts who happen to be Hemingway aficionados, you’ll be hard-pressed to find skiing accommodations more literarily spectacular than this.
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The Setting: Ketchum, Idaho
The pint-sized town of Ketchum is a popular outdoor destination no matter what time of the year, but once the snows fall it becomes a particularly charming little place that seems like it could be right out of the snowy Swiss scenes in Hemingway’s own Farewell to Arms. Driving into town through the rich reds and oranges of the autumnal leaves, the snow-covered hills in the background, don’t be surprised if you pass by a herd of elk standing almost lazily along the side of the highway.
Once you pass through town and start up the road toward the popular skiing mountains Bald and Dollar, you’ll quickly come upon the Sun Valley Resort, which has an only somewhat Overlook Hotel vibe.
The Lodge: A Popular Celebrity Skiing Destination
Inside the lodge you’ll find a slew of photos from celebrities who have frequented the place over the past century, among whom is, of course, Ernest Hemingway. Stop at the bar for a Hemingway-inspired cocktail—that’s what he would have done.
Scattered around the grounds you’ll find several elegant restaurants, a hot tub and pool, a spa and downright impressive fitness center, and—in the winter—an ice-skating rink. The whole place has a cultivated, sophisticated vibe. There are even swans hunting about the pond at the entrance of the main lodge.
Several of the resort’s most luxurious rooms are designated “celebrity suites” that have been dedicated to the likes of Marylin Monroe, Clint Eastwood, and Ernest Hemingway.
The Room: A Fitting Tribute to Hemingway
The Hemingway Suite used to be numbered #206, but today it’s been renumbered #228. It’s a sprawling, massive room.
Upon entry you’ll immediately notice a portrait of Papa himself—one of many that are hung throughout the suite—then a sumptuously appointed living room that looks out over the ice rink. Pass through this and you arrive in the den, at the center of which is a wide desk facing a fire. Scattered around the den are various photographs and books by and about Hemingway and his family, and in the corner is an impressive bronze statue of him pecking away at a typewriter. The three walls each have French doors that open onto balconies; one overlooking the pool, one at the rink, and the other at the rustic Sun Valley landscape.
Continue past the den and you’ll enter an expansive bedroom that looks out at the pool. You’re not done yet. You still haven’t seen the powder room which leads into a massive bathroom of marble featuring a bath big enough for two alongside a spacious shower.
There are few experiences as wonderfully, pretentiously literary as cranking up the fire then sitting at the desk beside the bust of Hem to work on your own writing. Or you can simply sit in one of the fireside easy chairs and enjoy a good book. There are several appropriate titles to choose from lining the room’s shelves.
The Experience: Exploring Hemingway’s Ketchum
While you’re in town, there are a number of other Hemingway opportunities to be found. Enjoy a meal at the Sawtooth Club or Pioneer Saloon, both of which once were graced by the old man’s loud drinking habits in his day. North about a mile and a half past the lodge you’ll find the Hemingway Memorial—a tranquil pond featuring a bust of Hemingway and a poem he once wrote as an epitaph for a friend. In the center of Ketchum is the cemetery where he was buried beside his fourth wife Mary. You can spot it by the abundance of liquor bottles and other bric-a-brac left by admirers.
And of course you can visit the much-refurbished house where Hemingway lived out his final days and eventually died. It’s not open to the public and its precise location is supposedly a secret, but its address is 400 E. Canyon Run Blvd. You’re welcome.
If you want to stay in the Hemingway Suite, you’ll have to plan well in advance as it tends to be booked out for several months on end. While it isn’t exactly cheap, it’s also not outrageously priced. At $349-$499 a night, it’s kind of a bargain considering the enormity of the room, not to mention the enormity of its bookish history.