A disagreement over fee-sharing has halted a three-year relationship between Q Burke Mountain ski resort and a local mountain biking trail network.
The resort and the nonprofit Kingdom Trails had partnered since 2010 to provide chairlift access to summer mountain bike trails.
The program was an extension of Kingdom Trails’ award-winning, multi-use trail system that established East Burke as a year-round destination for outdoor recreation. It’s a brand identity Q Burke is incorporating into its own business plans.
Q Burke CEO Ary Quiros intends to continue operations independently in June 2014, when the slopes would normally reopen to bikes.
Kingdom Trails will continue to operate its network of biking, cross-country skiing and snowshoe trails in and around East Burke. Executive director Tim Tierney said he’s “forever hopeful” the organization will return to the mountain to help manage and build out the bike park.
“If he doesn’t see our strength, we don’t know how we can convince him otherwise,” Tierney said. “And if not, it will just be the new reality.”
The dispute between the former partners surfaced when Quiros, who took over Q Burke management in January, revisited the Kingdom Trails contract as part of his broader housekeeping efforts at the struggling resort.
The arrangement through summer 2013 had been negotiated with prior Burke Mountain manager Tim McGuire, who stepped down in August. According to the Kingdom Trails website, McGuire holds a seat on the organization’s board of directors.
In the partnership, Q Burke handled monetary transactions on behalf of the resort and Kingdom Trails: Q Burke collected $20 for the chairlift and $15 for a “day membership” to Kingdom Trails. No daily trail fee was charged to those with annual Kingdom Trails membership.
Tierney said the trail fee is charged for access to any of the organization’s trail networks, and helps cover Kingdom Trail’s expenses for maintenance, management and insurance.
Quiros originally refused to pay roughly $20,000 to the organization according to the contract, which he said he had not been aware of at the time it was signed. He later agreed to the payment but canceled the partnership going forward.
Quiros said $20 was not enough to cover the resort’s costs of operating the chairlift and participating in the program.
“They told us to just suck it up,” Quiros said. “But if they want to be on the mountain, they should charge $15 on top of the $35.”
He acknowledged, however, that such a price point would put Q Burke out of a market that offers cheaper options nearby.
“At the end of the day, they’re the landowner,” Tierney said.
Kingdom Trails describes its entire network as being built on the generosity of private property owners willing to share access to their land. For that reason, Tierney said, Kingdom Trails can’t afford to set a precedent of allowing a landowner to charge a commission on its membership fees.
“We knew all along how unique it was — a for-profit resort dealing with a nonprofit,” Tierney said.
He underscored that as long as people continue to travel to East Burke for recreation, his organization’s mission will succeed.
“We just want to keep it seamless for people who come here and think of it as Kingdom Trails,” Tierney said.
Quiros said he would return to the negotiating table with Kingdom Trails under the right circumstances.
“I will work with anybody and everybody in the community when they’re fair,” Quiros said.
He added that he would like to co-market with Kingdom Trails, and that he’d consider waiving rental fees if the organization wants to hold events on the mountain.