Ski East News: December 1997


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Most Eligible Bachelor
Mason Dwinell is not interested in becoming the next Les Otten-at least not right now. But the new owner of Vermont’s Bolton Valley is following Otten’s lead.

Otten, CEO of the American Skiing Co., purchased his first resort when he was 30. Dwinell, 27, bought his first one last summer, making him the youngest resort owner in the U.S.

A native Vermonter who competed in Nordic combined for the U.S. Ski Team’s development squad, Dwinell paid $2.5 million for the insolvent resort. “I started looking around for a resort in May. I did my homework and everything came to fruition in August,” says Dwinell, who graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in political science.

Dwinell says he’s not trying to compete with ASC’s New England resorts, nor does he intend to buy any others. His primary focus will be getting Bolton back on stable footing after being strapped with as much as $5 million in debt. In an effort to draw families and local skiers back to the resort, Dwinell has slashed ticket prices $6 this season.

Dwinell is financing the purchase through family investments and the Lyndonville Savings Bank & Trust, which foreclosed on the resort in April. The bank talked with eight groups interested in Bolton-Otten was not among them-before settling on Dwinell, says Dan Yates, senior vice president of the Lyndonville bank.

“At first we didn’t take him seriously. But when we met him, we could see that he has a lot of energy and enthusiasm,” says Yates. “He impressed us with his general smarts and with the questions he asked. He’s poised to do quite well.”
-Brian Metzler

Free Ride
The new snowtubing craze is fun for kids, but adults prefer an even bigger rush. Experience the thrill of luging this winter-for free-at six Northeast ski resorts. In an effort to develop one of the Winter Olympics’ fastest sports (competitive lugers reach speeds of 90 mph), Bell Atlantic and USA Luge will set up banked tracks on which skiers can try lightweight luge-like sleds. Amateur riders are expected to sweep down the banked tracks at speeds up to 20 mph. The fastest racer each day will win a trip to Lake Placid, N.Y., and make a run down the 1980 Olympic luge track. By the way, though the sport originated in Norway more than 500 years ago, “luge” means “sled” in French.

Luge sites: Okemo Mt., Vt.-Jan. 10-11; Ski Windham, N.Y.-Jan. 24-25; Whiteface Mt., N.Y.-Jan. 31-Feb. 1; Stratton Mt., Vt.-Feb. 14-15; Waterville Valley, N.H.-Feb. 27-March 1; Whitetail, Penn.-March 7-8.

Vernon Valley Back In Business
After closing its summer theme park and enduring several tumultuous years of bankruptcy actions and lawsuits, Vernon Valley/Great Gorge, N.J., is expected to reopen for the ski season. CS First Boston Bank assumed ownership of the New York metro area’s largest ski resort in early October. Bill Benneyan, the resort’s general manager for the past three years admits the area was in need of a quick shape up but declared, “We will be open for skiing.” Benneyan claims the new owner is shopping for new lifts and snowmaking equipment but cautioned that skiers shouldn’t expect much until next season for which he predicted “huge changes.”Meanwhile, it appears that Great Gorge South-the smallest of the three peaks that comprise the resort-will not open this season because the lifts need significant work.

Ironically, nearby Hidden Valley is said to be rooting for its adversary to open, fearing their small area won’t be able to handle the demand for skiing.
-Pat Turner Kavanaugh

The Taxman Cometh
Skiers expecting to fork over a Fifty and get a dollar change when buying a lift ticket will have to dig down a little deeper when they visit American Skiing Co. (ASC) resorts in Vermont this winter. ASC has shifted gears and is no longer including the 5-percent Vermont state sales tax in its posted prices. At Mount Snow and Killington, for example, the “$49” oone-day weekend ticket actually costs $51.45. Vermont is the only big Eastern ski state that imposes a sales tax on lift tickets.

Says ASC spokesperson Skip King, “We’re not trying to run an anti-tax campaign, we just think people ought to know that a part of their ticket price is going toward sales tax.” Although no other Vermont ski resort currently posts “plus tax” prices, King says he expects others to follow suit, if not this year, then next.

And those who plan to ski ASC’s Vermont resorts a minimum of seven days this season can sneak around the tax by purchasing the company’s Magnificent Seven pass, good for seven days of skiing at any of its resorts. It costs $279.65 ($39.95/day) no matter what state you buy it in.

Ho, Ho, Ho!
Here’s one time it pays to ski like a fat old man. Show up at Brodie Mt., Mass., Dec. 25 or 26 dressed in a full Santa suit (beard mandatory) and you ski free-provided you keep your costume on whenever you’re on the slopes. Mrs. Clauses are welcome, too. There is, ahem, one additional clause. Santas must be available at 11 am each of the days for a photo in costume.