Friday, October 29, 2004

Resort awaits colder weather

Sun Valley ready to make snow if Mother Nature cooperates

Express Staff Writer

Express Staff Writer
The guns are ready. The pumps are primed. But above-freezing temperatures have prevented Sun Valley Co. this week from making snow in preparation for its 69th ski season.

?They?re ready to go, if the temperatures cooperate,? said Jack Sibbach, company director of marketing and public relations.

Sibbach said Sun Valley?s ski-mountain crews last week tested and tuned up the company?s snowmaking system on Bald Mountain, which is widely considered to be one of the world?s biggest and best.

Rain on Bald Mountain Wednesday compacted the snow depth on the upper reaches from 16 inches to 12 inches, he said.

With temperatures hovering around 40 degrees at Roundhouse, near the middle of the mountain, crews were unable to start making snow Wednesday as scheduled, Sibbach noted.

?They?re just waiting for the temperature to be right so they can make snow without having it melt,? he said.

On Thursday morning, however, it appeared that snowmaking conditions on the 9,150-foot ski mountain might be improving. Temperatures fell to freezing, as rain falling at the River Run base area turned to steady snow.

Sun Valley Co. on Thursday morning reported that the top of the mountain had received six inches of new snow in the previous 24 hours, bringing the snow depth at the summit to 22 inches. Mid-mountain was reported to have 14 inches of natural snow.

A total of 36 inches of natural snow has fallen on the upper elevations of Bald Mountain so far this fall, the com-pany reported Thursday.

The five-day weather forecast for the Sun Valley area calls for a mix of rain and clouds with temperatures ranging from 34 degrees to 42 degrees.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the branch of federal government that oversees the National Weather Service, on Oct. 21 predicted a mild ?El Niño? influence in the Pacific Ocean this winter could result in warmer-than-average temperatures in Idaho, with equal chances that precipitation will be above or below average.

El Niño episodes are marked by warmer-than-average water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean that can cause de-partures from normal weather patterns over the entire United States.

The less-than-wintry prediction, however, has not deterred local skiers from gearing up for the 2004-2005 season. Sibbach said advance ski pass sales at Sun Valley are running slightly ahead of last year.

In addition, Sibbach noted, early-season moisture on the mountain can be ?great for snowmaking? later because it helps freeze the ground and create a solid foundation for the snowpack.

Bald Mountain is currently scheduled to open for skiing and snowboarding on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25.

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