Saturday, February 11, 2012

Our first visit to Sun Valley

We have skied with friends from Raleigh, Dick and Cosette, a number of times both in France and here in Utah.  This time they flew out to Park City and the next morning we piled into the SUV and headed up to Sun Valley in Idaho.  Julie and I hadn't been there before, but we had heard it was very nice.

The Sun Valley ski resort is in the town of Ketchum, which has a population of about 3,400. It was a five and a half hour easy drive from our house, although we learned that almost all the cafes along the way are closed on Sunday. Something to remember when you are in the middle of nowhere.

The views from the top of Sun Valley are really impressive.  You can see snow capped mountains for miles and miles. 
Dick found us a place to stay and signed a contract.  Then the owner of the rental property decided they found a longer term tenant and pulled the plug on our contract.  Not exactly legal.  Fortunately the rental company found us an even nicer, bigger place and gave it to us at the same price.
Here we have Julie and Cosette working in the kitchen.  Notice the very interesting piece of art over the sofa on the far left.  It was a huge, fairly ugly Indian.  I never did get used to looking at it.  I couldn't decide if it was purchased art or the largest kid's school art project ever.
Sun Valley is the only ski resort in the area.  It is smaller than the three Park City resorts, but very nice.  They were a bit behind average on snow, but have had more this year than Utah has.  One thing I really enjoyed about the mountain was the long lifts and runs. Most detachable quad lifts rise about 1,000 feet. Sun Valley had lifts rising 3142, 2673, 1844, and quite a few in the 1500-1600 foot range. This means when you start a run and get in a rythem, you can just keep on going.  Very fun.

Here's Cosette carving through the bottom of the moguls.  The moguls were firm, but not icy. 
and Julie ripping it up.
and this is Dick (with Julie in the background).  Notice how everyone has on a helmet?  That's a good thing.
You can see that the texture of the snow was very nice.  Even though we didn't get any fresh snow, it was cold enough at night to suck some moisture out.  It was very easy to get an edge on all but the sunniest slopes.
You could tell that Sun Valley is owned by the same people that own the Snowbasin resort in Utah.  In addition to the gorgeous lodges and wonderful food, there are the same big-wheeled wagons for hauling all your skis, poles and equipment.  I've never seen those at any other resorts.
This was the only picture I got from my real adventure.  I was enjoying the thrills of high-speed turns down the groomed runs.  Unfortunately I was really flying as I merged in with another trail, which had small moguls.  I'm a decent skier, but not good enough to go through a mogul field at that rate of speed.  I lost one ski and tried to recover on the other.  No such luck.  I went down fast and hard.

I recovered quickly, but as we went up the next ski lift, I noticed that my brain was fuzzy and I was having problems remembering things.  I told Julie I needed to go find a lodge and sit for a while.  There was a nice ski patrol guy in the lodge having a drink.  We chatted and he suggested I might have a concussion and that I should head down the hill in a sled.  I would normally disagree, but I am not used to my brain being off in such a way.

Another patroller came and got me to take me down the hill.  Notice the green box in his hand.  That's my oxygen supply.  I'm still not quite sure why I was on oxygen, but it was nice so I went with it.  I was wrapped up tightly in the basket, so I didn't get a chance to take photos of my trip down.  It was a nice long ride, about 3,000 feet of vertical.  Do you count that in your total for the day?
This is the back of my helmet.  As best anyone can figure out, the ski that stayed with me made a quick whack on the back of my head.  I must be more limber than I thought, at least at speed.  I am certainly glad this was not my head or I would have probably had a lot of blood to go with a much nastier concussion.

Giro has a policy that if you damage one of their helmets in a fall, you can get 30% of a replacement by giving them your dead one.  It's important to realize that these helmets are designed to survive a single serious impact.  After that, you need to go shopping.
Right behind our condo was a nice trail that follows the river.  You can see the groomed cross country  tracks to the right of my beautiful wife.  Apparently this is very big in Sun Valley and they have miles and miles of trail.
One thing they don't seem to have in Ketchum is salt for the road.  There was snow and ice everywhere, which made for a tough walk.  I guess this is a benefit of living about 30 miles from a giant salt lake.
Things of interest (to me at least) about Sun Valley and Ketchum.

  • There is no ski-in/ski-out housing.  Therefore, the best places to stay are probably farther away from the base.  You would get a much better view of the mountains as you got further away.
  • I have never been in such a pedestrian friendly town.  There is no way you could commit suicide by throwing yourself in front of a car.  They would simply brake hard and wave you on with a smile.
  • The downtown area has an amazing amount of free parking.  What a great idea.  Several of the main roads are very wide and have parking on both sides and then two lanes of parking in the middle.
  • The base is at 5,750 feet, which is seriously lower than Park City, which is around 7000 feet.
  • I always thought of Sun Valley as being the "very expensive place that the stars skied."  The stars might be there, but the lift passes and restaurants in town were definitely cheaper than Park City.  I don't think the shopping was as good though.
  • It's a nice mountain for intermediate and easier expert skiing.  There's not enough challenge for the gonzo experts and the hand full of greens might scare beginners.  I can't remember seeing green runs that looked so steep.
I've given it a four days now without skiing.  My head feels fine and my neck is loosening up more every day.  I think tomorrow might be time to head out on the slopes again, although perhaps a bit more slowly and carefully.

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