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):


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.


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.







White Sunday

Blue skies and great conditions defined opening day

Blue skies and great conditions defined Baldy's opening day

Helmet: check. Goggles: check. Ski pants that still fit (phew): check. Socks without holes: check. Skis, poles, boots: check. Gloves, two left ones: whoops. Wish I had caught that while I was still at home. But, hey, it’s my first day of the season. Something had to give!

Thus outfitted, geared-up and downright excited, on Sunday morning I turned into the lower parking area at River Run, hungrily eyeing the hill. The first day of ski season is a homecoming for me. I gave a big wave to Bill, my favorite parking shuttle driver. He smiled, giving me thumbs up. At the base of the hill, I caught up with the boys in the tune shop and rental desk, people I haven’t seen since closing day last April. Dan at the Brass Ranch not only recommended the right gadget allowing me answer my phone without fumbling around (don’t worry, I don’t chat on the phone on the lift), he installed it, too. Smiles all around.

Come on up, the skiing is fine

Come on up, the skiing is fine!

More smiles as the ticket taker at the base of the River Run chair, a new face this year, scanned my pass. Day one was officially underway! A warm-up run led me down Upper College to Mid River and back to the lift. My thoughts on these groomers alternated between “Whee!” and “Ow, my knees!” and “Yikes! I’m not sure I remember how to do this,” but I made it all the same. The next run, down Upper Warm Springs to I-80 was smoother and more relaxing and by the time I made it to the soft bumps (yes, bumps, in November!) on Ridge, I was getting my groove back.

Early season skiing is gratifying. I always appreciate, with my sore knees and tired muscles (I knew I should have signed up for one of those pre-season boot camps), that every run on our huge, challenging mountain isn’t available on Day One. At first, just enough slopes are open to remember the joy of skiing, the basics of making pretty turns and to provide a real-life boot camp. Nothing trains your legs for skiing like skiing. With each snowfall and Sun Valley’s amazing snow making, runs seem to open in direct correlation to what my legs can handle.

Bumps on Ridge

Bumps on Ridge

Scanning that sweeping 360-degree vista atop Bald Mountain, there is a lot to look forward to. Seattle Ridge is already drenched in white and striped with corduroy. Also looking ahead-of-the-usual-curve-snow-wise are Baldy’s storied bowls. From the perspective of the lift, coverage looked great.

By all accounts, the opening days on Baldy were excellent. Visitors I chatted with couldn’t have been happier. Locals came out in force with their families. And from here, it only gets better and better. Today looks like a great day to ski – time to run!


The litte skier's smile says it all

Five-year-old Scarlett Carruth, part of the Crist skiing dynasty, sums up the mood on the hill



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.


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





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Roundhouse First Tracks Breakfast

Terrain Park Opening Saturday!

Sun Valley’s killer new Snow Park Technologies-designed terrain park on Dollar Mountain is opening in a matter of days. Complete with a huge jump line down Old Bowl and 12 new rails, boxes, and jibs, this is one of the biggest things Sun Valley has ever seen.

The boxes and other features have been in the works for weeks now, with some of the most legit terrain park experts in the country coming to put them together, even installing them on Lower River Run for the beginning of the season. Painted with Sun Valley’s signature blue and sun emblem, boarders, park rats, skiers, and even telemarkers have been stoked to practice and hone their skills on Lower River Run since Opening Day. Snow Park Technologies cat driver, Corley Howard, one of the best cat drivers in the world has been around town for the past few weeks, helping Sun Valley and new park manager, Brian Callahan, get ready for the opening of the new park. Callahan has recently been brought over from terrain park central, Breckenridge, CO, and is amped for the terrain park to get open and for the word to get out. His goal, he says, for the next few years is to get Sun Valley on top in terms of terrain parks and features.

Starting this Saturday, December 19th, the entirety of Dollar’s new park, with ALL the rails, the HUGE jump line, and the rest of the features being added to the park’s arsenal will open. Head over there early to be first in line at the Hip or check out the skills of some of the Valley’s best athletes flying off the true tables and gap jumps around the new park.

Also opening Saturday is Baldy’s 18-foot Superpipe and Dollar’s revamped tubing park. Check out Snow Park Technologies’ website for more about what they are doing in the ski/snowboard industry ( Here are some pics of the park in progress over the past weekend.



Crosstoberfest 2009



UPDATE:  Treasure Vallery Musik Meisters to play Saturday starting a 3:30.  This is a fantastic 9 piece band including 2 Trumpets, Flugelhorn, Alto horn, Trombone, Baritone, Tuba, Percussion, and a German Singer!

Theme: a Bavarian/Oktoberfest style festival celebrating cyclo-cross bike racing and the advent of winter

Who: Organizer:  Sun Valley Company, Race Promoter:  Bill Olson, Sun Valley Road & Dirt


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Sun Valley Winter Resort Tour

Sure it may be July, but it’s never to early to start thinking about winter in Sun Valley. Let Bert Witsil take you on a tour of winter in Sun Valley and all that we have to offer.