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Ski Resort Life

East Update: December 2000


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Academy Buys in to Burke’s Future

“At that purchase price, it’d make a nice house lot,” Burke Mountain Academy headmaster Kirk Dwyer noted wryly. He’s referring to the ski area on which the Vermont race academy relies¿the one that sold for just $300,000 at a foreclosure auction in September. (Attached real estate brought another $1.5 million separately.)

So the academy took matters into its own hands, buying out the successful bidder in order to ensure its future as a ski area¿not some rich guy’s 660-acre second-home lot (or worse, a paper company’s next clear-cut). Board members intend only to husband the property until a buyer is found who intends to run it as a ski area.

And the sooner that happens, the better: “We don’t want to be in the ski-area business,” Dwyer said. But the academy believes it can find a buyer who does. “There was interest shown at the auction by qualified people who intended to operate the ski area, but they weren’t able to move within the given timeframe and be able to open for the season.” Meanwhile, the academy will ensure that the lifts and lift permits are maintained and the trails mowed. Just as important, Burke’s students¿any one of whom could be the next Dianne Roffe, Julie Parisien or Erik Schlopy¿have a place to train, if only on the poma slope.

What remained to be seen at press time was whether Burke¿a true skier’s mountain, with 2,000 gnarly verts in Vermont’s beautiful Northeast Kingdom¿would open to the public this winter. The academy was studying its financial liability and gauging local support. For the latest, call 802-626-3305. ¿Joe Cutts

Ascutney Gives it Away to Third-Graders
Another reason to be 9 again: free skiing. Ascutney Mountain, Vt., this year offers free season passes to all Vermont and New Hampshire third-graders. This season Ascutney adds 270 vertical feet with a high-speed quad to North Peak. ¿J.C.

Tucks Friends to the Rescue
Alarmed by U.S. Forest Service budget cuts that threatened to erode the Tuckerman Ravine skiing and hiking experience, two avid outdoorsmen took matters into their own hands. Veteran guide Al Risch and Forest Service Snow Ranger Brad Ray organized a new nonprofit group, Friends of Tuckerman.

To launch the effort, members raised $3,300 to buy new radios for the Snow Rangers, who conduct searches and rescues in the famed spring ski bowl. Future plans include the first-ever “Tuckerman Son of the Inferno Pentathlon,” a running-kayaking-biking-skiing event tentatively scheduled to be held April 22, with proceeds used to study the feasibility of drilling for potable water in the ravine. For information, visit; email or call 603-356-0131. ¿Tom Eastman

Historians, Tightwads Mourn Dorm
After more than 50 years of housing skiers on the cheap, the Vermont State Ski Dorm quietly closed at the beginning of November. Built in 1933, mostly of materials found on-site, the Dorm originally housed the Civilian Conservation Corps workers who cut Vermont’s first trails. Later it became one of ski country’s best deals. For about $20 per night, guests got a bunk in the charismatic building, socialized with other guests in front of the big brick fireplace, ate home-cooked meals and awoke just steps from the slopes of Stowe. But renovations required to bring the building up to code would have cost some $460,000, which the state couldn’t justify spending. Bargain hunters can still rent the nearby Smugglers Notch State Park Ranger’s House, which sleeps 12 for $175-$275 a night. ¿J.C.

New Managers High on Blue Hills
From the top of Blue Hills ski area, the skyline of Boston seems so close you could touch it, and for years, young skiers have been able to hop the MBTA for a few runs at the edge of the city. But the urban area has fallen on hard times under what has been described as indiffereent management.That could change. The owners of Ragged Mountain, N.H., have been awarded a one-year contract to operate state-owned Blue Hills. They hope to see that extended well into the future. The 320-vertical-foot mountain, whose previous managers filed for Chapter 7, will receive immediate upgrades: snowmaking, groomers, improved lighting, a revamped rental shop and a new handle-tow for the terrain park. There’ll be after-school and night-racing programs, and plenty of incentives to attract Blue Hills skiers to Ragged, about two hours north. If the energetic new managers can effect a turnaround similar to Ragged’s, folks will be bumping in Bean Town for years to come. ¿J.C.

Otten Remains at ASC Helm
First Oak Hill Capital Partners came in with $150 million last year toacquire a 48 percent interest in American Skiing Co. Now the investment group has purchased the right to buy another $15 million worth of stock¿enough to acquire a controlling share of the company¿plus the right to appoint a majority of ASC board members. So is Les Otten losing a grip on the company that he founded, expanded to nine resorts and took public?

He remains the chief executive officer of ASC as the cash-strapped resort conglomerate awaits payoff on several highly leveraged real-estate investments. But it now appears he answers to authorities higher than himself.

“He’s still in charge,” said one ASC stock analyst, “but he can’t make any big-deal moves without asking Oak Hill first.” ¿J.C.

For the record
In the SKI East “Reader Resort Survey 2001” (October 2000), the Sunbrook area of Mount Snow, Vt., was incorrectly identified as Sunnybrook. Also, the Carinthia Lodge is not located at Haystack Mountain as stated.