Friday, October 26, 2012

Resort on schedule to open Nov. 22

Sun Valley Co. talks snow and snowmaking


By BRENNAN REGO
Express Staff Writer

A snow gun pumps out a man-made blizzard on the Lower River Run section of Bald Mountain on Thursday morning. Photo by David N. Seelig

Sun Valley Co. is moving full speed ahead in its yearly race to start the ski season on Thanksgiving Day.

Sun Valley Co. Director of Mountain Operations Peter Stearns said Thursday that the resort benefited from “a bit of a head start” this year. He said recent cold temperatures have allowed Sun Valley to start making snow earlier than usual and that the natural snowfall over the past few days has helped as well.

“About 8 inches of snow has accumulated at the top of Baldy as of Thursday morning,” he said.

He said the resort is on schedule to open as planned on Nov. 22, despite an upcoming warming trend predicted to hit the valley this week.

“People are realizing it’s winter time,” he said. “Their interest has picked up.”

Stearns said the worst thing that could happen weather-wise at this point would be if the upcoming warm spell lasts too long.

“We need it cold,” he said. “Natural snow is great, but we need snowmaking temps to meet our Thanksgiving goal.”

According to Stearns, it must be under 26 degrees “wet-bulb” (which takes humidity into account—the lower the better) in order to make snow.

“The amount of moisture in the air determines how you can put water in the air and get it to freeze,” he said. “At 14-16 degrees Fahrenheit wet-bulb we really get humming.”

Stearns said his team has been running the guns on Baldy for snowmaking purposes since Oct. 22, though the first test run occurred Oct. 16.

“Traditionally, we don’t get adequate temperatures until November,” he said. “We’re in a good place this year.”

He said if temperatures rise too much above 45, the resort might lose some ground.

“It’s going to melt a little bit, but as long as it doesn’t stay too hot for too long, we shouldn’t be going backwards too much,” he said.

He said the snowmaking team’s focus is on the runs that will open first. Those include Upper College, Flying Squirrel, 42nd Street, Roundhouse Lane, Mid River Run, Lower River Run, Lower Picabo and Lower Warm Springs. He said this “priority terrain” will provide about 120 acres of skiing on opening day.

“That gives us top to bottom on both sides and it’s normally a realistic target,” he said. “But it is a lot of terrain to build over the next three weeks.”

Sun Valley Co. spokesman Jack Sibbach said the resort will offer a few new goodies this season.

“There will by a 22-foot, Olympic-standard super pipe and 76 rails on Dollar,” he said. “Also, we’ve added two new adventure trails on Baldy, since people seemed to enjoy them so much last year.”

One of those trails will be between Cold Springs Cut Off and Inhibition, just below the Roundhouse on the River Run side. The other will be between Christin’s Silver and Leigh Lane on Seattle Ridge.


Brennan Rego: brego@mtexpress.com




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