For the week of December 30, 1998   thru January 5, 1999  

Skiers numbers climb as visitors hit town

Express Staff Writer

skiing.jpg (15688 bytes)Crowds of visitors hit the slopes over the weekend, as shown in this chairlift photo on River Run, top, taken Saturday. (Express photos by Willy Cook)

With 19 inches of new snow on top of Baldy Monday morning and an influx of holiday-week vacationers, the Sun Valley ski patrol is assuring the public that it is doing everything it can to ensure skiers’ safety.

The recent snow was heavy, 32-year patrol veteran Dick Burks said. People get tired easily when skiing that kind of snow, he said, and injuries result when people ski tired.

Burks said there were 13 injuries on Monday.

Seven skiers were injured on Saturday and 14 on Sunday. The trend is an upward one and seems to relate to skier numbers more than to weather patterns or the amount of snow fall.

According to Sun Valley Company spokesman Jack Sibbach, skier numbers have steadily been climbing since Christmas.

Christmas day saw 3,603 skiers on Baldy. By Monday, 5,847 skiers had taken to the hill. Sibbach said those numbers are about average for the holiday period.

Burks said the ski patrol is doing everything in its power to eliminate avalanche danger inside of Sun Valley’s ski area boundaries.

"We had a full-on early morning control starting at 7 a.m. Monday," he said.

From 7:30 to 10 a.m. the patrol was getting various parts of the mountain open, a little bit at a time, Burks said.

"We’re very thorough as far as avalanche protection goes inside the boundaries," Burks said. "We have friends and relatives skiing out there too, and we want to make it as safe as possible."

He did concede, however, that there is no such thing as a 100-percent avalanche-safe mountain, particularly when the snow is as heavy and as plentiful as it is now.

"It does happen," he said of in-bounds avalanches.

Burks also said that skiing on the back side of Baldy, which is out of the ski area boundaries, or in the backcountry in general, is very dangerous right now.

People who choose to ski out of bounds are on their own, Burks said.

"It’s just not a wise thing to do," he said of the area that is not controlled or patrolled.

According to the National Weather Service, snowfall should continue throughout Idaho’s central mountains through New Year’s Day.

Additional accumulations should not be considerable, however, and rain may fall below elevations of 5,500 feet.

High temperatures are expected to remain between 20 and 30 degrees, the Weather Service reports.


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