Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Soldier Mountain to present plans

Fairfield meeting to highlight vision

Express Staff Writer

Soldier Mountain Ski Resort north of Fairfield could be on the road to a facelift.

Throughout the summer, Soldier Mountain has been working on operations and maintenance improvements.

One noteworthy improvement, according to a news release, is the requisite permitting with local, state and federal regulatory agencies to reintroduce snowmaking to the mountain after a 10-year hiatus.

On Thursday, Sept. 14, at 7:15 p.m., representatives from Soldier Mountain will provide an update of the resort's master development planning activities to the city of Fairfield. The presentation will occur at the City Council's regularly scheduled meeting.

The ski resort has hired a contractor to work on the master development plan, said Ann Frost, recreation program manager for the Fairfield Ranger District of the Sawtooth National Forest. Soldier Mountain representatives were not immediately available to comment.

"They're really just getting started," Frost said. "What they've been doing to date is collecting information. Right now they haven't released to us any ideas that they have."

Soldier Mountain has come a long way since it boasted a paltry rope tow and $2.50 lift tickets.

"I figured it would be more fun to make a lot of money skiing than to feed cattle all day," said Fairfield farmer Bob Frostenson in 2003, three months before he died in a car accident in Gooding. "I never made a lot of money, but I had a lot more fun."

In the summer of 1948, after watching the 1948 Winter Olympic tryouts in Sun Valley, Frostenson and his friend, Harry Durall, decided they couldn't turn their backs on the sport. They raised $10,000, began work on a base lodge and purchased two rope tows, the first powered by a 1938 Chevrolet engine.

Though it took 10 years to get the operation in the black, steady expansion and a growing awareness about skiing in general eventually paid off. Following the first 27 years of relatively consistent ownership, possession of the resort has varied.

In 1953, Durall sold his interest to Frostenson's brother, Sten, and to a mechanically inclined Fairfield farmer, Levard Hansen. In 1975, the trio, all in their 70s, sold it to Califonrian Wallace Wheeler. There were additional transactions in later years. Hollywood actor and Wood River Valley resident Bruce Willis bought the area in 1996 and maintains ownership through a limited liability corporation.

Lift rates released

Soldier Mountain Ski Resort has made available its Early Bird Adult Ski Pass. The passes can be bought for the 2006-2007 winter season for $250 prior to Nov. 12. Youth, family and senior passes are available as well as five- or 10-day punch cards. After Nov. 12, the price for all categories of passes will increase. Children under 6 and seniors 70 and up ski for free.

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