Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Sun Valley ups the ante on Baldy

Mountain boasts new super pipe and grooming machines

Express Staff Writer

Sun Valley has added 10 Camoplast BR 350 snowcats to its grooming fleet on Bald Mountain. Photo by Willy Cook

Sun Valley enters its 70th winter season with a new super pipe and a fleet of new snowcats that will allow groomers to lay down an even more velvet-like corduroy than they did before. An additional new amenity at Bald Mountain is an overnight ski-storage building at River Run.

The super pipe will replace the half pipe built on the Warm Springs side of Baldy two years ago. It will be 425 feet long, 25 feet longer than the half pipe, and will have 18-foot-high walls, compared to the half pipe's 14-foot walls.

"I've heard a lot of people around town fired up about the new pipe," said Andy Gilbert, snowboard program director for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation. "I think it's going to be a better situation for everybody."

Gilbert said the super pipe's larger-radius transition between the walls and floor will give boarders and skiers smoother, more controlled take-offs and landings. He also said the new pipe will be safer since people who fall will be more likely to land on the curved transition rather than the flat floor.

"Now we can get down to the business of teaching tricks that we used to hold back on," Gilbert said. "You're going to see a lot more spinning in the pipe than you used to."

Gilbert said that for several years, Sun Valley has been the only mountain on his competitors' schedule that did not have a super pipe.

"I'm really happy to see them taking the plunge," he said.

The super pipe will be maintained by a new Zaug Pipe Monster, which will contour the walls' curves.

Skiers and boarders who like to keep their feet on the snow also have something to be thankful for this season. Sun Valley has added 10 Camoplast BR 350 snowcats to its grooming fleet. Grooming Manager Kerry O'Brien said the 335-horsepower cats are more powerful and have a more sophisticated tiller than the older ones. He said they are also able to handle difficult snow conditions better.

"People are going to notice more seamless grooming," he said.

Two of the new cats are "winch cats," which attach cables to anchors set in the ground at the top of Baldy's steeper runs, such as Limelight and Upper Greyhawk.

O'Brien said Sun Valley's superb grooming is accomplished not only through modern technology, but also through the care of its cat drivers.

"I couldn't ask for a better crew," he said. "They have to have the passion to go up there every night."

After skiers and boarders spend the day carving up Baldy's long and smooth runs, starting this year they won't have to carry their equipment home with them. Instead, they will be able to leave it in an 800-square-foot storage building at the base of the Lower River Run lift. The building has space for 1,500 pairs of skis or snowboards, and has drying racks for 200 pairs of boots.

The service is free to people lodging at Sun Valley, and will cost $5 per night for those staying elsewhere.

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