Sun Valley promotion attempts to head off economy’s effects

SUN VALLEY — Skiers are being offered discount lodging and skiing at Sun Valley for the remainder of the ski season to ensure there are plenty of shoppers to spread about area restaurants and retail shops.

By Karen Bossick
Times-News correspondent

It’s a preemptive move designed to counteract any negative effect the slumping national economy and perceived lack of snow might have on local tourism, said Amy Olson, communications coordinator for the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber and Visitors Bureau.

"Local businessmen are concerned about what might happen. So, rather than waiting until April and slack season when we come out with our annual Spring Fling promotion, we’re introducing this promotion now to run back to back with our Spring Fling promotion," she said.

The Too Good 2 Be True promotion includes two nights of lodging and a one-day lift ticket, as well as discount coupons and other offers at area restaurants and stores. The cost: $145 per person based on double occupancy.

Bookings can be made through Sun Valley/Ketchum Central Reservations by calling 1-800-634-3347, Ext. 1, or through the online booking service at

Sun Valley Resort already has been offering mid-week skiers $70 packages that include one-night lodging plus a lift ticket — a bargain when daily lift tickets for adults cost $65 without any discount.

The Spring Fling program, which begins after the mountain closes in mid-April and runs through June 15, includes a discounted lodging package plus a two-for-one certificate that can be used for such activities as horseback riding, whitewater rafting, biking or massage.

The latest local option tax numbers, for December, indicate Sun Valley activity is up by 18 percent and Ketchum down by 8 percent compared with December 2001. The taxes are assessed on lodging and other tourist-related services.

But Sun Valley’s figures may have been skewed by back taxes being added into the mix inappropriately, Olson said.

Hotels were 41 percent full and condos 47 percent full during that time — up 20 percent compared with the same period last year, she added.

But an anecdotal survey of Sun Valley and Ketchum businesses found mixed reports, with most indicating they are significantly down from past Januarys as concerns mount over possible war with Iraq and a stock market that is slow to rebound.

"We’re down numbers-wise so far this winter, but our margin is actually up," said Formula Sports manager Laura Stackpole. Stackpole added that her store has maintained an edge by focusing on items that appear to be exclusively available in Sun Valley.

Horizon Air’s new direct flights from Los Angeles were reportedly 65 percent full during the first month the service was offered — about 10 percent higher than projected.

Sun Valley’s lift ticket sales are down, in part because of a few rainy days in January. Its retail sales are down, but hotel bookings are up compared with last year.

Sun Valley Resort lodging is booked solid beginning today for the Presidents Day weekend, which is typically the ski industry’s busiest single time of the year. It’s also full the weekend of Feb. 27 through March 2, Olson said.

But it’s tough to forecast how the rest of the ski season is shaping up because people are booking online just two weeks out.

And that could be a problem, when you consider that Sun Valley’s last big dump of snow was on New Year’s Eve. People going online might opt instead for one of the ski resorts in western Montana — which recently got seven feet of snow in six days — not realizing that Sun Valley’s runs are being spruced up with a dollop of manmade snow every night.

"Locals know that Baldy is covered, but our snow reports do not look good to potential visitors reading them in the paper or online when they are next to places like Alta that just received four feet," said Carol Waller, the chamber’s executive director.

Of course, even locals may need to be told — if they hail from Twin Falls or Boise where people played golf during January in light jackets.

"I had no idea the skiing over here was this good," said Lindsay Crawford, who stayed this week at the Tyrolean Lodge. "We’ve been skiing on frozen mud at Bogus Basin."

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