- Associated Press - Thursday, October 2, 2014

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - State officials approved a lease for Tamarack Resort’s ski area in about as long as it takes an expert skier to go from the top of the mountain to the bottom.

The five members of the Idaho Land Board took only minutes to vote unanimously during the public portion of the special session Thursday, transferring the 2,100-acre lease to a company called New TRAC. The company acquired the lease at a sheriff’s bankruptcy sale last spring.

“The Cascade-Donnelly area can be a tremendous destination resort year-round,” Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter said after the meeting. “I’m hopeful, and I hope all of Idaho will give them a chance to succeed and be a part of that success.”

New TRAC was formed by Credit Suisse, which completed a credit bid at the March 10 sheriff’s sale to own three big sections of the resort, including the ski area that is on state-owned land. A consortium led by Zurich-based Credit Suisse is owed more than $300 million for Tamarack, which is north of Boise.

New TRAC sought the special session to make sure it could move ahead with opening the ski area. The lease for about $278,000 annually is one of the state’s more lucrative deals, and is far more than the $80,000 annually that state officials estimate the land would generate if it reverted to timber harvest.

The Idaho Department of Lands recommended board members approve the lease. The Land Board went into executive session for about half an hour. When the board members returned, they unanimously to approve the lease.

“This was a big step for us,” said David Papiez, project manager for New TRAC. “Tamarack is a full, four-season resort, but the ski mountain is really what we center ourselves around.”

The resort opened in 2004 but ran into problems with the Great Recession and then started into bankruptcy in 2008. A high-speed chairlift was removed for nonpayment in 2012.

The Tamarack Municipal Association has continued to run the resort, but its executive director has said the goal has been to break even while keeping the facilities maintained. The ski area has only been open four days a week in recent years.

New TRAC plans to run the lifts seven days a week this season, and would like to replace the chairlift.

“We don’t have a date slated for that, but it’s definitely something for the future because the Wild Wood Ski Bowl comprises about a third of our skiable terrain,” Papiez said, adding there are about 1,100 skiable acres. “We want to make sure our growth going forward is based on the realities of today.”

He said about a third of the bowl can be reached with current lifts.

The resort initially aimed to attract international travelers, but in recent years has relied on residents within 100 miles. Papiez said that would continue.

“The first step is to really start with that robust marketing campaign, making sure everyone knows that the ski resort is open and healthy,” he said.

There are about 400 deeded properties at the resort, with all but about 15 percent of them available as vacation rentals. The resort also has what is considered one of the best golf courses in the state, though it’s not part of New TRAC’s holdings. The area with mountains and lakes offers an array of outdoor activities.

Other Land Board members are Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, and State Controller Brandon Woolf.

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