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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of September 4 - 10, 2002


Sun Valley begins expansion planning

Holding turns attention to development

Express Staff Writer

With the 2002 Winter Olympics and a dizzying array of on-mountain improvements at his Snowbasin Resort in Utah behind him, Sun Valley resort owner Earl Holding is turning some attention to development in Sun Valley.

Sun Valley Co. is beginning planning processes for development of various properties it owns, including 160 acres at the River Run base of Bald Mountain. Plans, including an annex proposal, could arrive at Ketchum City Hall in six months, Sun Valley General Manager Wally Huffman said. Express photo by Willy Cook

Sun Valley General Manager Wally Huffman said last week that Holding is turning some of his attention back to Idaho, where a potential smorgasbord of development plans, both on-mountain and off, await planning efforts.

From snowmaking and new ski trails to hotel construction, base area master planning, a probable golf course purchase and facilities remodels, everything appears to be on the table at Sun Valley.

"We’re going to start a remodel of the common areas of the Sun Valley Inn next week," Huffman said. "That’s kind of an indication that he (Holding) has got some spare time."

With so many potential improvements and expansion plans, however, planning will be a crucial step in the process.

"The planning process is important, so everyone, including us, knows where we’re going," Huffman said, noting that the resort does not have any plans on a fast track. "Since we’re the primary landowner, for (the community) to have a good picture of what we see in 40 to 45 years, it should help them figure out what they see."

The resort is interviewing several planning organizations, one of which will help determine the resort’s on-mountain facilities improvements that will eventually be slated in a U.S. Forest Service-approved master plan.

Additionally, Sun Valley has already hired a Denver company called Design Workshop to begin studying development options at the resort’s valley floor properties, including both ski area bases and 2,500-acres of property in the Sun Valley Village.

"Before we do anything, we need to have Mr. Holding’s blessing and the cities’ blessings on what the buildout of this resort will be," Huffman said.

Among the plans under study is the potential for development of 160 acres of land—mostly parking lot—the resort owns at the River Run base of Bald Mountain. A plan there would probably propose an annexation agreement with the city of Ketchum, Huffman said, because the land is in Blaine County.

"River Run is a special entity," he said. "It cries to be developed. We need to create a master plan and take it to Ketchum. Six months from now, we will have a plan to submit to Ketchum."

Approximately every 10 years, ski areas like Sun Valley that operate under permits from the Forest Service must go through a master planning process, which slates anticipated improvements and subjects them to public review. The process and goals are similar to municipal comprehensive planning.

Sun Valley’s last master plan was completed in 1989, and Huffman pointed out that a new plan must be finished before 2007, when the ski area’s permit must be renewed.

"We’re due," Huffman said, adding that the process of drafting and soliciting public review should take two to three years.

"A master plan on Baldy isn’t going to be all that difficult, because it’s 90 percent built out. But that doesn’t mean we can avoid the extra 10 percent," Huffman said.

That extra 10 percent includes several expansion issues that were included in the resort’s 1989 plan and some that are new.

Huffman highlighted several anticipated projects, including a gondola from the base of River Run to an expanded Lookout Restaurant. More snowmaking at Frenchman’s and in Christmas Bowl may be slated as well.

The plans also include new ski runs below Seattle Ridge and on the west side of Bald Mountain’s summit, winding to the top of Cozy. That run, if built, could be called Guyer Ridge. Another new run, which could be called Olympic Meadows, is contemplated parallel to and south of Olympic Lane, which traverses Baldy’s east shoulder to Olympic Ridge.

If the Forest Service permits it, another contemplation that could be finished before a new master plan is adopted is a ski and snowboarding halfpipe.

"The truth is, it was a long time to decide to build a halfpipe," Huffman said. "Now that we’ve decided to do it, it’s difficult, because it isn’t in the current master plan."

The most noticeable changes at the resort aren’t likely to be on the mountain, however.

Hotels or condominiums could be built at River Run or at Sun Valley’s existing resort. And, if Sun Valley purchases the Elkhorn Golf Course, a new driving range and pro shop could be built near the base of Dollar Mountain.

Huffman acknowledged that change is sometimes difficult in resort towns, where people visit and move to because they establish a connection to a place’s charm.

"People love these mountain towns," Huffman said. "A lot of people who come here don’t want to see it change, but the truth is, it’s going to evolve."



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