FAIRFIELD – Soldier Mountain Ski Area may be closed for the season, but a group of nine Fairfield residents are already discussing major changes to the home-town resort for next winter.
The ski hill operates with two chairlifts, includes a variety of terrain, and is owned by actor Bruce Willis.
In recent years, Willis has been trying to sell off his Idaho properties -- including Soldier Mountain -- but has met with little success. However, that could soon change because Willis has reportedly said he wants to gift the ski area to the right non-profit management group.
Fairfield resident and former Soldier Mountain employee John Palan likes that idea.
Palan is part of a fact-finding group called Soldier Mountain Recreation Association. He says the group's elected members are working hard to organize and reach a nonprofit status to keep the quaint ski hill up and running.
“The benefits of that are a number of things,” Palan told KTVB. “It reduces some operating costs, opens up some other avenues of funding and sponsorship.”
Palan said about a year ago, Willis' management group Soldier Mountain Developments hired a Seattle Consulting firm called SE Group to place the ski area in the right hands.
“I think there is a realization that the [local] economy is dependent in a lot of ways on the recreation that happens up on Soldier Mountain,” said Palan.
Chris Bradley is just one of the many local business owners who depend on the winter crowds that gather at Soldier Mountain.
Bradley says that when the ski season is booming, he welcomes more customers to his Soldier Creek Mountain Brewery, which sits just down the road from the ski area on Soldier Road.
“It increases business 50% probably,” Bradley said. “Those three or four months make up a lot of revenue for the community here."
However, members of the Soldier Mountain Recreation Association say that with a nonprofit status, Soldier Mountain could attract even more business. The group has ideas that include future expansions into forest service lands and increased snow activities like backcountry skiing and snow cat operations.
“We are hoping that people love Soldier Mountain and this area enough that they want to be involved and have a lasting legacy that they were a part of,” said Palan.
The Soldier Mountain Recreation Association has a long road ahead of it. While the group has already filed to become a nonprofit with the state of Idaho, ,members say the next step is getting a 501(c) 3 status with the IRS. They hope to take control of operations by next winter.
For now, the group is asking community members for more sponsorship and encouraging involvement.
The Soldier Mountain Recreation Association will meets again on Thursday, April 5th in Fairfield at the American Legion at 6 p.m.