The holidays in Sun Valley are unique. From the snow-covered peaks (and ski runs!) that surround the Wood River Valley, to the old-fashioned charm of the Sun Valley Village and the decidedly European feel of the Resort, Christmas in Sun Valley is straight out of a beloved picture book. I have spent more than 30 Christmases in Sun Valley and while I certainly appreciate all that the Resort does to keep current (our amazing snowmaking and grooming, the gorgeous Lodge remodel, The Spa, and new
Skiing & Riding
It’s rare when you can find a real, honest-to-goodness win-win situation in life, but that’s exactly what Baldy is being blessed with right now.
In a rather unique partnership, Sun Valley Resort and the U.S. Forest Service are in the midst of a project that will not only make the ski area safer and healthier, it will also create new glades in the Frenchmen’s area.
“The project is good for the health of the forest and it’s going to add to the mix of the ski experience on Baldy,” U.S. Forest Service (USFS) district manager Kurt Nelson said. “I think it’s going to be very well received by the public.”
The “Glissading Project” will last a few more years and cover about 250 total acres. It involves essentially cleaning up about 50 acres of the forested area around Frenchman’s each summer, using a “weed eater on steroids,” as Kurt puts it. Since the terrain is so steep on that side of the mountain, the team has had to use a very unique machine called the “masticator.” The beast of an excavator clears brush and grinds stumps on terrain too precipitous for most equipment.
“There are very few people who have the skillset to operate it. It’s like tending a crop of trees on a steep hill,” Kurt said, noting how thankful everyone is for Sun Valley Resort’s Kerry O’Brien who runs the monster.
“It’s a challenging up there but it’s going really well,” Jim Reinholdt of the USFS. “We’re just trying to keep the mountain healthy.”
There are three main points to the project. The first and most important is fuel reduction. That part of Baldy has a lot of diseased, dead and fallen trees, making it more susceptible to fire. “We really just need to clean it up because those stands are starting to unravel. There’s too much disease and deadfall and trouble for younger growth,” Kurt explained.
The second benefit of the project is that it helps keep the forest healthy by providing spacing for trees of multiple sizes to grow. The removed forest products are also being ground up and spread upon the forest floor, adding more nutrients to the soil. “We’ve invested quite a bit to keep Baldy’s tree cover in tact. This is just another step in keeping Baldy healthy and to help allow growth for the next generation of trees,” Kurt said, explaining that part of Sun Valley Resort’s contract to operate lifts on Baldy means they also have to help keep the forest healthy.
“We think it’s a really great partnership,” he said. “If you don’t actively manage the forest you get fuels build up and it also doesn’t lend itself very well to skiing.”
The third benefit is the one that makes skiers and snowboarders smile. Clearing swaths in the forest creates glades, trails that carve their way through the canopy of trees. Glades are very popular in places like New England and Colorado, and Baldy will be getting new glades each year for several seasons to come.
“It’s a win-win for the skiing and for the health of the forest on Baldy,” Kurt said.
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