Life on the Mountain
How Dollar Got Its Groove Back
On a crisp, blue-bird Monday afternoon where will you find internationally competitive ski cross racer Biche Rudigoz, fathers teaching daughters to ski, big mountain tele-skier Conor Davis, 80-year-old die hard skiers, SVSEF’s (Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation) alpine racers, snowboarders shredding terrain park features, Sun Valley Adaptive Sports skiers tearing up the slopes, and warm, wide-open, definitely-skiable runs?
Not in Colorado. Not in Utah's famous Little Cottonwood Canyon. Not even at beloved Bald Mountain. This scene, full of life, growth, and fun is all taking place at the reinvigorated, reborn Dollar Mountain. Here we talk a little bit about how Sun Valley’s Dollar Mountain got its groove back.
At 6,638 feet, Dollar Mountain has been known for generations as a treeless, intermediate hill perfect for learning, for families, and for mellow powder turns. It has 628 feet of vertical, four ski lifts, one Magic Carpet, and is the location for one of SV’s most famed ski races, the Kindercup—one of the very first races Olympian Picabo Street ever won!
In 2004, Dollar’s classic and traditional mountain chalet, Dollar Cabin, was replaced by a modern, amenity-filled lodge: Carol’s Dollar Lodge. The lodge hosts a signature Sun Valley restaurant, the renowned Children’s Ski School (led by Weylin Barrett and legend Alice Schernthanner), and a ski shop. Dollar mountain is so wrought with tradition that some of the world’s very first chairlifts were installed here (and nearby Proctor Mountain) in 1936.
Ski racers, Olympians, celebrities, boarder cross champions, and just about every kid to ever click into a ski in Sun Valley learned to ski here. Dollar has been the home and the haven of beginner and intermediate skiers for generations. But ultimately Dollar seemed stuck in this static environment; it was merely a stepping stone for skiers and snowboarders before they moved on to Dollar. It was a place where people had to go, instead of a please where people chose to go. But in the last couple seasons, everything has changed.
Snowboarder Magazine. Snow Park Technologies. Expanding terrain. New snowmaking technology. Tom Wallisch. Colter Brehmer. Graham Watanabe. Rail Jams. Skier Cross courses. Progression Park. Quad walls. Photo shoots. Music. Ski races. A wide-open Elkhorn side. These are just a few of the things happening on Dollar today. A few parts tradition, a few parts growth.
With the leadership of new Sun Valley GM, Tim Silva, terrain park genius, Brian Callahan, and expert mountain managers, Peter Stearns and John Matteson, Dollar Mountain has transformed to become more than a training facility, more than just a bunny hill, and in the process has put not only good ‘ole Dollar Mountain, but Sun Valley, back on the map.
In 2009, Brian Callahan came to Sun Valley from terrain park epicenter, Breckenridge, with a mission; build a state-of-the-art terrain park on Dollar. But Brian has ultimately done more than that. He has built some of the biggest jumps anyone has ever seen. Hosted rail jams that highlight the skills of local athletes. Created the picture perfect Sun Valley-emblazoned Quad Wall. Designed and formed several skier/boarder cross courses. Brought some of the world’s best freestyle athletes to train on Dollar. Hosted ski and snowboard film companies like Level 1 and produced previously unimaginable features and even built a jump shaped like the Monster Energy “M”.
Now, whether you head to Dollar on a packed Saturday morning or a quiet Monday afternoon, the mountain is busy; skiers, snowboarders, beginners, experts, the Old Bowl gap jumps or Poverty Flats progression park and even the halfpipe on Baldy, the dynamic environment has added some new breath to the epic and one-of-a-kind tradition at Sun Valley.
But it hasn’t been just the immaculately maintained and groundbreaking parks. Dollar boundaries have been extended with the “Backside” opening for more skiing. The Elkhorn side opened earlier and stayed open longer than it has in years. The tubing park is the perfect adrenaline rush when your ski boots prove to be too much for your feet to handle. The ever-incredible ski school continues to teach skiers all over the constantly growing amount of terrain Dollar offers. The SVSEF trains on the perfectly pitched slopes every afternoon. Every single Dollar employee from the stoked Park Crew to the restaurant manager, who uses her lunch break to ski, is friendly, professional and proud to be there. Dollar and Quarter Dollar lifts are now high-speed quads. The new and improved snowmaking has guaranteed awesome skiing all season. The mountain is abuzz with motion, movement, growth, life and tradition.
In store for this season are plans of skier cross races, Rail Jams, concerts, contests, Pond Skims, dual slalom, Kindercups, continued training and more teaching. And probably even some stuff we would never see coming, but whether your are gnarly enough to land either of the booters on Old Bowl, stoked on the rails in the Progression Park, looking to test your cross course skills, hoping to enjoy a beer by the fire pit, learning to ski or teaching someone else, Dollar Mountain has proved that with tradition and little bit of brave reinvention, Dollar is definitely the place to be. And for the seasons to come, it is definitely the place to watch.
Five Things Not to Miss at Dollar this Season
1. The Terrain Parks. If you are beginner, check out the Poverty Flats Progression Park over on Quarter Dollar. Experts head straight to Old Bowl for some big air. Those for whom simply watching is enough, the fire pits and seats on Dollar Lodge’s back patio are the perfect vantage point.
2. The tubing park. I know it’s silly, but I was actually scared my first (and second) run down. But what a blast!
3. The Skier/Boarder Cross course. Starting just off the top of Half Dollar Lift, with real cross course gates. You’ll see experts, ski-teamers and even Brian Callahan test their skills.
4. Quarter Dollar Lift is now a high-speed quad making learning to ski, faster, safer and more comfortable.
5. The two-season old Otto’s Run has some of the best corduroy in Sun Valley. Period.
[Photo credits: All shot not otherwise noted are by Katie Matteson.]