The owner of the largest ski resorts in Minnesota and Wisconsin will expand his portfolio to include one of the biggest ski areas in Michigan. Located in the Upper Peninsula, Big Snow Resort’s Blackjack and Indianhead mountains together feature more than a dozen lifts across 1,000 acres of land. Wisconsin developer Art Dumke has owned the mountains since 2014.
There’s no word yet whether Lutsen Mountains, Granite Peak and Big Snow will be combined onto a single pass product but that seems likely. “We are thrilled that these two historical, Upper Michigan ski areas, known for their prodigious powder snow, will be joining our legendary family of resorts in Minnesota and Wisconsin,” said Charles Skinner in a press release. “The current owner and his excellent staff have done a terrific job honoring the legacy of Indianhead and Blackjack and combining them into the largest ski area in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We intend to build upon this work by investing in new lifts, snowmaking, and base area infrastructure at Big Snow.” Specific plans for investments at Big Snow will be announced later this summer. The two mountains currently feel like museums with most lifts and buildings dating back to the 1960s and ’70s.
Skinner also announced construction of a Leitner-Poma six place chairlift at Lutsen Mountains for the 2023-24 season. The second such lift there will replace the Bridge chair, a 1972 Riblet double on Eagle Mountain.
The Big Snow sale is expected to close by the end of July, subject to financing and due diligence completion.
The Holding family agrees to sell most of Sinclair Oil Corporation’s assets, though Sun Valley and Snowbasin aren’t included.
The Forest Service issues a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Lutsen Mountains’ proposed expansion with public comments being solicited through October 25th. A new alternative would see the addition of five new chairlifts on Moose and Eagle Mountains rather than the initially planned seven.
I’m not an accountant but I think this filing reveals Vail Resorts has agreed with creditors not to make capital improvements of more than $200 million per year or undertake any mergers/acquisitions through January 2022.
Vail is also borrowing $600 million through the sale of bonds.
The New Hampshire Business Review profiles legendary resort developer Les Otten.
The privately-held conglomerate behind Leitner Ropeways, Poma, Leitner-Poma of America and Skytrac announces the highest revenue in the company’s history for 2018: €1.02 billion. The group built approximately 100 ropeways around the world last year, up from 75 in 2017.
The list of new lifts built in the Midwest since I started this website in 2015 is short. In Minnesota, a total of three – two quads at Giants Ridge and an $8 million gondola at Lutsen Mountains. Unlike both of its state-owned regional neighbors, Lutsen is a family business that also happens to be the largest ski resort for 2,000 miles between the Rockies and the Adirondacks. I’ve never been to this corner of Minnesota but it looks totally beautiful, surrounded by National Forest on three sides and Lake Superior on the fourth.
The popular new Doppelmayr gondola is like nothing else in the region and it came just two years after Lutsen owners Charles Skinner and Tom Rider launched a Leitner-Poma six place chairlift on Moose Mountain. With two key lifts upgraded, the brothers-in-law are looking to the future and more lifts servicing the types of terrain discerning skiers seek. Lutsen Mountains is a true destination resort and its competitors aren’t as much Afton Alps and Spirit Mountain as Breckenridge and Steamboat. For many, the Lutsen case is compelling – a couple hour drive, alluring scenery and plentiful natural snow at a reasonable price. “We’re a Midwest destination for families; not everybody can afford the airfare and the travel to go out west,” Mr. Skinner told the Cook County Board of Commissioners in a presentation last week. “We just need to be strong enough and appealing enough with enough terrain to go forward with the next generation.”
The co-owners are on a public outreach tour as they embark on a rigorous approval process with the United States Forest Service. If granted a special use permit for new ski terrain in the Superior National Forest, it would be the first brand new permit for a U.S. ski resort in decades. “The only available land for us to have more runs is federal land,” Skinner pointed out along with the fact that 90 percent of Cook County is publicly-owned. The expansion plan would first add 100 acres of much-needed beginner terrain with skier services on Eagle Mountain serviced by a new chairlift. Depending on the cost of a new lift, Lutsen may use one of a few retired lifts it has in storage. The next phases would add 400 acres of intermediate and advanced terrain on two sides of Moose Mountain including glades and up to six new lifts. “As the ski industry moves forward, we need to be larger in order to survive,” said Skinner, noting the eventual goal of doubling skier visits.