You on the Slopes, Only Better

A lesson with a SnowSports instructor is a great idea for everyone

Everyone can benefit from a ski or snowboard lesson, no matter your ability level

There was a time when conventional wisdom held that ski or snowboard lessons were mostly for beginners or children. But today, with constantly evolving gear, not to mention constantly evolving terrain in Sun Valley (everything on Dollar, big moguls on Baldy and Adventure Trails immediately come to mind), everyone could benefit from a lesson from the pros at the Sun Valley SnowSports School. And no matter your ability level or preferences, there is an option to fit your needs.

Prefer one-on-one attention? Book a private lesson where you will have an instructor’s undivided focus. Are you motivated by being in a group? A clinic will place you with like-minded and like-ability athletes, allowing you to learn not only from your teacher, but from all the tips being given to your peers. And lessons for children are always a great idea. They love spending time with other kids and will enjoy instruction especially tailored to them. Did I mention the Adventure Trails?

Our professional instructors train all winter to make a real difference in your skiing or riding

Our professional instructors train all winter to make a real difference in your skiing or riding

With the busy Presidents’ Week holiday upon us, now is the time to set up lessons. Still not convinced? Here are the top ten reasons to connect with the SnowSports School according to Supervisor Nick Maricich and his team:

  1. Obviously, to improve your technique. Even slight adjustments can make you a better skier or boarder, making your experience on the mountain much more satisfying.
  2. SnowSports instructors are great guides to our mountains. If you have not visited Sun Valley, spending a day with an instructor is a safe, informative way to get to know the trails.
  3. It’s a terrific family activity. Skiing as a family with a teacher, allows everyone to get some great tips while spending quality time together.
  4. Morning lessons get an early up at 8:30 a.m. If you like fresh corduroy, then this is for you.
  5. If your children take a lesson, they will most likely have the opportunity to ski all the terrain that thrills them but not you. And they will do it safely.
  6. If you ski with an instructor, you get to cut lift lines, a bonus during busy holiday weeks.
  7. Spouses really shouldn’t teach each other how to ski.
  8. Connecting with an instructor is often the starting point of a decades-long relationship. Many returning Sun Valley guests ski or board with the same teacher for years.
  9. Old bad habits can be corrected.
  10. All Sun Valley SnowSports instructors take lessons themselves. Teachers consistently participate in clinics throughout the year to work on their own technique and teaching methods. They are then ready to pass the latest information and tips onto their clients.

    A snowboard instructor preps for the season during a clinic

    A snowboard instructor preps for the season during a clinic

And here are some additional tips from our SnowSports instructors:

  • Don’t wait until the last day of your stay to book a lesson. If you take a lesson on the first day of your vacation, you can practice and institute what you’ve learned for the rest of your trip.
  • Believe your teacher when they tell you your appropriate level. They know Baldy and Dollar like the proverbial back of their hands and can accurately judge what level Sun Valley skier or boarder you are. This will ensure you get the most from your lesson.

Today, I rode the chair with Gail from the Seattle area, who had serendipitously just finished the first ski lesson of her adult life. An accomplished skier who is comfortable on all of Baldy’s terrain, Gail could not believe what a difference a few hours with an instructor had made to her technique. “Three other ladies from the Seattle area and I took a bump lesson,” she explained. “The teacher helped me see the run in a whole new way. I chose lines I never would have and had the confidence to go for it. It was a fabulous experience.” Even better, Gail flew in yesterday on Alaska Airlines. With her plane ticket receipt, she took advantage of the free two-hour lesson offered to Alaska passengers by the Sun Valley Company. “We are here a lot,” Gail said. “I can’t believe I never before followed up on the ski lesson, but I surely will from now on.”

The SnowSports team boasts great depth and breadth and supervisors are excellent at matchmaking instructors and clients. In order to do this most effectively, they suggest booking a lesson at least 24 hours ahead. Lessons go out of River Run, Warm Springs and Dollar.

The cadre of SnowSports instructors are not only consummate pros, they are also incredibly friendly and helpful. They want you to improve. They want you to have a breakthrough day. They love Sun Valley and want you to love it, too.


Instructors are excellent at both teaching kids and managing the fun -- here waiting at the start of a Nastar race

Instructors are excellent at both teaching kids and managing the fun -- here children make the most of a brief wait at the top of a Nastar course

Absolute Beginners

Buckle up, it's time to snowboard

Buckle up, it's time to learn to snowboard

Part of me, a small part, but a part none-the-less, has always wanted to try snowboarding. Or, in truth, to try it again. A few decades ago, when the sport was new, I rented a board and went glibly up Quarter Dollar with my brother. On my first run, I was upright, oriented downhill and felt pretty confident when I caught my back edge and knocked the wind out of myself. No more snowboarding.

So it’s always been in the back of my mind to give it another go – this time with some instruction and a mature sense of self-preservation. Holding me back were fear and finances. So when I got wind of Sun Valley’s new deal-of-the-century, called SunStart, it was time to head over to Dollar, meet my fabulous instructor, Liz Wallace, and try it again.

SunStart offers beginner skiers or snowboarders full gear rental, a Dollar lift ticket and two hours of group instruction for $39. No, that is not a misprint. $39 all-in. You can try skiing if you’re a snowboarder, snowboarding if you’re a skier. If you’re 13-years or older and have always wanted to try an alpine sport, now is your chance.

My morning started at the Dollar SnowSports desk where I checked in for my lesson. Reservations for SunStart should be made 24 hours in advance whenever possible to ensure proper staffing. Lessons begin at 10:30 a.m., and you are advised to arrive at Dollar about 30 minutes earlier (probably a bit more on weekends) to fill out your paperwork and get your equipment.

Snowboarding boots -- reason alone to try the sport

Snowboarding boots -- reason alone to try the sport

Next stop was down the hall to Pete Lane’s to gear up. Like any regular renters, SunStarters first fill out a form on the store’s computers. Unlike a regular rental, however, when you take your slip to the desk to get fitted, your equipment is already paid for. That always feels good. Then a nice young man brings you boots and helps you slip into them – Cinderella style. After about one minute of wearing snowboard boots, I can honestly say, they are as comfortable as everyone says – big and warm. That should be enough to get skiers with boot issues to at least try snowboarding. I brought my own helmet and goggles and wished I had brought a roll of bubble wrap in which to encase myself when my Burton beginner board was delivered and it was go-time.

Admittedly, I was pretty nervous. I tried to put my inauspicious start to snowboarding 20 years ago out of my mind and concentrate on Liz’s gentle reintroduction to the sport. Her wide smile and infectious enthusiasm soon had me believing that snowboarding really was fun and was something I could do. As both a ski and snowboard instructor (one of the few), Liz is very credible when she says, “don’t worry.”

We began the two-hour lesson with baby steps: here is how you buckle your front foot in the binding, how you stand on the board, how you walk with it on your foot. Check, check, check. We then hiked a few feet up the bottom of Dollar and learned the always-useful equivalent of side-slipping. Check again. Next, it was on to the Magic Carpet. A few “successes” in staying upright on my board led Liz to believe we were ready for Quarter Dollar.

Quarter Dollar has never looked so steep

I didn't recall Quarter Dollar ever looking so steep

Now, one of the parts of snowboarding that worried me most, was getting off a chairlift. I have seen too many boarders wipe out before they have even started a run to assume this skill is easy to master. It turns out, it’s also not as hard as I imagined. My step-by-step coaching probably didn’t hurt, either.

By the end of my lesson, my scorecard read as follows: Three out of three successful chairlift rides. One run down the steeper side of Quarter Dollar, mostly side-slipped and “garlanded” (basically turns only to one side). Two runs down the gentler side of Quarter Dollar where I actually linked a few turns. Fifteen – my approximate number of falls (none painful).  Pretty high — my new found appreciation for snowboarding (and snowboarders).

If you are in a rut, or have always been curious about skiing or snowboarding, you couldn’t pick a more convenient and affordable time than now to get onto the snow. SunStart, offered as a part of National Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, runs through January and can be reserved by calling the SnowSports School at (208) 622-2289.  The last day to reserve your SunStart lesson is January 28.

Get out there and try something new. No excuses!

Thanks to Liz and the great team at Dollar for making this one positive experience.


All smiles with Liz, who will literally hold your hand and teach you to snowboard

All smiles with Liz, who will literally hold your hand while teaching you to snowboard



“Her Turn” Women’s Clinic

“Her Turn” Women’s Clinic

Alpine Ski Workshop

Join other intermediate to advanced women skiers and snowboarders in improving your technique and broadening your experience while enjoying the camaraderie of other women on Baldy.  With our expert female instructors and guest coaches, you will reach a new level of success!

Space is limited!  Sign up now!

Please call the Sun Valley SnowSports School at 208.622.2289 or email us at for more information.

Sun Valley Skier/Boarder Cross Clinics March 18, 19 & 26

Ride the world class National Championship boarder cross course on Dollar Mountain! The Sun Valley Snowsports School will offer training clinics and open runs on the SPT built course.

Friday, March 18
Adult clinic will be offered from 10am -12pm.
Kid’s clinic (6-18 yrs.) will be held 1:30pm to 3:30pm.
Saturday, March 19
Open clinic for all ages from 10am – noon.
Saturday, March 26
Open clinic for all ages from 10am – noon.

Following completion of any one of the clinics skiers/boarders will be able to run the course as many times as they want from 1-3:30 pm Saturday.

To enter the course, all skiers/boarders must complete a clinic. Helmets are mandatory.
The clinics are $35 and may be reserved at the Dollar Mountain Lodge SnowSports School desk or, by calling 208-622-2289.

Spring Fling – Adult & Child Snowsports Clinics

"Spring Fling" SnowSports Camp (formerly known as Blaine County Kids Camp)

3 consecutive weekends: Feb 20 & 21, 27 & 28, and Mar. 6 & 7.

Limit first 150 skiers per session and 100 snowboarders per session.

$130 includes 6 lessons and all day lift ticket.

AM Session: 9-11:30 PM session: 12:30-3:00.

First session meets at Dollar Mtn.

Adult Spring Fling
3 consecutive Saturdays February 20, 27 and March 6th

Beginners: 10am-12pm at Dollar Mountain

Intermediate to Advanced: 1-3 at River Run

$110 includes 6 hrs of instruction

*Does NOT include lift ticket.

Please call the Sun Valley Snowsports School at (208) 622-2289 for more information.