revitalization under way
Skier days slip
take strides to reverse trend
Express Staff Writer
Springs in Ketchum is considered by many to be the Bald Mountain ski
areaís better half. With steep, consistent terrain and an economically
diverse base, Warm Springs has thrived for several decades.
Jake Korobkin, 9, and his mother Annette finish a day of skiing on Warm Springs.
Express photo by David N. Seelig
winds of change have puffed through the quaint base village as
increasing numbers of skiers and snowboarders are using the mountainís
River Run base and its ample parking to start and finish their alpine
to be that roughly 70 percent of Sun Valley Co.ís skier days were
logged at Warm Springs. Now that number has flipped, with roughly 70
percent using River Run to access the mountain. Sun Valley Co.ís
pending development of a more complete base at River Run is likely to
influence the mountainís dynamics even more.
commercial real estate in Warm Springs has leveled off following a
decades-long rally, while residential properties, like The Hemingways
time-share condominiums, are on the rise.
viability of commercial business in Warm Springs is very limited,"
said local attorney Brian Barsotti, who has owned Warm Springs property
since the early 1980s. "In the Baldy Base Camp building, we receive
less revenues today than we did in 1995. We have fewer tenants, and we
canít raise the rents, because weíd put them out of business."
Rise and fall
1970s and 1980s, Warm Springs was widely recognized as the primary
access to Bald Mountain. At the time, River Run was merely a parking lot
where an old double chair climbed the mountainís eastern flank and
connected with two more lifts for skiers wishing to attain the summit.
Warm Springs was a thriving base area, complete with lodges,
restaurants, ski shops and a scene to rival any major ski area in the
didnít look like anything was going to happen at River Run for a lot
of years," said former Ketchum Mayor Jerry Seiffert. "It
looked like Warm Springs was The Place to plan for, base area
Nickel, who co-owned the Creekside restaurant until the early 1980s,
also remembers a bustling Warm Springs.
started and ended their day at Warm Springs," he said. "Also,
because there were no high speed lifts, everybody finished their ski day
at 4 p.m. Itís hard to imagine today, but everybody ended their day
about the same time."
said he remembers evenings when 11 bartenders simultaneously mixed
drinks as fast as they could at the Creekside.
with most booms, a bust was waiting in the wings.
early-1990s, Sun Valley Co. put finishing touches on extravagant new
base lodges at both bases. It also finished work on a sophisticated
network of high speed, detachable quad lifts that spanned both sides of
changed it (River Run) from a parking lot with lift access, and crappy
access at that, and made it a viable alternative," said Baird
Gourlay, co-owner of Paul Kennyís Ski and Sports in Warm Springs.
in skier days and automobile traffic patterns "immediately became
apparent," agreed former Ketchum City Administrator Jim Jaquet.
to numbers compiled by Sun Valley Company, the number of guests riding
buses to the two base areas swung from 80 percent at Warm Springs to 80
percent at River Run.
in skier traffic, predicted Barsotti, is here to stay, for better or for
think itís irreversible in the long run," he said, "even
though everybody recognizes the better part of the mountain is Warm
Springs is still accessible, thanks by and large to efforts from the
villageís business owners and Ketchum city officials, who have been
proactive on parking and transportation issues.
elected to the Ketchum City Council in 2001, first appeared at Ketchum
City Hall in the mid-1980s lobbying for improved Warm Springs traffic
used to be chaos down here," he said. "The biggest thing for
us was, there used to be a perceived inconvenience in coming out to Warm
Springs. Basically, what weíre trying to do is make sure this side of
the mountain is an easy, user friendly access to the hill."
of Ketchum owns a large property at the corner of Warm Springs and
Saddle Roads that it currently provides to the community for parking.
Buses stop at the lot, every 15 minutes in the winter, and whisk skiers
to within 200 feet of the Warm Springs lifts. Arguably, the "park
and ride" access is more convenient than walking the 300 yards from
River Runís parking lot to its lifts.
number of people boarding buses at the park and ride lot also slipped
when Sun Valley finished its River Run facilities, said Ketchum Area
Rapid Transit Manager Terry Crawford. Even so, Warm Springs gets more
bus traffic than River Run.
major push is still to Warm Springs, probably because thereís not real
convenient parking out there," Crawford said.
work to improve Warm Springsí traffic and circulation is ongoing.
years ago, parking throughout the village was divided into all-day,
one-hour and drop-off zones, and, this winter, a decades-long closure of
Picabo Street, which traverses the mountainís base, will be lifted for
skier drop-offs and pick-ups.
changes are probable.
week, Warm Springs business owners asked KART if a bus could be
dedicated to returning skiers to their vehicles at River Run from Warm
Springs during late afternoons.
basically have what they want twice an hour," Crawford said,
referring to the established bus routes.
effort to arrange the route without stops, business owners are working
with a local cab company, Sun Valley Chauffeur, to link the two bases
between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. for $3 one-way trips.
said the service could serve as a good trial.
they can show us the demand, weíll try to meet it," he said.
Springsí potential for world-class skiing was recognized early, but it
was one of the last parts of Bald Mountain to be developed.
initially went up only the Wood River side of the mountain, but Warm
Springs was also skied and raced. The first skier crossing of Warm
Springs Creek, a narrow bridge called "Cottonwood Bridge," was
the first ski-related structure built on the Warm Springs side of the
mountain. It pre-dated lift service by more than 20 years.
often chose the narrow path down Warm Springs face as the dayís last
run, Sun Valley buses would return guests to the resort or back to the
only base lifts at River Run, not unlike the current proposal.
werenít built on the Warm Springs side of the mountain until Bill
Janss bought the resort in 1964 and invested considerably in on-mountain
following construction of the new base lodges and quad lifts, more than
10 years of dormancy have slipped by, and another era of mountain and
base facilities improvements could be dawning.
Valley is working on a new Bald Mountain Master Plan and is drafting
plans to develop the 160 acres at River Run. It is not clear what the
River Run plans will include, but a full-scale base area, to some
degree, is probable.
Run is a special entity," said Sun Valley General Manager Wally
Huffman. "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."
the result, Nickel, who is reviving his business interests in Warm
Springs, said he hopes it wonít compete further with the more
I hope is that the two sides of the mountain would have a different feel
to them," said Nickel. "The Warm Springs side, I hope, will
always have a more local feel, a more small-town feel. Not because itís
part of the resort, because it is, but because itís part of the town
Springs business owners, the flip in base area use throws red flags for
obvious reasons, but Gourlay said heís not overly concerned. Warm
Springsí boons outweigh its shortcomings, he said, adding that he
perceives a "real revitalization" of the area.
donít see it as shrinking. I just see it as forgotten about for a
while," he said.
to the revitalization, several Wood River Valley business owners and
residents are putting stock in Warm Springs this winter. Wood River
Valley native Hank Minor bought Appleís from longtime owner Chris Orr
this fall. Nickel, who now owns The Sawtooth Club and The Roosevelt
Tavern in downtown Ketchum, is opening a new restaurant where Baldy Base
Camp and Barsottiís once were. And Dotty Sarchett, owner of Wrap City
burritos, has opened a new lunch spot.
said he is optimistic about Warm Springsí future. With partners
Brendan, Ryan and Sean Sullivan, he is opening The Outabounds Lounge,
which will sport a bar and dinner facilities.
The Outabounds Lounge, weíre just hoping that, despite the fewer
people able to use Warm Springs because of parking, weíre hoping more
people will be able to get over there at the end of the day, because itís
the spot that just feels more like a ski town," Nickel said.
"Itís right there at the foot of the mountain."
said he is excited to continue the long tradition established at Appleís
by Orr and other Warm Springs business owners.
place really is all about family and kids," he said. "The
tradition, thatís where me and C.O. (Orr) have a pretty solid deal. I
plan on keeping the tradition."
local support helped Appleís survive over the long haul, and stressed
the common bond Warm Springs business owners share.
a real family over here," he said.
expressed similar enthusiasm for the neighborhood and his business
its own little business core, itís own little niche of businesses out
here, and they have a very strong following," he said. "It has
thing Iíve always loved about Warm Springs is, itís a one-stop shop,
whether itís ski rentals or a boot fit you want, whether itís a
burrito or dinner. If you want choices, youíve got choices, and theyíre
all local people who run them."