Two Ski Areas Revived?

There’s light at the end of the tunnel for two ski areas that have been shuttered for years.

The Hermitage Club, the formerly swank private ski area on the slopes of Haystack Mountain, shut down in 2018 after failing to pay taxes. Now, the southern Vermont club and ski area and associated properties are scheduled to go to auction on March 20. A number of bidders have already raised their hands and anyone else interested has until March 16 to file.

One of the first to voice an interest was Rainmaker Mountain LLC, a company led by Russell Geyser, a real estate developer and partner in Rain Maker Films, producer of the crypto-zoology reality TV series Mountain Monsters.

Rainmaker Mountain offered $4 million for the assets, minus the six-person bubble-chair, the Barnstormer lift. That lift saw a bid for $3.6 million by Boyne USA (which owns Loon Mountain in New Hampshire, Sugarloaf and Sunday River in Maine and a number of other resorts across the country).

Real estate developer HSM Partners LLC submitted a letter of intent to purchase all the assets for $8 million and then Bruce Waller, who with his wife Roberta, has owned property across from Mount Snow, offered $8.4 million for the whole shebang.

And the Hermitage Club Member Group, made up of the 142 members who paid upwards of $50,000 to join the private club in its heyday, has thrown out a $8.25 million offer.

That “shebang” includes Haystack Mountain (which has operated as an independent ski area), and associated lifts, the base lodge, a golf course, land and three inns. But whether or not the Barnstormer lift can be sold off separately is a matter that’s being debated.

The town of Wilmington has registered an objection. One of its main concerns was selling off the Barnstormer lift separately from the ski area and fears that if that happened the resort would not be open for the 2020-21 season.

Berkshire Bank, which holds the first mortgage, also registered an objection to selling off the lift separately, noting the impact it could have to the town of Wilmington: “What this means is that the annual rent amount is tied to the Barnstormer Lift, vertical drop in feet and the manufacturer’s designed skiers-per-hour capacity. Rent for the 12-month period due February 1, 2020 is $85,414.00,” Berkshire noted in its limited objection.

The auction is scheduled for March 20 and, as the Chapter 7 trustee Raymond Obuchowski noted, “These are just preliminary bids designed to determine a ‘stalking horse’ (a term designating the entity that helps start the bid pricing).” And if the bids seem low, as Obuchowski also notes, “There’s still more than $27 million in debt associated with the property.”

The lodge at Saddleback, Me.
Saddleback is back!

Meanwhile, last week financing was approved for the Arctaris Impact Fund to purchase Maine’s Saddleback Mountain. And by the end of this month, the Hermitage Club in southern Vermont may very well have a new owner.

Saddleback, which is one of only seven New England mountains that rise above 4000 feet, has a vertical drop of 2,000 and the third-largest number of trails, after Sugarloaf and Sunday River. The ski area, based in western Maine (and approximately parallel with Newport, Vt.) has been closed and on the market since 2015. The Boston-based Arctaris Impact Fund is buying the resort for $6.5 million and hoping to invest $38 million in upgrading the lifts and lodge and hiring more than 200 employees. The Portland Press Herald reported that Arctaris hopes to have the ski area open for the 2020-21 ski season.

Featured photo: the clubhouse at The Hermitage Club, prior to its closing. Photo courtesy The Hermitage Club

Lisa Lynn

Editor of VT SKI + RIDE and Vermont Sports.

2 thoughts on “Two Ski Areas Revived?

  • February 5, 2020 at 11:47 PM

    Pretty cool that Saddleback has a vertical drop of 7,000 and a summit elevation of 4,000 or so.

    PS I suspect that statement “Saddleback, which is one of only seven New England mountains that rise above 4000 feet,” was meant to be “…Maine mountains…”

    • February 7, 2020 at 4:12 PM

      Thanks John! Just testing to see who was reading closely. You are right: we goofed and it should have read 2000, not 7000 feet. Updated now.

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