SUN VALLEY — After a treacherous few months of weather last year, crews had to reroute part of the Harriman Trail after flood waters swept it away to Magic Reservoir. They also had to rebuild a couple other areas of trail that were obliterated by the Big Wood River after it jumped its banks.
Still, the Blaine County Recreation District launched its 2017-18 winter season in grand style a week before Thanksgiving, after a couple feet of early season snow fell on Nordic and snowshoeing trails north of Ketchum.
The 160-kilometer BCRD Nordic trail system is one of the largest in the United States, offering a diversity of skiing ranging from the mostly flat Harriman Trail at its south end to the hair-raising Psycho, which plummets within sight of Galena Lodge.
Last winter’s record-breaking snowfall taxed the BCRD’s ability to keep its ski trails groomed.
Groomers worked around the clock for 24 hours prior to the start of the prestigious Boulder Mountain tour, which attracts 800 racers from around the world each year. BCRD continued to groom trails until May 7.
“We were getting 9 to 10 inches every day, so to keep the trails skiing well, we had to keep hitting them two and three times a day,” said Jim Keating, BCRD Director. “Every time you hit six inches, you have to compress it to make a good base that’s not too soft.”
Ironically, the abundant snowfall led to fewer skier visits, said Janelle Connors, spokesperson for the BCRD.
“We usually average between 60,000 and 65,000 skiers during an average 150-day season and we estimated we got about 55,652 last winter,” she said. “Part of it was because we had a lot of really cold, snowy days. Part of it was because people were skiing powder on Baldy. And part of it was because people were able to ski so many places they normally can’t ski.”
Here’s a look at what’s new on the Nordic side of skiing this winter in Sun Valley:
Youth 17 and under will ski free this year. Before, free skiing was restricted to youth 12 and under. Skiing on the bike path, which is groomed from Ketchum to Bellevue, is free of charge too.
“The free skiing is such a popular thing with kids 12 and under,” said Connors. “We wanted to offer families the ability to go out and fall in love with being outside.”
Ride ‘N Glide
The BCRD will partner with Mountain Rides for the second time this year to offer Ride ‘n Glide bus service from Ketchum to four points along the Harriman Trial. The bus will stop at the Sawtooth National Recreation Area headquarters seven miles north of Ketchum, Baker Creek, Prairie Creek and Galena Lodge.
The service offers skiers a chance to start at Galena Lodge and ski the Harriman Trail back to their car. It also offers people a chance to leave their car in Ketchum and take the bus up north.
The service will operate five times throughout the day Fridays through Sundays for 11 weeks from Dec. 15 through Feb. 25. The first ride leaves Ketchum at 9:30 a.m., arriving at Galena Lodge at 10:05 a.m. The last leaves Ketchum at 2:45 p.m. arriving at Galena at 3:20 p.m. The last bus returns from Galena at 4:02 p.m.
Cost is $5 one way or $7 round trip, cash only. A season pass for the bus service can be purchased or $65 at www.bcrd.org.
To see the full schedule go to www.mountainrides.org.
Ski the Rails Moved
A Ski Free and Demo Day will be held Saturday, Dec. 9, at Galena Lodge. Free mini lessons will be offered and people will get the chance to try out new Nordic ski gear from outdoor shops like The Elephant’s Perch.
The popular Ski the Rails — where skiers ski from Ketchum to Hailey, enjoying refreshments along the way — has been moved from late January to Feb. 10. The Galena Lodge Benefit will be held on Jan. 27. And the Boulder Mountain Tour will be held Feb. 3.
Sun Valley Manicured
Sun Valley Nordic Center didn’t have to deal with the flooding difficulties that BCRD did. But resort workers did cut back willows and other shrubbery that had grown near the trails, said Mike Fitzpatrick, Sun Valley’s director of sales and marketing.
Given the early season snowfall, the resort may be looking at getting open by Dec. 1, if not before.
“We’re poised for a good season,” Fitzpatrick said.
The Costs for North Valley Trails
This year’s day passes will cost $17 for North Valley Trails and $10 for Croy Nordic. Three-day passes, which can be used on non-consecutive days, cost $45, and seven-day passes, which must be used on consecutive days, costs $89.
A one-day snowshoe pass for the North Valley Trails costs $5, while a one-day dog pass costs $5.
Passes can be purchased at outdoor stores in Ketchum, at Galena Lodge and trailheads. Season passes are available at www.bcrd.org.
The Costs for Sun Valley Nordic Center
A one-day trail pass for Sun Valley Nordic Center’s 40 kilometers of trails costs $25 for adults, $15 for seniors and $10 for youth 12 and older. Skiing’s free for children.
A half-day pass, which begins at 1 p.m., costs $20 for adults and $13 for seniors. Two- and three-day passes cost $40 and $60.
Sun Valley’s snowshoe trail fees are $10 for adults and $5 for youth 12 and older. Fat bike trail fees are $15.
The purchase of season passes includes two one-day passes for family or friends. They also include two half-priced equipment rental vouchers, two half-priced daytime sleigh rides, excluding the Christmas and President’s Day weeks, and a free equipment tune.
Sun Valley passes can be purchased at www.sunvalley.com and at the Nordic Center on the Sun Valley Golf Course.