20-08-12 Baldy Cold Springs Lift New 9 Roland.jpg

Despite the pandemic, construction continued through the summer on Sun Valley’s expansion in Cold Springs, including a new high-speed lift up the canyon. The chair—and the new terrain—are scheduled to open this winter.

Sun Valley has extended its early-bird season pass pricing for another month, which, according to the company, should buy enough time for cautious skiers and riders to see the resort’s plan for operating Baldy and Dollar Mountain through the COVID-19 pandemic prior to purchase.

The lower price runs through September, an extension from the prior Labor Day deadline.

Sun Valley’s announcement comes on the heels of Vail Resort revealing its coronavirus protocols for the upcoming ski season. Sun Valley hasn’t tipped those yet, though they’ll likely come in the next couple of weeks, according to Tim Silva, president and general manager of Sun Valley Resort.

“Given the uncertainty of the current environment, we think extending our season pass price deadline until September 30th is the right thing to do,” Silva said in a statement. “The resort leadership team has been working hard to create a winter operating plan that ensures a safe and enjoyable experience and we look forward to sharing the information over the next few weeks. While some aspects will certainly be different, we look forward to another great winter in Sun Valley.”

COVID-19 cut short Sun Valley’s 2019-20 ski season by nearly a month, prompting the company to offer a discount on pass renewals back in May. That deal still stands: Sun Valley will take 20 percent off the price for customers renewing their 2019-20 season pass for 2020-21. It also rolled out a new pass protection program insuring skiers against outbreak-related closures and stay-at-home orders that keep them off the hill, as well as injury, pregnancy or military service.

Anyone who renewed prior to the announcement will be refunded the 20 percent, according to the announcement. Plus, eligible buyers working off a payment plan will see the discount applied equally across all payments. Current passholders that opt not to renew for next year can get a free lift ticket instead.

Those feeling generous don’t have to take the savings. Upon checkout, purchasers can choose to donate the 20 percent to the Hunger Coalition—a Bellevue-based food pantry that has seen demand skyrocket since the pandemic began.

So far, those pass decisions fall roughly in line with announcements from industry leaders Vail Resorts and Alterra.

Sun Valley plans to keep its partnership with Vail’s Epic Pass going in 2020-21, but it’s unclear whether it will follow Vail’s COVID-19 protocols.

Vail announced its plans last week. The big news: In addition to mandating physical distancing and face coverings, the company will require reservations for access to its mountains, giving priority to Epic passes over single-day tickets.

That doesn’t mean Sun Valley, or its sister hill Snowbasin, will follow suit, according to Vail’s announcement.

“While still subject to change, at this time we do not believe pass holders will need a reservation to access our partner resorts,” Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz said in a statement.

“Given how fluid and ever-changing the situation with COVID-19 is, it has also been our goal to design an approach that can remain in place for all of this season,” Katz said. “We do not want to be caught off guard or find ourselves needing to make reactive changes. Striving for consistency will provide our guests, employees and communities with as much predictability as possible this season, which we believe is worth the extra effort.

“I realize not everyone will agree with our approach—some feeling we are being too conservative or aggressive. And I recognize the changes we are implementing will be an inconvenience. But I ask for your understanding and patience.”

For more information on Sun Valley’s plans—including its pass options—visit https://www.sunvalley.com/mountain-passes.

Email the writer: mdee@mtexpress.com

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