With autumn snow blanketing Bald Mountain and snowmaking machinery churning away, recreationists who like to ski or hike up the ski area’s trails in the winter are testing their gear. But, Sun Valley Resort is reminding uphill travelers that they will have to follow specific regulations and routes—as well as adhere to temporary closures—put in place to promote on-mountain safety.
Each fall, the resort issues reminders to the Wood River Valley community and guests that limitations and rules are being enacted to keep both uphill travelers and downhill skiers and snowboarders safe, and to allow the resort’s mountain staff to safely work on preparing the slopes for those skiers and boarders.
Sun Valley operates the ski area on Bald Mountain through a use permit from the U.S. Forest Service. The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management manage the ski area’s land. The resort’s uphill-travel policy—as well as its downhill-travel rules—are approved by the Forest Service.
“Uphill travel within ski area boundaries poses significant safety concerns for uphill and downhill recreationists, ski area operators and staff,” the resort states on its website. “… Our goal is to find a reasonable balance between user groups who share a common interest in recreating within the Sun Valley special permit area in a safe, non-confrontational and sustainable manner.”
In the preseason and postseason, grooming operations, snowmaking operations, special events, avalanche mitigation work, wildlife or resource considerations, or construction can all cause hazards, the resort states in its policy. In the preseason, the resort is authorized “to close areas subject to those potential hazards and to post signs at uphill access points closing those areas,” the policy states.
Signs will be posted at the River Run and Warm Springs base areas and uphill access points when closures are deemed necessary and to remind the public of any temporary uphill traffic restrictions, as they were at the start of this week.
During the ski season, uphill travel by foot, snowshoes or skis is not allowed between the operating hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Users must be descending by 9 a.m. Exclusions may apply for special events and other special circumstances.
Outside of operating hours, “there may be circumstances in which the ski area may eliminate uphill traffic or limit or restrict uphill traffic by designating specific times or days or routes that will be available for such use,” the policy states.
Guidelines for winter-season uphill travel include:
• Uphill travelers must follow designated routes while going up and down the mountain. The routes will be marked with yellow markers indicating the path of travel. Users not adhering to the specified routes and in violation of the policy “may be subject to removal and other penalties,” the policy states.
• Users must yield the right of way to, and stay clear of, ski-area machinery (grooming machines, snowmobiles and snowmaking equipment). “When encountering areas undergoing winch operations, users are required to re-route their path of travel to avoid potentially unsafe situations,” the policy states.
• Users must wear reflective clothing, a headlamp and blinking lights at all times.
• Users must adhere to trail closures.
• Dogs are prohibited on Bald Mountain through April 30. “Any persons with dogs, except for Sun Valley professional avalanche and rescue dogs, in violation of this policy will be asked to remove the dog from the resort area immediately and may be subject to other penalties,” the policy states.
• Mountain bikes are not allowed on Bald Mountain from Nov. 1 to April 30 every year.
• Users are required to pack out all garbage.
“Every effort is made to allow access to Bald Mountain when it is safe to do so,” the resort states on its website.
Bald Mountain is scheduled to open for the winter season on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26.