Business & Economy

Developer to build new $200 million ski village on Okemo Mountain

skivermontissueThe state has given the green light to a $200 million development project at Okemo Mountain. State officials granted the resort an Act 250 permit on Sept. 14.

The developer, Timber Creek at Okemo, along with five partners, is planning to build South Face Village, which will connect to the existing Okemo ski resort in Ludlow. The new base will include two ski lifts, seven ski trails and a 208-unit residential planned community that will be able to house about 500 people. The estimated cost of the entire project, which will be built in phases and take more than 10 years to complete, will be in excess of $200 million, said Ted Rossi, owner and president of Rossi Group, which is the main investor behind Timber Creek at Okemo.

The project known as South Face Village will be located on the west side of the Okemo Mountain ski village.

Rossi, who has vacationed at Okemo for more than 25 years, said the firm began the application process during the economic downturn seven years ago.

“We think it was a good time to do it while the market was at the bottom,” Rossi said about the long application process. “We think the market has turned and that there is demand for this type of development at this time.”

Okemo Mountain Resort will not pay for any of the construction of the new ski village, but has agreed to run the lifts and doing the snowmaking when the project is finished, said Ted Reeves, vice president of development and real estate at Okemo Mountain Resort.

“This is a big, big project,” Reeves said. “Down in this area of the state we haven’t seen a development project of this size in a long time.”

The project plans to break ground and start cutting trails by spring/early summer 2014, Rossi said.

Operation of the two chairlifts is planned to start by next season, Reeves said. By the winter 2014-15 roads, parking lots and a sales office will be established at the bottom of the mountain, said Andy Becker, permit holder at Timber Creek at Okemo’s general counsel.

The residential buildings at South Face Village, including 22 single family homes on individual lots, 32 duplex buildings and nine townhouses, will be built later.

Timber Creek will use local contractors, Rossi said.

“I think it’s going have a unique characteristic,” he said. “It’s going be energy-efficient, all-beam construction.”

The beginner and intermediate level ski slopes will give the new properties ski in and ski out access, a feature that will increase their value, Becker said.

Ludlow officials are bullish about the project. Fees for the use of the town’s wastewater treatment system will bring revenue to the municipality and real estate taxes will raise revenue for the entire state, said Frank Heald, Ludlow’s municipal manager.

At the moment, real estate in the Ludlow area, including the homes surrounding the Okemo resort, brings in about $20 million in property taxes annually. South Face Village will also create more jobs in construction and maintenance, work that already employs many of the town’s about 2,000 residents, said Heald.

Maggie Graaf, director of the Okemo Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce, says the infrastructure in the Okemo Valley has provided a good location for big investments such as the South Face Village.

“We already have the structure,” she said. “It’s a huge service industry and we have the people – construction workers and plumbers and so on“ she said. “Our valley is very special, it’s the only region that has a ski area with an entire town at the bottom.”

There has been little to no opposition to the development at town hearings, said Heald. And no one showed up to oppose the project at the Land Use Panel’s hearings in Montpelier, according to Becker, the lawyer who is overseeing the permitting process.

Development in the state has been standing still for several years, Heald said. He sees the investment from Timber Creek at Okemo as a bold approach to a potential upswing in the economy.

“They have invested a lot of money for this to be ready for the next growth cycle,” he said. “I certainly hope that will happen.”

The Okemo ski resort was founded by a group of businessmen in the 1950s, and was owned by Diane and Tim Mueller from 1982 to 2008. In 2008, it was sold to the Florida-based CNL Lifestyle Properties, but the Muellers are still under contract to run the resort.

Rossi Group was founded by Joe Rossi in 1925 and is still run as a family-owned company, and produces and exports hardwood.

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  • Bruce Post

    The great writer and environmental advocate Wallace Stegner wrote:

    “The historian who remarked that America’s whole history could be read as one continuous real estate transaction was not too far off.”

    Substitute “Vermont’s” for “America’s” in the sentence above, and you pretty much have it, dating all the way back to the Allen brothers and the Onion River Company.

    • Beth randolph

      So does this mean our taxes will be lowered????

  • Ron Pulcer

    I love skiing the South Face area at Okemo (my favorite section there). I am sure this will change the character of that part of Okemo.

    The only thing I don’t quite understand is these two quotes, when taken together:

    “The beginner and intermediate level ski slopes will give the new properties ski in and ski out access, a feature that will increase their value, Becker said.”

    “Okemo Mountain Resort will not pay for any of the construction of the new ski village, but has agreed to run the lifts and doing the snowmaking when the project is finished, said Ted Reeves, vice president of development and real estate at Okemo Mountain Resort.”

    Of the 3 sections of Okemo, the original (middle) ridge and the newer Jackson Gore area are the two places with “beginner” slopes and lessons. The South Face has some glade trails that are double blacks. The long Rim Runner trail, has a mix of some easier and some not so easy terrain. I guess you could say that Dream Weaver, which is a great long run, is probably the only real run for beginners, although it has a few steep spots on the left side and is a great cruising run.

    If Okemo is not going to spend anything other running the lifts and snowmaking, which they do now anyways (unless they mean additional connectors to condos), I’m not sure how this can be a “ski-in-out” area for beginners. Intermediates definitely, but beginners would have to take Rim Rock down to a trail that meanders through other slopeside condos to get down to the main area’s beginner runs and lesson area.

  • Tony Redington

    Hey, it’s all about the 1% (well maybe10%) and how Vermont, an emerging plantation state, can butler.

    On the other hand, maybe Okemo–the only ski area where one can go from rail to ski-trail can be the catalyst for both in-state and Amtrak expanded rail passenger services.

    • Ron Pulcer

      Western VT did not benefit from the Interstate Highway System, which might have helped Rutland and Bennington County economies. Maybe Amtrak service not only from Burlington to Bennington, but spurs to ski areas or hiking might benefit not only tourism, but commuters or Vermonters weekend travel.

    • Phyllis North

      Tony, you only describe half of the Vermont formula. Yes, Vermont caters to out-of-staters. But then we lure them to buy second homes, or maybe even move here, and then we tax the hell out of them. It is a formula that has been working for 50 years or more, and allows us to fund a lot of programs we otherwise could not afford.

      • Beth randolph

        Thank you Ms. North

  • richard black

    Sounds like a great project going on. Not to upset trailside condo owners there should be a connect to trail between condos 39 and 40.

    • Beth randolph

      Great question Richard. My only question, will this raise our taxes…. Beth and Art