Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Warm Springs decline has several causes

A story in the Feb. 16 issue on the plight of Warm Springs contains a statement that "residences have progressively crowded out businesses."

I respectfully suggest that residences in Warm Springs have not crowded out businesses; instead, the businesses closed down because demand for their services evaporated. So how did it happen? The following three points are a major part of the answer.

- As Sun Valley Co. developed its wonderful lodges on Baldy, the food service business in Warm Springs all but disappeared. Skiers simply preferred the food services available on the mountain to the local restaurants.

- When Sun Valley Co. installed its incredible high-speed quad lifts, snowmaking and grooming on Baldy, the après-ski business all but disappeared. Our aging skiers no longer ski all day and then party all evening—instead they ski for three hours and go home.

- The short-term rental market in Warm Springs has nearly collapsed. That's due in large part to residential development in west Ketchum. The condos in Warm Springs cannot compete with the newer, larger and more elegant units between downtown and River Run.

Of course there are other relevant issues, but these changes on Baldy and in west Ketchum are the major events that led to the closing down of businesses in Warm Springs. These changes were not related to the economy, as they predated the economic downturn. On the bright side, we luckily still have Apple's, Sturtevants, Irving's hotdogs and the best ski hill in the country.

I do agree with the recent article that there is an opportunity for development in Warm Springs. That opportunity rests with Sun Valley Co. and the 46 acres it owns at the base of the mountain. When the time is right for a new hotel, Earl will build it.

George Bailey


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