Friday, March 23, 2007

Lookout, Frenchman?s lifts are closed

Lack of snow and early spring cut into skiing areas on Baldy

Express Staff Writer

The ?chair to nowhere,? also known as Lookout, now literally goes nowhere. Warm weather and a dry winter have forced Sun Valley Co. to close two lifts earlier than anticipated. Photo by Willy Cook

The unseasonably warm weather coupled with lackluster snowfall this winter forced Sun Valley Co. to prematurely shut down the Frenchman's lift and Lookout lift on Bald Mountain Thursday, March 22.

"It's early, it's really early," said Jack Sibbach, director of sales, marketing and public relations. "The decision was made by the mountain management team, the ski patrol and the (Sun Valley) company's management—it's mostly a safety and usage issue."

Oftentimes, snow groomers are able to move snow around during the spring, taking surplus cover from certain areas and relocating it to bald patches. This year, there simply is not enough snow in the Frenchman's area to groom.

"Frenchman's has been deteriorating rather quickly," Sibbach said. Adding that without snowmaking, it is difficult to keep snow in the lower area of Frenchman's, particularly around the base of the lift.

The issue of snowpack in the Frenchman's area has been a contentious one in years past. Sun Valley Co. is currently proposing to add snowmaking capabilities by next Christmas. The pipes are already in the ground, and the proposed Draft Environmental Impact Statement is currently in the public comment phase. Once the comment period is over, decisions by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service could be forthcoming, paving the way for, among other things, manmade snow in Frenchman's.

If that does happen, "Frenchman's should be open earlier and close later next season," Sibbach said.

As it stands, skiers can still schuss into the Frenchman's area via either Graduate, Upper Janss Pass or Upper Can Can and then cut over on the cat track to the River Run lift, Sibbach said.

As for the closure of the Lookout lift, "It doesn't really go anywhere and no one was using it," Sibbach said.

Sun Valley Co. is now assessing snow cover and safety conditions on a daily basis.

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