Sun Valley Resort has pushed back its expansion plans for Bald Mountain another season.
The company filed a new route for the replacement chairlift out of Cold Springs with the U.S. Forest Service earlier this month, triggering a new assessment by that agency and the BLM, which share stewardship of the area.
That means the 380-acre expansion into Turkey Bowl and Cold Springs chutes, two popular out-of-bounds zones off Seattle Ridge, will have to wait until the 2020-21 season, according to the timeline on the company’s website.
Sun Valley spokeswoman Kelli Lusk declined to explain the reasons for the change.
“We have not made any formal announcement,” Lusk told the Idaho Mountain Express. “We’ll have more information as we go along.”
Zach Poff, recreation and winter sports program manager at the Ketchum Ranger Station, said Forest Service staff will begin its analysis of the proposed path in coordination with the BLM after the snow melts.
“Once we get a proposal, we look at it on the ground,” he said. “We can’t say what the timeline will be until we get out there and look.”
Poff described the new application as a “slight” shift.
“It’s not a drastic change,” he said. “My understanding is it’s better for lift maintenance, and just a more desirable alignment. It’s up to them, and what they want when they submit a proposal. It’s our job to analyze the effects.”
The new chair is the centerpiece of the project, replacing a fixed-grip double built in 1970 with a high-speed detachable quad. The original design, which the Forest Service and BLM approved in April 2018, showed a 5,500-foot lift picking up riders about two-thirds of a mile farther down the drainage than the current lift, fed by an extension of Lower Broadway. From there, it rose 1,545 feet across the hillside, dropping off directly at Roundhouse, rather than at the base of the Christmas lift.
In all, the upgrade would add about 500 feet of vertical and double capacity, to about 2,400 people per hour, according to estimates in a Forest Service report issued last year.
This marks at least the second delay for the project, which was initially approved as an amendment to Sun Valley’s master development plan for the leased federal land in 2007. During an open house in April 2017, Ketchum District Ranger Kurt Nelson told the Mountain Express that the company hoped to have the lift running for the 2018-19 ski season.
Though the proposed expansion is not currently open to inbounds skiing, it is inside the boundary of Sun Valley Resort’s federally permitted use area. Opening the new terrain will increase the skiable acreage of Bald Mountain by nearly 20 percent.
In the meantime, guests can tour the proposed terrain with ski patrollers and instructors. Groups meet at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, weather permitting. Reservations through the Sun Valley SnowSports desk are required.