Les Otten Back in the Ski Business

Former ASC chief confirms partnership in defunct Balsams Resort hotel and ski area, with plans to reopen in the works.
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Former ASC chief confirms partnership in defunct Balsams Resort hotel and ski area, with plans to reopen in the works.
Balsams tout

The Manchester Union Leader confirmed that Les Otten, the former president of defunct Eastern ski-area conglomerate American Skiing Co., is part of a team of developers working to re-open The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in far-northern New Hampshire.

The hotel and neighboring 1,000-vertical-foot ski area—known for scenic beauty, high-end dining and service, and family friendly ski terrain—have been dormant for three winters. The Union Leader reports that some 300 jobs—especially precious in the beautiful but economically challenged Dixville Notch region of New Hampshire—were lost when the resort ceased operations.

Otten, who got his start at Killington Resort with S-K-I Ltd. (Killington, Pico, Sunday River and others) was dispatched by S-K-I president Pres Smith to run Sunday River in Newry, Maine. The rest is history: He eventually became owner of Sunday River, then quickly built an empire of ski resorts that included most of the S-K-I properties as well as Sugarbush, Vt., and The Canyons, Utah, Heavenly, Calif., and Steamboat, Colo.

A series of poor winters brought down Otten and his heavily leveraged ASC. The final resort—The Canyons—was sold off in 2008. Otten, an avid baseball fan, went on to become a part owner of the Boston Red Sox and also made an unsuccessful bid as a Republican candidate for the Maine governor’s office.

The Balsams, one of the few remaining beauties of New Hampshire’s “grand hotel” era, was purchased by two former employees—Dan Dagesse and Dan Hebert—in 2011. Otten told the Union Leader that Dagesse and Hebert approached him last year about a potential partnership in the Balsams project, and that they accepted his proposal last week. As yet, there is no firm timeline for a re-opening of New Hampshire northernmost ski area. 

“It’s still in the very early stages,” said Otten spokesman (and former ASC communications director) Skip King. “There are still lots of moving pieces that have to come together to determine whether this will move forward or not. There are some interesting possibilities, but that’s where it stands right now.” 

(photo by B. Reynolds via Flickr)