Located 12 miles south of Ketchum, the home of Bald Mountain, is the town of Hailey and the home of the area’s lesser known ski mountain: Rotarun. Known as “the little mountain with a big heart”, this 475-foot ski hill located three miles east of Hailey out Croy Canyon has been a draw to the local community since it opened in 1948. With free night skiing, new snow making capabilities and terrain for Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) programs, this mountain is still making a big impact, showing how small ski hills like these are truly the soul of winter towns. Rotarun a ski hill where the essence of the sport is alive and well thanks to minimal barriers to entry and a welcoming demeanor. We highly recommend checking it out for yourself.
This small mountain has a storied history over the more than 70 years it’s been in existence. Starting after World War II, locals would boot pack up and ski down; shortly thereafter in 1948, Olympian Ann Winn started using the small mountain to teach kids how to ski, the first of many people to do so over the years. The mountain received its first “lift” in the form of a tractor-and-pulley rope tow in 1941, making it truly a ski hill rather than a hill that was simply skied. In 1964, the Arkoosh family founded the Rotarun Ski Club, Inc., formally establishing it as a nonprofit. Ever since, individuals and businesses have worked to make this ski hill work even more for the community and ensure affordable ski access for locals, adding in a handle tow lift and poma lift, a small lodge at the bottom serving food and drinks, and so much more.
Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation
SVSEF took over operations of Rotarun in 2017 and now provides low-cost, entry-level ski and snowboard programming at Rotarun, an action in line with Rotarun’s mission to provide affordable ski access to locals and the new generations of skiers and riders who learn to ride here. Rota-Rippers is an entry-level ski and snowboard program for 5-11-year-olds to learn. This group trains Mondays and Tuesdays from 3-5pm in January and February. LASAR (Learn to Alpine Ski and Race) is for children ages 5-12 of all abilities to improve skiing techniques through progressed turning, balance and body positioning, ski racing skills, self-confidence and the ability to work in groups with professional instructors and coaches. This group trains Wednesdays and Fridays from 3:30-5:30pm January through February. Over 130 children are involved in these after-school programs.
SVSEF has also been working with the Bob Beattie Ski Foundation to help further children’s ski and snowboard education. After speaking with ski racing legends Mike Hundert, Terry Palmer, Christin Cooper, Mark Tache and others, Rotarun was selected to receive pro-style racing gates for next season.
Perhaps the most exciting event at Rotarun is its free night skiing Wednesdays and Fridays from 5:30-8pm during the winter (free riding is also available Saturdays from 11am-3pm). Other fun events take place over the course of the winter including the family-friendly annual New Year’s Eve celebration which features free riding, food trucks, and bonfires. The annual Arkoosh Cup (started in 1970) takes place in Feburary, a dual GS race at Rotarun.
Providing affordable ski access means fundraising is crucial to the mission of Rotarun. In Rotarun’s first-ever annual report for the 2018/2019 season, it was reported that fundraising efforts raised just over $100,000. Those funds went into several projects for the 2019/2020 season, most notably snowmaking capabilities, a project that has been 30 years in the works. The lower section of the hill now has installed snowmaking, enabling Rotarun to establish a base of snow on the lower skier’s left of the mountain. Other improvements for the 2019/2020 season included a design upgrade to the lodge with a kitchen and bathroom remodel to help with usability.
The Cooper Tache First Track Fund helps financially support the afterschool programs for children. The fund recently received a $10,000 grant from the local organization 100 Men Who Care.
Donations are also available on the Rotarun website and are always appreciated!