American owners of Mount Baldy Ski Area still haven’t committed money to ensure facility will open this year

By on December 11, 2013
Skiers ride a lift to the top of Mount Baldy. (Keith Lacey file photo)

Skiers ride a lift to the top of Mount Baldy. (Keith Lacey file photo)

Until he gets the official word from the three American owners that they’re unwilling to invest any more money, the mountain manager for the Mount Baldy Ski Area remains optimistic there will be skiing and snowboarding at the facility in early 2014.

“Nothing has really changed over the past couple of weeks … hopefully the owners will be getting us the money we need to open,” said Matt Koenig, who has worked at Mount Baldy for the past 12 years.

“I’ve prepared a start up budget when and if we do get the money.”

With most ski facilities in British Columbia now operating, Koenig acknowledges the American ownership group is going to have to secure and provide funding very soon or the odds are stacked heavily against opening this season.

“I talked with two of the owners yesterday (last Thursday) and they are exploring all of their options, be it a purchase, finding investors or somehow coming up with the funding required to open,” he said. “They are fully aware of the situation and ultimately, as owners, it’s up to them to find a solution. I do know they are working hard to come up with the necessary cash.”

To the best of his knowledge, Mount Baldy Ski Area was forced to close for an entire winter ski season on two previous occasions in its 50-year history, including once in the late 1990s and once back in the 1970s.

“This wouldn’t be the first time Mount Baldy has been forced to close, but that’s certainly not the option we would prefer,” he said.

Koenig said his “phone has been ringing off the hook” over the past three or four weeks with people wanting to know what’s going on with the facility.

“I have nothing to hide and I try and answer questions as truthfully as I can,” he said. “The reality is we need an infusion of cash from the ownership group and we won’t be operating until we get that cash.”

While selling season passes would generate a significant amount of revenue in a hurry, Koenig reiterated that he’s not willing to sell those passes until the ownership group commits to investing more money and ensuring a full season of skiing and snowboarding will take place.

Last year, Mount Baldy Ski Area opened a full 10 days before Christmas and was busy throughout the Christmas and New Year’s Day holiday season, but there’s no chance the hill could open in time for the holidays even if owners came up with the necessary cash over the next few days, said Koenig.

There’s plenty of snow in the mountains and it wouldn’t take long to get the facility up and running if the ownership group comes up with the money, he said.

Even if the hill were to close this season, Koenig is convinced there will be a future for the Mount Baldy Ski Area.

“I’m quite confident that no matter what happens in the next few weeks, that this isn’t the end for Mount Baldy,” he said. “A lot of money and a lot of great resources have been poured into this facility over the past several years and there are a lot of assets that make it a viable facility. I think permanent closure would be completely unthinkable.”

Koenig said he’s going to remain in regular contact with the ownership group and will keep members of the public informed about their plans as soon as he finds out.

Hilary Drummond, who has owned a cabin with her husband near Mount Baldy for more than 25 years, said the 80 cabin owners in the area will continue to organize social and recreational events no matter what happens with the facility this winter.

“We’re all hopeful the facility will open, but it has closed in the past and we have to be prepared either way,” she said.

The cabin owners have planned numerous social and recreational events and often used the clubhouse for many of them and that option won’t be available to them if the facility doesn’t open, she said.

All of the cabin owners don’t blame the ownership group for what has happened, she said.

“This is a private business and I’m sure they don’t want to lose money,” she said. “This is a beautiful facility and it’s really too bad that it has struggled financially on more than one occasion.

“There are still a lot of us cabin owners who plan on going up there on a regular basis no matter what happens, but it would be much better for everyone involved if the hill was open and busy.”

Like Koenig, Drummond said she’s confident there’s a future for the Mount Baldy Ski Area even if the owners don’t open the facility this winter.

KEITH LACEY

Osoyoos Times

 

 

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