Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Storm secures on-time ski season

Baldy, Dollar will open on Thanksgiving Day


By MATT FURBER
Express Staff Writer

A preseason skier makes his way down Lower Warm Springs on Bald Mountain last weekend. Numerous skiers hiked up the mountain to test the conditions. Photo by Willy Cook

Though Jackson Hole, Wyo., claims 100 inches of snowfall this season, the Sun Valley area looked like it was being skipped by winter's initial snowstorms. On Tuesday morning, however, excitement was piqued, after Bald Mountain received 10 inches of snow. Crews driving Sun Valley's new Prinoth Bisons and the Prinoth Beast, the largest snow-grooming vehicle available, scrambled to secure the light powder snow that was swirling around the windy mountain.

"We still don't know what's going to open on Thanksgiving," Sun Valley Resort spokesman Jack Sibbach said Tuesday, but he confirmed that both Bald and Dollar mountains would indeed open Thursday, Nov. 25. "We've had 13 inches in the past two days. It was a very light snow and it also blew quite a bit."

Sibbach said mountain snowmaking and grooming crews are doing as much as they can to open as much of the mountain as possible.

In a departure from their usual policy of allowing hikers and skiers to climb Baldy before the lifts open, Sun Valley Co. and the Forest Service closed the mountain to uphill traffic Tuesday and today. The reasons for the mountain closure include avalanche danger rated as "high" by the Sawtooth Avalanche Center and an increase in snowmaking and grooming activity on the mountain as Sun Valley Co. pushes to open the ski season.

Sibbach said the River Run slope would probably be open, but opening Warm Springs was unlikely since it is such a wide slope, which requires substantially more snowmaking.

Nearly a dozen grooming machines have been working to put a frosting on the manmade snow cake on Bald Mountain for Sun Valley's 75th winter season.

"Sun Valley's grooming fleet has consistently raised the bar for excellence in grooming over the years," Sibbach said. "This season, Sun Valley's 75th, should be no exception."

The 23-foot-wide Prinoth Beast is taking the place of two of Sun Valley's older snowcats with increased size and 520 horsepower.

"This horsepower will enable the vehicle to climb Sun Valley's long, continuous runs (3,400 vertical feet) much faster and more efficiently," Sibbach said. "The new Bison will replace Dollar's old cat and offers the operator increased visibility, new operator controls and the latest technology. The third grooming vehicle is a Bison winch cat, which will replace one of Sun Valley's old winch cats, increasing the winch cat fleet's capability to groom additional steep runs."

Sibbach said that on Dollar Mountain, at least Quarter Dollar and the Magic Carpet would be open for Thanksgiving. Snow and snowmaking being dynamic, Sibbach said daily morning staff meetings to discuss snowmaking, grooming strategies and plans for opening the mountain can last anywhere between a half hour and two hours. Sibbach said mountain crews would continue to work through Thanksgiving morning to open as much terrain as possible.

Weather for opening day, Nov. 25, is forecast to remain cold and mostly sunny, with warmer temperatures and possible snow predicted through the weekend.




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