Monday, October 26, 2020
Sun Valley Offers a Glimpse of Upcoming Ski Season During COVID
Mike Fitzpatrick points out the 380 new acres of skiable terrain that Sun Valley will open this upcoming ski season.
Friday, September 18, 2020


Sun Valley Resort will not implement a reservation system or visitation limits for Sun Valley season pass holders or Epic Pass holders this winter.

The resort may, however, restrict the number of day tickets it sells each day if necessary. Day lift tickets will go on sale in early October and resort officials are encouraging guests to pre-purchase their tickets online.

Many resorts across the country have announced that they will require reservations to enable physical distancing as the COVID pandemic continues. But Sun Valley has always enjoyed plenty of elbow room except during a few days during the Christmas and President’s Day holidays.

The pile of dirt represents where the new lift terminal was to have been before Sun Valley Resort elected to move it 880 feet further down Cold Springs Canyon.

Its lift capacity comes nowhere close to being maxed out and it just added a new lift still to be named that will double the former 1,200-person capacity of the old Cold Springs chair.

“We are fortunate to be somewhat off the beaten path, and to have significant slope and lift capacities contributing to a relatively uncrowded resort,” wrote the resort’s general manager Tim Silva 70 days before the resort’s planned opening on Thanksgiving Day. “We have also been busy this summer completing a 380-acre expansion of skiable terrain on Bald Mountain and replacing the old Cold Springs lift with a state-of-the-art express quad lift.”

Ken Luplow, one of Sun Valley's faithful, said he can't wait to test his new hip out on the slopes. "I'm very happy that Sun Valley took the moderate approach and didn't go overboard with reservations like Vail Corp. did," he added. "It's easy to scale back and harder to ramp up."

The resort will require facial coverings in public spaces and indoors—something many did before anyway to prevent cold cheeks and sunburn. It will also ask its employees and guests to maintain physical distance in all public spaces.

The resort plans to operate all of its on-mountain lodges and dining facilities with safety precautions. In accordance with state and county ordinances, indoor seating will be reduced and outdoor dining options will be expanded.

Menus will be simplified, reservation systems instituted in some venues and grab-and-go options will be increased. Patrons should be prepared to enjoy their morning hot chocolate al fresco on the Seattle Ridge Lodge patio—but, oh, what a view!

And employees who always seem to be busy cleaning restrooms anyway will be armed with enhanced cleaning protocols.

The resort will encourage skiers to arrive boots on and ready to ski. Secure and sanitized bag check facilities outside the lodges will be offered to those who wish to store items. Equipment rentals will be available throughout online reservations.

Children’s and adult SnowSports lessons will be offered via smaller groups. Pre-arranged private instruction will be encouraged.

Silva said a new winter FAQ page has been added to the website and more information will be forthcoming in October.

“We have been very pleased with how smoothly our summer operations went in Sun Valley Village and on the mountain, and I am grateful to our guests and our leadership team for their continued focus on safety,” he added.

Sun Valley Resort sells a variety of pass options. They range from a Challenger Season Pass that includes unlimited skiing and riding at Snowbasin, Sun Valley’s sister resort, to a pass good for 15 days of skiing or riding with half-price off the daily window rate past 15 days.

Fall discount rates have been extended through the end of September, available at This year’s passes include a Pass Protection Program that covers a mandated resort closure due to COVID, personal injury, pregnancy and military service.

A 20 percent discount is being given those renewing 2019-20 passes since Sun Valley was forced to close about four weeks early due to COVID.

Nationwide the Epic Pass will require advance reservations at its properties. Vail Resorts announced it will institute a reservation system at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Crested Butte. The system will prioritize Epic Pass holders who will be the only ones allowed access to those ski resorts through Dec. 7. to limit numbers.

 in a detailed five-page letter to passholders. with half-price off the daily window rate past 15 days. Fall rates have been extended through the end of September They’re available at

Reservations open Nov. 6.

But both Sun Valley and Snowbasin are partnering with the Epic Pass, which means they are not bound by the reservation system.

Reservations are not required at many of the Ikon Pass areas. But Ikon Pass said that that could change without notice if situation warrants it.

Most of the 23 destinations on the Mountain Collective pass, which includes Aspen, Snowmass and Jackson Hole, do not require reservations at this time.

Many U.S. resorts have said they will nix the singles line this year, leaving singles to plan on reading “War and Peace” as they ride the lift by themselves. In some cases, they will be allowed to share chairs with another single perched on the far end.

Many also do not plan to allow different parties to share a gondola car. Some have discussed making every other car off limits so they can be sanitized regularly.

And at some resorts lines could look unfathomably long because of six feet of social distancing being enforced. The good news is that skis and boards already ensure three feet of distance on either end.

Bridget Higgins, the resort’s marketing director, said the resort will release specifics on the sharing of chairs and gondolas and protocols regarding parking lot buses later as plenty of things could change between now and Nov. 26. The resort will make decisions with guidance from the National Ski Areas Association and state and county health directives, she said.

Those needing new skis are encouraged to buy them early. Ski factories were shut down during the height of the pandemic so that could limit the supply of new skis and bindings.

Morgan Buckert says that Backwoods Mountain Sports, like so many other outdoor shops, had trouble getting ahold of bicycles this summer. And, she said, there were no paddleboards to be found in North America.

“But we put in our orders for ski equipment early so we’re hopeful we’ll be okay,” she added.

Sun Valley Resort hastily implemented a variety of safety measures, emptying its lodges of half their table and chairs and shutting down the gondola in mid-March after the first case of coronavirus was reported in Idaho and Sun Valley. The resort ended up closing a day later—at the end of the day on March 15—as the severity of what the country was dealing with became evident.

Sun Valley and other ski resort towns in Colorado and Utah were early hot spots as the United States began waking up to the threat and learning what could be done to prevent it.

Some health officials attributed that to the sheer volume of skiers from all over the world jamming together in lodges to share beers and apres ski music. Outdoor activities have not proven to spread the virus provided people take precautions.


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