Fire Closes Portion of Idaho Ski Area

By KEITH RIDLER | February 4, 2014

An overnight fire at Sun Valley Resort’s Bald Mountain ski area in central Idaho closed part of the mountain Saturday and damaged much needed snowmaking equipment.

The fire at the top terminal of the rarely used Flying Squirrel Lift at the 8,200-foot level destroyed the lift as well as a compressor used in the snowmaking process, director of marketing Jack Sibbach said.

“The top terminal is a complete loss,” he said.

For safety reasons, the bottom runs on the Warm Springs side of the mountain closed Saturday, but Sibbach said they will reopen Sunday.

A worker on the 9,150-foot mountain spotted the fire and alerted authorities, and a tracked vehicle that travels on snow took members of the Ketchum Fire Department to the building. But Sibbach said the building was already engulfed in flames. He said the fire occurred before the mountain opened to guests, and there were no injuries. It’s unclear when the fire started or what caused it. There was no damage estimate.

The ski area draws international travelers and is typically listed among the best ski resorts in the nation, and the local economy relies heavily on winter tourism dollars flowing into the area. An adult, one-day lift ticket costs $105.

Sibbach said skiers and snowboarders on Saturday had no access to the mountain from the Warm Springs side and were being directed to the River Run side. Once on the mountain, skiers could go partway down the Warm Springs side before skiing across to the River Run side.

He said he had heard no complaints and skiers were taking the inconvenience in stride. He said about 3,200 people were on the slopes Saturday, typical for a weekend this time of year.

“They all understand,” Sibbach said. “We’ve had a good day on the mountain.”

The Flying Squirrel Lift, built in 1972, is rarely used anymore because of the newer Challenger Lift that serves that side of the mountain. But Sibbach said that for safety reasons part of the mountain near the damaged lift was closed.

Snowmaking has been a key in keeping skiers coming to the mountain this winter in what so far has been a sparse snow year.

“It’s a very important part of our economy up here, this year especially,” Sibbach said. “Without snowmaking that certainly wouldn’t have been the case.”

He said the system would be altered so that snowmaking would quickly resume despite the loss of the compressor.

“We will have snowmaking,” he said. “We can reroute it. We’re going to be fine.”

A ski race scheduled for the Warm Springs side of the mountain on Saturday was canceled.

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