Let the Countdown Begin!

It’s beginning to look a lot like ski season, especially from a vantage point two-thirds of the way up Bald Mountain. According to my father, who hikes Baldy a few times each week, the early season is looking good. Indeed, Sun Valley’s famous snowmaking is in full swing with an expected opening date for runs on both Baldy and Dollar of Thanksgiving Day, November 28.

Everyone is hard at work on Bald Mountain, making snow and laying it out in preparation for a Thanksgiving open

Everyone is hard at work on Bald Mountain, making snow and laying it out in preparation for a Thanksgiving open

Sun Valley Company first fired up the snow guns on October 26 and the weather has, for the most part, been cooperating in the effort to lay down that base of fluffy white. If the cold snap and snow that is expected to begin this weekend hold, come Thanksgiving Day, skiers and snowboarders can expect to be making their first turns of the season down Upper College, Lower College, Sunset Strip, 42nd Street and Lower River Run on Baldy; and on Poverty Flats, Quarter Dollar Bowl and a Progressive Park on Dollar. On Bald Mountain, early season runs will be accessible via the No. 1 River Run and No. 5 Lookout Express detachable quad lifts. On Dollar, all fun in the snow will be via the Quarter Dollar quad lift and the Accelerator Carpet.

Sun Valley Resort boasts the largest snowmaking system in North America. On Baldy alone, there are 577 snow guns. The vast majority of the snowmaking system is computerized and automated, allowing for the most exacting snow making product that takes into account local air temperature, local air pressure and local water temperature. Dollar’s snowmaking relies on a manual system but is also a well-oiled machine.

Picture yourself here -- on Lower College -- in just two weeks' time

Picture yourself here -- on Lower College -- in just two weeks' time

No matter the chemistry and mechanics behind snowmaking, it is the poetry of the first airborne flakes accumulating in lush, puffy piles that most excites snow sports enthusiasts. The huge piles that are created on runs before being pushed into place remind me of the autumn leaf piles of my Connecticut childhood. You simply want to jump in and roll around in them. 

It certainly looks like it’s going to be an amazing ski and snowboard season in Sun Valley. Outside Online just named Warm Springs top-to-bottom one of “Five Runs You Need to Ride Before you Die,” citing the run’s elegance and uninterrupted fall line.  Sun Valley was also named the fourth best ski resort by Ski Magazine and a pick of “Where to Ski Now” by Men’s Journal.  On a related note, Fodor’s Travel named the Sun Valley outdoor ice rink one of the best 15 in the nation.

The piles of snow are piling up on Dollar in preparation for great runs and our epic terrain park

The piles of snow are piling up on Dollar in preparation for great runs and our epic terrain park

New regional jet service on Delta Airlines between Sun Valley and Salt Lake City will begin in January, the first direct flights from San Francisco to Sun Valley land starting on December 12, also on Delta, and Alaska Airlines announced it is expanding nonstop flight service between Sun Valley and Los Angeles and Sun Valley and Seattle. Getting here has never been easier.

But wait! There’s more! This weekend, the National Weather Service is predicting “the first significant snow event of the season,” in Sun Valley, bringing with it the possibility of up to seven inches of powder in the mountains.

With an anticipated Thanksgiving open, there is still time to get in on great early season stay and ski packages at the Sun Valley Resort. Come and enjoy a bountiful Thanksgiving feast at the Sun Valley Inn and stay through the weekend to get in the first runs of what is sure to be a superb season.

T-minus two weeks.  Not that I am counting.

–RES

For some anxious skiers, two weeks is too long to wait to get in some turns!

For some anxious skiers, two weeks is too long to wait to get in some turns!

Spooky Sun Valley

In Sun Valley, any excuse to dress up in a costume is a good one. We ski and ride in costumes on numerous occasions. We mini-golf around town in costumes. So when Halloween, the sanctioned costume event of the calendar year rolls around, the party is sure to last all week.

At my house, Halloween is only slightly less important than Christmas. We spend the second half of October transforming the living room, dining room and kitchen into a spooky, haunted, spiderweb-ridden, talking skeleton kind of space. Then, each year, my son hosts his entire class for a Halloween ruckus. And we are not alone. From costumed ice skating, to the Hailey Hoopla, to a party in Ketchum that starts out kid-friendly and morphs into one of the most fun grown-up nights of the year, we close the streets, put out the welcome mats and invite every ghoul and goblin, of every age, out to enjoy some big fun.

Bellevue's Haunted Forest is terrifying -- in a good way

Bellevue's Haunted Forest is terrifying -- in a good way

Starting in the South Valley, Halloween enthusiasts can prepare to be spooked and even scared out of their wits at the Bellevue Haunted Forest. On October 29 and 30, the Howard Preserve comes to reanimated life. At the site of the old town dump, Zombies and ghosts and spirits of all kinds will give a little scare before dark, but after the sun sets … all bets are off! This is a fun, safe, entertaining night that benefits the newly reopened, public Howard Preserve. Tickets are $7.50 and are available at The Bead Shop in Hailey, Splash & Dash and Mahoney’s in Bellevue and at the gate.

Little trick-or-treaters look forward every year to the Halloween Hoopla (photo: Suzanne Buchanan)

Little trick-or-treaters look forward every year to the Halloween Hoopla (photo: Suzanne Buchanan)

Hailey is Halloween central and on October 31, beginning at 3 p.m., Main Street rhymes with trick or treat. The 8th installment of the family-friendly Halloween Hoopla event lasts until 6 p.m. and takes place throughout downtown Hailey. Look for black and orange balloons outside participating businesses. Costumes are de rigueur and a costume contest at The Liberty Theatre will be awarding prizes for Halloween enthusiasts of all ages, all afternoon in half-hour intervals. Music, food and drink and a “spook alley” will provide affordable, family-friendly fare. Safe and fun even for the littlest trick or treaters, be sure to put this on your Halloween schedule.

In Sun Valley on the 31st, take your costume and your best moves to the ice. The Sun Valley Outdoor Ice Rink is offering a special skating package for those in costume from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. For only $8, you get admission, skate rental and a beautiful day or night in the fresh fall air. Please call 208-622-2194 for more information.

Three gorgeous local ladies show just how seriously we take Halloween at the Nightmare on Main Street

Three gorgeous local ladies show just how seriously we take Halloween at the Nightmare on Main Street (photo Sonya Johnston)

The party continues into the night – well into the night – in Ketchum on Thursday. The annual Nightmare On Main Street begins at 7 p.m. and goes through last call, finally shutting down at 2 a.m. Main Street closes to allow revelers to take to the street and enjoy a wide assortment of food and libations. A kids’ costume contest takes place at 8 p.m. (best girl, best boy and overall). Later, at 10 p.m., the adults are judged for best male, best female, creepiest, sexiest, group and overall. If past years are any indication, Sun Valley is one creative place when it comes to homemade costumes. The group category is usually full of handmade, outlandish and hysterical ideas. Music from local DJs will keep the party going outside until 11 p.m.

Warren Miller's latest film is a treat after Halloween. Let the snow season begin!

Warren Miller's latest film is a treat after Halloween. Let the snow season begin!

Most years, Halloween also marks the change from fall to winter in this part of the world. Indian summer often hangs on with warm temperatures and sunny skies in late October before giving way in November to crisp days and hints of snow. Which is perfect, as Baldy is scheduled to open for an amazing season at Thanksgiving. And Thanksgiving in Sun Valley is as peaceful and lovely as Halloween is crazy around here. The Resort invites guests to come, relax, ski or ride and enjoy a fuss-free Thanksgiving, all at special prices.

Join fellow snow lovers to count down to ski and snowboard season with a screening of Warren Miller's new action film at the Sun Valley Opera House. Winter officially kicks off Nov. 1 and 2 with Miller's Ticket to Ride

Join fellow snow lovers to count down to ski and snowboard season with a screening of Warren Miller's new action film at the Sun Valley Opera House. Winter officially kicks off Nov. 1 and 2 with Miller's Ticket to Ride

The change of season also brings with it the unofficial kick-off to the snow season when the latest Warren Miller action film comes to the Sun Valley Opera House. Skiers and riders anxious for the first flakes to fly crowd into the theater to enjoy Miller’s famous brand of filmmaking, as well as special promotions and prizes. This year, Miller’s latest movie, Ticket to Ride, will celebrate big mountain skiing and riding, the craziest tricks on snow and the highest peaks from Montana to Alaska; from Kazkhstan to Iceland; from Greenland to Switzerland. Nothing gets locals in the mood for the coming season like this annual event. There are three screenings of Ticket to Ride, on Friday, November 1 at 7 p.m. and on Saturday, November 2 at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Enjoy a safe, spooky Halloween and the transition to early winter! Boo!

–RES

Happy Halloween from my two favorite blobs!

Happy Halloween from my two favorite blobs!

Grateful for the Original

Sun Valley's red barn

Home sweet home

“Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go. The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifting snow, oh!” Or so goes the old ditty sung by generations of school children as they prepared for Thanksgiving break. At least that’s what we sang back in the proverbial day, images of family, feasts and a sense of belonging percolating with each verse.

In this season of giving thanks, for me, over the river and through the woods took the form of a 10-hour road trip to my brother’s house, through some fiercely beautiful terrain and a lot of scrubland. I was surely thankful to arrive. I was thankful for the hugs from my nieces and nephews. I was thankful for my brother and my sister-in-law and their hospitality. I was really thankful for a washing machine and some Lysol wipes.

I was also thankful, after driving by dozens of ski areas, that I ski in Sun Valley. Very thankful. Just like many of America’s suburbs are indistinguishable, strip mall by strip mall, many ski areas also look like some mountain version of Levittown. A gondola or two and lots of lifts sprawl over runs that look like they never really reach their full potential. Short steep-ish slopes are intersected by roads and funneled into other runs. Many ski areas are only minutes from the highway and stretch one after the other after the other. Buildings eight stories high huddle with their bland edifices and cookie cutter balconies and pools. Luxury homes line the edges of runs, condos dot the hills. Base areas are built up and lifts are accessed by concrete walkways.

Sun Valley is an original. In my travels, I have yet to see any resort that looks anything like it. From our opulent day lodges to our mountains whose slopes are untouched by driveways and homes, Sun Valley looks like I think a ski resort should: a touch European, elegant, unique, family-owned. I love skiing to the base of River Run or Warm Springs, or over to Roundhouse, and gathering in a central location with my friends. Our mountain was not conceived in a corporate office and you can tell. I know I am biased. I decided to make Sun Valley my home and raise my children here – of course I am captivated by our style of charm. I learned to ski in Sun Valley back in 1983 and have yet to find another ski area that equally appeals. Getting a glance at other ski resorts during our epic road trip made me even more grateful for what we have.

Sometimes you have to leave, to travel over the river and through the woods, to really appreciate from whence you came. I am grateful for my hometown, my ski resort and the season that lies ahead. From my people to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.

–RES

Pass Day

A Sun Valley boarder fills out paperwork at River Run Lodge

Step one: fill out the form

At our house, “pass day” is an annual rite of passage. We make the pilgrimage to the River Run Lodge, ready to embrace the change of season that securing our ski passes signifies. In the 15 minutes or so it takes to process all of us (paperwork, photos, handover of finished pass on its Sun Valley lanyard), we officially put summer behind us and stare longingly through the huge floor-to-ceiling windows at what will soon become a busy pastiche of skiers and boarders at the base of the mountain.

River Run Lodge

River Run Lodge is open for business

Getting our passes means it’s time for other annual rituals, too. We clean out the garage, put the bikes in the corner and put ski equipment front and center.  Ski edges and bases are checked; helmets are fished out of storage; clothing, mittens and socks checked to see who has outgrown (or lost) what.

As the weather finally shakes off any vestiges of Indian Summer and commits to cold, snow-making nights and fat clouds ready to drop some winter magic, there is much to look forward to.  Thanksgiving is right around the bend and Sun Valley is a lovely place to spend it.  The Resort is offering great room rates, a lavish buffet and both Bald Mountain and Dollar will open on Thanksgiving Day. I enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner at the Lodge Dining Room two years ago. It was the most elegant and delicious I have experienced in a long time. And the best part?  No clean up! Early season prices and packages continue through December 20 so get those ski passes ready.

A young skier takes her pass picture

Step two: take a photo in front of the mountain map

The mountain will open for a pre-season race camp even earlier than Thanksgiving. Kicking off the Resort’s 77th ski season, young alpine and freestyle skiers from all over the west will convene on the hill from November 17-21, taking advantage of Baldy’s perfect pitch and great training conditions.

Preparations for a new Winter Wonderland at Sun Valley Village are well underway – a festival of sights, sounds and tastes that will combine to create a memorable, magical holiday. Think of the most iconic, beautiful holiday story you can, imagine it coming to life, and you get the idea. Come and stay and remember what the season is really about.

And don’t forget your ski pass.  Whether it is for one day or a full season, when it is scanned for the first time this winter, I bet you will be as excited as I will. When I was a part-time Sun Valley resident for 20 years, I kept my ski tags on my coat for months after my trip ended – a proud badge of honor and a daily reminder of the amazing ski vacation that was.

In minutes, the pass is finished

Step three: get your pass

My children’s ski passes from years past have become a nostalgic display of sorts – five years of memories hanging on hooks in my home. They were all so young during that first season in 2007-2008. That was a good year.  They have all been good ones, actually, as the children grew in size, confidence and ability and I carved out (no pun intended) time almost every day to take advantage of at least a few runs on our mammoth backyard playground.

—RES

Pass creator Kitty's enthusiasm is infectious

Smiles all around

A young skier takes her pass picture

More smiles all around

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Dinner at your choice of Sun Valley Restaurants

This Thanksgiving, November 24, bring your family to Sun Valley for dinner and leave the dishes to us!  Please be sure to call for reservations early.  (208) 622-2800.

 

The many dining options include:

  • The Lodge Dining Room
  • The Ram Restaurant
  • Sun Valley Inn Limelight Ballroom Buffet

 

Thanksgiving Dinner at your choice of Sun Valley Restaurants

This Thanksgiving, November 25, bring your family to Sun Valley for dinner and leave the dishes to us! Please be sure to call for reservations early. (208) 622-2800
There many dining options including:
The Lodge Dining Room
You can’t get more gourmet than the LDR. Hours: 2-8pm. Call now for reservations 622-2800.

The Ram Restaurant
Offering a seasonal menu and traditional Thanksgiving entrees. Larry Harshbarger plays your favorites on the Baby-Grand. 622-2800

Trail Creek Cabin
Offering a seasonal menu and traditional Thanksgiving entrees from 5-10pm. 622-2800

Gretchen’s Restaurant
Our regular menu will be served all day with Thanksgiving entrees from 11am-10pm. 622-2800

Sun Valley Inn Limelight Ballroom Thanksgiving Buffet featuring traditional and not so traditional gourmet holiday entrees. The Leana Leach Trio will perform. Hours from 4-8pm. Please call the Sun Valley Recreation Center to reserve your tickets. Adults: $39.50 ; Kids under age 12 $22.50

Kick-off Sun Valley’s 75th Ski Season this Thanksgiving weekend

Thanksgiving Weekend Dinner, Ski and Hotel Packages:
A wonderful family tradition – Thanksgiving in Sun Valley! This Thanksgiving Opening will kick-off Sun Valley’s 75th Winter Season.
Special rates commemorating the event will include lodging in the Sun Valley Lodge or Inn, a three-out-of-four day lift ticket and a lavish Thanksgiving Buffet in the Inn Limelight Ballroom. These packages start as low as $282 per person double occupancy.
The “Kids Stay and Ski Free” program also is honored at this time and allows one child (per adult) to stay and ski for free when lodging with the parent.
Please call 800-786-8259 to take part in Sun Valley’s 75th Thanksgiving and Opening celebration.
Hotel package rates do not include tax.