Once again, Soldier Mountain ski area north of Fairfield is for sale.
In 2012, the resort was donated by then-owner actor Bruce Willis to a local nonprofit community organization formed specifically to own and manage it. In November 2015, the organization sold it to Bend, Ore., residents Matt and Diane McFerran for $149,000—equal to the debt the organization said it had accumulated after three years of operation.
Now, the McFerrans say the mountain needs more of an investment than they can afford. Diane McFerran said the couple took out a loan when they bought the ski area.
“It’s just become clear to us that it needs more financial [input] than we thought,” McFerran said. “We’re not wealthy. We’re just not comfortable getting more of a loan.”
According to the ski area’s website, the McFerrans have made improvements to the lodge, cat skiing areas, equipment and marketing efforts. However, the website says, “To truly realize the property’s potential, Soldier needs the capital for improvements like snow-making equipment for the main runs.”
Soldier Mountain does have a snowmaking system in place. In fact, Matt McFerran told the Idaho Mountain Express last winter, it had the first snowmaking in Idaho, installed in the mid-1970s—but it hasn’t been used since the mid-1990s. He said the mountain doesn’t have any snow guns, the system’s electrical wiring has deteriorated and the water pipes need to be pressure-tested. He estimated that getting the system operating would cost about $400,000.
The ski area operates under a permit on the Sawtooth National Forest, and its assets do not include land.
In April 2017, the U.S. Forest Service approved construction of more than 7 miles of lift-served mountain-biking trails. Diane McFerran said the Forest Service has also approved construction of a bigger maintenance shop, and the area has applied for permission to use its cat-skiing yurt year-round.
“We have approval for all that—we just can’t fund it,” she said.
A new owner would have the option of keeping the McFerrans on to run day-to-day operations.
“A new owner could be as involved as they want to be,” Matt McFerran said on the website. “This is a turnkey operation. We want to see Soldier Mountain thrive, and we’re willing to help to make that happen.”
“We love Soldier,” Diane McFerran said in the interview.
She said an investment arrangement other than outright purchase of the operation might be possible, but a buyer would probably be the best solution.
She said that if the couple remains as operators of the area, they would like to reinstate the Sammis Camas Cup downhill race—a longtime tradition for Sun Valley speed lovers that was last held in March 2016. She said no one contacted them this year about staging the race.