Push for Frenchmanís snowmaking renewed
West Ketchum residents vow to fight
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
Sun Valley Co. has renewed an old effort to make snow in
the lower Frenchmanís area of Bald Mountain.
Sun Valley Co. is asking local residents
and visitors to sign a petition in favor of expanding Bald Mountainís
snowmaking to the Frenchmanís area. Above, Warm Springs Road resident
Terry Allsop signs one of the petitions Monday at Sturtevants. Express
photo by Willy Cook
Sun Valley general manager Wally Huffman wrote a letter
Dec. 29 to the Sawtooth National Forestís Ketchum Ranger District
requesting "all haste" be used to begin the environmental review
processes necessary to allow the ski area to make snow on the lower half
of the area.
Upper Frenchmanís snowmaking is already permitted, but
covering the stump-riddled slopes of the lower half of the area is
difficult during the early season without the aid of snowmaking, Huffman
said in a Tuesday interview.
Earlier this month, Sun Valley also began circulating
petitions stating those who sign "urge the Forest Service to allow
[Frenchmanís] snowmaking to begin at the earliest possible legal
date." So far, 1,700 signatures have been amassed, and the petitions
will remain available through the end of the ski season.
Because Sun Valley operates on a permit from the Forest
Service, the federal agency must give its stamp of approval before
snowmaking can occur.
The lower Frenchmanís area has not previously been
included in the Forest Serviceís permitted snowmaking areas, nor has
snowmaking there been anticipated in the Forest Serviceís Bald Mountain
But Huffman wrote that snowmaking in the area is
"critical to accommodate safely the Christmas week skiers."
"This would be a godsend during the early-season,
high-skier-use days such as Christmas week," he wrote in the letter.
Complicating Sun Valleyís efforts are West Ketchum
residents who say snowmaking on the area would be too noisy. The Frenchmanís
terrain is just several hundred feet above and directly across the Big
Wood River from parts of West Ketchum.
"Itís a quality-of-life issue," West Ketchum
resident and Ketchum City Councilwoman Chris Potters said. "I think
the quietude in the residential neighborhoods is important. Once the
technology becomes available for quiet snowmaking, I donít think there
will be any objections to snowmaking going everywhere.
"Weíre going to say ĎNoí again."
In 1999, Huffman said, Sun Valley sent 187 letters
outlining the proposal to West Ketchum residents. He said Sun Valley
received about 40 responses, eight of which were against the proposal.
"Their response was cordial, but it was clear that
they were opposed to any development in lower Frenchmanís at all,"
For Sun Valley, eight negative responses didnít
constitute enough reason to hold up the project.
Sawtooth National Forest supervisor Bill LeVere last week
met with Ketchum District ranger Kurt Nelson to discuss the proposal.
"Weíre working on a response," LeVere said.
Regarding prior Sun Valley efforts for approval, however,
LeVere said the Forest Service originally asked Sun Valley to "build
consensus" in favor of the project.
"But it was never really defined what consensus
was," he added. "The Forest Service is clearly interested in the
localsí input, and weíll ask for that at the appropriate time."
Water pipes required for snowmaking in lower Frenchmanís
were approved by the Forest Service in 1995 and installed by Sun Valley
that fall. All that remains is to install snow guns and make snow.
"Iím hoping this community will see the value in
it," Huffman said.
LeVere said heís not sure what level of environmental
study would be required to issue a decision on the matter, but he was
clear on whose decision it will be to make.
"The final decision will be the Forest Serviceís.
Itís not the decision of the local residents or some other entity."