Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Skier count up slightly at seasonís end

Lively crowd turns out to say goodbye to Baldy

Express Staff Writer

Skier Scooter Carling, second from left, dishes out pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and french toast to the Sun Valley Ski Patrol and Bald Mountain operations staff in Warm Springs Village on Sunday, the last day of the ski season. “It started out when Paul Kenny’s [ski shop] was out here and we have been feeding the patrol for 18 consecutive years on the final day as a way of thanking them for saving our necks,” Carling said.
Express photo by Willy Cook

    After offering 144 days of skiing this winter—from Thanksgiving Day through Sunday, April 14, about the same as last year—Sun Valley Co. has closed Bald Mountain for its 77th ski season.
    Resort spokesman Jack Sibbach said the skier count for the 2012-13 winter season was 386,782, about a 1.2 percent increase compared to last year. The skier count for the 2011-12 ski season was 382,128, a slight dip compared with 407,537 in 2010-11. The resort’s record year was in 1981-82 with just over 475,000 skier days.
    “Thanks for a great winter,” a Sun Valley Resort news release states. “Another spectacular winter season and we appreciate the opportunity to have shared with you the amazing experience that is Sun Valley!”
    Local skiers and snowboarders robustly represented “last day” culture on Sunday, dressing in wacky tutus, three-piece business suits or, in at least on case, just a cape.
    The last day began with the 18th annual Ski Patrol appreciation breakfast hosted by longtime local Scooter Carling and a group of volunteers in appreciation of the mountain staff. Throughout the day, several alpine snow sports enthusiasts “hot-dogged” in their funky regalia down the lift-line run between the Challenger and Greyhawk chairlifts, showing off their mogul skills and sometimes performing jump tricks off the bumps to cheers from spectators on the lifts.
    At the Warm Springs base, a live band and then a DJ entertained patio denizens who preferred to soak up the sun and the tunes over shredding the last few runs of the season. Skiers and snowboarders reported icy conditions throughout most of the day, but softer, more velvety conditions prevailed the last hour from about 3-4 p.m.
    At about 5 p.m., a large group of skiers and snowboarders who had lingered at the top of Baldy after the lifts closed made their way down the hill in a “human slalom.” The participants lined up as though they were slalom gates and the last person in line skied through the human course, positioning him- or herself at the end of the line until all of them had leapfrogged through the course the whole way down the ski hill. It looked like a caterpillar slowly crawling its way down.
    After the lifts closed, the festivities shifted to a street party at Apple’s Bar and Grill, complete with more live music and people swapping stories from the events of the day and the season.

Record numbers at Jackson
    This year, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort—one of Sun Valley’s chief competitors, located west of Jackson, Wyo.—reported record skier numbers with 502,222. Sun Valley Co. officials said earlier in the year that their goal was to surpass the 400,000 skier-day mark.
    “It’s not just always numbers that you’re looking at,” Sibbach said. “We always prefer to be a little higher than we are, but it’s also about guest satisfaction. We didn’t have any negative complaints on the guest surveys [this year] about the mountain products,” he said, referring to on-mountain dining, guest services, and “especially,” the snow.
    “We didn’t have the best natural snow this year. The [snowmaking team] did an amazing job up there.”
    At the same time, the marketing effort for the region has not been consistent. In 2010, the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley cut their funding of the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau in favor of supporting an organization that would focus on marketing the valley externally, now known as the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance. Last summer, the Sun Valley City Council voted to reduce funding to the Marketing Alliance while the Ketchum City Council did the opposite. The resort gave $25,000 to the Marketing Alliance to help defray some of Sun Valley’s reduction.

Brennan Rego:

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