Friday, October 23, 2020
Sun Valley’ Ski Expansion to Offer a Different Experience
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The Cold Springs/Bald Mountain expansion area, which expands in-bounds skiing from 2,054 acres to 2,434 acres, will be renamed before the next ski season.
   
Sunday, March 8, 2020
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Just 264 days until Sun Valley’s 2020-21 ski season. And there’s still plenty of good spring skiing to be had.

But Sun Valley Resort is offering skiers and boarders a sneak peek at things to come as they take skiers down a mile and half of the new Broadway extension.

On Friday Mike Fitzpatrick, who heads up the guest services for Sun Valley Resort, took a few big sweeping turns down Bald Mountain’s sun-kissed Broadway run. He stopped out of bounds just below the old two-chair Cold Springs lift.

 
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The Cold Springs two-seater, now 50 years old, will be transported to a small ski resort in California at winter’s end.
 

“See how fun that was. The new terrain is going to be similar--great for beginner, intermediate skiers,” he said. “And this expansion will offer a different type of skiing for Sun Valley with its glades and deep chutes.”

The Bald Mountain expansion is being billed as “a ski area within a ski area.” Its 380 acres will offer skiers the opportunity to descend into a wide open Turkey Bowl from the top of Seattle Ridge, then proceed north to ski through glades and deep chutes.

And, while it will officially expand the skiable in-bounds terrain at Bald Mountain by 380 acres, it will offer even more lift-serviced off-piste skiing on the south-facing and south-eastern facing slopes lining the new Broadway run.

Before, skiers who skied those slopes had to ski down to the Cold Springs Gulch Road behind St. Luke’s hospital and thumb a ride back to the ski resort.

 
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Mike Fitzpatrick checks out slopes that will offer some nice lift-serviced skiing even though they aren’t figured in among the 380-acre expansion.
 

“Last year the skiing in that area, which is known as Coyote Bowl, was phenomenal,” said Sun Valley’s Snowsports School Director Tony Parkhill. “In a normal year you might only be able to ski those slopes 20 to 30 days out of the season. But they’re so fun when you can ski them.”

Sun Valley Resort graded the Broadway Run expansion last summer and installed 25 new highly efficient snow guns. Come May the Doppelmayr gang is expected to move in and construct a high-speed  detachable four-seat quad that will take riders 5,535 feet from its base in a wooded area to its upper terminal between Christmas lift and Roundhouse Restaurant.

The old two-seater built in 1970 has been sold to a small ski resort south of Tahoe.

The new chair will rise 1,582 vertical feet, taking just six minutes to crest a rocky outcropping boasting a few trees before zooming into its landing.

 
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Mike Fitzpatrick points out an area that has been thinned as part of an ongoing Healthy Forests Initiative.
 

The expanded Broadway run will take skiers three and a half miles from Seattle Ridge Lodge to the new lift, said Kelli Lusk, public relations spokesperson for Sun Valley Resort. Currently, the longest run on the mountain is three miles, starting at the top of Warm Springs.

The Broadway Tour, which is being offered to the public, starts at the Roundhouse gondola, which ends  just above the current Cold Springs lift, the oldest lift still operating at the resort.

From there, Fitzpatrick led reporters for Eye on Sun Valley and a TV station in Boise down Gun Tower Lane, stopping at a platform from which the ski patrol aims explosives at the Bowls on mornings where avalanche risk is high.

A few years ago an avalanche slid past the Seattle Ridge chairlift, making people sit up and take notice.

 
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The new run boasts skiable natural snow, even though Sun Valley has received only a quarter of its average snowfall this season.
 

“They said, ‘Now we know why you wait to open terrain,” he recounted.

A more tragic scenario occurred in 1952, he added, when Ski Patrol Director Nelson Bennett was out of town. Four skiers skied into the meadows where Mayday and Seattle Ridge lifts now stand, even though the Bowls above had been closed due to the risk of avalanche. A slide broke loose near the top of Lookout Bowl, covering the canyon with snow 40 feet deep, stopping near the bottom of the current Cold Springs chairlift. All four were killed.

On this day, there was no need to fear anything of the sort. Fitzpatrick turned onto Lower Broadway Run by the Seattle Ridge chairlift and proceeded to ski the corn snow topping the wide open run, ducking under the out-of-bounds rope past the Cold Springs chairlift.

He proceeded to ski down the Lower Lower Broadway Run, which will be open to skiers and riders next year and stopped by one of the new guns.

The 25 high-efficiency guns that have been added along the expanded run make twice as much snow as the old snow guns that used to line Sun Valley’s runs with 90 percent less energy, Fitzpatrick said.  They’re also more productive at warmer temperatures, increasing earlier fall snowmaking capability.

“We did not make any snow here this year. What we’re skiing on right now is natural snow,” he said, looking around at the well-covered run that had been groomed by a Pisten Bully. Even in a low snow year like this we have a good base.”

A little further down, Fitzpatrick stopped to point out a slope on the right where trees had been thinned,  removing diseased trees that had succumbed to Douglas fir beetle and dwarf mistletoe. The trees were removed by Miller Timber Services, a Siletz, Ore., company that uses a Ponsse, a machine that looks like a snow cat.

It gets around on rubber treads, which minimizes impact on the ground. Then it employs a method called cut to length. It grabs a tree and cuts it at the base, loading the cut wood on a trailer. Then it goes up another 20 feet, grabs the tree and cuts it. When it reaches the part of the tree that is six inches in diameter, it masticates the branches, turning them into a bed of mulch.

“Everyone’s going to have a favorite line through these trees,” Fitzpatrick said. “Look how clean it is—not much tipped-over timber.”

More thinning will be done, he added, offer more tree skiing for skiers and giving younger trees a chance to gain hold, making the forest healthier.

Fitzpatrick pulled over at a pile of piping. Originally this is where the lift was going to be built, he said. But engineers decided they could offer a better experience by placing the lift a little further down the canyon.

Stopping at that point he pointed to a ridgeline where the chair will crest a rocky outcropping flanked by a few trees.

“You’ll have gorgeous views of the Bowls, the Boulder Mountains and the Pioneer Mountains as you get to the top,” he promised.

Parkhill says he and other resort officials are very proud of the expansion.

“I ski down there and I’m stunned--it feels like a different place,” he said. “Broadway Run just keeps going—it’s very pleasant—a truly green beginner run. It’ll be like Lower River Run without the hubbub and I think it will spread out skiers on Seattle Ridge.”

The expansion constitutes “a really big undertaking,” Fitzpatrick said.

“We’re very thorough and deliberate. When we do something, we go big.”

WANT A TOUR?

Sun Valley Resort is offering hour-long Broadway Interpretive Tours at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Thursdays and Sundays. The tours are free for those with lift tickets or season passes.  Check in at the River Run Lodge desk and proceed to the Mountain View Room, which looks out onto the gondola. Or, call the ski school at 208-622-2289.

 

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