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Proposed Plan to Build New England's Largest Ski Area


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Les Otten was one of the people who developed Sunday River, so there has been a lot of chatter up there recently about this project.. Sounds very interesting.


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Agreed. Can you really hope to garner the audience necessary to sustain the place with so many closer options? This year has been incredible for snow, and yet the crowds have been way down at Sunday River because it's too cold and snowy for them.. Great for me, likely not as great for the business side of things.
Agree. I cannot imagine, given LSO’s acquisition, sale and financial history, how he will be able to secure financing for this. It was such an incredible debacle - one that caused the near-ruination of quite a few resorts (circa 2002-2006). And some which, given the maintenance neglect, will be “coming from behind,” even with copious infusion of upgrades under new ownership and management, for decades. Possibly not even in my lifetime. It’s that bad.

@MissySki , @lisamamot - have you skied past his home off of Ridge Run at the Colony development? Mighty impressive. For someone who “lost everything.” Guess not...


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I have not seen his house yet. Interestingly I have heard nothing but glowing praise for Les from many different longtime employees of Sunday River this season. They seem to have preferred management of the resort in the past to now. Have had this discussion with some instructors, bartenders, shop guys, and just plain longtime skiers. I have no history there before last year so I don't have the basis for an opinion one way or the other on the guy, quite interesting though.
Otten’s expansion of Sunday River, while notable, was the tip of the iceberg, especially with regard to subsequent resort acquisitions. It was too much, too fast - and ultimately lead to the demise of the entire corporation.

Its dissolution is surely internet-accessible, including the incredible fiasco with the sale of Steamboat. The Heavenly sale went smoothly (and for a song), but the Steamboat sale wound up costing the corporation millions in default. Even bigger expenditures at Canyons, in anticipation of the 2002 SLC Winter Olympics, drove the bankruptcy harder and faster.

The regional joke at other ASC-owned eastern resorts was that every dollar spent by us was “funding Canyons.” The big push was that Canyons had acquired the “ground zero” rights with NBC.

Managing a single resort is one thing - and still surely not an easy job. When things go that big, that fast - in terms of resort acquisition - the right teams had better be in place or else. In this case, “or else” was the outcome. Sunday River and Sugarloaf (which were sold as a package deal, no splitting) were darn lucky to get picked up by Boyne. However, they are only managing. CNL holds the cards on this one now - and there is change in the wind for that pending as well. Stay tuned. It’s, at the least, tenuous - from a holding company perspective, anyway. See also: AIG & Stowe, more recent.


Angel Diva
Does he have the permits? What about the 10 years of EISs and another 10 years of legal action by environmental groups (btw, I'm not necessarily critical of these things, sometimes I am part of the opposition)? Or is that not how it works back East?

ski diva

Staff member
Here's the latest from NHPR:

A Senate Committee Wednesday sidelined a bill designed to provide state backing for a $28 million loan to the developers of the Balsams Resort. But developer Les Otten says he still hopes to begin construction in June.

The legislation is Senate Bill 30 and it would have provided a state guarantee for a $28 million bond to help Otten’s Dixville Capital LLC renovate and expand the Balsams resort.

But the Senate’s five-member Public and Municipal Affairs Committee – which was considering the bill - unanimously decided a committee should be formed to study the issue. The committee has three Republicans and two Democrats.

Regina Birdsell, a Republican who represents Derry, Windham and Hampstead, chairs the committee.

“We all care about what happens to the North Country. I ran on economic development so I want to support it. I just want to make sure that our financing is solid.”

Birdsell said the study committee’s deadline is November but the review could be done much earlier.

Under SB 30 the state would have held the priority lien on the Balsams if there was a problem with payments.

Les Otten, who heads up Dixville Capital, has said the $28 million bond was crucial for the project.

Wednesday he told NHPR he still hopes to start construction in June.

And he said he looks forward to providing elected officials with the necessary information and is confident their concerns can be alleviated

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Jeff Woodburn, a Democrat from Dalton who represents the North Country.

Late Wednesday Woodburn issued a statement saying to revitalize the Balsams "the state, the state legislature must assume some measured and modest risk" but he appreciates the fact that some senators want more time to understand the legislation.

State development officials have said they are strongly in favor of the Balsams project.

In a statement Wednesday Senate President Chuck Morse, a Republican from Salem, said:

“While we would all like to see the Balsams restored to its former glory and the anticipated economic benefit for Coos County and the State, I have some serious reservations about state taxpayers taking on the responsibility for a private business’s loan and the precedent this would create. We need to be sure we are making prudent and educated decisions when awarding funding to any business venture and the Balsams project is no different. I look forward to the opportunity to work with the developer and to study the details of this project specifically.”​
Re Les Otten and the American Ski Company: @MaineSkiLady hit the nail on the head. When the American Ski Company had Killington, all the money went out west, until the company was so broke they didn't have any money to spend, anyway. Improvements went begging until the resort was sold to Powdr.
That's a whole lot of bonds. :rolleyes:
I'm sure I'm not alone in my lack of trust of Otten's ability - or serious lack thereof - to handle money. Nor am I likely alone in my level of cynicism regarding this venture.

Those who remember where things were from 2000 until full sale and liquidation know that at least a few of the ski resort holdings practically had to shut down. It was *that* close.

Not trusting the guy with any development, on borrowed money.

ski diva

Staff member

Just weeks after a $28 million state funding bill was signed into law, the Balsams has been placed on the market.

Here's the story, from NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com:

According to the listing on CBRE ("the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm"), "the team has put together a detailed plan for Phase 1 with redevelopment strategies, cost breakdowns and renderings, making the renovation virtually 'shovel-ready.'"

The listing claims nearly $20 million has been invested to date, and that "The Balsams development team is prepared to work hand-in-hand with new investors, whether that be moving forward with their approved plans or shifting gears to a new vision. "

The property "encompasses 7,642 acres of expansive wilderness, with an additional 3,605 acres under option contracts that would facilitate further expansion of the ski area and create the largest ski mountain in the Northeast."

Developer Les Otten's most recent timeline was to reopen the ski area for the 2020-21 season. Since missing a mid-2015 planned groundbreaking, the project has been through numerous delays, most recently labelled as being in "grave time jeopardy." The total price tag for the project is estimated at $173 million.

The northernmost chairlift served ski area in New Hampshire, the Balsams Wilderness operated from 1966 until 2011, when the Dixville Notch Balsams Grand Resort was shuttered. While equipment has been sold and some hotel related structures demolished, the ski lodge and triple chairlifts remain in place. Les Otten has been involved in the project since 2014. Plans include 22 ski lifts serving 1,200 acres of skiable terrain.

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