SUN VALLEY — David Clark gazed out over dozens of adults and children skiing over rollercoaster-like snow features and zig-zagging their way down a skier- and boarder-cross that snaked down Dollar Mountain.
“I can’t believe this,” he said. “When I lived in Sun Valley years ago, you saw a couple dozen people on Dollar Mountain. I just moved back here from Park City yesterday and I can’t believe how different it is. My little girl loves it.”
Indeed, Sun Valley’s Dollar Mountain looks nothing like it did in the days when movie stars like John Wayne learned to ski on its treeless slopes.
A miner’s shaft, built of timber taken from the old Trail Creek Bridge, now sits in the middle.
It’s a nod to the mining heritage that first brought white man to the Wood River Valley. But it also ushers skiers and boarders into the future of skiing in the ever-evolving ski scene that brings people to the Sun Valley today.
Specifically, it ushers skiers and boarders into the new Mine Shaft Park, which resembles a skateboard park with berms, banks and rollers carved out of snow.
A skier- and boarder-cross named Lombard Street after San Francisco’s famously crooked street snakes down Otto’s Run, named after early Austrian ski school director Otto Lang.
A run leading from Half Dollar lift leads skiers and boarders through a tunnel while others fly over a bridge of snow above headed for tables of snow that they can careen up and off of.
And a land of perfectly shaped moguls challenges groups of all ages.
Sun Valley Resort has dubbed this new playground “Dollar Live.”
“It’s so rad that Sun Valley is innovating. Sun Valley is on the forefront of what we believe to be the future of these parks. It’s definitely on the progressive side,” said Andrew Erath, principal designer for Snow Park Technologies.
Sun Valley Company brought Erath to what began as America’s first ski destination resort to design a blueprint for the re-imagined Dollar Mountain.
Erath erased the Olympic-sanctioned super pipe with its 22-foot walls from the map. And he took out many of the rails and pipes that could be utilized only by advanced skiers and boarders.
In their place he designed a pipes of various sizes — some suitable for pint-sized beginners, others more to the liking of intermediate and advanced snow sliders.
“This guy builds the biggest competition venues in the world, and he’s calling Sun Valley ‘rad!’ ” said Sun Valley Snowsports Director Tony Parkhill.
The reimagined Dollar Mountain has gotten a thumbs-up from kids and adults alike.
“You can really get air on some of the jumps without them being intimidating,” said 12-year-old Liam Christian of Hailey.
“I ski race, but I like to come over here and do this fun,” said Lena Gardner, 13.”There’s a lot of variety, and a lot of stuff that’s great for beginners. I like the fact that you can go up and down on so much of it.”
As an adult, Robin Bell was a little more timid than the kids. But the smile on her face at the end of the day told her reaction.
“Today I skied dipsy-doos and it was awesome. I loved it,” she said. “You feel like a kid again. You can go fast or as slow as you want, and you can bank on the walls as high or low as you want. It’s very cool.”
While the new features offer plenty of loop-de-loops, they also can be used by Sun Valley’s ski instructors to help skiers develop parallel turns and other skills earlier, said ski instructor Irvin Bier.
“Different types of terrain force them to do things with their skis so they learn without you having to say a lot,” he said.
Parkhill concurred: “Most learning comes from social interaction — watching one another. We just put them in the right terrain and lead the way.”
Ski instructor Rich Hirano said it’s added a new dimension to instructing after years at Dollar Mountain:
“The kids love it. It’s safe and fun. And it’s fun for me, too.”