Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Work begins on Baldy

Foundations for gondola in ground

Express Staff Writer

Dead "hazard trees" were removed from the Warm Springs side of Bald Mountain this spring since they posed a threat to the Challenger lift line. The trees were casualties of a spot fire during the 2007 Castle Rock Fire. Other work taking place on Baldy includes the installation of foundations for gondola lift towers at the base of River Run on the east side of Bald Mountain. Baldy’s first gondola is scheduled to be completed in time for next ski season. Photo by Willy Cook

Sun Valley Co. didn't even wait for the snow to melt off Bald Mountain before commencing improvements for next year's ski season.

After a one-year delay, plans for the mountain's first gondola are back on track, with work on the foundations for the base towers already underway.

The eight-passenger gondola cars, manufactured by Austria-based Doppelmayr, are planned to take passengers from the southern side of the open ground behind the River Run Lodge near Ketchum to the Roundhouse restaurant, which is also scheduled for renovation.

Due to installation of the gondola, the company plans to remove the existing Exhibition chairlift, which travels from the top of the River Run lift to Roundhouse.

The gondola is part of Phase 1 of Sun Valley Co.'s Bald Mountain Master Plan, revealed in 2005. The plan was approved by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, which manage the land on which the ski area sits.

In addition to carrying skiers, the gondola will provide transportation for restaurant guests during the day and night in both winter and summer. It will carry passengers nearly 2,000 feet up Bald Mountain in less than eight minutes, according to Sun Valley Co.

The lift line for the gondola was cut last summer, with help from several Sun Valley Ski Patrol members, and was opened to skiers this winter as the Sleeping Bear run, between Roundhouse Slope and the lower Olympic cat track.

Other work that has taken place on the mountain since the ski season ended has been more safety oriented.

Peter Stearns, Sun Valley Co. assistant operations manager on Bald Mountain, said a number of burned "hazard trees" had been removed from an area between the Challenger lift and Warm Springs face, near the top of the mountain. The dead trees were removed from an area that had experienced a spot fire during the 2007 Castle Rock Fire.

"The trees could potentially threaten the lift line," Stearns said.

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