Build Skills, Catch Air

Skiers and snowboarders spent a beautiful Sun Valley weekend trying out Dollar's newest skill-building terrain park

Skiers and snowboarders spent a beautiful Sun Valley weekend trying out Dollar's newest skill-building terrain park

“Dropping in!” This delighted cry rang out time and again on Dollar Mountain’s new skill-building terrain park that officially opened for the season on Sunday. Designed for beginner and intermediate skiers and boarders, the new features, located skiers’ right on Quarter Dollar, is not only big fun, it enhances the learning curve exponentially.

Children's SnowSports Director Shannon Price thinks this park is fantastic for both fun and learning new skills (and, yes, she is always this happy!)

Children's SnowSports Director Shannon Price thinks this park is fantastic for both fun and learning new skills (and, yes, she is always this happy!)

According to Shannon Price, Director of the Sun Valley Children’s SnowSports program, this progression park is a wonderful addition to Dollar. Kids will automatically be drawn to it and they will have so much fun they won’t even know they’re learning! For those with big dreams of big air, this is the perfect place to start.

The park is built with “soft” features, including rollers, a mini Halfpipe and a family cross course. There are no “hard” features like rails. And everything is designed with young athletes in mind.

“The gentle pipe actually improves children’s skills and form,” explained Shannon. “The layout lets a child who is snowplowing to drop in, and by using the curvature of the pipe, their skis automatically become more parallel. It’s amazing how quickly beginning skiers improve when they use this feature.”

The mini-pipe help skiers get parallel and is good practice for everyone

The mini-pipe help skiers get parallel and is good practice for everyone

The park is open to everyone on Dollar and on a stunning Sunday morning it was getting a lot of use. SnowSports School children’s group lessons explored every foot of the available terrain, yelping with delight the entire way down. Parents and children took to the mini-pipe together and laughed over the rollers on the way back to Quarter Dollar lift.

Skills built on this gentle park will transfer easily to Dollar’s more challenging features that were also getting quite a work out this weekend. Visitors, recreational skiers and snowboarders and members of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation freestyle team flew, jumped, flipped and spun over jumps, jibs and boxes, having the time of their lives.

Local athletes train on jumps on Dollar Sunday, showing how it is done

Local athletes train on jumps on Dollar Sunday, showing how it is done

No matter if you are an absolute terrain park beginner, have a child who has dreams of back flips or cross course racing or just want to try something new, the new terrain park at Dollar has your name on it. Be sure to head to the mountain during your Sun Valley holiday vacation and take a run, or three or four. Make a day of it by enjoying a fabulous lunch at Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge.

If you think your child will want to spend the entire day – or week – trying out everything Dollar offers, book a group or private lesson at the SnowSports School by calling (888) 490-5950 or click HERE. The highly trained, amazingly enthusiastic instructors are sure to make your child’s experience one to remember!

Getting ready to drop into the park!

Getting ready to drop into the park!

Christmas is here and we wish you and yours a spectacular holiday in Sun Valley! Don’t forget the Nutcracker on Ice this evening followed by the Torchlight Parade and fireworks. Then after Santa visits in the morning, be sure to get out onto Baldy and Dollar and don’t miss this wonderful new place to play.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!


DIVAS: Catching up with Danielle Crist Carruth

Danielle Crist Carruth

Mom (of three), Sun Valley SnowSports School Ski Instructor, DIVAS Program Co-Founder

By Laurie Sammis

As part of an ongoing Winter Profile series featuring real mountain divas–who are living and working and loving life in the mountains–we caught up with former Alaskan heli ski guide, wife, mother of three, DIVAS Program co-founder (along with Nicky Biddle Elsbree)  and longtime Sun Valley SnowSports School ski instructor veteran Danielle Crist Carruth on Baldy last week. Here is what she had to say about life in the mountains.


Sun Valley SnowSports instructor and DIVAS co-founder Danielle Crist Carruth enjoying her last run of the day

First Run in the A.M.? On a powder day, a quick run down Plaza (Picabo’s Street) before they open the bowls is always in order.

Last Run of the Day? For me, the end of the day is made for poking around in all the little tree stashes that haven’t been found. And there are plenty of them…

Favorite Run on a Sunny Day? Sunny spring skiing is my favorite. Corn snow in the bowls is just tough to beat.

Best Run on Baldy? Any day you are spending a lot of time on the cold springs double chair is a good one in my book, as you really can’t beat the lower bowls when conditions are right.

Favorite Lunch Spot? I love the Club House (as it is affectionately called by locals; but marked on trail maps as Lookout Lodge, at the top of Baldy), and secretly hope they never rebuild it. This is followed closely by Fondue on the deck of Roundhouse on a sunny spring day.

First Memory on Skis? Squaw Valley. Wooden Hart skis. Girls in bikinis.  Picnic lunching in the granite cliffs on a sunny spring day with family friends.

Who First Got You on Skis? Same person who taught my brothers (former Olympians and X-Games competitors Reggie and Zach Crist) and all of our children: My dad Roger Crist, aka Poppa.

When did you learn to ski? I was 2 years old. It was "trial by fire" in my family. If you couldn’t keep up, you were left in the lodge with a coloring book for hours. Sometimes that was preferable!

Favorite Memory on Skis? Hard to pick just one, but my favorite days are the ones when you head up without a plan just because you know the skiing is going to be great and you run into just the right people in just the right places … and you are just part of all that great energy that surrounds an amazing day on Baldy.

Favorite Off-Mountain Activity? Nothing beats hanging out with my family, whether it’s on the mountain, in the living room, or road tripping to Moab or California.

Do you have a skiing or mountain obsession (something you couldn’t live without)? My neck gator. Or my buff in the springtime. I can’t ski without my neck garb. Really.

Why Sun Valley–what do you love about it? I love the people.  There are places with more snow and more gnarly terrain, but there is no place where you can get as much vertical in a day than here. And there is no place with better people to ski it with.

What is Your Passion?  I have to admit I’m pretty passionate about skiing. It sounds simple, but I get a lot of pleasure out of shredding great lines with good friends or helping someone else appreciate this sport as much as I do. I’m incredibly passionate about spending time with my family and friends. There are, of course, lots of ways to do that, but skiing tends to be a pretty good one … and probably my favorite.

What is your job on the mountain? I am a Sun Valley SnowSports School ski instructor. I have been doing this job, and loving it, since college (during Christmas break). So, forever.

What is the Best Part about your job? I love getting people fired up about skiing and the mountain lifestyle.  I think we are incredibly lucky to be able to live here and raise our kids here and play here with such quality people. If just a little of that great energy can rub off on someone else, then that’s not a bad way to make the world a better place.

DIVAS: Sitting Down with Nicky Biddle Elsbree

Nicky Biddle Elsbree

Mom (of two), Sun Valley SnowSports School Ski Instructor, DIVAS Program Co-Founder

By Laurie Sammis

As part of an ongoing Winter Profile series featuring real mountain divas–who are living and working and loving life in the mountains–we caught up with former collegiate ski racer, wife, mother of two, DIVAS Program co-founder (along with Danielle Crist Carruth) and Sun Valley SnowSports School ski instructor extraordinaire Nicky Biddle Elsbree last week. Here is what she had to say about life in the mountains.

Sun Valley SnowSports instructor and DIVAS co-founder Nicky Biddle Elsbree

First Run in the A.M.?  On a Powder Day…Upper River, the road less traveled. On any other day it would be Graduate for a groomer, as it’s so sweetly falls away…

Last Run of the Day? Plaza… Picabo’s Street…whatever you want to call it. It’s a nice little secret–if your legs can handle “one more.”

Favorite Run on a Sunny Day?  Maybe a groomer..and I don’t know exactly why, but there’s something about skiing Squirrel with the sun on your back and your shadow stretching slightly ahead. Also any Bowl on a sunny day.

Best Run on Baldy? Exhibition and Lefty’s are my favs when they are ripe for the taking. They are interesting and challenging: right, left or straight down the middle.

Favorite Lunch Spot?  I’m not big on combining lunch with skiing. I just don’t have time to get bogged down and prefer to just snarf down a snack. Although my body somehow requires a Bowl of Soul for Apres, no matter what the time.

First Memory on Skis?  I have two (hundred). The first real memory was going down a patch of parental packed snow on a hill in our neighborhood. We’d get lugged up (again by the parents) and ski down…or at least try.  The packed snow hill (involving shovels) represented a huge effort on the part of my folks and there are some fun pictures to prove it.

The second is letting the rope tow at Nashoba Valley (MA) whirr through my mitts as I tried to get brave enough to really grab on and go. That thing was fast and furious. And scary. But it had the advantage of making the ski down seem easy.

When did you learn to ski?  I learned when I was 2 years old. The between-the-legs, work-my-parents-back method was our only option. Lucky for them we figured it out pretty fast. Unlucky for us, my big brother and I both broke our legs at 5 and 3 years old (at Stowe and Nashoba the same winter). After that, we figured it out a little better, so it was easier on everybody.

Favorite Memory on Skis?  That’s tough as there are memories galore. Eastern skiing, western skiing, dabbling in Europe, good days and GREAT. My fondest memory of skiing (as recently as two hours ago) remains the FREEING feeling that magically happens while on the slopes. There is nothing on earth that compares.

Favorite Off-Mountain Activity?  Let’s see…with kids, I’d have to say sledding, tubing and hockey. Without kids, I gotta give nordic skiing the nod, even though it doesn’t happen very much. It is great for the dogs and good to clear the head and inhale that mountain air while getting exercise!

Do you have a skiing or mountain obsession (something you couldn’t live without)?  Hats. I pretty much love hats and could not live without them.  I do wear a helmet as it’s the right thing to do, but oh how I love my hats. Oh, and ski apparel too (jackets, pants, outerwear)…but I’ve really gotten a grip on that. Really.

Why Sun Valley–what do you love about it?  I love Stoecklein’s Baldy poster from way back.  It evokes what Sun Valley is to me: magnetic, peaceful, wondrous, alluring, changing, quiet, western. And after one year (tops): HOME. And now, 23 years later, it’s still home.

What is Your Passion?  I’m passionate about coaching. It seems I’ve found my niche in ski coaching and instructing, adults and kids alike. I like to empower people to become better and it lights me up when they do.

What is your job on the mountain? I am in the midst of year seven with the Sun Valley SnowSports School, and count my blessings every day, as I’m a ski instructor and there are a lot of times when it doesn’t feel like a job. It hardly feels like work on an early-up powder morning with clients (most of whom become, or have become, friends) or while skiing, and laughing, with “my” Thursday Smith kids. So guess I am a living example of the philosophy that you should do what you love and it usually works out.

Parting Thoughts… When my parents come out to visit, I always say thank you (for taking the time to teach us how to ski and introducing us to the industry and the mountain and the lifestyle). Thank you.

SKIING HERITAGE: Sun Valley Torchlight Parade

A Sun Valley Tradition

By Alec Barfield

Dollar and Baldy Mountain celebrate the season with Fireworks and a Torchlight Parade

The Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade on Dollar Mountain is one of Sun Valley’s most venerable traditions, dating back further than the memory of any living resident. More than merry exercise, the parade truly holds symbolic significance in the community–especially on this Anniversary year. Seventy-five years ago this Christmas season, the Sun Valley Lodge opened its doors to the world and our celebrated resort was born. By now we all know the "creation story" of how Averell Harriman and Count Felix Schaffgotsch, after combing the West, hand-picked Ketchum to be America’s premier ski resort, the next St. Moritz. With such a compelling narrative and host of characters – the railroad, the Count, the celebrities from Hollywood’s golden age – it is no wonder this town loves its heritage.


Tomorrow night that history will come to life in the form of lights and fireworks. The parade itself speaks to Sun Valley’s Swiss and Austrian predecessors, who pioneered the mesmerizing trails of fire that snake down the mountain. The location, however, alludes to the resort’s own uniqueness, as Dollar was home to one of the first two chairlifts in the entire world (the other being on nearby Proctor Mountain). While the East was using rope tows and Europe was still relying on funiculars and tramways, Sun Valley began moving skiers like hanging bananas on the novel Dollar Mountain "chairlift." The idea was a momentous innovation that would shape the skiing world forever, and Sun Valley was at the heart of it.

Yet the torchlight parade is a unique and festive Sun Valley time capsule, not only for its connection to this area’s earliest beginnings, but because its participants have been doing it for years. Historically conducted by the Sun Valley Snowsports School, the parade is a nostalgic event, providing an opportunity for friends and family to remember those torch bearers who are no longer with us as they watch the snaking line of past instructors, sweeping right and left, and sharing in the tradition once again. According to ski school director, Allan Patzer, the torchlight has become a truly spiritual event and an honor for present instructors. Not simply a performance, it is an opportunity for remembrance, in more ways than one, of everyone and everything that has contributed to the foundation of this incredible community.

Tomorrow night, after the Nutcracker On Ice Show, look towards Dollar. Rising nearly 630 vertical feet from the valley floor and bereft of trees, the mountain is the ideal host for the event, which will be followed, as always, by a show of fireworks. If you’ve never watched the parade before, this is your opportunity to take part in an elegantly poignant Sun Valley tradition. If you are a regular spectator, one familiar with that glowing stream of Christmas lights, then you understand, and have probably already set your clocks for six p.m.

>> Event Details: 

“Nutcracker on Ice” Holiday ice show begins at 5:00 PM at the Outdoor Rink, Sun Valley Lodge Terrace.

Torchlight Parade & Fireworks immediately following the ice show(usually around 6:00 PM)

Dress: Bundle up and look for hot chocolate and goodies on the Lodge Terrace (and maybe even a surprise visit from Santa after the “Nutcracker on Ice” Holiday ice show.

SV Shred: Ski School 101

Some tips for shredders in training

Sharing the love of skiing with little shredders.

By Mike McKenna

One of the smartest things any ski or snowboard loving parent can do is to have your children take ski lessons. And it’s not just because it then frees parents up for some fresh tracks in the Bowls, or a couple rounds of beer at Apple’s, or fondue at Averell’s–these are just the fringe benefits.

The real benefit of enrolling your children in ski school is that it helps give young shredders the skills and confidence to enjoy a sport you love for more reasons that just aprs skiing.

To help assure the any child’s day in ski school goes well, we consulted with an expert, Weylin Barrett, the Children’s Supervisor for the Sun Valley SnowSports School at Dollar Mountain.

Dress for Success

Since skiing is an outdoor winter sport, appropriate apparel is imperative. "Whether your child has skied once or a thousand times, it’s always a good idea to get all the kids’ stuff out ahead of time so you can see how everything fits and make to sure it’s comfortable," says Weylin, who’s been working for Sun Valley since 1998 and is a father of two youngsters himself.

It’s always important for parents to be aware of the weather forecast for the day and to make sure their children are properly and comfortably dressed. "Taking a little time before hand to check and plan helps assure success and prevent and problems or bumps along the path," says Weylin (See the Clothing Check List below).

Planning to Plan

Having a plan for how the day will go is always a good idea as well, which is why most ski schools like Sun Valley recommend you sign up in advance. Walk in students are always welcome, but it still helps to have a plan for how the day will go, including a good breakfast and plenty of water (Sun Valley’s high desert elevation increases dehydration).

Sun Valley offers a variety of ski school lesson and package options, which can even be combined with lift ticket and passes for Dollar’s tubing park (Click here for package and lesson information). But the lessons generally run from 10 am to 3pm, so  parents need to have drop off and pick up plans. Weylin recommends parents schedule a little time to meet instructors before hand and some time to ski with the kids afterwards. Parents are also welcome to hang out at Dollar Lodge, which offers a restaurant, great views of all action on the slopes and an outdoor deck with a fire pit and heaters.

The goal of our instructors is to meet the goals of the family. If you want your child to work on something as basic as wedge turns or to just have fun and fall in love with skiing, that’s what we’re going to do," Weylin explains from the friendly confines of Carol’s Dollar Lodge, adding that many families like to end the day with a few runs so the kids can "show off what they’ve learned."

Reasons Lessons are Recommended

Tubing at Dollar Mountain is fun for the whole family.

While even the most seasoned skiers and boarders could use a lesson or two at some point in their lives, it’s really a no-brainer to get your kids to take a lesson. Unless, that is, you’re afraid your kids will become better skiers or snowboarders than you, which is really just a fruitless worry anyway – they will.

One of the biggest reasons most folks in the industry recommend children take ski lessons is because, quite simply, there are some thing parents could use a little help teaching their kids, and skiing is definitely one of them.

"Even with my own (oldest) son, my ski and ride pros reach him much better than I do, which is fine. They can teach him so I can just go out and have fun with him," Weylin happily explains.

"Ultimately, the goal of the Ski School staff is we’re trying to build lifelong skiers and riders, so we see skiing as a family sport," Weylin says, "and we really believe it’s about families having fun."

Clothing Check List

__Head: Warm winter hats are a must and the Ski School does provide helmets at no extra charge. Still, hats are needed for before and after the slopes.

__Eyes: Ski goggles are the best way to protect eyes from cold the cold air, glaring sun and occasional inevitable fall. As Weylin points out, most professional skier and riders always wear goggles.

__Neck: The Ski School highly recommends neck gators or at least jackets that effectively cover the neck.

__Hands: Water-proof gloves are essential. It’s also important to make sure the gloves fit properly so that the young shredders can easily grab poles or chair lifts.

__Feet: Thick socks aren’t recommended, as they tend to cut off circulation to the feet. Instead, Ski School recommends thin ski-specific socks.

__Coat: A comfortable, warm, waterproof/resistant jacket is a must.

__Pants: As with the jacket, warm, waterproof/resistant pants are crucial, especially for snowboarders.

__Layers: Layers are the way to go in colder climates like Central Idaho and so wearing long underwear is always a good idea. The key is to avoid cotton-based materials when layering because they hold moisture. Moisture wicking long underwear is the best.