With Baldy spending most of last winter at low tide, skiers found other ways to slide—namely, Nordic.
Thanks to a long season and mediocre alpine conditions, the Blaine County Recreation District passed previous records for cross-country ticket sales, according to Executive Director Jim Keating.
In all, season pass sales were up 9 percent year-over-year, with 3,160 sold. Individual tickets spiked almost 50 percent, to 10,511 in 2017-18. And, that may undercount, since anyone 17 and under can ski for free.
“That’s a significant gain in one year,” Keating said. “I would wager this was our biggest year ever.”
Up north, a November start and late spring storms helped make it one of the longest, too—just under 180 days, from before Thanksgiving to the end of April. The fast start convinced people to buy season passes earlier, Keating said. At $255 for an adult, it’s a much smaller investment than $2,200 for a full-price alpine pass at Sun Valley.
Then, the storms that missed Baldy produced good snow for Nordic skiing at Galena Lodge, where the BCRD maintains some 50 kilometers of trails. According to Keating, that drove tourists and locals alike to the trails, where a day pass runs $17, compared to upwards of $135 to ride the lifts.
These things wax and wane with conditions, Keating said.
“If we have a powder year, people head out into the backcountry, or up on Baldy,” he said. “Those factors play a role. This year, between the length of the season and the level of snow, things lined up. In general, though, I think it’s a positive trend. People are excited to cross-country ski.”
The BCRD hopes that enthusiasm extends into this winter, when the district plans to move its Nordic operations to a new network of trails in Quigley Canyon.
Last season, it would have been a problem. For much of it, the drainages around Hailey were brown. The bike path, which the BCRD grooms for skiing, remained a bike path.
“We couldn’t connect in the south valley as actively as we’d like,” Keating said. “The nice thing about our valley is that we have options. People flow from one thing to another, depending on conditions, but there’s always something to do.”