Seek, Learn, Grow

A trip to the Sun Valley Wellness Festival offers insight and inspiration— and plenty of stunning views.

By Diana Price

It’s the end of May in the mountains of south-central Idaho. In the Wood River Valley, home to the world-famous Sun Valley Resort, the fresh green of early summer pulses with life in the newly warm days, as sage, Aspen, and the first brave, colorful wildflowers paint the high-desert landscape. Early-season runoff swells local rivers, and morning and evening temperatures remain cool as the valley moves toward the full-blown summer to come. It’s a time of transformation and growth, of movement and renewal.

It’s against this stunning natural backdrop that the 15-year-old Sun Valley Wellness Festival provides participants with the opportunity for a more personal transformation. Founded in 1997 with the mission of inspiring positive change, the festival brings together top speakers and practitioners of mind, body, spirit, and environmental wellness and draws approximately 1,000 visitors annually from around the country.

The selection of festival offerings is truly broad, catering to a variety of agendas. A day of festival activities might include a morning yoga class or meditation session, presentations dedicated to embracing creative potential, discovering intuitive healing or practicing mindful parenting, a keynote address focused on healthy aging by a renowned physician, and an evening music performance. And because the hiking and biking trails, golf courses, and other recreational opportunities are steps away from the venue, time in between sessions might see you hiking the local hills, cruising down the bike path, or otherwise enjoying the incomparable location.

Carol Waller, director of the Sun Valley Wellness Institute, which oversees the festival, says that the event is unique in both the quality of presenters it attracts and the setting that the area affords. “We focus on quality over quantity in our speakers and program offerings, and we present information that is often on the cutting edge in wellness education and practice,” Carol says. “And our setting is intimate, welcoming, and beautiful. People can really relax and enjoy themselves here, make new friends, and soak it all in. We think this combination inspires people to use what they learn here to make positive changes in their lives and in the world.”

So, who are the new friends you might mingle with as you explore the Wellness Expo or take a movement class? Carol says the conference draws a mix of participants, though the majority of attendees are women who are “conscious and enthusiastic seekers and learners.” Increasingly, she says, younger participants are discovering the festival as well, thanks to a new Wellness for the Next Generation educational track and expanded classes and presentations that appeal to teens and young adults.

Ann Christensen, who attends the festival every year, says, “I wouldn’t miss it for anything. I give up everything else for the weekend and just completely immerse myself in all this wonderful, wonderful information and energy—and feel much better for it. I think it’s rejuvenating just to come.”

Though other mountain communities have hosted similar events in recent years, research into current offerings of this type reflects that the Sun Valley Wellness Festival is one of the only to have been in continual operation for such an extended period. Carol says the success of the festival is the result of several factors, including the strong base of support for health and wellness initiatives in the resort community. “Sun Valley is definitely a wellness-focused community, with a first-rate medical center and health professionals, exceptional fitness and spa centers, unlimited outdoor recreation, and over 300 wellness practitioners who call this area home—many of whom are tops in their field.”

It’s clear that opportunities to learn and grow abound at the festival and that the location itself serves as a source of inspiration and rejuvenation for those who attend. Whether it’s spiritual enrichment, physical challenge, emotional healing, or healthy living that you’re looking for, the Sun Valley Wellness Festival might be just what you need to launch—or sustain—your own wellness goals.