Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Slow ski season ends on high note

Final weekend packed with sunshine and skiers

Express Staff Writer

Warm weather and blue skies brought throngs of skiers to Bald Mountain on Sunday, the final day of the 2008-09 season. The closing weekend ski count of 5,406 was the highest ever, since data for the statistic began being recorded in 1995. Photo by Willy Cook

Warm weather and sunny skies greeted large crowds of skiers on Sunday, ending an otherwise slow ski season in Sun Valley on a high note.

Sun Valley Co. spokesman Jack Sibbach reported that after 124 days, the 2008-09 ski season saw 331,239 skiers and snowboarders take to Bald and Dollar mountains.

That was the lowest ski count since the 1990-91 season, which totaled 236,627, and the 12th worst since skier number data began to be collected in 1971.

The figure would still be well above the worst winter on record, 1976-77, when scarce snow prompted only 80,000 people to take to the slopes.

This year's figure is only slightly below the 357,107 average annual skier count through 2009, but nearly 20 percent less than last ski season.

Sibbach said occupancy rates at the resort were also down by about 20 percent, a decrease similar to other ski resorts.

Despite the overall drop in numbers, the season finished stronger than ever, with a skier count of 5,406 for Saturday and Sunday. That marks the highest final weekend tally since at least 1995, the first year for which there are records available for this statistic.

Sibbach said the warm weather and sunny skies played a large role in bringing out the crowds that gathered at the top of the mountain and the base lodges on both days.

Spectators on the Warm Springs Lodge patio were treated to an adrenaline-filled mountain closure, as nearly a dozen skiers raced down Scorpion, an out-of-bounds slope that leads down to the lodge from a ridge directly south of the lodge. The racers used customized skis that ended just behind the bindings, making the harrowing run over the narrow strip of snow, punctuated with clumps of sage brush, all the more dangerous. Hailey resident Carlo Rixon took first after making his way on foot to a crowded Apple's Bar & Grill.

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