Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Change on the Dollar

Terrain park will add to Sun Valley’s winter offerings

Express Staff Writer

Sun Valley Resort plans to add a terrain park on Dollar Mountain, the smaller of the resort’s two ski areas. The park will follow a long list of improvements made to facilities at Dollar, including a new day lodge, new chairlifts and snowmaking equipment.

While it's been obvious from ongoing construction that Sun Valley Resort is introducing a new gondola to Bald Mountain, another big development won't be seen until the snow flies, and skiers and snowboarders start flying high over Dollar Mountain.

The resort has brought in Tahoe, Calif.,-based Snow Park Technologies to help design and build a terrain park on Dollar Mountain. Depending on weather, the park is scheduled to be open by the Christmas holiday season.

Sun Valley is looking at the terrain park as a new on-mountain amenity that could help attract younger guests and increase the resort's visibility in a difficult economy.

"We understand that we need to aggressively pursue a youth market in a way that we haven't done in the past," Sun Valley Mountain Manager Peter Stearns said. "We're moving the ski area in a direction that we need to move."

Snow Park Technologies is no stranger to the Sun Valley mountains, having helped build the ski-cross course for the Ski Tour and 48 Straight events in years past, as well as the halfpipe on Baldy in 2007.

In addition, the company worked extensively with the Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort, where Tim Silva worked for 17 years before taking over as general manager of Sun Valley in May. While at the helm in Tahoe, Silva oversaw the development of a nationally ranked terrain park credited with helping increase the resort's popularity.

Stearns said the new park would be developed in Dollar's Old Bowl, which runs nearly the length of the mountain, from the summit to the top of the Half Dollar run. Though Stearns said plans are still in the conceptual phase, he said the park would likely include jumps and other snow features, along with rails and boxes. He added that there could also be a separate "progression park" that would have smaller features to allow for skill development, and help skiers and snowboarders become more comfortable in freestyle terrain before taking on the larger park.

"At this point, I can't speak to the exact scope of the park, but our intent is to deliver a new product offering with the quality that Sun Valley is known for," Stearns said. "Overall, we want to increase our youth product offerings, which are not exclusively terrain parks and a halfpipe."

Stearns said that could also include events, but did not provide details of what else the resort has on tap for this winter.

"Snow Park Technologies is bringing a lot of ideas to the table, but we want to leave some surprises," Stearns said.

Stearns also said the resort would ultimately like to move the halfpipe to Dollar as well, to have all the freestyle facilities in one location, but that there are issues that have to be worked out before that can happen.

"This is not just about parks and pipes," Stearns said. "It's obvious with the economy that people are becoming very discriminating shoppers and careful with their spending, so we have to be very proactive with all of our products and the quality of our offerings. We need to bring attention to ourselves and let people know that our packages are competitive and value oriented, and that the resort is not exclusive."

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