Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Baldy opener nabs 1,281 skiers and riders

More terrain could be open this weekend

Express Staff Writer

Skiers, from left to right, JoAnn Levy, Scott Slonin, Robby Jost and Max Monahan enjoy first-chair honors at the base of Bald Mountain Saturday. Skiing is limited, but Mother Nature is at least now offering the colder temperatures needed to make snow. Photo by David N. Seelig

Although it's delayed by about one week, Sun Valley is about to reach its goal for early-season skiing. Top-to-bottom skiing and snowboarding on Bald Mountain is set to commence Friday, Nov. 30.

Sun Valley Marketing and Public Relations Director Jack Sibbach said Tuesday morning that the resort would open top-to-bottom runs on both the River Run and Warm Springs sides of the mountain. Those will include Upper College, Flying Squirrel, Lower Picabo's Street and Lower Warm Springs on the Warm Springs side of the mountain; and Upper College, Mid River Run and Lower River Run on the River Run side of the mountain.

The opening of more terrain follows a relatively slow start to the season. It was far from a record high, but it was far from a record low, too.

Sun Valley Resort opened two lone beginner trails on Saturday, Nov. 24, two days after the resort's projected Thanksgiving Day opener. Skiers and snowboarders lined up for turns on Lower River Run on Bald Mountain and Quarter Dollar on Dollar Mountain.

People who visited Sun Valley appeared to accept the raw deal Mother Nature dealt early this season, which has been plagued by warm weather and rain.

"I think it was a fairly successful weekend for the resort," Sibbach said. "It was important to get open. We had a lot of smiling faces, happy people here."

Sibbach said 1,281 skiers and snowboarders donned equipment to glide down trails at the two mountains on Saturday. On Sunday that number dropped to 961.

Last season, when the mountain opened with top-to-bottom terrain on both sides of Bald Mountain, the resort logged 2,158 skiers on Saturday and 1,587 on Sunday.

But the last time that only Lower River Run was open, the resort logged only 643 visits.

Even with the limited terrain, Sibbach pointed out it wasn't too crowded because people didn't ski all day long.

"People come and go," he said. "They're going for an hour, and that's about it, so it wasn't that crowded."

Sun Valley Resort began its Thanksgiving Day package in 1991 with the goal of getting people to come to Sun Valley, and it has largely worked.

"People are coming, and we try our best to get other facilities open if we don't have skiing," he said. "We had people. More than 300 rooms were rented Friday and Saturday night, and everybody who went away—they went away happy."

The resort received fewer than 10 percent cancellations due to the limited ski terrain offerings, Sibbach said.

Sibbach pointed out the hard work the on-mountain personnel are putting in to ensure the opening of more terrain.

"I know they've been working real hard on it up there. That's for sure," he said. "They're finally getting the temperatures. Up to Thanksgiving we only had about 20 percent of the time to make snow that we've had in previous years. When there's temperatures, they're working really hard to get more of the mountain open."

With the marginal early-season conditions, Sun Valley has extended the purchase deadline for its Early/Late Season Pass. The $165 pass, which debuted at $90 in the 2004-2005 ski season, is an unrestricted season pass for the first three weeks of the season, as well as the final two weeks. The resort often adds days for use of the pass in the late season.

Elsewhere, Grand Targhee Resort near Driggs, Idaho, opened Wednesday, Nov. 21, and is boasting a 40-inch base and 1,500 acres of open terrain, which it claims is more than any other resort in the U.S. Rockies.

Tamarack Resort near Donnelly opened Thanksgiving Day with more than 200 skiers and riders and offered beginner terrain serviced by its Discovery Chair. Also installed were rails for freeride skiers and snowboarders to throw some small tricks.

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