Vermont’s Sugarbush will join the Alterra Mountain Company family of resorts, bringing the two year-old group to 15 mountains. Sugarbush encompasses Lincoln Peak and Mt. Ellen, which are connected by a two mile long detachable quad called the Slide Brook Express. The resort operates a combined fleet of 13 chairlifts from both Doppelmayr and Poma. “Sugarbush Resort is a premier East Coast mountain destination and we are excited to expand the Alterra Mountain Company family in the Northeast, with Sugarbush joining Stratton in Vermont,” said Rusty Gregory, Chief Executive Officer of Alterra. “Sugarbush has been a partner on the Ikon Pass since its inception and we look forward to the opportunities ahead.”
Win Smith, managing partner of the current ownership group, will stay on and become President and Chief Operating Officer of Sugarbush under Alterra. “Having been a family-owned resort for nearly two decades, we were keen to find the right next owner of Sugarbush Resort,” said Smith. “We are delighted that Sugarbush will join the Alterra Mountain Company family, knowing that Alterra Mountain Company will continue to maintain our culture, values and commitment to our community, while bringing additional capital and other resources to make Sugarbush even better in the years ahead.” Since being acquired from American Skiing Company in 2001, Sugarbush has invested $74 million in mountain improvements including seven new lifts, significant upgrades to snowmaking, and the revitalization of the Lincoln Peak Base area.
Ikon Pass access to Sugarbush will remain limited to five or seven days for the 2019-20 season. It is likely to become unlimited for 2020-21 like at most other Alterra-owned resorts. Mountain Collective access will remain unchanged for this season. The transaction is expected to close in the fist quarter of 2020.
Four years after being shuttered by well-intentioned but frustrated owners, Maine’s Saddleback Mountain finally has new hope. Boston-based Arctaris Impact Fund agreed this week to buy the mountain and begin preparations to reopen what was once the state’s third largest resort. The 59 year-old mountain is one of New England’s best which has seen more than its fair share of setbacks having nothing to do with the quality of the skiing. “This beautiful mountain has so much potential and it looks like the buyer has a strong plan moving forward,” said Dawn Klein, real estate broker for the Berry Family. “We are excited for the acquisition to be complete for the Saddleback Resort community and the entire Rangeley area.”
Bill and Irene Berry purchased Saddleback back in 2003 and spent some $40 million to build a new base lodge, South Branch lift, Kennebago quad and more. By 2015, the family was unable to obtain financing for replacing the Rangeley double, without which the ski resort would go out of business.
The years since have been difficult for the Berrys, the Rangeley community and everyone who loves Saddleback. In June 2017, an Australian investor named Sebastian Monsour revealed plans to purchase the mountain at a base lodge press conference. His Majella Group intended to replace Rangeley with a fixed-grip quad and Cupsuptic with a T-Bar, both from Doppelmayr. Majella and the Berrys never closed and no new lifts were installed.
Arctaris came on the scene after two more years of closure, signing a non-binding letter of intent to purchase the resort. The fund specializes in providing capital to growth-oriented businesses in inner cities and under-served rural regions across the United States. This September, both sides issued statements lamenting that negotiations had stalled. So it’s fantastic news that the two sides have now reconciled and signed an agreement.
The calendar says November and significant work lies ahead, making a quick reopening unlikely. While the highest and lowest elevation lifts are modern fixed-grip quads that saw some maintenance work during the closure, three lifts loading near the main base lodge average 56 years old and may need to be replaced.
Here’s to a speedy closing and lifts spinning some time in 2020.
Update 11/8: Andy Shepard, who will be the new general manager, said in an interview that two new lifts are planned to be built next summer: a high speed quad version of Rangeley and a T-Bar replacement for Cupsuptic. Closing is scheduled for mid-December and reopening planned for between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2020.
Mountain Capital Partners, the growing Durango-based resort group, will acquire Brian Head Resort in Southern Utah. MCP already operates Nordic Valley in the northern part of the state along with ski and bike resorts in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. “We’re proud to welcome Brian Head Resort and its employees to the MCP family,” said James Coleman, managing partner of the privately-held collective. “Brian Head’s family friendly vibe and proximity to Southern Utah’s famous red cliffs and national parks greatly enhances our portfolio and supports our mission to make skiing and riding more accessible and affordable.”
Opened in 1964, Brian Head features four newer Doppelmayr lifts along with four classic Yan fixed grip chairlifts. Just this fall, the mountain completed construction on its second detachable quad named the Navajo Express. Brian Head’s current ownership, led by its president and majority owner John Grissinger, purchased the resort in 2012 and invested nearly $16.5 million in capital improvements. “We’re incredibly grateful to John Grissinger and his entire team for their hard work, vision and dedication to the development and success of Brian Head Resort,” noted Coleman.
Power Pass holders will enjoy unlimited, unrestricted access at Brian Head beginning this season.
As part of its commitment to the growing Alaska market, Norwegian Cruise Line today announced several strategic initiatives, including partnering with an Alaska Native corporation to transform Icy Strait Point into a vehicle-free tourism hub. Two eight passenger gondola systems will transport 5,600 guests per hour between a new Wilderness Landing, the historic Icy Strait cannery and Hoonah Mountain, which features the world’s longest ZipRider.
“Wilderness Landing will cater to visitors in search of individualized experiences with the land, wildlife and native peoples of Alaska,” said Norwegian, which will gain preferred berthing rights at Icy Strait. As part of the expansion, Huna Totem Corporation will install two gondolas and develop the upper part of Hoonah Mountain near its ZipRider attraction to offer additional experiences for visitors in 2020. To elevate the experience and maintain its natural setting, Wilderness Landing will be a vehicle-free zone. Instead of needing an estimated 72 buses to move guests around the site, travelers will be able to move through the treetops between the historic cannery and Wilderness Landing on the Transporter, a high-speed gondola system supplied by Doppelmayr. The gondola will be wheelchair and scooter accessible.
Opening a few months later in mid-summer, a second gondola will take guests up the 1,600-foot Hoonah Mountain to the forested area around the ZipRider launch. The six minute ride will unlock additional areas for exploration and afford spectacular views of icefields, the Fairweather Range and Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, the ancestral homeland of the Huna Tlingit people. Huna Totem Corporation will develop new attractions for guests: a top-of-the-mountain nature trail around a glacially-carved reflecting pond, a 340-foot suspension bridge swaying over a box-canyon with a 900-foot vertical drop, and a tour departure center for bear searches and ATV adventures. Helicopter flightseeing and more will be added during the 2021 season.
“The natural beauty of Alaska makes it one of the most popular destinations to visit, and our investments in the region will enable us to provide our guests with a best-in-class experience as they explore the wonders of the Last Frontier,” said Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. “These strategic initiatives mark the latest steps in our ongoing efforts to promote economic development in the region and make a positive economic and environmentally sensible impact on the Alaska tourism industry.”