Mt. Sunapee Receives Preliminary West Bowl Expansion Approval from State
New trail complex and base area could debut in 2018-19.
Thursday, April 16, 2015, NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com
In a draft decision issued on April 16, 2015, New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) Commissioner Jeffrey Rose has tentatively approved the long proposed Mt. Sunapee West Bowl Expansion.
Present plans for the $13.85 million West Bowl expansion include 75 acres of new skiable terrain, a high speed quad (the present day Sunapee Express Quad would be relocated to the West Bowl and would be replaced on the main mountain by a new high speed six pack), a novice surface lift, a new base area with a 1,250 person comfortable carrying capacity featuring parking and a 12,500 square foot base lodge. The new complex would be targeted for a 2018-19 season debut, with some terrain potentially opening earlier.
The private funding source of the expansion has not yet been announced. Mount Sunapee Resort's privately owned assets are currently held by CNL Lifestyle Properties, which is expected to sell its ski holdings as soon as this year.
According to Rose's decision letter, the state proposes some 410 acres of private land, including the 150 acres containing the new ski terrain, be donated to the state by 2028. Rose also proposes adding another 10 year option to the lease. Mount Sunapee Resort is currently operating under a 20 year term through 2018 with two 10 year options.
Rose's letter also addresses false old growth forest claims that were propagated to derail the project, stating that the National Heritage Bureau report "confirmed that there is no old growth forest in the West Bowl." To address concerns about mature, non-old growth trees, Rose suggests the ski area operators realign some proposed trail cuts.
In response to concerns about private real estate development in the West Bowl, Rose suggests a 20 foot setback from what would become the state boundary to "ensure that any abutter to the state park is not granted rights or access to the recreational facilities that are not also enjoyed by the general public." In addition, it is noted no real estate development has been zoned or approved, and that the state would have input should it be proposed in the future.
According to an Economic Impact Report prepared for the ski area operators by RKG Associates, Inc. of Dover, the expansion would initially increase skier visits by some 76,500 per season. $4.5 million in taxable property would be added, including $3.8 million in Goshen. The resort's town, county, and education property tax bill would increase from $132,029 to $234,188. The expansion would also potentially increase in Rooms and Meals Tax, Business Profits Tax, and payroll tax revenue.
Lease payments to the state would increase by an estimated $148,167 per year in 2019. Mount Sunapee Resort currently pays over $600,000 per year to the state, adding up to some $8 million since the start of the lease. 100% of the lease funds are used to pay Cannon Mountain ski area's debt. Increased debt spending at Cannon has placed the account in arrears.
A new 50 day comment period on the preliminary decision has been commenced. In addition, a May 5 hearing has been scheduled. If approved by DRED, operators would have to gain approval from the Department of Environmental Services, New Hampshire Fish and Game, New Hampshire Department of Transportation, and local governments.