Rotarun offers free skiing

  There really is nothing quite like Rotarun.

The small ski area is easy to overlook, snuggled into the mountains off Croy Canyon. That is except for Wednesday and Friday evenings, when night skiing at Rotarun lights up the hills west of Hailey like a skiing version of the Batman signal.

The “Little Mountain with a Big Heart” has been quietly helping people fall in love with skiing, snowboarding and our little slice of Ida-heaven for over 70 years now.

“It’s been a Hailey icon for local families for generations. The place is universally loved,” said Scott McGrew, the Executive Director for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) and the volunteer General Manager of Rotarun.

Founded in 1948 by Swiss-born Olympic skier, Janet Winn, Rotarun offers 440-feet of vertical, covering 15 acres of skiable terrain and is served by a lone POMA lift. The single and simple-to-use lift is part of Rotarun’s appeal.  It allows skiers and boarders a chance to get off the lift whenever they’d like.

The price is also nice, too, as the non-profit Rotarun is now free—making it quite possibly the only free ski area on the planet.

“It’s a brilliant learning theatre for all levels, from introduction to refinement. It’s a great place to learn to ski, but you can also build world-class skiers at Rotarun,” Scott said. Olympic skiers like Picabo Street and Christin Cooper, as well as Olympic snowboarders like Chase Josey and Kaitlyn Farrington, all carved countless turns at Rotarun.

But Rotarun is about more than just producing great skiers. It’s about community and the role skiing has always played locally.

  “Skiing has driven our community since 1936 when Sun Valley opened. It’s part of our culture and it pulls us together. It creates a stronger, healthier, safer, more cohesive home for all of us,” said Scott, who grew up in the Wood River Valley and traveled all over the world during his skiing career. “This community understands the power of winter sports,”

Rotarun could not remain free, or have added snowmaking and renovations to the ski shack/lodge, if it weren’t for the kindness of the community. “The number of people and businesses who have contributed to this is staggering. The generosity of this community amazes me,” said Scott, who himself has volunteered countless hours at Rotarun over the last three years.

The goal for Rotarun as it enters its seventh decade is really pretty simple: keep skiing alive and accessible for everyone. With mom-and-pop ski areas like Rotarun closing all over the country, it’s no easy task.  But Scott likes the odds, especially with a community like ours to help.

“We want to make Rotarun dependable, reliable and accessible. We want people to come out and enjoy the place. Rotarun represents the foundation of the sport,” Scott said, adding with a smile. “It’s got that magic to it.”

For more information, a schedule or to make a donation, check out

By Mike McKenna

This story originally appeared in the Chamber Corner for the Wood River Weekly.

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