Lift Line: Baldy Challenge

Taking on the Baldy Challenge.

Top to Bottom in One Month

by Alec Barfield

Every mountain has its secrets. The backsides and their stashes, the lonely two-seaters, the wayward tree lines and everything in between. Local pride comes in knowing where to find the good snow and how to avoid the crowds, both of which require a semi-polished understanding of all of the above.

For some, this February’s first ever Baldy Challenge, a PK’s Ski & Sports sponsored contest to ski the entire mountain, began as a test of that knowledge. I can assure you more than a few people thought, "Ski for a month and I’m entered to win my choice of K2 skis? Done. Let’s go to Averell’s or Apple’s and celebrate."

And if you’ve grew up chasing gates on Cozy and Hemingway, and optimistically dropped $25 to enter the contest, the first few days were likely straightforward. Seattle Ridge and the Bowls: check. Warm Springs: double check. But then you may have encountered those unnamed cat tracks, such as Kenny’s, and realized that the real "challenge" was shredding the hidden, the snowless and the hardly skiable on Baldy, upon which you may have begun to question your resolve. Since in reality, this competition has been more about commitment than anything else. Crustiness will beat cockiness, as it should.

No advantages have gone to the fastest skiers; everybody had before this year’s grand ol’ Leap Day to date and initial the list’s 93 boxes. No advantages have gone to the best skiers; an hour struggling down Inhibition looks the same on paper as getting to Cold Springs in five minutes. Even that local knowledge, as valuable as it is, only made the slightest difference. Need directions finding Stylehung? Call the "Baldy Challenge Hot Line" (PK’s land-line) and stay in the game. The playing field was leveled at the start, Hot Doggers!

Baldy is full of a lot more runs than most people realize.

What’s great about the Baldy Challenge is that the grand prize, to be awarded between 6-8pm at Whiskey’s on March 1st, is wide open. The participants I’ve talked to couldn’t have less in common–other than they mildly enjoy winter. And their approaches have varied, ranging from the slow and steady to two-day marathoners (because skiing all of Baldy is one day is plain ludicrous). Some have carried the checklist to the lifts. Others are making mental notes. Being that this is the competition’s maiden season, there are no proven strategies.

My hope is that the heaps of glory, the rounds of high fives and the piles of smooches (the true prizes!) go to a tortoise, one of the many who put his or her money down and yet had no pretensions of victory, because ultimately the proceeds of PK’s Baldy Challenge go to the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation. A new pair of K2s is killer, but there’s nothing better than supporting the next generation, who are the future keepers of Baldy and this challenge.