Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Holiday crowds swarm Baldy?s slopes

Skier numbers are similar to those in 2006

Express Staff Writer

Four-time world mogul champion Joey Cordeau , left, and son Shane rip down Bald Mountain?s Ridge run last week. Shane is competing in the NorAm Cup, the freestyle skiing series for North America and proving ground for athletes aspiring to compete at the World Cup level. Photo by Willy Cook

"This was the best Christmas in about 10 years," Sun Valley Co. Marketing Director Jack Sibbach said on Saturday, Dec. 29.

With 4,606 skiers and snowboarders taking to Dollar and Bald mountains on Dec. 25, the resort hosted nearly 2,000 more than on the same day in 2006.

However, Sibbach said the dramatic increase was likely due to sunny weather, the opposite of which can cause a decrease of up to 30 percent in a single day's skier count, he said.

Overall, the number of snowsports enthusiasts on the two mountains is similar to last year, with the number for the five-day period starting Christmas Day totaling 28,120 in 2006 and 29,698 this year. (The latter figure is a low estimate, as the final day's count had yet to be completed by the time the paper went to print.)

According to Sibbach, Dec. 28 is traditionally the busiest day of the year, which comes during a week when all of the resort's rooms are full.

"It's been a really good week for business and we're excited about having the entire mountain open," Sibbach said.

The holiday crowds spilled over into Ketchum as well.

"This time of year it's just crazy," said Keith Perry, proprietor of Perry's restaurant, while surrounded by full tables on mid afternoon Saturday, Dec. 29.

The Sun Valley Suns men's hockey game on Friday night featured a capacity crowd of approximately 700. Jessica Baylis, registrar at the Gail Severn Gallery, said Gallery Walk that night filled the establishment.

Sibbach said having all of the runs on Bald Mountain open during the peak week of winter vacation often leads to more business later in the season.

"A lot of guests will leave on Jan. 1 or 2 and things will quiet down a bit," he said. "But for the moment, it seems as if everyone is having a great time, with the outdoor rink and pools packed, as well as a lot of people taking pictures of the ice sculptures."

Plenty of fun is being had on Dollar Mountain, which benefited from improvements completed over the course of the summer, including new high-speed lifts for Full Dollar and Quarter Dollar.

Sibbach said that while the exact number of skiers on the beginner mountain are somewhat difficult to compare to previous years, since the resort began more accurate record keeping for this season, it seems to be experiencing at least as much traffic as ever.

As the clouds rolled in Saturday morning, accompanied by a winter snow warning, it appeared that there would be at least a few inches of fresh snow added to the 74 inches that had fallen from the beginning of the season.

The National Weather Service forecast that the storm would blow over by New Year's Eve, with sunny skies returning in time for many visitors to fly home from Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey.

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