Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thanksgiving Day skiing still planned

Sun Valley optimistic but realistic on planned opening

Express Staff Writer

As skiers and mountain managers await the first big snowstorm of the season, Sun Valley Resort managers remain hopeful that they can offer top-to-bottom skiing on Baldy by Thanksgiving Day. Photo by Mountain Express

While Grand Targhee Resort is planning to begin its 38th winter ski season this Friday, Sun Valley-area residents are still looking to the sky and praying for snow.

And that's where Sun Valley Resort's state-of-the-art snowmaking facilities come into play.

"Our goal is still to open Thanksgiving," said Sun Valley spokesman Jack Sibbach. "We'd love to give the people a ski experience, even if there's only one run. But the weather's got to help us a bit to reach that goal."

Sibbach said the last time Sun Valley Resort didn't open for Thanksgiving was in 2001. It's something that's only happened twice in the last dozen years.

"We've got the world's largest automated snowmaking system, but it still needs weather," Sibbach said. "We haven't had the temperatures we need to make snow. We still need temperatures to come around and help us."

Sibbach said that, while there are some good-sized drifts of snow piling up beneath Baldy's snow guns, "there's a lot of terrain to cover."

"We're going to need a little luck with the weather to make this, but that's still our objective as of today," he said.

And that may come to pass. The National Weather Service predicts that another front will pass through Idaho later this week and into the weekend, with day-time temperatures at or slightly above freezing and night temperatures dipping into the mid or low 20s.

Sibbach said 265 rooms are booked for the Thanksgiving holiday at Sun Valley resort, and some are condos with families, "so it's far more people than rooms."

"We have contingency plans," he said. "We always do."

When autumn and early winter weather doesn't cooperate, the resort is prepared to open the driving range, gun club or tennis courts.

"When this happened before we didn't get many cancellations," he said. "People still came up and had a good time."

Grand Targhee, on the other hand, is a ski resort near Driggs, Idaho, blessed with the abundant snowfall for which the resort's slogan, "Snow from heaven, not hoses," was first coined.

According to the resort, storms dropped significant snow on the west slope of the Tetons in October, coupled with close to a foot of new snow last weekend.

"We are so excited to showcase the great changes our guests will experience here this season, so let's all keep our fingers crossed we'll be riding the lifts on Friday the 16th," said resort spokeswoman Susie Barnett-Bushong.

And despite the potentially bumpy start to this ski season in Sun Valley, things could be worse.

Taos Ski Valley, in Taos, N.M., announced Nov. 7 it would delay the start of its ski season until Dec. 14.

"The scheduled dates were November 22nd through March 30th," said Adriana Blake, Taos Ski Valley's marketing director. "But warm temperatures during the day have limited our snowmaking ability, so we have decided to delay our opening and extend our season for another week at the end of the season when the snow is usually really good."

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