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Sun Valley Alpine and Nordic Center Gear Up for Opening Day
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Sun Valley Resort promises a rollicking opening day come Thanksgiving morning.
   
Wednesday, November 23, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

If you’re reading this at 7 in the morning, you have just 26 hours to sandwich your feet into your downhill ski boots before you can make first turns on Bald Mountain.

First-day skiers will have plenty of elbow room with Sun Valley Resort opening multiple runs top to bottom on the River Run side of Bald Mountain as it launches its 87th winter season.

The resort plans to open Upper and Lower College, Sunset Strip, Lower and Mid River Run, Roundhouse Slope and Roundhouse Lane, thanks to nearly two feet of early natural snow and one of North America’s largest and most efficient snowmaking arsenals. And there’s a possibility even more runs could open on opening day, thanks to the work of the snowmaking and grooming teams in partnership with the Sun Valley Ski Patrol.

 
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The Sun Valley Nordic Center plans to open some of its ultra-scenic trails on Thanksgiving Day.
 

Meanwhile, the Sun Valley Nordic & Snowshoe Center will open Thursday, as well, with 10 kilometers of groomed trails. The Nordic area boasts 40 kilometers of picturesque trails along Trail Creek and in view of Baldy.

The Nordic Center opened its Hemingway, Glenn’s Loop and Bridge’s snowshoe trails on Tuesday, offering 6.7 kilometers worth of trekking.

Back on the mountain there’ll be prizes in store for those who show up for the first seat on the Roundhouse Gondola and the River Run Express when they start running at 9 a.m. Thanksgiving morning. There also will be commemorative Sun Valley mugs with hot cocoa, free giveaways and a DJ, along with an appearance by Sunny the Bear.

The Roundhouse Gondola, River Run Express, Lookout Express and Christmas Lift will be running. And there will be a new terrain park to entice those who like skiing rails and bumps.

After Opening Day has concluded, uphill access which has been off-limits to allow workers to get the mountain ready for the winter season, will be permitted from 5 to 8 a.m. and p.m. daily.

Headlamps, blinking tail lights and retroreflective items are required for those climbing the mountain after hours. These can include vests, sashes and armbands, and Sun Valley officials will be giving some away as the lifts start spinning Thursday morning.

The Warm Springs side of the mountain has been blessed with a couple feet of good packable natural snow, in addition to the manmade snow. And it is scheduled to open Dec. 9, along with Dollar Mountain. Seattle Ridge will likely open a week later in anticipation of the holiday crowd.

Those who love skiing through the trees will find a new run in a freshly cleared glade in the Little Scorpion area that leads into Lower Warm Springs just above the Warm Springs Lodge. Formerly out of bounds, the area got a makeover thanks to the harvesting of 79 acres of dead and dying trees to improve forest health and recreation on the mountain.

It can be accessed from the bottom of Flying Squirrel.

Sun Valley Resort has claimed the title of Best Ski Resort for an unprecedented third straight time. Readers of “SKI” Magazine ranked the resort No. 1 for Overall Satisfaction, Lifts, Dining and Local Flavor while giving it high marks in Grooming, Guest Services, Lodging, Apres, Nightlife and being Family Friendly.

“Sun Valley is just magical,” wrote one reader in “SKI” Magazine’s list of the top ski resorts in North America. “The village and the lodge can’t be topped. The mountain is perfectly maintained and has perfect pitch on every run. The history makes it fun to be a part of.”

“To get No. 1 once is amazing, to get it twice is rare, to get it three times in a row—” said Pete Sonntag, Sun Valley Resort’s general manager.

Sun Valley Resort expects to introduce itself to a new bunch of skiers this year after partnering with the IKON and Mountain Collective passes. The resort has been part of the EPIC pass group the past couple years.

Sun Valley will be promoted on all the messaging the two collective ski passes send out, spreading the Sun Valley brand farther than the resort could do on its own, said Sonntag. The IKON passes tend to attract those taking ski trips through the Intermountain West. And many of those buying Mountain Collective passes have picked Sun Valley as their preferred destination for a bonus day.

“We don’t know how it will turn out, but the chances of being overrun are pretty slim,” Sonntag said. “We want our business to thrive, but we can’t sacrifice what makes this place special.”

Sun Valley Resort will host the U.S. Alpine National Championships April 2-5, 2023. The event will bring America’s best skiers to Sun Valley to race slalom, giant slalom and super-G.

Sun Valley hosted Mikaela Shiffrin and others for the 2016 and 2018 U.S. Alpine National Championships. It will host the National Championships in 2024, as well.

As soon as the season winds down in mid-April, the resort hopes to start building a new six-seater lift with a mid-mountain exit on the Warm Springs side of the mountain that will replace the Challenger and Greyhawk chairs. It also will build a new Flying Squirrel lift that will end at the top of Picabo Street, allowing access to both the River Run and Warm Springs sides of the mountain.

The resort will extend the Flying Squirrel Ski Trail and add more snowmaking in conjunction with that project. And it will expand the Warm Springs Lodge Patio to enhance the lively apres ski scene there come spring.

Sonntag acknowledged that new lifts are expensive. But, he said, such investments are necessary to keep Sun Valley Resort at the top of the ski industry.

“Under the Holding family there’s been a lot of capital investment. It’s about creating this standard, and we’re standing out more and more because we aren’t part of a conglomerate that’s taken over the ski industry. We’re focused on maintaining quality while maintaining a cool vibe,” he added.

THE SKIER’S RESPONSIBILITY CODE:

1. Always stay in control. You must be able to stop or avoid people or objects.

2. People ahead or downhill of you have the right-of-way. You must avoid them.

3. Stop only where you are visible from above and do not restrict traffic.

4.  Look uphill and avoid others before starting downhill or entering a trail.

5. You must prevent runaway equipment.

6. Read and obey all signs, warnings, and hazard markings.

7. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.

8. You must know how and be able to load, ride and unload lifts safely. If you need assistance, ask the lift attendant.

9. Do not use lifts or terrain when impaired by alcohol or drugs.

10. If you are involved in a collision or incident, share your contact information with each other and a ski area employee.

In addition to Easier, More Difficult, Advanced and Experts Only runs, Bald Mountain offers five Family Areas where guests are asked to "Go with the Flow." These areas are shaded in yellow on the trail map and include: Lower Broadway, Seattle Ridge, Lower College, Olympic Ridge and Lower Olympic and Mid and Lower Warm Springs. These areas are clearly marked with yellow on-hill signage.

There are also three Slow Zones in which guests are asked to go "Very Slow." These areas include: Upper College, the Meadow Hill at the base of Seattle ridge and 42nd Street to the bottom of Lower River Run. These areas are highlighted in red on the trail map and are clearly marked with red on-hill signage.

Areas beyond the ski area boundary are not patrolled or maintained, and Sun Valley assumes no responsibility for the safety or welfare of skiers in these areas. Rescue in the backcountry, if available, is the responsibility of Blaine County Search and Rescue, a service often very costly to the skier.

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