From paragliding and speed flying Sun Valley to ski tuning, Nordic Town USA, Baldy's Big Mountain Skiers and this Winter's Art Scene.
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Why Baldy produces so many of the world’s best Big Mountain skiers
Chris Tatsuno shows off some Sun Valley style. Photo Casey Day
When Lexi DuPont entered her first Big Mountain competition, she walked up to the judges and introduced herself. They asked where she was from and when she said Sun Valley, they broke out in laughter. They asked, “How does Sun Valley pump out so many good skiers?!”
Ask around and you’ll get tons of different answers. Maybe it is Baldy’s insane amount of vertical. Maybe it is because their racing coaches were also Picabo Street’s coaches. Maybe it’s the region’s renowned backcountry skiing, from steep Sawtooth couloirs to 12,000-foot descents in the Pioneers. Maybe it’s the non-stop bowl laps or the moguls on Upper River Run. Or perhaps it is the tradition of skiers like the Crist Brothers, Kent Kreitler, Will Burks, Lynsey Dyer, Dick Dorworth, Dick Durrance, Griffin Post … the list goes on. Or maybe, as Big Mountain competitor and born-and-bred Sun Valley skier Chris Tatsuno said, it’s that “the generational strength and fortitude to mold good skiers runs a little deeper in Idaho.”
Conor Davis at “Red Rocks” cliff on the backside of Baldy above the Burn. Photo www.alpinfoto.com
Whatever it is, it cannot be denied. When a list of competing freeskiing athletes includes Sun Valley prodigies DuPont, Post, Tatsuno, Bryce Newcomb, Conor Davis, McKenna Peterson, Axel Peterson, North Parker and Drew Stoecklein, it’s hard not to credit Baldy’s terrain, its thigh-burning vertical and the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (each of these athletes was once a member).
From Park and Pipe competitions to Big Mountain comps in places like Revelstoke, British Columbia, Crested Butte, Colorado, Argentina and Chile, skiers from across the world compete every year in the Subaru Freeskiing World Tour (FWT) and in sanctioned International Freeskiing Association events. Hundreds of guys and girls who think, breathe and live mountains huck themselves off cliffs, ski in less-than-ideal conditions, take their chances on new, huge lines, and push themselves to the limit in a sport where taking chances can be fatal and the rewards can be huge.
“Everyone is stoked on everything all the time. This excitement and passion forces me to look at the mountain and my sport in a new way every day,” says Axel Peterson, explaining that his experience on the FWT has helped him develop as a skier, constantly challenging him with new variables and unexplored zones. His sister, McKenna, who is also on the tour, says, “We are a giant family of adventure-seeking kids with a shared love for skiing. I don’t ski on the tour for money or glory. There really isn’t much of it anyway. It is the experience that brings me back year after year.”
McKenna Peterson scopes out her line during the FWT comp in Crested Butte. Courtesy Mountain Sports International
Sun Valley may not have the most notoriously extreme terrain but don’t be fooled, our skiers can really ski. Conor Davis, a telemark skier who competes in both telemark and alpine Big Mountain comps, says there is more extreme to Baldy than meets the eye, you just have to know where to look. “If the Lower Bowls and River Run South Slopes are open, they’ll definitely surprise you. And there is always the Burn, as long as you have a buddy and the proper avalanche gear.” It’s our mountain’s terrain that has cultivated a love for skiing in these skiers—and the hundreds more just nipping at their heels—that is part challenge, part adventure and all about Sun Valley tradition.
And as for the notion that Baldy has nothing more to boast about than fast and well-maintained groomers? Well, these Big Mountain skiers are willing to just let that rumor slide. They’d like their short lift lines and secret spots to stay that way. And besides, we’ve got to keep the judges wondering—just how does Sun Valley keep producing all these great skiers? -Katie Matteson