PDA

View Full Version : A huge expansion of "The Baslems" in northern New Hampshire may be coming



DavidNH
03-01-2015, 21:29
This will be of interest to anyone here with an interest in the Cohos trail which is in Cohos county in New Hampshire. A huge expansion of the Baslem's resort could make them the largest ski resort in the east (even larger than Killington).

http://www.snocountry.com/en/news/entry/balsams-developers-envision-largest-ski-area-in-the-east-construction-could-begin-this-spring

Maybe this could help the economy there in some small way but it sure doesn't seem compatible with the wildlands of this part of the state.

what do you all think?

DavidNH

Slo-go'en
03-01-2015, 22:02
As a Coos county resident I think it would be okay and generally good for the area. Provided they can pull it off. That is yet to be seen. We already have 100's of miles of ATV trails which I think are more disruptive then a big ski resort would be. The number of people who injure themselves on ATVs up here is alarming.

In any event, there is little other choice for the area. Logging has scaled back considerably and much of the land is in conservation trust. What once was the domain of the paper industry now needs to be transformed into an ecotourist economy. It's all a bit 19th century, bringing back the grand hotels and all that.

4eyedbuzzard
03-01-2015, 23:08
I don't honestly see it being successful. I'd like to see it succeed from an economic standpoint for the local people, but also wonder what the impact would be on one of the last wilderness areas in the eastern US. I think the whole NH Grand initiative will fall short of expectations due to competition for vacationer's dollars and consumer preferences. I can ski Colorado or Utah for the same money and get better, more predictable snow/weather conditions. If I'm a southern NE "local", Killington and Sunday River and others are much closer. If I'm coming for the nature aspect in summer, I'm more likely going to camp or get a cabin. It's just not a place many people choose to go to stay at a luxury resort, all other factors being the same. The Mt. Washington will likely survive, as it has better on site amenities, better golf course, better proximity to skiing, historical significance, etc. There are the niche attractions like ATV and snowmobile trails, etc., but many of these folks don't stay in the "Grand Hotels". I don't think the limited demand can support three Grand Hotels. The Balsams and Mountain View Grand will hang on as always, changing owners/investors again, etc. The Balsams is particularly tough due to its (even more) remote location.

I remember when they rolled out the NH Grand initiative and thought, "Why aren't they focusing more on the mom and pop motels, campgrounds, hiking, smaller attractions, etc." Because that is the soul of the north country and all the small mom and pop businesses. But the real world is that mostly, they just hang on year to year too. You have to live up here to understand. It's not an easy place to make a living.

peakbagger
03-02-2015, 09:01
I started a thread on Balsams awhile back on VFTT, if you want more details. http://www.vftt.org/forums/showthread.php?52588-Balsams-Update-Go-Big-or-Go-home

For those who never saw the Balsams prior to recent decline it was something that most would think would be in Austria or Switzerland. The access from the east goes through Dixville Notch which is lot skinnier than Franconia Notch and definitely wilder. There is a state highway blasted into the side of the mountain that runs up over the notch. At the top, the highway crests a hill and rapidly turns left. Directly in front is a valley with a Bavarian looking hotel complex next to a lake. For the average driver not expecting it, if feels like they have just driven over a cliff due to the change in visual reference. It is about 30 miles north of the AT in the whites and is surrounded by national forest and industrial forestland. There are no state roads north of the resort all the way to the Canadian border. The major issue with the resort is there is no major interstate highway anywhere nearby. It is about 60 miles from the nearest interstate on two lane roads that run through all sorts of rural towns, and is really too far from Boston for a day trip. Anyone driving up there passes several ski resorts.

Its only hope is as a destination resort where people go for a week. Killington seems successful with this approach and Jay Peak is giving it a run but Sugarloaf has struggled through a series of owners over the years and Saddleback's long term owner cashed out by selling the AT corridor back to the government and by doing a firesale of the resort to a new owner. Since then it struggles along.

Slo-go'en
03-02-2015, 11:30
It would be nice if they could get rail service back up here from down state. Then it would really be back to the 19th century :) Route 3 continues up to the Canadian boarder, but other then that the area is about as remote as it gets.

I spent some time at Jay, Vermont helping out at a bankrupt ski lodge a friend was managing while it was in Chapter 11. The only reason Jay Peak stays in business is that they are a day trip out of Montreal. We would sit in the dinning room watching bus after bus arrive from Quebec and leave in the evening.

I did a section of the Cohos trail with a couple of friends, ending in Dixville Notch when the Balsams was still open. We had to go the lobby to call for a ride back to Berlin. We had just slid down a muddy trail to get to the road. The staff took one look at us and said "please don't sit on anything!".

imscotty
03-02-2015, 12:06
I agree the Balsams remote location and the two Grand Resorts that are closer to Boston will limit their audience. That said, they have to try. There are few other economic opportunities for the people of Colebrook and that area. As pointed out, their best market is probably to the North. I hate to see that beautiful notch developed, but ski slopes are lower impact than many other potential uses.

I agree with you 4eyedbuzzrd about supporting the 'Mom & Pop' businesses, but that does not seem to be where the flatlanders are spending their money. Actually, it is getting harder and harder to find the inexpensive old roadside 'cabins' from the 1950's that my family enjoys. Many of those have gone out of business, people today care more about the amenities than nature.

peakbagger
03-02-2015, 12:26
There are frequent entrepreneurs that pop up to restore passenger rail to the Saint Laurence and Atlantic or the Mountain Division. The SLR option is far more viable and was operated in winter to service Sunday River at one point. It runs between Portland and Montreal. North Stratford, the closest road crossing is about 21 miles from the Balsams. There is a defunct rail line called the North Stratford railroad that could get them to Colebrook which is 10 miles away, this right of way has been proposed as a route for a major power line. Considering that Les Otten one of the developers of the Balsams was the developer of Sunday River I expect he has looked at the option for rail. The problem with SLR and the Mountain division are that there are numerous at grade public and private crossings that slow the trail down making its use for day trips unworkable.

The last SLR proposal was to run self contained railcars, they are essentially a bus that runs on rails.

Rain Man
03-02-2015, 12:48
what do you all think?

That this should be moved to the "Other Trails" section of WB.

Starchild
03-02-2015, 15:42
To me it just seems weird the 'OK', 'wish them well' response to this project compared to the 'No Way in Hell' response to the proposed casino in Sterling Forest NY area.

Other then that, it seems like a chicken and the egg problem. They want to become the largest resort in the east, and they are banking on them being the largest will draw the people, however they can't and don't intend to become the largest all at once but in phases. Perhaps the newness will attract many which may give them the capital to expand and one owner Less Otten is also very big on leveraging assets for ski area expansion. So he very well may pull that off.

I would also like to see more stats of this ski mega-resort, what is the total ski-able vertical and total continuous vertical, along with the verticals of the interconnected mountains. The map the provide does not show much.

peakbagger
03-02-2015, 17:24
Not much info about the ski area. The abandoned ski area had 1000 feet of vertical, the plan is to expand into an adjacent valley with a slightly higher ridgeline (Dixville Peak that might gain them 300 feet. If you look at Sunday River in Maine, its basically an expanded version that includes more of a resort. They claim they will compete with Killington but they are short about 500 feet of vertical. They do plan to run a pipe to the Androscoggin River so they will have a virtually infinite water supply for snowmaking which is a major issue with many eastern ski resorts.

imscotty
03-02-2015, 19:10
One thing that may work in their favor long run is if Global Warming really starts to kick in the southern Ski areas may lack the snow that the northern ski slopes still may have. The Balsams and Jay Peak could do well under that scenario.

Don't want to debate that subject, let's just say they could do well during warmer, low snow years.

Another Kevin
03-02-2015, 19:37
To me it just seems weird the 'OK', 'wish them well' response to this project compared to the 'No Way in Hell' response to the proposed casino in Sterling Forest NY area.

The Sterling Forest plan had the issue that they didn't have the road infrastructure to support it, and the only way to build out the roads would be to take park land to do it. The Balsams is still on a sizable tract of private land, and widening highways if necessary could be done on existing rights-of-way. The casino proposal denied the need for highway expansion explicitly, and everyone winked. By the way, my home town wound up saddled with one of the winning casino proposals. I'm not thrilled, but better here than Tuxedo. Here, they're building on an existing industrial brownfield with good road and rail access.

On the other hand, if something doesn't happen, Cos county will be entirely depopulated in another generation. There's no economy there at all. By contrast, Tuxedo is an affluent suburban community. So if someone is doing some sort of development there, I think it's all to the good. The whole county doesn't need to be wilderness.

Starchild
03-02-2015, 20:39
The Sterling Forest plan had the issue that they didn't have the road infrastructure to support it, and the only way to build out the roads would be to take park land to do it. The Balsams is still on a sizable tract of private land, and widening highways if necessary could be done on existing rights-of-way. The casino proposal denied the need for highway expansion explicitly, and everyone winked. By the way, my home town wound up saddled with one of the winning casino proposals. I'm not thrilled, but better here than Tuxedo. Here, they're building on an existing industrial brownfield with good road and rail access.

On the other hand, if something doesn't happen, Cos county will be entirely depopulated in another generation. There's no economy there at all. By contrast, Tuxedo is an affluent suburban community. So if someone is doing some sort of development there, I think it's all to the good. The whole county doesn't need to be wilderness.

Quite the opposite as I have heard, I believe the deal is that they would have paid in full the road infrastructure and that the (new) thruway exit was always part of the original thruway plan and could have been implemented at any time anyway. In other words the park land knowingly was borrowing from future right of ways.

Also the Balsams project, if successful, likewise does not have road infrastructure to support it but unlike Sterling Forest does not require the company who builds it to pay for it.

4eyedbuzzard
03-02-2015, 22:55
. . . if something doesn't happen, Cos county will be entirely depopulated in another generation. There's no economy there at all. By contrast, Tuxedo is an affluent suburban community. So if someone is doing some sort of development there, I think it's all to the good. The whole county doesn't need to be wilderness.Well, the future of Coos county as a whole isn't quite as dire as you suggest - that of complete depopulation. Berlin/Gorham and the other larger towns that were dependent on the paper mills face the worst of it, and the small Gorham paper mill turnaround is pretty iffy long term. Yes, the mill towns will go further downhill and more people will eventually leave. It's depressing to drive through Berlin and witness first hand. But people do still live throughout the north country and make a living. Some do better than others like anywhere else, but like much of rural America it tends to be on the poor side. There are local service industries, some logging, and even some light industrial. Just not a lot. The area is popular with campers and family vacationers, snowmobilers, cross country skiers, hunters, fishermen, etc. There are also lot of retirees who enjoy the remote nature. It's just not a bustling modern activity type resort. And I would venture that many of the residents actually want to keep it that way - it's why they choose to stay and live there.

Slo-go'en
03-02-2015, 23:53
It's just not a bustling modern activity type resort. And I would venture that many of the residents actually want to keep it that way - it's why they choose to stay and live there.

I often say "I'm glad I live here and most everyone else doesn't".

peakbagger
03-03-2015, 08:09
There are two Northern New Hampshire's, arguably the dividing line is RT 2, some would argue Rt 110. The state has established the Great North Woods regions using RT 2, with the Mt Washington Valley to the south . The reason for the Rt 110 line is that the declaration boundary of the WMNF is Rt 110 and there are two four thousand footers in that area that are accessed by many day hikers. The practical aspect is that generally tourism based businesses shoot for 2 hour maximum drive time for a day use activity. In the past prior to the completion of Interstate 93, the tourism line was the southern Whites, basically Lincoln NH to the west and North Conway to the east. Once the parkway went through Franconia Notch, the tourism line did stretch to possibly the Littleton NH area much to the relief of the Cannon Mtn ski area. Businesses north of the tourism line tended to be the small mom and pop type businesses generally with an attached campground going for the weekend overnight visitor or longer term. There were no established activities in the region basically dispersed recreation. Another limitation is the hunting in Northern NH is poor, whitetail deer are on their northern fringe and far more populous south of the WMNF, there is a limited moosehunt for one week a year and that's about it. Fishing is good but most folks go elsewhere. The NH grand initiative is an attempt to get folks to drive north of the tourism zone and stay a few days, the unfortunate thing is that with the exception of limited accommodations in Lancaster, Pittsburg and Gorham, there aren't a lot of places to stay and at least a portion of the accommodations don't meet the expectations of current travelers. An indication of this is that there are zero national chains north of WMNF, if you want a room you have to call the motel and hope the are planning on enough business to be open when you arrive

A leftover from the turn of the century were the remnant grand hotels that were at their peak when families moved to the mountains for the summer. Only two of the grand hotels survived, the Mt Washington and the Balsams. Both include a golf course and ski area. The Balsams only survived as the owner had a manufacturing business, Tilotson Rubber, that subsidized the resort operations. Unfortunately the owner passed away and the estate no longer subsidized the business and once it had to stand on its own, it couldn't. After one developer walked away, the estate sold some key limited development rights to a group opposed to a large power line that was proposed to be routed through the property and the remainder was sold to some local businessmen who didn't have the horsepower to develop it. They also made a key mistake where they tore down enough of the structures that they no longer qualified for historic tax credits. So at this point there are the remains of the old resort complex (still impressive) a spectacular remote location, a ski area that is too small and too far away and a golf course with no local customer base. There is also a large block of industrial forest land surrounding the complex so expansion is not constrained.

To developers, the Balsams is attractive as they can weave a large grand concept around the history and the remnants. They don't necessarily buy into the long term viability but if they can sell the concept to others they make money along the way. There are a lot of foreign investors looking for a place to park their money in the US real estate market and I would expect that there are efforts to convince them that this is the place to invest. To the locals, the population demographics is that over the last 20 years the manufacturing base has collapsed taking 2 to 3 thousand jobs with it. There are many folks in their late forties through their sixties who have been displaced or have figured out a way of stringing together various jobs that want to stay in the area and they look at this resort as a way to cash in for a few years on the construction and the subsidiary jobs.

At this point the alternative is to let it burn, which was the demise of many of the grand hotels in NH, eventually there will be some sort of development but I expect the economic impact will be limited. The alternative is the grand vision of the current developer and I hope plenty of folks "from away" decide to buy into the dream. I don't plan to but then again I am not their target audience. Nevertheless as a local bystander it will be interesting to observe the project.

rickb
03-03-2015, 08:28
They don't necessarily buy into the long term viability but if they can sell the concept to others they make money along the way. There are a lot of foreign investors looking for a place to park their money in the US real estate market and I would expect that there are efforts to convince them that this is the place to invest.


Wasn't that how they got a major part of the funding for the Jay Peak expansion?

I am short on details, but as I understand it, foreign investors put a lot of money up there to qualify for the EB5 visa program- which guarantees a green card for those who invest in the US according to its guidelines.

Didn't someone on Whiteblaze make snow there back in the day?

peakbagger
03-03-2015, 09:50
I think LW made snow at Loon Mtn in Lincoln at one point?. My hats off to anyone making snow, mucking about with water hoses on the side of the mountain in the dark on a cold night is a hard way to earn a living. Many apply but few make it through a season.

The foreign investment for visa program is how Jay is doing all their work. I believe that in order for it to happen, the area has to be designated an economically depressed zone. There is more money to be invested than there are projects that meet the criteria in the Newport VT area. Senator Leahy got the designation in VT but I am not sure if it is currently in place for Northern NH or if it has been attempted. I would be surprised if its not put in place at some point for the project, but there may be political motive to wait until the vote in the legislature to grant them access to bonding. Financing on these deals are full of contingent clauses and just setting up a structure that doesn't self destruct is an art in itself. There was money set aside to put in wood boiler for heating at one point for the resort but I don't know if it survived.

4eyedbuzzard
03-03-2015, 09:56
Didn't someone on Whiteblaze make snow there back in the day?


I think LW made snow at Loon Mtn in Lincoln at one point?I'm pretty sure I remember LW saying he worked at Jay for a number of years.

peakbagger
03-03-2015, 11:17
I guess we need to go to the source

4eyedbuzzard
03-06-2015, 20:19
Not Grand Hotel related, but it plays into the story of the economic uncertainty of the area.

More bad job news for the north country. 175 jobs will be lost in Franconia and Littleton. While the numbers may seem small from the perspective of someone living in a more populated area, these are big losses in the small town economies of northern NH.

Garnet Hill relocating 40 jobs (http://nhpr.org/post/garnet-hills-dilemma-could-moving-jobs-north-country-lead-more-nh-jobs-overall#.VOehuMbRqbk.facebook)

Garnet Hill, based in Franconia, NH, manufactures and retails clothing and home decor items, says it is relocating 40 jobs out of 200 total to Exeter, NH in a move that the company says will ultimately bring even more jobs in the future to Franconia/Bethlehem. In the meanwhile, it's another blow to the north country economy.

Hitchiner closing Littleton plant (http://caledonianrecord.com/main.asp?SectionID=180&SubSectionID=883&ArticleID=126615)

At one time back in the mid-90's Hitchiner Mfg. employed almost 600 people working at two plants in Littleton, NH, producing everything from auto and aircraft parts to golf clubs. The golf club operations went to Mexico and then on to China. One plant was closed but the other remained, employing approximately 300 employees focusing on the finishing of the company's core products. The economics of transporting materials between the main plant in Milford, NH and Littleton were offset to some degree by the lower labor and overhead costs in Littleton. The company slowly began reducing that workforce number due to the economic downturn, leaving 135 full-time employees.

To be honest, having worked for Hitchiner in the past, it's a business move many people probably saw coming, but at the same time it's sad to see even more of the better paying jobs in the area go south, if even just to southern NH.