Friday, October 23, 2020
Bald Mountain Expansion to Wow Skiers with Views
Peter Stearns says Sun Valley won’t need to make much snow for Cold Springs Canyon.
Thursday, September 17, 2020


Dozens of ski lift chairs sit on the rust-colored rock at the bottom of Bald Mountain’s expanded Broadway run.

Over the next few weeks workers will outfit them with seats and seat pads and hoist them onto the new Cold Springs lift. As the chairs crest the top ridge, they will usher skiers into a breathtaking view encompassing the Seattle Ridge area and the Bowls.

“It’s a side load. Skiers will come into the lift line facing downhill. They’ll board and the chairlift will immediately turn left. As soon as they leave the base—BOOM!—they will accelerate up the hill,” said Peter Stearns, director of Mountain Operations for Sun Valley Resort.

Workers work on the machinery in the new terminal.

Stearns has been involved in numerous projects designed to improve the guest experience at Sun Valley Resort. But he couldn’t be more excited about the Bald Mountain Expansion, which will debut this upcoming winter.

The expansion will truly offer something for everyone. Advanced and expert skiers will be able to descend from the top of Seattle Ridge into Turkey Bowl to access tree skiing and steep chutes. It is, said Stearns, as steep or steeper than Limelight.

Lower and intermediate skiers will be able to cruise 2.6 miles of some of the easiest terrain on Bald Mountain as they work their way down Broadway Run to the new Cold Springs lift.

The expansion adds 380 acres of skiable terrain to the ski area, increasing its total from 2,054 to 2,434 acres. And that doesn’t include 250 additional acres on south-facing slopes that will be skiable during big snow years.

A couple workers make their way down a trail with cables for the new lift. The old Cold Springs chairlift found a new home at Dodge Ridge ski area near Yosemite National Park.

“Seattle Ridge is our bread and butter,” said Stearns. “More riders ride the Seattle lift than any other lift on the mountain.”

On Tuesday a few workers scrambled down a steep foot trail underneath lifts placed on the mountain by Blackhawk helicopters as they affixed cable to the lifts. Three additional workers worked on the machinery in the terminal at the bottom of the lift.

“This is not a small undertaking. It’s one of the largest projects we’ve done in a long time,” said Stearns. “There are so many components from addressing the forest health to rerouting the Cold Springs bike trail”

Stearns said there was talk of delaying the project due to the uncertainties caused by the COVID pandemic. But it was just talk.

Peter Stearns said the old Cold Springs chairlift was platted in 1947.

“A lot of ski areas put their capital projects on hold this year. It speaks to the Holdings’ amazing commitment to the community that they went ahead with this,” he said. “They did that, as well, with the gondola in 2009. Who else would have done that after the economic collapse in October 2008?”

The installation of the Cold Springs lift caps a process that started in 2017. That’s when Sun Valley Resort officials realized the old Cold Springs chairlift, built in 1970 and the oldest on the mountain, was due for an upgrade.

A silviculturist examined the trees in the area to determine what needed to be done to address dwarf mistletoe and fir beetle that invaded the ski area following the 2007 Castle Rock Fire, and Forest Service officials did an environmental assessment on the land contained within Sun Valley’s use permit.

Workers rerouted the Cold Springs mountain bike trail in 2018 and graded and prepared Cold Springs Canyon for the Broadway extension. Sun Valley then placed 25 highly efficient snowmaking guns along Lower Broadway and thinned trees on the slopes above the canyon 2019.

Chairlift parts, which came from Austria, Canada and Salt Lake City, sit in front of newly thinned forest.

Stearns watched a couple squirrels and chipmunks scamper through the woods clutching pinecones in their paws.

“It has enhanced pileated woodpecker habitat. I’ve seen and heard more of them than ever before. I also see a lot of deer and elk through here. It’s really improved the forest health.”

The new lift, which will be christened with a new name in a few weeks, should alleviate some of the congestion at Seattle Ridge chair, as well as the lines that take shape during Christmas and President’s Day holidays. The new chairlift can move 2,400 people an hour—twice that of the old two-seater.

Stearns pointed to piles of dirt 880 feet uphill from the lower terminal. They mark the wide spot in the canyon that was to have been the site of the terminal.

Planners had told Sun Valley officials that that was the end of the useful terrain. But it turned out that the mid-section of the proposed lift did not go through the most desirable terrain as it is devoid of snow for part of winter.

So, Sun Valley Company put the installation of the chairlift on pause for a year so they could design a new alignment that will provide a safer, more enjoyable experience for skiers and boarders.

That extended the Broadway run by 4,200 feet.

Workers hope to put the finishing touches on the project before snowfall. Bag of mulch containing broom and other drought-resistant species specified by the Forest Service sit alongside the snow guns waiting to be spread over the run.

“The project is definitely the talk of the ski world,” said Stearns. “We’ll be one of just a few to be able to say, ‘Look what’s new!’ ”


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