Friday, December 18, 2009

Putting out the welcome mat

Sun Valley-area locals and Sun Valley fans always fret this time of year when snowfall is light. Skiers and boarders look at Baldy and the weather reports skeptically and wonder if it's worth a trip up the valley or across the country.

It is. One of Baldy's wonders is what happens when manmade snow meets Mother Nature's white layer, which happened this week.

The snow elves are still hard at work, the grooming crews have found their mojo and natural snowfall completed the package. The result is that Baldy is wonderful. Not so-so, not just OK. Wonderful.

The snowpack, from top to bottom, makes it easy to dig in edges and lay down solid turns.

Not only is Baldy good for the morning bombers stoked with way too much caffeine and adrenaline, it's good for ordinary skiers, too.

Staffers who monitor speed on College, the mountain's main instruction and warm-up run, have slowed down the pace of inconsiderate skiers and boarders who think they are Tommy Moe on a closed course—but aren't.

Speed control, more open terrain and a gondola on which the fatigued can download before they have to call for a toboggan ride to the hospital are making Baldy a fun and welcoming place to be.

Locals should embrace this renewed spirit of welcome when large numbers of visitors come to town next week. Residents, business owners and staffers can do what all the marketing in the world cannot. They can make visitors feel at home.

Sometimes locals forget that visitors are the reason the rest of us are here—whether in the recreation business or otherwise employed. Visitors provide the seasonal infusions of cash that make the valley's amenities possible. Simple, basic courtesy will go a long way to ensure that visitors depart with good feelings and are inclined to tell their friends about their time here.

Patience should be the locals' watchword. More often than not, visitors arrive stressed out, hurried and disoriented in trying to bring off a dream holiday season for their families and friends. And, instead of stress reduction, their stress can beget our stress—if we let it.

Locals need to stop the stress before it begins. They should bring patience to the wheel as they drive streets more crowded than usual. They should bring smiles to lines with a good-natured wave of the hand and a relaxed, "After you."

Courtesy costs nothing, but it will pay big dividends over time. The goodwill generated even during this time of national distress will bring visitors back to the special mountain life we are privileged to share with them.

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.