If you have hiked, biked, skied or snowboarded on Bald Mountain, particularly on the River Run side in and around the Frenchmen’s runs, you may have noticed some unhealthy looking trees. The culprits? Douglas-fir beetles (the population exacerbated by wildfires in the region over the past decade or so) and parasitic dwarf mistletoe.
In a newly announced measure, Sun Valley with the Ketchum Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service is undertaking measures to manage certain forest stands on the mountain. A large-scale tree-thinning project was started in June and will continue for a few years. The aim is to reduce insect and disease infestation, improve forest health and growing conditions, enhance tree species diversity and reduce fuel loading from dead and dying trees.
An intended consequence of this work will also benefit recreationalists on Baldy. In addition to creating healthier and more fire-safe forests, the work will carve out new glade skiing. By next winter, you will be able to dip into large gladed areas, find amazing pockets of powder and enjoy new terrain consisting of open grown park-like stand conditions. Sounds pretty glorious on a hot summer’s day, doesn’t it?
The Sawtooth National Forest, USDA Forest Service and USDI Bureau of Land Management have authority over the 3,332 acre playground we call the Bald Mountain Ski Area. All entities are involved with Sun Valley Company in making this a successful endeavor.
Sun Valley’s tip-top mountain operations staff will complete the work. This involves employing, for the first time, a track hoe with a special blade. This “masticator” blade meets the challenges of Baldy’s steep slopes and can quickly bring down trees with a 14-inch diameter or less, turning trees into compost where they lie. Kerry O’Brien, grooming trail crew manager for Baldy for 30 years, is operating the special blade and is on the search for the healthiest looking trees to preserve while taking out the dead wood.
All work will be done under the standard of Best Management Practices, reducing impacts to soil, wildlife and healthy vegetation and will affect 182 acres of timbered stands over a three to five year period.
By summer’s end, work on about 25 acres in Frenchmen’s will be complete.
With this concerted effort, Baldy will stay a verdant green in summer and boast a healthier tree population year-round. There will also be a little more white to play in during the winter. It’s a win-win!