Although there was good powder to be had in the Wasatch this weekend, my back was worked up and I needed some lower intensity groomers. Yes, I know it is heretical to skip out on powder, but I do what my back tells me. Thus, we went up to Sun Valley for some high-speed cruising.
I have visited Sun Valley in the summer, but this was my first time skiing at the resort. While they lack serious advanced terrain, the resort has good cruising, especially from the Warm Springs base area where there is a non-stop fall-line exceeding 3000 vertical feet and the Challenger high-speed quad to ensure you can take full advantage.
On Sunday, the weather was perfect. Not only was it bluebird, but the temperature in town that morning was -10ºF, ensuring a complete lack of tourists on the hill. The upper mountain was cold but tolerable with temperatures around zero and morning sun to keep us warm.
There's a good reason why Sun Valley is known for cruising rather than powder. bestsnow.net lists their season average at 8800 feet (just below the summit) at 191 inches. Paltry. Little wonder they have over 500 snow guns on the hill.
From a climatological perspective, Sun Valley suffers from the curse of being nearly completely surrounded (except to the south) by high terrain. A similar curse inflicts portions of the Tyrol and other interior regions of the Alps. Terrain extends far upstream of Sun Valley for southwest to northwest flow directions. Deeper atmospheric river events are needed to drive significant snowfall.
Annual precipitation analyses from the PRISM climate group highlight the rain shadow effect around Sun Valley with mountains to the west and northwest receiving more annual precipitation.
I like cruising, but only for a day or two. Powder beckons for the future.