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Sun Valley’s New Chief Snowmaker Off to a Good Start
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James Grant, Sun Valley’s new director of Mountain Operations, has more than three decades of experience in the ski industry. He succeeds Peter Stearns, now Mountain Strategic Advisor overseeing the installation of new lifts on the Warm Springs side of the mountain and the resort’s Forest Health Initiative.
   
Wednesday, November 23, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

James Grant is off to a stellar start in his first year as head snowmaker for Sun Valley Resort.

With a little help from Mother Nature, he and the resort will be able to open a good chunk of the River Run side of Baldy for Thursday’s Thanksgiving opener.

Four lifts—the Roundhouse Gondola, Lower River Run, Lookout Express and Christmas lift—will start running at 9 a.m. Thanksgiving morning as the resort kicks off its 87th winter season. And the Warm Springs side of the mountain and Dollar Mountain are well covered as they anticipate a Dec. 9 opening.

“It’s looking really good right now,” said Grant—and that was two weeks before the opener.

In a resort, which launched with ski instructors brought in from Austria, Grant actually hails from the other side of the world, having grown up in Australia’s capital city of Canberra.

He took his first ski industry job as a lift operator at Mount Blue Cow, a ski resort in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales, Australia, where the maximum vertical is 2,000 feet and the snow wetter and more humid than Sun Valley’s much drier powder.

“The snow there is hard but not like East Coast hard,” Grant said.

Grant moved to Heavenly Mountain Resort at the south end of Lake Tahoe as a lift operator in 1992. There he started out as a lift operator and worked his way up to vice president of Mountain Operations under Pete Sonntag, who is now general manager for Sun Valley Resort.

Grant and his wife Allison jumped at the chance for him to become the new director of Mountain Operations for Sun Valley, even though they had never been to Sun Valley before.

“The kids—Teagan and Cameron-- were grown and my wife and I thought we could do anything we liked. We had heard about Sun Valley—it’s been ranked America’s top ski resort three years in a row. And my wife’s uncle had a place in Warm Springs,” he said.

“It’s just a phenomenal mountain, and it’s a mountain that gets bigger as you head up the mountain on the lift—most ski mountains get smaller as you head up,” he added.

Grant said he and his wife wondered where the mountain was as they drove towards Sun Valley from Twin Falls. But, like so many, they headed down Timmerman Hill on their way to Bellevue and immediately felt at home.

“There’s a palpable sense of community here,” said Grant, who will oversee such day-to-day operations as snowmaking, grooming, ski patrol, lift operations and mountain vehicle maintenance. “My wife got a job in human resources for St. Luke’s, and we love that everything is so close—you can bike, hike right out your door.”

Cold temperatures allowed Grant and his crew to fire up Sun Valley’s arsenal of snow guns at 10:30 in the morning a few days before Halloween. And by lunchtime the entire system was running.

“Pretty phenomenal,” he said.

Two snowstorms followed a week later, dumping about 18 inches of wet, heavy snow on the mountain. No one could have asked for better snow to create a good skiing base.

And now Grant and his crew are poised to offer one of the better opening days in the last 20 years.

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