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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of November 13 - 19, 2002


Skiers flock to Baldy 
for early turns

Sun Valley contemplates early opening

Express Staff Writer

The prompt arrival of winter last week spurred hoards of skiers and snowboarders to dust off their equipment and spend the weekend hiking up Bald Mountain, the location of Sun Valley Company’s ski resort.

Though the lifts aren’t scheduled to open until Nov. 28, with a slight chance of opening earlier, Lower Warm Springs was crowded with skiers and snowboarders Saturday and Sunday.

"It was an awesome day, and there was a ton of snow," exclaimed Jeremy Rosser, 16, of Ketchum, after airing it out for a tail grab on Lower Warm Springs Saturday morning. Express photo by Willy Cook


According to a weather station atop Baldy, the 24 inches of natural snow recorded there Monday morning had condensed to about 20 inches by late Tuesday. Snowmaking crews are also continuing to work whenever possible, said Jack Sibbach, Sun Valley marketing and public relations director.

What’s more, the National Weather Service was calling for snow throughout the remainder of this week but was not specific about the intensity of the pending storms.

The early snows have spurred rumors about an early opening for Sun Valley this season, something that has only occurred "I think twice," Sibbach said.

For now, Sibbach said Sun Valley is still planning for a Thanksgiving Day opening, but qualified the comment.

"There have been discussions, and there will be continuing discussions, of changing that date to an earlier one," he said. "There are a lot of things to consider. To open the mountain, it’s like opening a new business every year, with new employees."

Sibbach said hiring crews and adequately preparing the mountain are time-consuming and difficult tasks.

"As of today, the official date is still Thursday, the 28th of November. Hopefully it’s sooner than that, and we are in those discussions all the time."

According to National Weather Service Lead Forecaster Jeff Hedges, last week’s snowfall is not uncommonly early for Idaho.

"This isn’t terribly unusual, a little early for a snowfall of this magnitude, but it’s not unusual to see a first significant snowfall in November," he said.

According to data logged at the Sawtooth National Forest’s Ketchum Ranger District, precipitation totals so far this fall are above average, but not by a long shot.

So far in November, 1 inch of water has fallen at the ranger station on Sun Valley Road in Ketchum. The average November garners about 1.7 inches of water, putting this year ahead of the curve.

The last time more than an inch of water fell in November was in 1998, when 2.81 inches dropped in the form of nearly 3 feet of snow, and Sun Valley’s Thanksgiving Day opening greeted skiers and snowboarders with uncut powder and tree skiing.

For this area, in general, 1 inch of water corresponds to approximately 10 inches of snow.

This fall, October was also above average, with 1.56 inches of water falling at the ranger station in the form of rain and snow. The average October garners 1.1 inches.

Unfortunately, Hedges said this wetter-than-average weather pattern is forecast to end.

"This is just an opening good shot," he said. "Right now, we’re in an ordinary pattern for this time of year, but we’re getting into a weak El Niño pattern, which brings storms across central and southern California, Arizona and Colorado."

But weather gurus’ long-range forecasts aren’t dampening the spirits of local ski area managers.

The Wood River Valley’s world-famous Nordic skiing facilities are scheduled to open Saturday, Nov. 23. Blaine County Recreation District Trails Director Shelly Preston said crews have been working to prepare the trails for the season, and have groomed a number of The North Valley Trails. But she said the trails would not be groomed regularly until the official Nov. 23 opening.

"We really do have a lot of work," she said. "We’re just jamming trying to get everything done."

Finally, Soldier Mountain Ski Area near Fairfield is also preparing for a Thanksgiving week opening, and managers are excited to boast about the area’s new, 15-acre terrain park, which has grown from last winter’s 5-acre beginnings.

"We’re hoping to open the day after Thanksgiving," said Prue Hemmings, Soldier Mountain marketing manager, who said the ski area has about 2 feet of snow near the mountain’s summit.

Because Soldier Mountain does not use snowmaking, Hemmings said the ski area’s managers are hoping for one more big storm to really get things off to a good start.



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