SUN VALLEY, IDAHO — Three words never heard on the slopes of America’s first winter resort are “carry your speed.”
The flat spots that so often require arduous treks at other resorts simply aren’t part of the landscape or lexicon at Bald Mountain, the broad-shouldered behemoth at desert’s edge in central Idaho. Two words define Baldy: “consistent pitch.” A feature unmatched in North America, it begins at the 9,150-foot summit and ends on the floor of the Wood River Valley, 3,400 vertical feet below.
In between lies what many seasoned skiers contend is the best terrain in the world. After thorough exploration of the mountain and its dazzling variety, disagreeing may be difficult.
That steady pitch can be experienced on delightful long descents that range in steepness from the 19 degrees of College, the easiest run, to more than 40 at the brutal bottom of the misleadingly named Sleeping Bear. (Another word never heard on Baldy is “short.”)
If you’ve never skied this unique mountain, bear in mind that to do it and yourself justice, you should at least be comfortable on slopes intended for intermediate skiers. Although some runs are designated least difficult, they would be rated intermediate at most other North American resorts. The less skilled will be far more comfortable at Sun Valley’s other hill, Dollar Mountain, which also caters to snowboarders.
The first thing that might strike the first-timer is the convenience and speed of the lift system, which boasts 14 conveyances. Eight are fast detachables, including a gondola. Although Baldy is among the truly big mountains of the West, getting from one extremity to another — say from the Warm Springs base lodge to Seattle Ridge — requires but a single lift ride and should take even a slowpoke no more than 15 minutes.