Baker County has no business getting into the ski resort business.
Not permanently, anyway.
But the idea that the county could step in to prevent Ski Anthony Lakes, Baker County's only downhill ski area, from closing, perhaps for good, is a different matter.
Fred Warner Jr., chairman of the County Board of Commissioners, got it right when he said last week that the county "has agreed to look really hard" at a proposal from the ski area's current owners to transfer their Forest Service lease, along with the ski lift and other facilities they own, to the county.
Another of Warner's statements was equally on target: "We haven't agreed to anything yet."
Ski Anthony Lakes is an important cog in Baker County's winter economy.
Because the business lacks overnight lodging, visiting skiers stay in
local motels and patronize local restaurants and other businesses.
The resort pays property taxes on its buildings, too (the land itself,
which is part of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, is publicly owned
and so exempt from taxes).
Nonetheless, the county's taxpayers should not subsidize the resort's operation.
Ideally, the current owners will find a private buyer.
But if such a deal isn't forthcoming, the proposal to have the county take over for at least one season is worth considering.
Summer hasn't even started, it's true, but snow could start stacking up in the mountains less than four months from now.
If Ski Anthony doesn't operate this coming winter, then the business is likely to be even less attractive to potential buyers.
One missed winter, to put it another way, could doom the ski area for good.
If Baker County can prevent that, and do so without diverting any of
the taxpayers' dollars into a venture none of them has voted to invest
in, then this deal might be one worth doing.