Own Your Own

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“The whole ski area could be yours for less than a cabin at Whistler!”

It happens often when I tell someone where I work. The brain-wheels start clicking, the eyes brighten and suddenly a flood of excited anecdotes starts pouring out about my new friend’s ski trip last winter. Buddy’s best crash-and-burn story or big-air sketch can turn into a rambling Grampa Simpson yarn that, just when you think it’s wrapping up, manages to loop around the bullwheel and head right back up the mountain, sometimes in one breath. My wife will often sneak away when the phone photos start, but I love hearing personal ski stories. Our sport, in all its many factions, brings together so many personality types I can’t think of another that could compete.

Of course, like a dentist at a cocktail party listening to a new acquaintance’s teeth issues, it’s not all good prattle. It can reluctantly also represent the groaning board of the ski industry, particularly the resort side, and the complaints, criticisms and moans can leave me defending stuff I’m really not qualified to. Like most magazine editors, I know a little about a lot and a lot about nothing.

Recently one aggressive grumbler, who seemingly had skied everywhere, virtually pinned me into the room’s corner. No matter how much I changed the subject by comparing what I liked best about different local and destination resorts, he would segue into the faults of each: lift ticket prices, the unpaved parking lot, opening times, closing times, too many people on the lift and not enough at après ski, the difficulty of eating from his own lunch basket at the lodge… It felt as if I were part of a Monty Python skit.

As a last ditch at a brighter conversation, I suggested perhaps he should buy his own ski area and then he could address all the issues raised given he knew so much about how to better manage a resort.

Okay, I was more subtle than that, but the seed took root. In an instant buddy pulled out his phone again and was suitably engrossed in his search of “ski resorts for sale” for me to make a getaway, but later that night when I got home I was curious enough to do the same search. If you think you can do better—or you’re just passionate about the sport—maybe one of these hills will fit your dream.

Mont Farlagne, 10 minutes up the road from Edmundston, N.B., has 22 runs, three lifts, a really nice chalet and après-ski bar, and a price tag of only $900,000. The whole ski area could be yours for less than a cabin at Whistler! Check it out on Kijiji. (At press time, we got word that a sold sign was replacing the for sale sign so you’re too late for this one.)

After more than 35 years, the Foote family is looking for a new owner of Mt. Dobson ski field in South Canterbury, New Zealand. I’ve never been but the photos look like Europe. From mid-June to mid-October, Dobson’s 415m vertical is skied off its triple chair and three drag lifts. All yours to manage for about one million Canadian. Why not buy Dobson and another hill in Canada and move with the seasons?

Rumours in B.C. have it that Apex’s on-again, off-again sold sign is on again so you’re probably too late to make an offer on that Okanagan gem. On the other side of Penticton, not too far away, Mt. Baldy’s sale to an Albertan group has proved frustrating to skiers who were hoping to see the lifts running for this season. Last year’s foreclosure sale came with an already B.C. government approved four-season-resort, master-development plan so this own-your-own idea I’m presenting needn’t be restricted to buying something small.

Not as far south as New Zealand, Spout Springs in Oregon and Marshall Mountain in Montana are looking for buyers. But why look at two little guys when you could buy a whole bunch with one cheque? CNL Lifestyle Properties has 16 ski resorts for sale, including big names like Sunday River and Sugarloaf, Maine; Crested Butte, Colorado; Brighton, Utah; and Sierra-at-Tahoe, California. If you buy all of them together, you’ll be making the biggest ski resort buy in history.

Do you already have lederhosen? You’ll fit right in at Petzen, Austria. This “local” ski area just north of the Slovenian border in Carinthia has four T-bars, a rope tow, 90 per cent snowmaking coverage and a four-km, six-passenger gondola to access its 1,220m vertical. Last year it went up for sale for €1. Quite the end-of-season deal I’d say. I couldn’t confirm if a buyer was found, nor what the catch was, but suffice it to say, if you don’t read legal documents in German well, you’d need a good translator to decipher all the agreements for continuation.

There will always be ski areas for sale, in all regions, in all price categories. Talking with an industry-lifer friend about the idea, his first comment was, “Of course, half of Canada’s ski resorts are probably for sale if the price is right.” To which I reminded him, for that special someone you never know what to buy, Christmas is coming.

_Iain MacMillan

from Fall 2015 issue

Iain MacMillan
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