Top Five Fridays - April 15, 2016 // Ski Industry News
#1: Skiing Uplifts and Heals IDF Soldiers:
Let’s get this week started with some good news! Once in a while, a story comes out that reveals the connective power of certain passions. Sometimes these stories are about music, sometimes they’re about art, and sometimes we get lucky and there’s a story about skiing. That’s exactly what we got this week when The Times of Israel published a story about the Erez Foundation- a nonprofit organization that gives disabled Israelis the chance to ski. Many of those who participate in the program are former IDF (Israeli Defense Force) soldiers who were injured in the course of war. In fact, the man responsible for starting the organization is Lt. Col. Shimon Pariente, a former commander of the IDF’s alpine unit located on Mount Hermon. As you might imagine, those who stick with the program and learn how to para-ski find incredible peace and joy in the sport. We’ll let you read the article for yourself, but prepare to get the feels from this one.
#2: Snowbird Expansion into American Fork Approved:
Back in January, we told you that Snowbird had submitted a proposal that would allow them to expand into American Fork. At the time, the plan had just been submitted, and the locals weren’t too happy. Their displeasure was understandable as approval for the expansion would mean that backcountry access they’d enjoyed for years would soon be turned into ski trails and chairlifts. Still, the land has always been owned by Snowbird, so we suspected that their request would be approved. Well, a few months later, that’s exactly what’s happened as earlier this week Snowbird received a unanimous green light from the Utah County Board of Adjustments. However, there is one change: rather than being able to begin development immediately, Snowbird will instead have to provide two years worth of water testing to be sure that their expansion won’y adversely affect the water quality of American Fork. Once these water tests are cleared, Snowbird will be able to construct a new gondola and zipline, features that they hope will draw more skiers and adventure seekers to their resort.
#3: Park City "Treasure" Development Being Explored Yet Again:
Speaking of controversial expansions in Utah’s Wasatch range, another proposed development is back in the news after a six year break. Just North of Snowbird Resort, in Park City, Utah, developers behind the “Treasure” project have submitted a request for City Hall to begin reconsidering the project. As locals in the area may already know, the Treasure project is an effort being lead by Pat Sweeney to develop a stretch of land on a hillside overlooking Old Town that runs alongside the Town Lift. The results of the development, if approved, would be one massive building that’s designed to look like 13 separate buildings, which would house 200 hotel rooms, about 100 condos, and conference space. Initial approval for the project was granted way back in 1986, but groundbreaking has been stalled multiple times over the last few decades. The controversy is that the planned development would not only loom large and clash against the smaller, older buildings lower on the hill, but it could also cause significant traffic congestion. Of course on the flip side, developers of the project point out that the Treasure would likely bring more economic growth to the city. At this point, only time will tell whether the proposal is approved, denied, or shelved for another three decades.
#4: Jay Peak and Q Burke Raided by SEC; Developers Accused of Fraud:
Well, this time we saved the worst for last. News broke this week of trouble in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. After Q.Burke was raided by unnamed officials on Wednesday, more information surfaced on Thursday regarding the circumstances. It’s a long and convoluted story, and one which we’ll cover more thoroughly next week, but here’s the gist of it: Back in 2008, Bill Stenger and business partner Ariel Quiros purchased Jay Peak and promised a slew of upgrades and developments to be completed using EB-5 funds. Essentially, this meant that foreign investors would pay for the developments in exchange for permanent green cards (again, this is over simplified, but check back next week when we’ll have a full explanation). Then, in 2012, the pair moved forward with their master plan and purchased Burke Mountain, also in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Again, they pledged serious developments using EB-5 funds.
On the surface, things seemed fine aside from the typical resort development arguments between management and the locals. That is, until this week when Federal Securities and Exchange Committee officials raided Q.Burke resort, changing the locks and replacing the management team. At first the circumstances were unknown, but a press conference on Thursday cleared the air. As it turns out, Ariel Quiros and Bill Stenger have allegedly been misusing investor funds for personal gains such as lavish New York City apartments and personal taxes. While this is likely just the start of a long legal battle, it is important and encouraging to note that a temporary management team has been put in place and both Q.Burke and Jay Peak resort are expected to continue operations as normal with as little impact to their employees as possible.
The full story is obviously a bit more in depth, so be sure to check back in with us next week as we dive into more detail regarding this situation.