Friday, April 27, 2007

Dollar Mountain lifts go modern

Quarter Dollar and main Dollar ski lifts could be replaced for next season

Express Staff Writer

Dollar Mountain is going modern.

The Sun Valley Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved Sun Valley Co.'s design review application Thursday, April 26, for the replacement of the existing Quarter Dollar and main Dollar ski lifts with new detachable Doppelmayr Uni-G quad lifts.

The plan is to have the new lifts installed, tested and approved for use by opening day of the 2007-2008 ski season. Sun Valley Co. is expected to apply for a demolition permit to remove the existing lifts by early next week.

The two new lifts will run "in the same general path as the existing lifts," said city of Sun Valley Community Development Director Mark Hofman.

The lifts will feature the latest in lift technology with new child enhanced restraint bars, straps to enable children to lower the restraint bar, and tertiary as well as stand-by diesel engines to increase reliability.

The wheelhouse, the main structure of the lifts, will measure approximately 60 feet in length. This is about 20 feet longer than the existing structures.

The commission appeared in accord over the benefits of the proposed project. The color of the lifts and the best way to alleviate their visual impacts, on the other hand, received a fair amount of discussion.

"The question we face is whether to blend them for summer or for winter," said Wally Huffman, general manager for Sun Valley Co. "On Baldy we pretty much went with white."

The biggest concern is the visibility of the lifts on Dollar's summit to Highway 75 drivers coming north, as well as to homeowners located south of the mountain.

"When you see the lifts from that vantage point, you don't associate it with a ski lift," Huffman said.

The commission will set up a committee to investigate which color scheme works best. It will look at white, green, blue or a combination to blend the elements as much as possible with the surrounding terrain.

There also is survey work to be done to ensure the operator shack and wheelhouse for Quarter Dollar lift adheres to the 35-foot setback from the bike path along Elkhorn Road that Outdoor Recreation zoning requires. It doesn't appear to be a problem, since Sun Valley Co. will have between 50 and 80 feet to work with.

Sun Valley Co. has raised the idea of adding lights to Dollar Mountain for evening skiing and other activities, Huffman said. When snowmaking was added to Dollar, electricity was effectively spread across the area potentially allowing for lights. However, this is not part of this application process.

"I feel this needs to be a separate discussion ... to allow for greater opportunity for public participation," Huffman said.

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