News Roundup: Color Choices

  • Alta withdraws from a proposed land swap, opting to hang on to land in Grizzly Gulch for possible expansion.
  • Killington goes blue with its bubbles.
  • Vail Resorts officially takes over Stevens Pass.
  • Massachusetts awards the current operators of Blue Hills a new three year contract.
  • Fatzer begins production of the first Compacta rope for the US lift market.  At 54 mm, any guesses where it’s headed?

Advertisements

A Deal to Save The Hermitage?

IMG_4230
Five chairlifts currently sit idle at the Hermitage Club, the subject of foreclosure action in southern Vermont.

Restructuring could resolve what is currently the nation’s largest ski resort foreclosure case, according to a report from the Brattleboro Reformer.  Jim Barnes, founder of the financially-troubled Hermitage Club, sent an email last night informing members of two important developments.  First, the Club has secured a bridge loan to maintain key staff working toward a restructuring with Berkshire Bank and other creditors.  Secondly, a nonbinding term sheet has been signed with Oz Real Estate to provide new capital to the ski and golf resort.  “The potential transaction with Oz Real Estate contemplates the club’s debt with Berkshire Bank to be restructured or bought out,” Barnes wrote.  The bank is owed more than $17 million while a foodservice distributor is out more than $1.5 million and a hotelier $1.2 million along with others owed smaller amounts.

Oz is the parent company of Ski Resort Holdings LLC, which bought 14 major ski resorts from CNL Lifestyle Properties in 2017.  Most of them were sold to Boyne Resorts, Vail Resorts and other operators over the past year.  “Oz Real Estate invests in both opportunistic real estate private equity and real estate credit in the U.S. and Europe,” the firm says on its website.  “Founded in 2003, Oz Real Estate has raised approximately $3.8 billion of dedicated real estate capital and completed more than 107 transactions across 19 diverse real estate asset classes.”  Mr. Barnes also named a new Club President, Harper Sibley.

trail-map-17-18-768x1187

The Hermitage is currently closed under a court-ordered receivership with FTI Consulting on site maintaining assets.  “The primary goal of the Hermitage Club is to close this restructuring and prepare for a successful 2018/2019 fall and winter season,” Barnes stated in his email.  “The proceeds from the restructuring will provide the means to settle claims and disputes that have arisen due to the lack of cash flow from closed club operations.”  Nonbinding is a key word and the Club made a similar announcement about $26 million in possible funding from an unidentified financial company on April 30th.  It’s unclear whether that deal was to be with Oz or a different outfit altogether.  Berkshire Bank assistant vice president and marketing officer Heidi Higgins told the Reformer the lender is “not in a position to talk about this specific instance due to privacy and legal concerns.”  Nonetheless, the news is a sign Mr. Barnes and his staff continue to work hard toward a resolution four months from ski season.

News Roundup: Gondolas on Gondolas

“Ever since the company went public in 2014 it has taken advantage of its improved access to capital to finance large infrastructure projects that may have led to growth in visitation and revenues, but haven’t resulted in better earnings or cash flows.”

News Roundup: Public vs. Private

  • After a tower shifted downhill this spring, the City of Steamboat will again fix Howelsen Hill’s chairlift rather than replacing it.
  • In the Jay Peak fraud case, former resort owner Ariel Quiros and executive Bill Stenger settle with the State of Vermont for $2.1 million without admitting wrongdoing.
  • In a separate class action lawsuit, a group of Jay Peak investors allege more than 100 immigration lawyers received $5 million in kickbacks from the resort, creating undisclosed conflicts of interest.
  • The federal government orders an immediate shutdown of the Vermont EB-5 Regional Center, which allowed foreigners to invest in ski resorts such as Jay Peak and other businesses in exchange for green cards.
  • No big deal: a Chinese theme park might build three 3S gondolas.
  • A lawsuit by the State of Maine seeks to finally right the tragedy that followed the sale of a public ski resort to a private company which ran it into the ground.
  • Mt. Snow confirms its next logical lift upgrades will be in Sunbrook and Carinthia.
  • Hermitage Club members could lease Haystack Mountain to reopen next season but Berkshire Bank will not.  Homeowners may have a senior lien on the Barnstormer six-pack but would need to pay for $300,000 of lift maintenance to reopen.
  • Even though his purchase of Saddleback never closed, Australian businessman Sebastian Monsour did spend $400,000 on the closed Maine ski resort last year.  Hopefully some went to lift maintenance!
  • Peak Resorts reports record fourth quarter revenue, up 9.3 percent over last year to $56 million with EBITDA up 3.9 percent to $21.5 million.
  • Arizona Snowbowl reopens tomorrow after a month-and-a-half fire danger closure.
  • Parks Canada seeks public comments on possible Sunshine Village lift and terrain expansions into Goat’s Eye II, Lower Meadow Park and Hayes Hill. Another new lift could eventually parallel the gondola.
sunshineexpansion
Overview of proposed Sunshine Village expansion areas.  Other acreage would be removed from Sunshine’s area of occupation to compensate for environmental impacts of expansion.

News Roundup: Fighting

  • The first of many Omega 10 passenger gondola cabins is spotted at Walt Disney World.
  • Saddleback Mountain Foundation plans to make a second offer for Maine’s third largest ski area, which has been closed for nearly three years.
  • Santiago, Chile awards the contract for an $80 million, four station urban gondola to Doppelmayr.
  • The first indoor ski area in the Western Hemisphere plans to open March 1, 2019 with a Doppelmayr CTEC quad chair and platter that were installed back in 2008.
  • A gondola is one option being considered to improve mobility in Little Cottonwood Canyon, home to Alta, Snowbird and lots of traffic.
  • A Basin’s Al Henceroth updates us on Norway’s removal and hints more lift changes may be in store for Lenawee Mountain.
  • Members of Congress from four states pen a letter to the Forest Service asking for Arizona Snowbowl to be reopened or further explanation given as to why its extended closure is necessary.
  • Doppelmayr scores another project in Canada – a $1.8 million fixed-grip quad with loading carpet at Sugarloaf, New Brunswick.
  • Rope evacuating 20-25 mountain bikers turns into a four hour affair at Marquette Mountain.
  • Ikon Pass destination number 27 is Thredbo, Australia.
  • Jumbo Glacier Resort is fighting to reinstate its construction permit.
  • A spokesman for the new owners of Maple Valley, Vermont says reopening for skiing is a long term goal that could take many years to accomplish.
  • Loveland seeks a good name for the new Lift 1.
  • Loon Mountain is buying brand new CWA Omega cabins for its gondola this fall.
  • Tremblant says goodbye to the Lowell Thomas triple, making way for a detachable quad.
  • The first Hermitage Club property auction yields a $1.2 million winning bid. “There will be more of these coming up,” says the Windham County Sheriff.
  • A breakdown at the Jasper SkyTram leads to an 18 hour helicopter evacuation of 160 guests.

News Roundup: Possible

  • Vail Resorts net income rises 41.5% over last year’s third quarter with Epic season pass sales up 12 percent in units and 19 percent in dollars through May 29th.
  • The new Lift One will likely be put to Aspen voters in a winter 2019 special election rather than the November general election.
  • The Western Idaho State Fair plans to debut a chairlift for the first time in August – apparently a used Riblet of unknown origin.
  • An urban gondola proposal in Ogden, Utah is back.
  • A great writeup about Heron’s early days answers why Aspen Skiing Company switched from Colorado’s homegrown lift company to Riblet.
  • Now’s your chance to enter to win one of Arapahoe Basin’s retired Norway chairs.
  • Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows and the Sierra Club sign an agreement for the resort to abandon California Express Alternative 2 in exchange for the group withholding legal action against alternatives 3 and 4.
  • The Seattle suburb of Kirkland looks to a possible aerial lift to connect its city center with an upcoming bus rapid transit station.
  • Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz and Whistler Blackcomb COO Pete Sonntag do a wide ranging interview with the local newspaper after a challenging year and a half.
  • Tower 6 of Howelsen Hill’s chairlift  is on the move for at least the third time as city leaders grapple with whether to fix it.
  • Beartooth Basin, the only summer ski resort in the United States, opens for the season as everyone else closes.  An experiment is also underway to run the lifts with biodiesel.
  • The Olympic Regional Development Authority proposes a new chairlift for its Lake Placid ski jumping venue.
  • Another Borvig surface lift bites the dust in favor of carpets.
  • Berkshire Bank says the Hermitage Club no longer has the right to restructure and argues receivership should proceed.  One Hermitage property is scheduled to be auctioned on June 25th.
  • A decision not to create an opportunity zone in Rangeley, Maine becomes yet another reason Saddleback is going nowhere fast.
  • The man accused of lying about spending a night on a Gore Mountain chairlift says he is innocent and may sue the State of New York.

News Roundup: Un-Lost?

  • The State of Pennsylvania looks to spend $7.8 million on new lifts at Denton Hill, where a Riblet triple, Hall double and two platter lifts last spun in 2014.  A private operator is also being sought.
  • Maple Valley, Vermont – last operated in 2000 with three Hall lifts – sells to a new ownership group.
  • As Aspen Mountain prepares to reinvent Lift One, the Aspen Daily News traces the remarkable history of the original.
  • Doppelmayr will build and operate a $64 million urban 3S gondola in Moscow.
  • The Portland Aerial Tram is set to close for five weeks in June and July while the track ropes are slipped downhill.
  • Leitner commissions the first 2S gondola with DirectDrive in South Korea.
  • As the public comment period nears its end, California Express faces critics.
  • Under the proposed Hermitage Club receivership, FTI Consulting would maintain properties but wouldn’t reopen the mountain for skiing next winter.  The Club objects to some of the proposal even though the receivership would be dissolved if Berkshire Bank is paid in full or the assets auctioned off.
  • This guy is lucky to be okay and probably won’t be allowed back to Squaw Valley for a long time.
  • Boston’s Seaport gondola proposal might be in trouble.
  • The Forest Service gives a final green light to Purgatory’s Gelande lift project although construction this summer is uncertain.
  • Hefty tariffs on steel and aluminum coming into the United States from the European Union, Canada and Mexico take effect at midnight tonight.
  • North America’s newest urban gondolas, built by Poma in the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo, carried 41,000 riders in their first 18 hours last week.

The Hermitage Club to Enter Receivership

IMG_4218
A very nice lift sits idle facing an uncertain future at The Hermitage Club this spring.

Berkshire Bank’s foreclosure on the largest private ski resort in New England is moving forward, Vermont Public Radio reports.  A judge sided with the lender yesterday allowing a receiver to soon take over operations of Haystack Mountain, a golf course and associated properties.   The Massachusetts-based bank says the Hermitage owes $16.3 million in principal plus penalties and interest on three loans initially worth $17.1 million.  In his decision, Judge John Treadwell wrote the Club “lacks sufficient resources to adequately protect and preserve the subject property.”  The news comes a week after Hermitage management said two buyers were interested in purchasing the resort.

IMG_4239

Earlier in the week, the same court ruled in favor of a man owed $1,373,693 on a $1.4 million loan for a nearby inn the Hermitage bought.  Club founder Jim Barnes has 30 days in which he can reclaim that property, which currently sits empty with no insurance.  Judge Treadwell also signed off on an Iowa company’s request to repossess 74 golf vehicles with help from the local sheriff.  The court then ruled in favor of a New York couple who paid nearly a million dollars for a slopeside townhouse that was never delivered.  A local excavation contractor also filed suit this week seeking $450,000 plus interest for work allegedly completed but not paid for.

The exclusive ski resort near Mt. Snow includes five chairlifts, three of which are just a few years old.  The flagship is one of the first lifts with heated seats and bubbles in the United States and cost $6.9 million.  There are also two new Skytracs which could prove valuable in an auction.  The ski mountain last operated on March 25th, after which it was shut down by the Vermont Department of Taxes for the second time in a month.  The Hermitage Club reportedly owed the state more than $1 million in sales, meals and rooms taxes plus property taxes to the towns of Dover and Wilmington. Berkshire Bank says it paid many of them to avoid a tax sale.

The proposed receiver, FTI Consulting, is the same outfit that assisted during the Yellowstone Club bankruptcy and reorganization. The Hermitage will become the third Vermont ski resort currently in receivership. Back in 2016, a federal court appointed a Florida law firm to temporarily take over Jay Peak and Burke Mountain following emergency action by the Securities and Exchange Commission.  Hopefully all three mountains will find capable new buyers in the year to come.

News Roundup: Change of Plans

  • Mammoth seeks to replace the workhorse Canyon Express #16 with a detachable six place lift in a new alignment.
  • Plans for Battle Mountain Resort that once featured ten chairlifts and two gondolas near Vail no longer do.
  • Leitner-Poma’s self-driving mini aerial tramway in San Francisco will debut this summer.
  • A Grafton, Illinois gondola project faces a key vote with groundbreaking possible later this summer.
  • Partek will build a brand new quad chair this summer at West Mountain, New York.

  • Ghost Town – the defunct chairlift-accessed amusement park in North Carolina – may reopen in 2019.
  • A court rules in favor of plaintiffs in three Hermitage Club cases but is still considering next steps for the ski mountain foreclosure.
  • The latest Aspen Lift One meetings go well.
  • You probably heard Jerusalem in the news this week but not for the $56 million earmarked to build a four station gondola there.
  • Like the first one, the second Disney Skyliner terminal to go airborne has two distinct turnarounds.

News Roundup: One Billion

  • Despite competition from the Ikon and Epic passes, Peak Resorts reports sales of its Peak Passes are up 14 percent year over year through 4/30.
  • HTI, the parent company of Leitner, Poma, Aguido, MiniMetro, Prinoth and more reports it built 75 ropeways in 2017 and exceeded $1 billion in revenue.
  • The Hermitage Club opposes its primary lender’s motion to appoint a receiver and says it has found a financial firm willing to loan $26 million in restructuring capital.  A key court hearing is scheduled for one week from today.
  • TransLink’s ten year, $8.8 billion vision includes funding for Burnaby Mountain Gondola planning.
  • Gondola fever spreads in Edmonton.
  • A gondola is being looked at for Idaho Springs, Colorado along I-70.
  • SE Group and the White River National Forest test an interactive storyboard as a public engagement tool for Beaver Creek’s McCoy Park Expansion.  Comments are due May 29th and a decision is expected in September.
  • The Forest Service proposes quickly approving the replacement of Arizona Snowbowl’s Agassiz triple with a 6,100 foot combination lift utilizing gondola cabins between every three or four chairs.  Capacity would be only 1,200 passengers per hour.
  • Magic Mountain commits to finishing the Green lift and weighs the future of its nearby Pohlig-Hall-Yan contraption.