The goods news is that it’s snowing like crazy in Sun Valley. In fact, the snow is great news! Four inches of fluffy new powder has fallen in the past 24 hours, piling onto another 4” that fell earlier this week and two feet that fell in a storm a few days ago. Sun Valley is showing off its winter white finery and offering some of the best skiing and snowboarding anywhere this Presidents’ Day weekend. Woo hoo!
Enthusiasm is high to say the least.
However, all this wonderful new snow has created some safety concerns of which all mountain users need to be aware, and to respect. The season’s minimal early snowfall followed by a series of closely-spaced, powerful storms, equals an unstable snowpack. Given these conditions, it is critical that guests respect closed areas on both Baldy and Dollar.
On a sophisticated mountain like Baldy with its detachable high speed quad lifts and state-of-the-art gondola, and some of the best grooming equipment and groomers anywhere, it is easy to forget that slides can happen, even in-bounds. As members of Sun Valley Ski Patrol work tirelessly to get as many trails open, as quickly as possible, mountain users should understand their methods and goals. Mitigating snowpack instability is one of Ski Patrol’s primary responsibilities within ski area boundaries. Before, during and after storms, they implement ski cutting techniques and explosives to accomplish this. Many think the best alarm clock there is is the ka-boom of dynamite hitting the Bowls.
If areas remain closed, though, it is for good reason. In addition to unstable snowpack, these can include (but are not limited to) snowcat or snow machine travel, areas of thin cover, man made obstructions, wildlife considerations, fallen trees, or unsafe conditions in which to run a toboggan. These can change quickly due to current conditions.
Ski Patrol is comprised of some of the best, most enthusiastic skiers and boarders around. They love powder as much as the rest of us (maybe more) and yearn, like we all do, for first tracks, for themselves and for our guests. It gives them as much as a rush to drop that rope as it does for snow sports enthusiasts to be there when it drops. After all, they love Sun Valley’s mountains and want everyone to have the greatest experience possible.
When closures are ignored, though, unforeseen results may occur and that is really not what you want during an epic day on the mountain. Sun Valley Ski Patrol only sweeps runs that are open to the public. This means if a guest is injured or lost in a closed area, they are on their own. You don’t want to be that person as night falls. Entering closed areas also sets a poor example for younger guests. Overall, there is too much at stake to risk everything for a few turns in a closed area.
It is probably safe to say that everyone wants guests to enjoy the best day ever on Sun Valley’s slopes, especially members of Ski Patrol. But they also want to make sure that guests stay safe.
Check for special notices on sunvalley.com where the mountain reports post any special delays and closures. It’s always good to be informed about general conditions, too, so be sure to check in with the Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center regularly, especially during, or right after, winter storms. Guests unfamiliar with closure policies should never follow people under ropes or into areas marked closed, but should seek a member of Ski Patrol or Guest Services to get the correct information.
The silence of falling snow is music to all our ears. This week, smiles are broad, the mood is light. But with the excitement about a fantastic second season that starts right about now, let’s all help the dedicated members of Sun Valley Ski Patrol do what they do best: keep us all safe and enjoying this magical mountain playground.
As the snow continues to fall (yay!) and settle over the next weeks, please enjoy the amazing terrain that is open and available to play in. If there is a rope closing off an area, please understand that it is there because it needs to be.
Now get out there and enjoy these fabulous February feet of snow!