Willis bids adieu to ID ski area; locals take over

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FAIRFIELD, Idaho (AP) -- "Die Hard" star Bruce Willis is saying goodbye to a small ski area in Idaho he's owned since the 1990s -- by donating it to a nonprofit group.

Willis said he's happy with the people from Fairfield who formed a nonprofit to take over operations at Soldier Mountain, the Idaho Statesman reported Thursday (http://tinyurl.com/csbc7rs ).

The actor said in a news release that he wishes the group "the very best" now that he's exiting the scene.

"I couldn't be more pleased with the organization that will be responsible for the management of Soldier Mountain Ski Area," Willis said. "It was exciting to see that the very people who ski at Soldier care so much about its future."

Among those who formed the group to take over Soldier Mountain is Boise attorney Will Varin.

"It went from idea to execution in a matter of weeks," he said, describing how his group leaped into action in April after learning that Willis was considering donating the mountain and its three lifts that access about 1,400 vertical feet of skiing.

Varin said he grew up skiing at the mountain near Fairfield and wants to keep up the ski hill's legacy -- while revamping services including its catskiing operation.

The U.S. Forest Service is working on renewing those permits.

Skiers and boarders could take a traditional daylong backcountry catski trip, or a cat will also leave for short trips within the ski area boundaries to serve the runs that aren't served by lifts.

"It's an honor and a privilege to do it," Varin said, of taking over the mountain where he learned to love skiing. "At the end of the day, we don't own the mountain. It's a community mountain."

The mountain is still waiting for enough snow to open for the 2012-13 season. Once it gets enough, it'll be open Thursday through Sunday.