Sun Valley Powder Festival – The Ultimate Snow Dance Weekend

Sun Valley Powder Festival – The Ultimate Snow Dance Weekend

LIFTLINE: Mountain Access 101

The Wheels on the Bus….
(a rundown on the basics for getting to the mountain)

By Alec Barfield

Buses picking up skiers at the village, Winter of 1946.

Sun Valley Resort consists of three bases:

(1) River Run Plaza,
(2) Warm Springs at Baldy and
(3) Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge.

Each has its advantages, depending on personal preference (and mountain usage), and folks are split over where they like to begin and end the day. Proximity to one or the other, afternoon cravings for a hot dog at Irving’s (Warm Springs only) and one’s need for heavy-duty wagons to haul gear (River Run only) are just a few of the deciding factors to consider. But whichever base wins your profound yet seasonal loyalty, you must first make another choice: how to get there.

‘Tis the season of trains, planes and automobiles … and buses. Of course cars are welcome; there are well-marked and amply-spaced parking lots at both bases. Yet don’t deny Wood River’s public transit system, the ubiquitous Mountain Rides program, the opportunity to change your mind and routine. In terms of mountain access, there’s no better way to make your morning pilgrimage to the mountain than via one of Ketchum’s many buses.

Why Mountain Rides

Funding mass transportation is a no-brainer from the city’s perspective. Buses drive commerce by shuttling tourists and locals. Buses reduce traffic and congestion and, ultimately, buses help control local pollution levels. Financially and logistically it makes sense that the communities of the Wood River Valley committed significant resources to creating a free and easy-to-use transit system. The considerable environmental benefits of mass transit have only added value.

According to Treehugger.com, forty five million barrels of oil are saved each year from people taking public transportation, which amounts to one quarter of the energy needed to power American homes annually. Moreover if just 1 in 5 Americans used public transportation daily, this nation would see a 20% savings in carbon monoxide emissions. I could go on, but the environmental rewards of riding the bus are well-documented and the point is clear: The system merely requires the engagement of thoughtful citizens to keep the car in the garage.

Fortunately this argument doesn’t need to made often in Sun Valley, where open minds and a love of nature have always made public transit, once K.A.R.T. now Mountain Rides, a highly popular venture. Still what all types of riders quickly learn is that getting driven around and dropped off has obvious practical advantages. Some of my top favorites:

  1. Don’t waste time circling the parking lot. Hop on the bus and ski sooner.
  2. Don’t carry five pairs of sticks and poles from the car to the lodge. Hop on the bus and stop the whining.
  3. Don’t drive home when you’re legs can’t move. Hop on the bus and stretch out.

When all is said and done, why not take the bus?!

Know Your Bus Driver (and the Rules & Etiquette)

Follow the rules of bus etiquette...or you may end up riding outside, like J.P. Morgan in this test of the first chairlift

Like the post office, the Mountain Rides buses are social. Riders share stops and routes, and bus drivers intentionally keep to the same schedules week after week.

In other words, making friends is common. My usual drivers are To and Rod (Rod being what I’d call my “regular”). Just like a lot of us: Rod wants to ski everyday–and so he works accordingly. He’s been driving the bus for years because it makes doing what he loves simpler.

I live in Warm Springs and need to get downtown. My options are the Blue and Bronze Routes. For no good reason I always take Blue, which departs from the base lodge (the Irving’s stop) on the hour and half past the hour. I show up on the hour, grab a hot dog from Irving’s Red Hots and hop aboard. Classical music is playing and my seat is warm. Four stops and ten minutes later, I finish my meal and say good bye. Free and easy.

In the course of my ride, I learn more about life than buses. And I realize that not many cities have drivers like ours … Friends driving friends sounds too good to be true–yet, in my experience, the Mountain Rides drivers have never been anything but friendly, funny and informative.

 

To help keep it that way, I’ve included a few basic rules of bus etiquette that every small-town rider should follow:

  1. Bus drivers need to stay focused on the road (especially during busy holiday weeks and weekends), so before asking your driver for directions, consult the Mountain Rides pamphlets for color-coordinated, big font basics on getting around Ketchum.
  2. Large maps are also located at the most popular stops (Warm Springs, River Run, Baldy Circle).
  3. Don’t stand up before the bus comes to a complete stop. It’s dangerous.
  4. Remember that others are riding with you and put the cell phone down or pause the iPod. (“Guys yelling into their cell phones is the worst” says Rod).  Instead of jabbering on obliviously, hang up the phone and talk to the driver. Or talk to your friends (old or new-found)–buses here are communal and it’s fun to compare adventures after a day of skiing.

Getting to the Mountain (Schedules & Times)

Although Mountain Rides buses operate year-round, certain routes are seasonal, or "winter only." With the onslaught of winter tourism, it’s only natural that the system expand to accommodate increased traffic. Below is an overview of every route, year-round and seasonal (mountain access points are in bold). Visit the website for more time tables and maps.

  • Blue Route (all year) – Connecting the Warm Springs base, the YMCA, downtown Ketchum, Sun Valley, Dollar Mountain and Elkhorn. Times: 7:00 AM to 9:30 PM, year round (until 12:50 at night, winter only).
  • Red Route (all year) – Connecting Elkhorn neighborhoods, the River Run base, Christophe and downtown Ketchum (including Kentwood Lodge and Lift Tower Lodge). Times: 8:30 AM to 4:55 PM.
  • Green Route (all year) – Connecting downtown Ketchum, the River Run base, St. Luke’s and the Meadows. Times: 7:10 AM to 5:45 PM.
  • Bronze Route (winter only) – Connecting the Warm Springs base and  Sun Valley Village. (The Bronze Route runs from December 17th – April 1st.) Times: 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM.
  •  Silver Route (winter only) – Connecting Sun Valley Village with Ketchum, the River Run base and Dollar Mountain. (The Silver Route runs from Thanksgiving through the end of the season.) Times: 8:00 AM to 5:56 PM.
  • Gold Route (winter only) – Connecting Sun Valley Club, Sun Valley, Dollar Mountain and Elkhorn Springs. (The Gold Route runs from December 17th – April 1st.) Times: 9:05 AM to 3:05 PM.

NOTE: Be sure to follow the link to check current schedule updates and times, as well as to view maps and transit alerts–including up-to-date information on service adjustments due to traffic, special events or route changes.

LIFTLINE: Skiing and Boarding in Groups

How to stay sane when skiing with everyone’s aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, friends and grandparents.

By Katie Matteson

Meeting friends on Bald Mountain

This is the time of the year when everyone’s favorite mountain, Baldy, gets packed! Lines are long, slopes are filled, it is hard to find a seat on the deck at Warm Springs Lodge and, suddenly, your friends’ red and blue jackets start looking just like everyone else’s red and blue jackets.

So just how are you supposed to find your friends in a sea of skiers, snowboarders, revelers, families, ski lessons and groups of ski-teamers? Not everyone has bright colored jackets like me (I swear, my favorite pink and green jacket can be spotted on Baldy miles away!), no one really uses walkie-talkies anyone (though if you did, we think it’s awesome!), and sometimes it is just too cold to take your gloves off and dig through your pockets for your cell phone.

So we have complied a few tips on just how to stay together on the mountain, the best places to meet on the mountain, and a few safety tips for skiing or boarding in groups.

1. Plan ahead. Knowing when and where you are going to meet your group is the first step towards success. Be specific in your planning. Instead of saying, "Meet you at the top around eleven," try something more specific (and less mainstream) like: "Meet you at the top of Seattle Ridge at 11:15."

Meeting Friends on Baldy

Plan ahead with a specific time and location to make sure everybody meets up on top and in the right place

2. Watch the clock.  There are several clocks strategically placed in every lift line. Watch for the big blue signs with maps on them, the clocks are on there too. There are also clocks at the top of the mountain and the top of Seattle Ridge. Being on time will help your group meet up easier!

3. Stand BELOW the slow sign. If you and your fam gets split up on a run, or if you decide to meet halfway down, the best place to wait for the slower part of the crew is right BELOW one of the big, orange slow signs. Most skiers and riders work to avoid those signs anyway, so you will be out of their way and it also provides you a little protection, just in case.

4. Move away from the lift! If you are meeting friends at the top of the mountain, whatever you do, DO NOT stand right where you got off. Many other skiers and riders will be getting off the lift before your friends get there, and if you are standing right in the way, it is a recipe for a disaster (or at least one or two pile-ups).

5. The best place to meet: Warm Springs Side: The Warm Springs Bridge (located right at the end of the Challenger lift line, just past Warm Springs Lodge). An old stand-by for groups of skiers and riders to meet up, the Warm Springs Bridge is almost a tradition of its own. Locals and tourists alike can be heard on a Friday night at Grumpy’s saying"Meet you on the Bridge at nine tomorrow." Just be sure not to confuse it with the River Run Bridge!

River Run Base Lodge

Looking towards the firepit at River Run Base Lodge

6. The best place to meet: River Run Side: The fire pit. River Run Lodge is huge and there are plenty of places to meet your group from the bear statue to the fireplace inside to the first ski rack, but our favorite place to meet, and warm up some chilly fingers, is the fire pit. Located right near the bottom of the gondola, you are sure not to miss this one and you can warm up and meet new friends while you wait.

7. If Meeting up enroute, stand BELOW the slow sign. If you and your fam (or larger group) gets split up on a run, or if you decide to meet halfway down, the best place to wait for the slower part of the crew is right BELOW one of the big orange slow signs. Most skiers and riders work to avoid those signs anyway, so you will be out of their way and it also provides you a little protection, just in case.

8. Move to the side of the slope! There are some long runs and some long cat tracks on Baldy, so if you and your crew get split up on Lower College or at the end of Hershey Highway and you are going to wait for them to catch up, be sure to move to the side of the run. Standing in the middle of any run can be dangerous for you and other skiers!

9. The best place to meet: Seattle Ridge.  If your 13 year-old cousin doesn’t want to watch the Broncos game with you inside the Seattle Ridge Lodge while you wait for the rest of the family, the best place to meet on Seattle Ridge is outside the Lodge on the Lower Level. This not only keeps you out of the way of the lift and other skiers, but it provides easy access to the bathrooms and water, without going up or down any stairs!

10. The best place to meet: Top of the mountain. Lots of groups get together at the top and with the Lookout Lodge, three lifts and one cat track all converging in one area, it can get pretty hectic. Tell your friends to meet you by the big blue sign (the one with a map and a clock), or even a little lower, down by the Ski Patrol Shack. But try to stay out of the way of the snowboarder’s Strap-Up area.

11. Carry a map! Baldy can seem big and confusing, especially to a first-time visitor. So be sure to carry a mountain map with you at all times, that way if your group gets separated, at least you can figure out where you are and where you want to be! Also, the Sun Valley guest service folks (the friendly skiers and boarders in bright yellow jackets) are incredibly helpful; so don’t be afraid to ask. There are also some pretty sweet Smartphone apps with resort maps that can come in pretty handy!

Skiing and boarding is all about fun. Enjoying bluebird skis and hopefully some fresh powder with your family and friends.  So be patient and kind to your fellow Baldy-lovers! A little karma goes a long way!

Sun Valley Suns 2011–2012 Schedule


Date  Team  Location
December
 December 16-17 McCall Home
 December 28 Future Suns Home
 December 30-31 Utah Rebels Home
January
January 6-7 Aspen Home
January 13-14 Utah Grizzlies Away
January 20-21 Utah Grizzlies Home
January 27-28 Boston Home
February
February 10-11 Missoula Home
February 17-18 Langley, B.C. Home
March
March 2-3 McCall Home
March 9-10 Russia Home