A $750,000 investment by Pomerelle ski resort owners has brought smiles to the faces of southern Idaho skiers and has area businesses looking forward to an economic shot in the arm.

Woody and Sandy Anderson, owners of the winter recreation area south of Burley, opened a new triple chairlift on Thanksgiving day. It replaces a double chair built about 20 years ago to serve the major portion of Pomerelle.The new lift's capacity of 1,200 skiers per hour is about double the previous skier delivery capability. The 4,400-foot-long lift also can be used during severe weather because its upper terminal and unloading ramp are several hundred feet below the location of its predecessor.

Anderson said that will keep skiers in the shelter of the tree line and away from the bare, windswept upper reaches of Mount Harrison.

The resort still has the shorter double chair for beginner and low intermediate runs.

Part of the credit for the new facility goes to last year's record season at Pomerelle, said Jody Anderson, daughter of the owners and the resort's manager.

"Even though we did not open for the season until Dec. 4, and missed the Thanksgiving holiday business, we set an all-time record for skier days," she said.

Blessed with an abundance of snow when some resorts were unable to open, Pomerelle attracted skiers from throughout southern Idaho and parts of northern Utah and other states.

Business leaders in the Burley area are happy with the expansion.

Bill Schafer, Burley Chamber of Commerce executive director, said most Burley and Rupert area businesses benefit from skiing.

"It isn't just the ski shop, but it brings a lot of dollars into our community from other counties and states, during winter's sometimes slow business months," Schafer said. "Last year we had a lot of skiers coming into our town because we had about the earliest and best skiing around. Those outside dollars help a lot."

Anderson, who has owned Pomerelle since 1973, said small resorts such as his are a growing segment of the ski industry.

"We produce the skiers that not only return again and again to our own slopes, but we produce the skiers who go on to support the large resorts across the country," he said.

The electric drive on the new Pomerelle lift, which has a 940-foot vertical rise, can be increased to carry 1,800 skiers per hour, Anderson said.

A downhill loading feature allows people to ride to the top in summer or winter to view the valley below Mount Harrison. Anderson said he plans to cut additional ski runs to the east of the lift and to increase summer recreational uses at Pomerelle.