Gifts aplenty

Early season snow was an early gift on Baldy

Early season powder blankets Baldy's Central Park

We have not yet officially reached the start of the 12 days of Christmas, but from my perspective, Sun Valley’s alpine skiers and sliders have already been given gifts aplenty. With apologies to the original scribe of the beloved holiday classic, my 12 Days of Christmas might go, thus far, something like this (feel free to hum along):

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On the first day of Christmas, Mother Nature gave to me: a snow-covered evergreen tree.

On the second day of Christmas, Mother Nature gave to me: two well-tuned skis and a snow-covered evergreen tree.

On the third day of Christmas Mother Nature gave to me: three groomed steeps, two well-tuned skis and a snow-covered evergreen tree.

On the fourth day of Christmas Mother Nature gave to me: four days of snowfall, three groomed steeps, two well-tuned skis and a snow-covered evergreen tree.

On the fifth day of Christmas Mother Nature gave to me: five pow-der runs! four days of snowfall, three groomed steeps, two well-tuned skis and a snow-covered evergreen tree.

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I will stop there, because the prevailing theme quickly runs to overkill, but in Sun Valley, in December, the skiing is stunningly good. This week, after a massive storm came through and dumped something like three feet of white, fluffy powder on the top of Baldy, I have skied runs that are normally reserved for much, much later in the season. I dropped down into Central Park off of College and splashed in the still fresh snow, three days after the big storm. The trail that sounds like “Stilhung” but is spelled in a way I can’t begin to fathom, beckoned alluringly from the top of International, offering still untouched powder past my knees. I tackled Rock Garden, Upper Holiday and Upper River Run, nearly three weeks BEFORE Christmas. (For our guests, all these runs involve some combination of steep pitches, trees, bumps or powder and are not always in great shape this early in the year).

Thursday saw first tracks in the bowls

Thursday saw first tracks in the bowls

Sun Valley Ski Patrol has been aggressive in opening terrain and on Thursday … wait for it … they dropped the rope on some of Baldy’s awesome bowls. Yes, people were skiing and riding the bowls on December 6, and making laps on the Mayday lift. For lack of a better word – epic!

Lift talk is, without fail, enthusiastic and filled with gratitude. On a weekday morning, those of us lucky enough to work the night shift or have the day off, giddily compare notes, conditions and look almost guilty at our good fortune. Our only complaint? Tired legs from all this early-season powder. Yes, it’s hard to be us.

Insert yourself here

Insert yourself here

The mountain’s base is in fantastic shape for the coming season and it promises be a very white and very jolly holiday in Sun Valley. In fact, I don’t think there is better skiing anywhere in the country right now. It’s that good.

I will take this recent snowfall over drummers drumming, maids a’ leaping, swans a’ swimming –even golden rings. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here, and that looks pretty darn amazing — especially when you’re looking down at it from 9000 feet.

–RES

 

 

 

 

 

Play it safe this winter

Ski Patrol practices for a rescue

Being ready for an avalanche rescue takes lots of practice and expertise, even for Sun Valley Ski Patrol

We all know skiing and boarding are fun. Big fun, in fact. But the importance of knowing how to stay safe in the snow cannot be over exaggerated. While many love the idea of backcountry or “side-county” skiing (what until recently used to be called illegally ducking the ropes), not everyone who ventures off groomers understands how to prepare for potential pitfalls when enjoying winter activities.

Sun Valley Ski Patrol wants to help.  In conjunction with many organizations and retailers in the community, Ski Patrol presented the Sawtooth Snow Safety Festival on Saturday. A large crowd came out, despite a light rain and the promise of snow (fingers crossed!) to check out the latest equipment, participate in demonstrations and get as much information as possible. Held at Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge (that, by the way, is already beautifully decorated for the holidays – kudos to this year’s designers!) the festival was a rousing success.

A group practices with avalanche beacons

Avalanche beacons 101

According to Mike Davis, one of Sun Valley Ski Patrol’s outstanding supervisors, “it is crucial for mountain users who might be venturing out onto a powder day, side-country slope, or the backcountry (even if the backcountry is literally in your backyard), to be prepared. There are so many resources available to educate people and help them learn the essentials as well as really advanced skills.”

The past few years have seen a huge increase in people interested in “side-country” skiing on Baldy, especially after the Castle Rock fire in 2007 exposed what many saw as new ski terrain. But Davis said he cannot over emphasize that mountain users are on their own if they venture out-of-bounds.  “There is no patrol, no sweep. Even if you know what you’re doing, someone above you may not,” he said.

That is why events like the Snow Safety Festival are so important. Local instructors, experts and merchants discussed all the equipment necessary to more safely explore off-piste (shovels, probes and beacons being at the top of the list) and the importance of knowing exactly how to use them.  Many at the event also emphasized that using experienced guides like those at Sawtooth Mountain Guides or Sun Valley Trekking is a very, very smart way to go.

The newest generation of avalanche beacons

The newest generation of avalanche beacons

Avalanche shovels

Shovels are a must-have safety item and were on display at the Snow Safety Festival

Part of the joy of living in or visiting Sun Valley is the vast outdoor playground that surrounds the Wood River Valley on all sides. There are limitless possibilities for exploration, adventure and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. But what the Snow Safety Festival emphasized is that information is key.  Skiers and boarders on Baldy should heed all signs and advisories. Ski Patrol is there to keep you safe, not hinder your fun. Backcountry users should check conditions with the local Avalanche Center that updates information daily throughout the season. When in need of new information or a refresher, sign up for a course or clinic.

Slopeside life officially kicks off in Sun Valley on Thursday the 22nd.  Let’s all have the most fun, safest season yet.

–RES

Bob Rosso talks equipment

Backcountry adventurer Bob Rosso shows off the latest equipment during the Festival

Experts are ready to answer questions

Many local experts were ready to give advice

 

 

 

 

It’s Beginning to Look a lot like Winter

Stopping on the bridge on a snowy Monday

They are perhaps the two best words in the vernacular of a ski town – it’s snowing! And it is. A lot. The Halloween pumpkins and fall’s golden aspen leaves are covered with a layer of white and I know I was not the only mother in town scrambling to dig out woolen hats and gloves still in summer storage this morning. The excitement wrought by the season’s first snowfall was palpable on the drive to school. When Lower River Run came into view, the slope was suddenly clearly delineated. Turning the corner, we stared at Upper College, now readily identifiable between the evergreens. As dawn broke, the snow guns were working hard, Mother Nature was cooperating and skiers rejoiced!

Things are in full swing on both Bald Mountain and Dollar in preparation for the rapidly approaching season. According to Marshall McInnis, an expert on all things Sun Valley, there is a lot to look forward to when the lifts start running on Thanksgiving Day. In addition to the beginning of snowmaking in earnest, other improvements are well underway to make this the best ski season ever in Sun Valley. Work undertaken by the Forest Service to ensure the health of the forests on Baldy provided an added bonus of creating a new tree run between Upper College and Limelight. “When you ski down I-80 this year, the sun will shine through the trees and there will be new opportunity for skiing above it,” said McInnis. He also said that two new Adventure Trails, one off the top of Seattle Ridge and one on the Cold Springs side of the mountain, will also provide new terrain opportunities. “There are more places to play this year,” he laughed.

First Snowfall on River Run

With only 30 days remaining until Baldy and Dollar officially open, this early snowfall has everyone scurrying to prepare. In addition to digging out the winter clothes, it’s time to get your ski pass, tune your skis or board and get in some pre-season conditioning. Really, it’s time. Look out the window.

There is snow forecast for the next four days, adding up to perhaps a few inches on the Valley floor and hopefully quite a bit more up on the mountain. Around town, everyone is smiling and laughing that Jack Frost is making his first appearance of the year. It looks like it will be a year of trick-or-treating in puffy jackets and snow boots with warm hats pulled down over costume wigs. But that is a small price to pay for a great early season on the slopes.

Check out the latest conditions in Sun Valley by clicking here.

Let it snow!

–RES

Dreaming of a White Halloween

Baldy Blanketed in 11″ Of New Snow

Weekend storms left Sun Valley’s Bald Mountain covered in 11″ of new snow officially signaling the beginning of what’s hoped to be a stellar la nina snow year for  the Sun Valley area. Also, last night marked the start of snowmaking on both Dollar and Bald Mountain, bringing Sun Valley’s 75th Winter Season closer to our anticipated November 25th opening date. So get those riding legs in shape, hit the gym or pavement because the season will be upon us in a matter of weeks!

Think Snow!

March 30th Snowstorm

15″ on new snow fell on Baldy over the past 72 hours!

January 19th Ski Conditions

Baldy Blanketed in 17+ inches of snow

Bald Mtn. - October 6, 2009White Clouds Webcam - Oct 6, 2009

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Weekend storms have blanketed Baldy with the first significant snowfall of the season. 17+ inches has fallen so far!

Sun Valley Resort expects to open the ski season Thanksgiving Day, however, this date could be pushed up should early snowstorms continue.

Check out the Mountain Cams forthe latest images!