Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Resortís 72nd season proves strong

Skier count up 12 percent over previous year

Express Staff Writer

With the Cosmic Beans supplying the soundtrack, young revelers take to the street in front of Appleís Bar & Grill in Ketchum to celebrate the end of the ski season on Saturday, April 19. The season officially closed the next day. Photo by Willy Cook

"The cold temperatures made the day-to-day skiing outstanding," Sun Valley Ski Patrol Assistant Director Rich Bingham said in summary of the 2007-2008 season.

The low thermometer readings and steady snowfall, both of which were noticeable on Bald Mountain's final day of skiing on Sunday, April 20, resulted in the second-best skier count of the past five years.

According to Sun Valley spokesman Jack Sibbach, 410,615 skiers and snowboarders took to Bald and Dollar mountains during the season, an increase of nearly 50,000 from the previous season.

Likewise, the 149 days of lift operation were second only to the 2005-2006 season, which saw 420,517 skiers taking advantage of the highly abnormal 360 inches of snow that fell during that winter's 152 days of lift operation.

However, since the ski season opened at the end of November 2007, there has been no dearth of the white stuff in the Wood River Valley.

"We were slightly above average this year for snowfall and a little below on water content," said Bingham, who is also in charge of snow safety.

Bingham said snowfall on Baldy for the season was 232 inches, more than the 218-inch average for the past 13 years, and the mere 145 inches that fell during the 2006-2007 season.

"The storm cycles, especially throughout January, made it as good as it ever gets on Baldy," Bingham said. "Overall, it was a great ski year."

That seemed the common sentiment for non-mountain personnel as well.

"The snow was phenomenal," said Ketchum City Councilman Baird Gourlay, who is also an owner of PK's Ski and Sports shop. "I don't remember ever having such consistent snow."

For Gourlay and others, the persistent winter conditions actually managed to create a lamentable situation.

"My only regret is that we only had three or four days of real spring corn snow," Gourlay said. "The rest of the time it's been just like winter."

Sibbach said the snow wasn't solely responsible for the throngs of happy guests and locals who took to the hill.

"A lot of praise has to go to the mountain department," Sibbach said of resort employees that include the ski patrol, snowmaking, grooming and lift operators. "We've heard nothing but compliments about how the mountain was run this season."

Just weeks ago, Sun Valley Co. indicated that the skier count at Dollar Mountain—the resort's beginners' hill in Sun Valley—was approximately 20,000 greater than the previous year. That increase was attributed in part to an overhaul of the facilities there, including new snowmaking and two new high-speed-quad chairlifts.

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