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Rotarun Ski Area-Small Hill Realizes Big Dreams
Scott McGrew shows off the new snow gun.
Sunday, November 24, 2019


It is, perhaps, the irony of ironies.

Crews are racing to install snowmaking at Rotarun ski area before the snow flies.

They’re installing snowmaking on the lower skier’s left section of the hill that will guarantee the small nonprofit ski area west of Hailey snow by New Year’s Eve. The covered area is about the size of the Sun Valley Pavilion lawn.

Volunteers ready Rotarun for the 2019-20 ski season

The snow will be sprayed over the area by a $35,000 state-of-the-art portable snow gun that is the latest greatest in snowmaking technology that TechnoAlpin has to offer. Rotarun’s northern exposure should hold the snow once it gets there. The goal is eventually to have three guns.

“We’re in our initial phase, covering about five of 15 acres at Rotarun from the third tower down,” said Scott McGrew, the general manager of Rotarun and executive director of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation. “Our goal is to put in more next year if we get enough donations. Right now, we’re working on the most important part—installing the infrastructure to get water into the reservoir.”

The snowmaking will ensure that the valley's adults and children have a ski area that is free and open to the public Wednesdays and Friday nights and Saturdays starting in January. And it will ensure that the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation can introduce children to winter sports through its Rota-Rippers and LASAR (Learn to Alpine ski and Race)  programs for 5- to 12-year-olds even in winters when snow is scarce in the south valley.

In 2018 coaches were forced to take the kids hiking and ice skating because of the lack of snow, even though copious amounts fell on Baldy and points further north.

The northern exposure of Rotarun holds snow well once it gets it.

“Installing snowmaking at Rotarun has been a dream of our community for over 30 years,” said McGrew. “The aspect of the hill and its consistently cold temperatures make it an ideal location.”

But snowmaking isn’t the only upgrade that those who ski and board Rotarun will find this year.

The lodge kitchen and bathroom are being remodeled. And McGrew is working with the Hillside Ranch and the Sun Valley Garden Center to place larger spruce trees around the property border to improve the overall aesthetics and better define the area.

The generosity of the Nancy Eccles and Homer M. Heyward Foundation, The Janice Seagraves Family Foundation and generations of Rotarun board members and others has championed Rotarun’s snowmaking project, noted McGrew.

It was McGrew’s predecessors--Jesse Foster and Benjamin Frank--who laid the foundation for snowmaking by securing water rights and creating a recreational master plan with the citizens of Blaine County.

“I’m delighted to see the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation finishing the project that we worked on so hard for eight years,” said Foster. “It’s great to see the well in, the line, the snow gun… It means Rotarun will be able to provide quality snow to make skiing accessible for kids and that kids who go to the Community and other schools won’t have to get out of school early to work on their skills.”

Lunceford Excavation and Webb Nursery helped with the costly work to remediate a mudslide that took out part of the mountain last spring.

Those chipping in to help with the lodge improvements include Wilro Plumbing, Wood River Electric, Levitan Appliance, BC Builders, Ferguson Supplies, Sun Valley Rug and Tile, Mountain Land Design and Idaho Lumber and Ace Hardware.

McGrew hopes to fire up the snow gun within the next couple weeks. He hopes to showcase all the improvements to the public during Rotarun's annual ski-under-the-lights New Year’s Eve event.

Dubbed as “the little mountain with a big heart,” Rotarun has been a community endeavor designed to provide Wood River Valley children with affordable skiing from the start. In 1941 a group of locals constructed a tractor-and-pulley rope tow out of old farm equipment, marking its official beginnings. And Swiss Olympic ski racer Ann Janet Winn began teaching children how to ski there in 1948.

The Arkoosh family supported the founding of Rotarun Ski Club, Inc., in 1964, establishing the ski area as a nonprofit.

McGrew says the ski area is still raising funds to complete the snowmaking project.

“We’ve talked about it so long. We wanted to make a concerted effort to show—yes!--we’re doing it!”


Visit Email Or, call 208-788-6204. Contributions may be sent to Rotarun Ski Area at Box 2083 Hailey, ID 83333.


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