Bruce Willis, mountain enthusiast and current owner of the Soldier Mountain ski area near Fairfield, Idaho may soon be handing over whole operation including the resort and all its assets. The film star has told Camas County officials of his interest in “gifting” the area to a local nonprofit organization.
Willis has owned the ski hill since the early 90’s and operates it on public land under a Forest Service special-use permit. Soldier Mountain Recreation Association (SMRA) would like to take over, but they need help from donors. They will meet tomorrow night to go over ideas that may lead to a successful, sustainable takeover.
The SMRA is dedicated to expanding the outdoor lifestyle in South Central Idaho. Their goal is to “preserve the family values, legacies and heritage of Soldier Mountain Ski Area, while exploring opportunities to provide education, expand recreation options and upgrade quality of service, for the benefit of the general public.”
“If we can get our ducks in a row, seek sponsors and new members, we would like to transfer the Forest Service permit and continue operations,” John Palan told, a long-time Soldier Mountain employee and member of the Soldier Mountain Recreation Association steering committee.
Palan, who began working as a lift attendant and now operates a social networking site for Soldier Mountain, said the ski area has been “operating at a loss for a number of years.”
Ted Beeler, president of SE Group, a ski area planning and design firm hired in 2006 to prepare a master development plan for Soldier Mountain, pointed out that the change in ownership to a nonprofit could affect the ski area in immeasurable ways.
Beeler, Willis, Palan, and other members of the Soldier Mountain Recreation Association have been strategizing about how to make it sustainable since last fall.
Right now, 30 ski areas in the U.S. operate as nonprofits.
A former Fairfield farmer, Bob Frostenson and his friend Harry Durall established Soldier Mountain decades ago. The first lifts they built were two towropes powered by a 1938 Chevy engine. The area has come a long way since that time and now spans 1,150 acres of in-bound terrain and has three lifts with access to a vertical rise of 1,425 feet.
Willis is unloading his other properties in Idaho, as well. He has also put his cabin on Lake Pettit on the market for $15 million, complete with a guesthouse, gym, pool, and waterslides. His is selling his local bar and nightclub, The Mint, for $4 million.