FAIRFIELD — Wildfires raging around the Magic Valley were a common event this summer and Camas County’s Soldier Mountain Resort felt the burn firsthand.
The Phillips Fire charred a large swath of the ski area, but with optimism and enthusiasm from its new owners and current staff — and lots of hard work — the ski resort is planning to host skiers and riders very close to a traditional opening day, usually in early December.
“Let’s just say that the only thing that isn’t wiped out is the main lodge,” Soldier Mountain General Manager Paul Alden said. “We paid for the place on Thursday and it burned down on Friday. Two of the lifts are gone — the Magic Carpet lift is totally gone — it’s a melted heap of rubbish.”
Lift 1 took a lot of flame and heat from the fire, Alden said, but is in the process of being refurbished and will look similar to how it did before the fire. It will have the same towers, but everything else is being upgraded and replaced.
“We had some very major components to replace. The haul rope (steel cable) won’t get here until the first week of December,” Alden said. “The Magic Carpet won’t get here until about December 1st.”
Alden also said the cable that the 125 chairs are suspended from will be new and 1,200 chair slats are being replaced at $11 per slat. The communications line that runs the length of the lift has already been replaced along with an upgrade of the electronics. And all of the towers and lift shacks have been painted.
“We are beginning a serious spruce-up campaign,” Alden said. “We had some other plans in mind having to do with snowmaking, but the snowmaking system has been totally destroyed. But we are looking at this optimistically.”
One hundred percent of the chairs and grips were recently tested for damage on Lift 1 and all passed allowing the resort to replace the slats.
Alden said that going forward, Soldier’s cat-skiing operations will be a greater focal point for the mountain in lieu of the fire’s damage. Due to the ongoing pandemic and restrictions from it, cat-skiing will still be offered, however, single seats will no longer be sold for the 2020-21 season. Alden also said the resort is making a push to have businesses rent the mountain on days the resort is not open to the public — Monday to Wednesday.
“On the days the resort is not open, we are suggesting to say businesses, ‘Why don’t you come rent the whole mountain for your group’?” Alden said.
The fire opened up the possibility for glade skiing on the lower mountain Alden said. The loss of the stands of trees was sad but the fire burned a lot of undergrowth on the ground.
One last addition to look forward to is a terrain park for the upcoming season, something new to Soldier.
For more information about the upcoming season at Soldier Mountain, visit soldiermountain.com.