Exhaustion and exhilaration—anyone who has skinned or hiked up Baldy in the winter knows those feelings well.
Some do it for backcountry training. Some do it to share a beautiful outdoor experience with friends. And many do it for no other reason than it’s fun, convenient and allowed.
Uphill traffic is a longstanding tradition on Baldy and it would be tragic if it were banned. However, that could happen if people don’t start following a handful of rules.
Safety is a primary concern of the resort and Forest Service. Since December, there have been 80 documented after-hours safety “incidents.” If you include undocumented incidents, the number is closer to 400. Between March 21 and March 24, there were 26 incidents alone.
These incidents range from skiing (and snowboarding) over or under winch cables—some are as long as the entire length of a ski run; skiing behind or in front of snowcats; skiing over dangerous berms made during the grooming process; skiing around blind corners at high speeds, surprising snowcat operators; and ignoring well-marked, lit signs that strictly prohibit access to runs.
Actions like those are like driving a car through a blockade on a dangerous road at night with no lights on where construction is taking place. It’s not permitted and it’s dangerous for all.
Considering the safety and liability issues involved, the resort and Forest Service have been exceptionally gracious and tolerant through all this. They remain committed to keeping uphill travel open and safe. In fact, they’ve already started working with members in the community to explore ways to make improvements for next season.
It’s also important to note that uphill travel at some resorts is prohibited. Lucky for us that’s not the case here.
Therefore, let’s keep in mind access on the mountain is a privilege, not a right. And with this privilege come responsibilities.
For the last two of weeks of this season, and all future seasons, I urge uphill traffickers to show how much they treasure after-hours mountain fun by following a handful of simple rules.
Here are a few key rules: Stay on designated routes going up and down the mountain. Keep to the sides of runs. Wear a headlamp and a blinking tail light (turned on day and night). Wear reflective clothing or tape. No dogs. No mountain bikes.
For a complete listing of the rules and routes, and a two-minute educational video, visit sunvalley.com/things-to-do/mountain-safety/.
Let’s create a shared, safe experience for all: Obey the rules. Educated others. Be grateful. Have Fun!
Tom Iselin lives in Ketchum.