‘‘Want to judge a resort? Look at its residents. Sun Valley attracts real skiers. They work hard. Ski just about every (decent) day. Raise ripping kids. And then ski some more.”
That’s how Ski Magazine’s Annual Readers’ Poll explained its lofty ranking for Sun Valley Resort as second best overall in the West. It would seem a cozy spot to launch a winter season with. Instead, second place seems to have been a layover while plans incubate that could secure top ranking status in future seasons.
Mountain Manager Peter Stearns said the 82nd season, which opened Nov. 23, 2017, will include enhanced on-mountain experiences like Dollar LIVE, the return of national ski races, and another nonstop flight to the area added—this time from Chicago.
Continued advances in snowmaking, “does allow for being better prepared for opening day and optimizing conditions and the experience for guests on the mountain throughout the season,” Stearns said.
“This is a very exciting period of growth for the resort,” agreed Sun Valley Company General Manager Tim Silva. In addition, “efforts to reanimate the Sun Valley Village are continuing with updated Inn guest rooms, the new family-friendly Village Station Restaurant and a refreshed Ram Restaurant and Bar,” Silva continued.
To maintain the cream of the crop of service support teams at the resort, “We also plan to complete a major employee housing project near the Horsemen’s Center prior to Winter 2018. This will ensure that we are able to continue to attract team members of the same high caliber that we currently enjoy.”
And finally, “the Cold Springs Project on Bald Mountain will open some exceptional advanced terrain, with the added benefit of replacing the aging Cold Springs double chairlift,” Silva said.
It’s a lot that requires some fleshing out to understand the impact. But the simple explanation can be summed up by the Ski Magazine observation that defines the trust placed in the resort to provide an inclusive and satisfying experience for guests and locals:
“The we’re-cooler-than-you-are local vibe that can intimidate visitors at some of the big-name skiers’ mountains (you know who you are) isn’t part of the culture here. Running a tight operation is … Sure, there’s a reason the resort was named Sun Valley rather than Powder Valley… but not last year, which boasted the 2nd highest snowpack in about a decade. Combine the snow with what many readers tout as ‘the best natural slopes in North America,’ and you’ve got yourself a real vacation—or a home away from home. Plugging into the SV gestalt tends to be a soul-warming experience—whether you’re looking for it or not— and makes some readers downright poetic. ‘Residents are grateful to live in a time out of place, off the fast track, and we find a high frequency of open hearts.’”
Stearns said that kind of sentiment comes after some intentional effort on the Resort’s part. “I think any business needs to be dynamic in the outdoor sports market, especially with the variety of choices and destinations people can choose for their vacation, he said. “Sun Valley Resort strives to provide the best guest experience both on and off the mountain. We are a dynamic and unique resort, especially with the number of activities available throughout the year. We live in a community that invites people from all over the world because we have that ideal combination of outdoor sports, culture, dining, and shopping.”
The industry standard half-pipe courses like that previously seen on Dollar Mountain are being replaced with more universal terrain parks. There are 10 planned for Dollar and three slated for Bald Mountain. These multifaceted parks with ski and snowboard-cross courses and skatepark-like features will level the playing field for all pace of snow sporters.
Stearns described Dollar LIVE as being “about inclusiveness, the social aspect, and enjoying time on the mountain with your friends and family.”
New features will include bowls, mini pipes, banks, transitions and other creative and non-traditional challenges.
And a little farther out are plans for the Cold Springs Canyon Project on Bald Mountain.
Working with the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, and in public forums in Spring 2017, Stearns said construction should be underway by summer for the replacement of the resort’s oldest ski lift with a faster quad to whisk guests up and around The Roundhouse area of the mountain. The Lower Broadway run is being extended 3,400 feet, lined with high-tech snowmaking guns all the way to the new Cold Springs lift lower terminal.
“I could not be more excited about the future of Sun Valley,” Silva crowed.
Looks like number one status is on the horizon.