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For the week of November 14 - 20, 2001


Warm weather may prevent Baldy opening

Advanced resort bookings still down

Express Staff Writer
and Associated Press

Sun Valley Co. announced Tuesday that, baring a significant and unexpected weather event, Bald Mountain will not be open for skiing on Thanksgiving Day as scheduled.

"Right now, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll be open on Thanksgiving Day unless, of course, we get a lot of help from Mother Nature," Sun Valley spokesman Jack Sibbach said. "The temperatures have just been too warm to make snow."

Sun Valley crews have managed to make a smattering of snow on several of Baldy’s and Dollar Mountain’s ski runs, but Sibbach said another seven to 10 days of steady cold temperatures are needed.

"We will open as soon as we can ski from top to bottom on either side of the mountain, probably Warm Springs," Sibbach said. "To make that possible without any help from Mother Nature, we’re probably going to need several days of cold temperatures, and we’re going to need good snowmaking temperatures at least 12 hours a day to connect everything on the Warm Springs side of the mountain."

He said Sun Valley would begin telephoning anticipated guests Tuesday afternoon to warm them of the sketchy conditions and ongoing warm weather. If guests choose not to come, Sun Valley will refund their money.

For those who come anyway, "We’ll open up other activities depending on the weather," Sibbach said. "We’ll just have to wait and see what the weather’s going to allow us to do."

Activities at the Sun Valley Gun Club or mountain biking are among the possible options.

"We are obviously encouraging people to come, but we’re being honest with them," he said.

While warm weather and lack of snowfall continue, the valley’s tourist reservations are continuing to look soft.

September’s advanced bookings with the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber of Commerce’s central reservations center were down 9 percent from last year, and October’s were down 23 percent from last year, Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Carol Waller said.

"I think it’s safe to say that people are anticipating an overall decrease this winter," Waller said. "Advance bookings are probably down valley-wide 25 to 30 percent. At least November and December are going to be pretty off."

Meanwhile, reservations at some of the nation's premier ski resorts are rebounding after dropping as much as 50 percent immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the East Coast.

The attacks, balmy weather and the deepening economic decline had left many resorts—and the towns that depend on them—wondering if the season could be salvaged. Some communities cut their budgets and some resorts said they would be more conservative about hiring people and opening trails.

But last week, many resorts started to see colder, wetter weather in Colorado and in the East. And skiers are taking advantage of deep discounts for lift tickets, hotel rooms and rental cars that resorts are offering in hopes of bringing back business.

"Half our mountain is covered with snow now, and people can see it on our mountain cam,'' said Anna Olson of Wyoming's Jackson Hole resort. "Our lodging division did more bookings Tuesday than they did in the entire month of September.''

And Vail’s Colorado Pass sales have been so strong that the resort decided to extend sales by one week. The Colorado Pass gives skiers 10 days at Vail or Beaver Creek and unlimited visits to Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge and Keystone. The pass sells for $299 for adults and $129 for children.

"Demand has been so tremendous," said Kelly Ladyga, corporate communications director for Vail Resorts, about the reason why the sale was extended.

Killington, Vermont, opened the New England season on Tuesday, and Mammoth Mountain on Thursday became the first California resort to open. Grand Targhee, Wyo., plans to open Friday, weather permitting.

Aspen's Central Reservations had its best day in two years last week, said Bill Tomich, president of the booking agency. United Airlines announced it was restoring some Aspen flights it had canceled—"a huge lucky break for us,'' Tomich said.

"People who ski or snowboard are more willing to live with some risk in their lives than other sectors of the population,'' said David Perry, president of Colorado Ski Country U.S.A. "I truly believe in the power of distraction, and a big snowfall will be a powerful incentive for skiers to get back to their normal lives.''

American resorts are also hoping skiers who had considered traveling to Europe or Canada will stay closer to home.

As an incentive, Big Sky in Montana is offering a deal that includes free lift tickets, breakfast and a one-day car rental with a five-day booking at any of the resort's lodgings. Vail is offering a buy-one, get-one-free deal including lodging and lift tickets.

Sun Valley, meanwhile is concentrating on adding value to vacations rather than discounting prices.

The Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber of Commerce initiated a program last week that will offer those staying at participating lodging properties $25 in travel tokens, which will be good at local businesses.

It may not sound like much at first, bur "for a family of four, it could be a good incentive, actually," Chamber Executive Director Carol Waller said.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.