Balsams Update - Go Big or Go home

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peakbagger

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Les Otten has gotten involved with the Balsams recently and the hype machine is starting to crank up.

"Ski Area Size Will Rival Killington"

The link to the article in the Berlin Paper is here, you do need to do a free registration to read it.

http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/Launch.aspx?PBID=8c4af509-8814-415a-bfa7-07ab466afc1a

Do note that there has been similar hype in the past by the developers who bought the place, but now Les is involved. Ultimately it going o take a lot of third party money to build it and unless they get the investments for visas program in place like Jay Peak I dont know how they will get hold of it.

I still question why folks from Southern NH and Mass would voluntarilly drive past Waterville Valley, Loon, Cannon, Bretton Woods and then voluntarily keep going 1 to 2 more hours to Dixville notch but I guess I dont have the developers view of things. It sure looks to me to be the same issue as Saddleback plenty of mountain but too far and no nearby amenities. Of course Northern NH has the Berlin International airport :rolleyes:.

Heck if it will pump some money into an area that desperately needs it great, but I dont know if someone should sign a mortgage on the longevity of the resort.
 
Maybe the idea is to try to have a resort that is sufficiently self-contained (i.e., a destination resort) such that day-trippers are not the target audience but instead folks with condos/time shares there who are staying/renting for more than a day. It would be great if someone with tens of millions would donate a big chunk to an endowment such that the Balsams could be rebuilt and then run at a loss on a pure P/L basis but break even with the income from the endowment. If I had Bill Gates' money, I would do just that because I'd rather help people here than overseas.
 
Les Otten and the two other developers are not known as altruistic individuals. They are developers, they buy low, set up a deal, get others to invest the majority of the money and they keep an equity stake if its successful. If there are some benefits to the surrounding area, that is a side effect although a good developer figures out a way to get a cut of all the business. Waterville Valley is a good example, the developer sets up the ski area as major draw and then make money off the resort development.

Businesses are created, taxes paid, people are employed, some folks get to live in area they want to and more services are available for visitors. Some will argue against building something like this from scratch but the reality is the area is already developed, its on private land and odds are few folks could even locate it on a map.
 
I still question why folks from Southern NH and Mass would voluntarilly drive past Waterville Valley, Loon, Cannon, Bretton Woods and then voluntarily keep going 1 to 2 more hours to Dixville notch but I guess I dont have the developers view of things. It sure looks to me to be the same issue as Saddleback plenty of mountain but too far and no nearby amenities. Of course Northern NH has the Berlin International airport :rolleyes:.

Having worked in the ski instructing/racing world for many years, all I can say by extension is: How then can so many ski areas along the I-70 corridor in CO exist? Well, simply because they have each made themselves a unique destination. I've skied all over CO, but heck, the much longer trip to isolated Telluride was well worth it. People will go out of their way for something truly unique, even if there is something basically comparable nearby. Offer a service no one else has, or in a way better than everyone else, and you have a basis for success.

Jay Peak is a great local example as mentioned earlier. Heck, when working the New England ski scene, we had lots of visitors from Quebec. This despite the fact that Tremblant, Sutton, Le Massif, Mont Sainte Anne, etc, are much closer for them. Dixville Notch area was big hit for many visitors from Quebec for quite sometime. But when quality began to suffer, visits lagged.

Take the Balsams, make it a complete, self-sustaining destination (i.e. Jay Peak), infuse investment (EB5), and it may just work. I hope so, the area could use it.
 
Another update with some numbers on the extent of the development envisioned

http://www.unionleader.com/article/20140423/NEWS02/140429671&template=mobileart

According to documents obtained by the Union Leader, plans include expanding the ski area and the new Balsams would have three separate villages with a total of 4,400 residential units, 3,500 of which would be around Lake Gloriette; 400 at the Wilderness; and 500 at the golf course.Work on upgrading the existing resort would begin this summer, with a reopening in fall 2015, which is when work at the ski area would start.
 
If you haven't been up there recently take a look on google earth at the current condition the place, but I believe the intent is to completely change the grounds. I would expect they would pack in multistory buildings set up as resort hotels similar to what ASC started doing at Attitash. Considering the total lack of infrastructure in the area, they have put in water and wastewater treatment plants, power lines, police, fire and ambulance public works, you name it.
 
Strikes me that "plan" would kill the goose that laid the golden egg ... at least, it would kill my enjoyment of the area.
 
IMHO - Much as I appreciated the old Balsams, the reality was that it had not been a viable operation for many years and was subsidized by the owner. Many aspects of the operation were dated and the overall physical plant was built for an era where oil was cheap and therefore the heating costs were a major burden. Many of the rooms didn't meet the expectations of what folks have come to expect for resort hotel rooms. Barring some other millionaire buying it and running it as a hobby, the options were reinvent it or let is deteriorate or end up in large fire like many of the classic hotels in the region. Although the current vision is grandiose at least it is a vision. The 4000 units is 10 year plan predicated on I expect many phases of short term plans. I personally don't see where there is the demand for this dream but I and most VFTT readers are not the target audience. The Coos county region has been economically depressed for many years and the overall trend is downwards. Although a logging economy will remain, that is not enough to support a local economy. To the East, Errol NH is facing extinction as the tax base and population deteriorates to the point where they will have no local school which will drain any hope of bringing in a younger population. If this development brings back some steady work for the locals and provides an opportunity for professionals to move into the area I don't see a downside. For many folks probably even on VFTT, their knowledge of Northern NH stops at RT 2 and I expect a fair share of folks would have a tough time being able to even drive to the Balsams. This economic impact of this project is going to be far more lasting than hacking a strip from Canada to southern NH to build a power line.
 
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For many folks probably even on VFTT, there knowledge of Northern NH stops at RT 2 and I expect a fair share of folks would have a tough time being able to even drive to the Balsams. This economic impact of this project is going to be far more lasting than hacking a strip from Canada to southern NH to build a power line.

ha ha 3, 16, & 26, some of my favorite numbers. And the less people who know '13 Mile Woods' the better.
 
I never skied their but the current ski area is relatively small and didn't look like the terrain was particularly challenging. Places like Jay, Sugarloaf, and Saddleback have big terrain that draws skiers. Looking at the stats of Balsalms and hiking/driving through the notch. It seems like you can build on the amenities but the terrain you can't change. On the other hand Bretton Woods isn't the most challenging ski area but still stays busy but this could be a more convenient location.
 
I'm pretty sure from the first headline that the owners plan to expand the ski terrain - it does look like there's plenty of mountain, and the old ski area only uses a little of it...
 
We love LL Cote. How does that place stay in business??

Diversification. They cater to a lot of outdoor activities plus hardware store, apparel and gas station. Competition is limited for miles around, too. It also helps that they are a comparatively small store with courteous and knowledgeable staff.
 
Well, we support LL Cote whenever we go there, buying stuff we really don't need. I am sure they would like the Balsalms to make a comeback.
 
Various articles indicated the plan would be to rehab and reopen what remains of the current resort (many buildings have been torn down, check on google maps for aerial photos taken in sept 2013). Then increase the size of the ski area by a factor of four. Then build out the resort housing in a series of phases. For those familiar with Sunday River's rise, it was quite similar, build up the ski area and do whatever they have to go get skier traffic up including major snowmaking and then build out the base of the mountain with condos and condo hotels. One big issue is they really don't have a large water source to draw water from. Sunday River has the right of way to draw from the Androscoggin River but I don't think they ever used it, but the Sunday River upstream watershed is fairly large. There really isn't the same option at the Balsams.

LL Cote has basically been cannibalizing all the other local businesses that cater to tourists and they made prudent investments while the other stores are quite dated. Folks don't realize that many of the Rangeley lakes region folks drive from Mass to Rangeley via RT 16 through Berlin and then through Errol. Errol is a good place to stop and get gas and the folks driving through will pick Cotes over the other stores as it is far more modern and has clean restrooms. The folks driving through with properties in Rangeley tend to have extra cash for toys and Cotes is the one stop that has toys, food and amenities that the other stores do not appear to have. Realistically there is nothing like Cotes even up in Rangeley and there is no real equivalent one stop with what they have anywhere south to the Mass line that I am aware of.
 
Our hike of the Cohos Trail ended at the Balsams in 2012, started there in 2013. They had completely razed part of the resort during that winter-I think it was the newer, less historic hotel rooms. Beautiful hiking through that area, btw. I look back on it fondly, especially because the area was so remote (terrible for business, of course). We drove through Errol and stopped at what must have been Cotes for gas and a milkshake on our way to the trailhead (we did a kind of serpentine loop after dropping a food cache with the caretakers at south pond). It really was the only option in town-nothing else was open in what was basically a one-stop sign town. I can't imagine what the place would look like with 4000 new condos or houses, it would be completely different. It's already a snowmobile paradise.
 
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