A planned $12 million gondola ski lift could become a gold mine for this old silver-mining town, the project's builders say.

"I'm not sure you really understand what can happen here," architect George Olson of Provo, Utah, told Silver Valley businessmen on Thursday. Olson is designing the base and top stations for the 3-mile-long gondola."You have an opportunity here, and if you have the vision, you won't find a chance like this in a million somewhere else," Olson said.

Olson and Von Roll Transport Systems officials said the Swiss tram company's plans to expand Kellogg's Silverhorn Ski Area with new runs and the federally funded gondola will open skiing terrain up that will rival the best hills in the nation. It also could bring as many as 5,000 skiers and tourists a day to the depressed mining community.

"It's as good a snow as you'll find anywhere in the world," Von Roll chief engineer Gregg Cloward said of Silverhorn's powder. "The skiing will be better than Sun Valley or Vail."

They explained their plans to 250 people at the best-attended Kellogg Chamber of Commerce meeting since the Bunker Hill smelter closed nearly eight years ago, chamber officials said.

Olson urged business leaders to stress quality in their alpine theme remodeling efforts downtown.

Kellogg also should consider ways to attract tourists to the area in the summer, he said. One possibility would be to install an outdoor amphitheater near the mountaintop where summer theater can be performed, he said. Sundance ski resort near Provo, owned by actor Robert Redford, has enjoyed immense summer success with such a scheme, he said.