September 2023

Mountain Spy :: September 2023

Hiking at a resort.

Written by The Editors | 0 comment

THE QUESTION: “My family wants to come hike at your resort, but we’re pretty inexperienced. Do you have any advice?”

Hiking is a great, free activity to offer your guests that leverages your beautiful natural environment. So, you can imagine the Spy’s surprise when the ski areas she called offered little information, and even less advice. 

Sure, hiking is as easy as putting one foot in front of the other, but an understanding of the terrain and a few basic supplies (sunscreen, water, bug spray, snacks, etc.) that you can suggest—or, better yet, sell in your shop—can make a big difference in a newbie’s experience. While most operators said something about the difficulty level of their available terrain, not one mentioned trail etiquette, their facilities, or the benefits of bringing a water bottle. This mission was full of missed opportunities. 

We are so good at guiding our guests through the winter experience. When it comes to summer, it seems that we need to up our game.

Been asked an interesting question this season? Send it to for the Spy to pose to other mountains. We won’t tell anyone the question came from you. Plus, if we use it, your resort will be immune for that issue—and we’ll send you a gift from SAM.



First Contact: Female.

SAM: Stated question.

Staff: Well, are you going to go hiking on the weekend?

SAM: Yes.

Staff: OK, because they are doing work on the mountain, so most areas are closed.


Staff: (rapid fire) But I do think on the weekend you can do it. So, right next to the quad chairlift there is a maintenance road, and that will take you pretty close to the top. That would be a moderate hike. It can be steep, but it isn’t hard. Then, in the area by the [name of facility] there are a lot of trails there. They are mountain bike trails, but you can walk those.

SAM: OK. Is that safe? Do we need to keep to a certain side of the trail?

Staff: No, you should be fine. Just watch out for bikers.

SAM: OK. That does make me nervous.

Staff: There is another trail called [name] that is moderate to hard, so that might not be a good one to start on. Then you have the [XYZ] trail that you can also look up online. It’s very flat, and it runs along the edge of the river, so you can walk as long as you’d like and turn around and come back.

SAM: Oh, great. OK.

Staff: Yep, and again you can just look these trails up too.

SAM: Great, thanks for the help.

Staff: Yep, goodbye.

Score: 6

Comment: Dang, she talked fast. I don’t think I even got my pen cap off before she started reeling off suggestions after her initial hesitancy. And while her suggestions were many, I’m not sure they were all good. Watch out for bikers!? Maybe we’ll stick to the walking trails and avoid that particular hazard.



First Contact: Female.

SAM: Stated question.

Staff: (annoyed) Umm, I guess you can hike anywhere. 

SAM: Oh, OK. Do you have anything specific? 

Staff: Well, you can hike anywhere, even on the road top to bottom. When were you thinking of coming?

SAM: We’re not sure yet. We’re in the beginning stages of planning our trip.

Staff: Oh, OK.

SAM: Yes, we just wanted to see if our family would be able to hike here.

Staff: Um, well, I know they are working on the road up to [XYZ] trail right now and part of August. I don’t have dates yet, but after that you should be good. That trail is pretty easy and pretty.

SAM: OK. Do you have the lift running so we could get up to the top and hike down?

Staff: No, we don’t run anything in the summer. 

SAM: OK. Well, thank you.

Staff: (snippy) Yep, and if you have questions you should call [local shop] instead, as they have a wealth of knowledge about trails around here.

SAM: OK, thank you.

Staff: Yep, goodbye.

Score: 4

Comment: Wow, the Monday blues got her down. Remember, tone makes a difference. Her suggestion to contact the local outfitter sounded less like helpful advice and more like “go annoy someone else instead.”



First Contact: Male.

SAM: Stated question.

Staff: (groggy) Umm, I mean you can walk up our ski hill or around the village area where the rental houses are. 

SAM: OK. You don’t have any trails or anything? Is it pretty steep to hike up the hill?

Staff: (waking up) Yes, it is pretty steep to walk straight up, but you can walk up the beginner area and that isn’t too bad. We don’t have trails on the hill, but right behind the ski hill is [local hiking area], which is a nice place to hike.

SAM: OK, great. Do you have trail maps for [local hiking area]?

Staff: Yes, we have them on our website, or you can just search for it on Google.

SAM: Oh, great. Thank you. Do you have any recommendations for which trail we should choose?

Staff: No, I have not hiked that area before.

SAM: Oh, OK.

Staff: Also, if you do decide to hike on the ski hill, please be aware of the vehicles and maintenance crews out there.

SAM: OK, we will. Thank you.

Staff: Yep, have a good day.

Score: 6

Comment: It seemed like my phone call woke him up from a nap, but he turned it around by the end of the call and gave me some decent tips for hiking in the area.



First Contact: Male.

SAM: Stated question.

Staff: Yeah, we have quite a few options.

SAM: OK. Do you have any particular trails that would be better for us beginners?

Staff: Umm, yes. (awkward silence) The [XYZ] trail is pretty good. There is some slight elevation, but under a mile and a half, and it has great views.

SAM: OK, great.

Staff: Near town there are better and mellower trails.

SAM: Oh, OK. Do you have the names of any of them?

Staff: No, but I am sure one of the adventure outfitters has recommendations.

SAM: OK. Do you run the lift during the summer?

Staff: (long pause) Umm, yes, we do. You can take it up to hike the trails that are at the top up there. You can also hike up the mountain instead of riding the lift, but it is pretty steep.

SAM: OK, thank you.

Staff: Yep, and we have a lot of info on our website too. Have a great day.

Score: 3

Comment: His long pauses left me less than confident about the quality of his information. Also, after pointing me to the website, which somehow seemed to have even less information than he did, he dismissed me without giving me the chance to ask more questions. A bit rude.



First Contact: Female.

SAM: Stated question.

Staff: Uh, yeah. Where are you guys staying?

SAM: We aren’t quite sure yet. We are in the first stages of planning the trip.

Staff: Ok. So, we have some stuff all around. Something that is a wide range of terrain is called [local hiking area]. If you wanted to look that up, you can see all the different maps. I think that it is posted on the [XYZ] National Forest website. Something else that is pretty close to the resort, which is very easy, is called [XYZ] trail. It has two loops that range in distance. Then, there is the mountain itself. You don’t have to start from the very bottom of the mountain and hike up—we have the gondola. So you would just pay to ride it, or you can hike up the mountain and ride it down. However, hiking up is about two to three miles, and it is straight up.

SAM: OK. If we ride up the gondola, are there hiking trails that take us down? Or do we just hike around up top and take the gondola down?

Staff: (peppy) Either! There are nice trails that take you down, but you can also stay up top and hike and take the gondola down.

SAM: Great. Also, do you offer guided hikes?

Staff: I don’t believe we offer that, but I would reach out to [local company]. They don’t specifically offer guided hikes, but they are very outdoorsy and the employees may just do it on the side for you.

SAM: Thank you so much for your help.

Staff: Of course. Also, we do have our trail maps for the mountain on our website if you want to look at that and get an overview of what we offer. We offer mountain biking as well.

SAM: OK, great. Thank you again!

Staff: Not a problem, goodbye.

Score: 8

Comment: She was friendly and took the time to explain my options in detail, treating me like a novice without being at all condescending. I also appreciated her willingness to provide an alternative off-resort option when I asked about a service the mountain didn’t provide.

Identity Revealed: Sun Valley