Sun Valley Plans New Warm Springs Lifts

The Sun Valley Company and US Forest Service are soliciting public comments on an ambitious plan to redesign lift service on the Warm Springs side of Bald Mountain. First, a new Challenger six place chairlift is proposed to replace the aging Challenger and Greyhawk detachable quads. Challenger is no ordinary chairlift – it services more vertical than any other chair in North America – 3,142 vertical feet in nine minutes. Greyhawk runs parallel to Challenger for its first 1,488 feet of vertical. Both Lift Engineering-turned-Doppelmayr detachables date back to 1988. The wider gauge Challenger would feature a mid-unloading station at the top of the Upper Greyhawk and move 2,400 skiers per hour.

The project also includes a new Flying Squirrel/Lift A detachable quad. The original Flying Squirrel opened in 1972 and operated until February 1st, 2014, when it was destroyed by a drive terminal fire. The lift was removed the following offseason but never replaced. The A quad would follow a modified alignment, loading at the base of Warm Springs and terminating near the top of Picabo’s Street and Flying Squirrel. It would move up to 1,800 skiers per hour and provide key redundancy out of the base area. The Flying Squirrel run would be extended downhill to the bottom of Warm Springs and the new lift’s load point. New snowmaking would also be included.

If approved, both new lifts would be constructed in 2023 and open for the 2023-24 ski season. A manufacturer has not been announced. Sun Valley currently operates an all Doppelmayr fleet but the resort’s parent company recently partnered with Leitner-Poma for a new six passenger lift at Snowbasin.

Update: Both lifts will be built by Doppelmayr.


32 thoughts on “Sun Valley Plans New Warm Springs Lifts

  1. 208 Skier August 2, 2022 / 11:18 am

    I’d like to think this has D-Line bubble lift all over it, but that new Leitner Poma lift at Snowbasin gives me pause. Just happy they are putting in a lift instead of another gondola!

    The Flying Squirrel replacement is a home run as well! Much more useful than the current Greyhawk lift!


  2. UpperDynamo August 2, 2022 / 12:05 pm

    The amount of VTFH (vertical transport feet per hour) at Sun Valley is ridiculous. Has to be the most in the world per number of total lifts.


  3. Scott Abraham August 2, 2022 / 12:10 pm

    I am in SV, had breakfast at the resort with a couple managers, and this is the first I heard of it. Good reporting. No surprise on Challenger, makes sense, and Greyhawk doesn’t get much traffic. Squirrel is the surprise.

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  4. El Chapo August 2, 2022 / 2:19 pm

    Wouldn’t a gondola make more sense for a challenger replacement given the distance covered and ride time for weather protection and comfort?


    • Donald Reif August 2, 2022 / 3:56 pm

      It’s going to be a lapping lift, so better to just stick to a chairlift instead of a gondola.


      • 208 Skier August 2, 2022 / 5:38 pm

        Yeah, I’d be surprised if this wasn’t a D-Line with bubbles and/or seat heaters. It’s an important lift, so I think they’ll go all-out. I’m sure Flying Squirrel will be a standard HSQ

        Liked by 1 person

        • Donald Reif August 4, 2022 / 7:46 am

          Not that Flying Squirrel won’t be important, since one will be able to bypass the summit of Bald Mountain entirely on their way over to Seattle Ridge and Broadway.


        • Peter Landsman August 5, 2022 / 8:26 am

          Both are going to be D-Line according to Sun Valley. No bubbles or heated seats.


        • 208 Skier September 10, 2022 / 12:53 pm

          I had missed your update Peter. If both are going to be D-Line, does that mean Flying Squirrel will be a 6-pack? I thought Doppelmayr only made 6 or 8 person chairs for the D-Line. Or does this mean they will now offer 4 seat versions?

          I’m a little surprised they passed on bubbles/seat heat, but I guess Sun Valley prefers the simplicity/lower maintenance that comes with skipping these options.


    • Billuh August 2, 2022 / 8:35 pm

      This place isn’t called Puking With Snow and Terrible Weathers Valley.


    • Mark Reitinger November 30, 2022 / 7:09 pm

      If there was a world class Hotel on top of Baldy it would make sense…..


  5. Ryan Murphy August 2, 2022 / 8:17 pm

    This seems really well thought out. The bulk of traffic was on Challenger when I skied SV, and the Flying Squirrel area seemed underused. This should solve both problems, without losing the Greyhawk area or adding too much traffic to this side. The only potential problem I see is the amount of traffic on Lower Warm Springs.


    • Donald Reif August 4, 2022 / 7:45 am

      Greyhawk’s problem has always been that you can’t access any other lifts from it besides itself and Challenger.


  6. Ryan August 4, 2022 / 4:43 am

    I’m excited to hear that the Squirrel will be re-born bigger and better. Glad to see ongoing improvements at Sun Valley


  7. Donald Reif August 4, 2022 / 11:19 am

    Flying Squirrel is straightforward, and seems like it will be about 5,800 feet long.

    Challenger’s going to be more interesting, simply because of the mid-unload that will be used to access Greyhawk’s trails, and the fact that I think that area will probably need some regrading.


  8. jw07 August 5, 2022 / 9:56 am

    The resort needs to build a lift with mid
    station up-load. The bottom half of this huge steep 3,100’ face gets melt freeze conditions and is in the shade most of the season. The snow conditions are very poor for 1,500’ vertical many days.

    The new lift set up needs a mid station up-load to allow skiers to ski the best snow conditions.


  9. skitheeast August 8, 2022 / 12:52 am

    I really like the Challenger move. Making it a modern D-Line six with a mid station to effectively replace itself and Greyhawk is a fantastic decision.

    In my opinion, the Flying Squirrel replacement is not in the correct alignment. Any terrain worth lapping on the bottom half of the mountain is off of Greyhawk, which will now be accessible via Challenger’s mid station. However, there is fantastic terrain on the upper half of Warm Springs that will still require a top to bottom Challenger lap. Additionally, as other people have correctly mentioned, the snow quality can rapidly decrease towards the bottom in poor snow years. Therefore, an ideal lift would keep Flying Squirrel’s original bottom location and have a top terminal adjacent to the top of Challenger. This would keep skiers up on the mountain instead of making everyone go down to Warm Springs. Sun Valley’s proposal of having a second lift out of Warm Springs only really makes sense if the resort had long lines at the base, but this is Sun Valley not Vail and that is really not an issue.


    • ShangRei Garrett August 8, 2022 / 6:45 pm

      Part of the reason to have a second lift out of the base area (regardless of what ski area it is) is to have redundancy in case one of the lifts goes down.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Donald Reif August 20, 2022 / 6:27 am

        Which is something Flying Squirrel could do, but Greyhawk can’t, because Greyhawk ends at a point where one can’t get over to any of the other lifts except itself and Challenger.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Bill Miles August 19, 2022 / 2:38 pm

    The local paper is now stating that the new lift will be 5 minutes quicker than existing, which is stated as 13 minutes. Don’t think this is correct as the existing lift is 10-11 and I don’t see how the new one could be quicker.


    • Ben Eminger August 19, 2022 / 4:12 pm

      When I skied SV in March of 2021 I stayed at the Warm Springs side & started all 3 days heading to the top on Challenger, I filmed/timed it at 10mins flat at 905fpm, a respectable speed for a lift as old as Challenger. Realistically if Challenger 2.0 runs at 1,100 or 1,200 (using the existing length) it would have a ride time of roughly 8:15 or 7:36. Still a decent change/decrease in ride time but not 5 mins, closer to 1-1.5 mins faster as it’s a 9-minute ride at top speed currently.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Myles Svec August 19, 2022 / 7:50 pm

          Plus if the lift goes 1,100 to 1,200 Fpm I’m pretty sure Doppelmayr now requires lifts they build that fast must have auto locking bars and that might add more time in the terminal too.


        • Donald Reif March 16, 2023 / 9:10 am

          I think the midstation will add maybe 30-40 seconds? 🤔


  11. Carlo August 20, 2022 / 8:35 pm

    Have the new lifts been approved yet?


    • ShangRei Garrett April 11, 2023 / 4:17 pm

      I’m no expert, but if I had to guess, I’d say it’s because the outlet (I’m not sure of any of the technical terms) and maintenance rail are at the top, and there’s not really a way to get chairs out of the contour at the bottom. Not to mention that there might not be enough space between the day lodge and the lift at the bottom to fit a crane.


    • Butterside April 11, 2023 / 5:24 pm

      Maybe they are removing the chairs from the top so they can be easily transferred over to Christmas to replace the teardrop chairs? I hope I am wrong!


    • 208 Skier April 11, 2023 / 6:32 pm

      The maintenance rail is at the top on that lift. The way the base is wedged next to the lodge leaves no room at the bottom. I don’t know if it really makes that big of difference anyway, especially since the top is closer to the boneyard. Greyhawk, the other lift being replaced, is the opposite with the rail at the bottom.

      I don’t know what’s more impressive… how much work has already been done dismantling Challenger (River Run side of the mountain is still open) or how fast Peter updated the site to show it as a former lift.


      • julestheshiba April 12, 2023 / 12:15 pm

        I wonder if Sinclair is also getting started on Demoisey over at snowbasin. That one is going to be a challange with this much snow.


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