Winter Recreation

Idaho ski area is back on the market. ‘More capital and resources’ needed, owners say.

“Side country” skiing at Soldier Mountain in Fairfield, Idaho

Steve Mitchell of Soldier Mountain explains the "side country" skiing options at the ski area. That's backcountry-style skiing that's in bounds. "It takes a five- to 10-minute hike to have untouched powder the week after a storm."
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Steve Mitchell of Soldier Mountain explains the "side country" skiing options at the ski area. That's backcountry-style skiing that's in bounds. "It takes a five- to 10-minute hike to have untouched powder the week after a storm."

Three years after it last changed hands, Soldier Mountain Ski Area is back on the market.

According to Diane McFerran, who owns the Idaho ski operation along with her husband, Matt, Soldier Mountain has been looking for a buyer or investor since last fall through an East Coast broker. This week, the McFerrans decided to represent themselves as they continue to look for possible business partners or successors.

“We know Soldier well. We love Soldier, and we can really talk with potential buyers about the potential of this mountain and its growth and future,” Diane told the Statesman in a phone interview Wednesday. “I’m not sure a person from the East Coast who’s never been to Soldier can answer those questions.”

Diane said they’re asking $800,000 for the resort.

The Oregon couple purchased the Fairfield-area business in November 2015 for $149,000 at auction. According to their former representative’s website, the McFerrans invested $600,000 of their own funds into Soldier Mountain.

“It was very public during that auction and bidding war that (Soldier) was sold for $149,000 four seasons ago,” Diane said, “but that wasn’t a very fair price to advertise it as.“

Diane said the auction price didn’t include vital features, such as snowcats and grooming equipment, and infrastructure needed to run the resort. The $800,000 asking price would include all the upgrades the McFerrans have made, including a magic carpet lift and approval from the Forest Service, which leases land to Soldier, to have downhill mountain biking and year-round yurt access in the area.

“(The asking price) is for the turnkey operation,” Diane said.

She said Soldier needs a few other additions to help it fully achieve its potential.

“Soldier’s a very cool mountain in that it’s got stuff for beginners and families,” Diane said. “What we need to move forward is some snowmaking and some summer operations, both of which are doable.”



diane1
Diane McFerran and her husband, Matt, purchased Soldier Mountain Ski Area in late 2015. “This community is blessed that they came with a dream that matches our dream,” longtime Soldier Mountain skier Jenny Koski said. Chadd Cripe ccripe@idahostatesman.com

The McFerrans have offered to stay on-site under a new owner, with Diane continuing her role as lodge manager and Matt continuing his as mountain manager.

“We feel like we’ve connected well with the community, and if someone doesn’t run the day-to-day, we’d be happy to stay on,” Diane said. “I know that when we bought it four seasons ago, that was something that was common in other potential buyers. Most people wanted to buy it but not run it.”

Diane said several Idahoans have expressed interest in backing or buying the resort, and interested buyers were on the mountain Wednesday from out of state.

“I see so much potential for this mountain for someone with more capital and resources than what Matt and I have to put into this area,” Diane said. “If someone was able to move forward with all our approved plans, it would be very beneficial for the mountain. I think the return would be there.”

The ski area opened in 1947 and once was owned by actor Bruce Willis. The McFerrans purchased it from a non-profit that was set up to run the ski area, emerging from a group of about 100 interested buyers.

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Nicole Blanchard is the Idaho Statesman’s outdoors reporter. She grew up in Idaho, graduated from Idaho State University and Northwestern University and frequents the trails around Boise as much as she can.
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