Saturday, October 11, 2008

Tahoe's Li'l Smokey recovering

unedited sept tahoe mt. news story:

By Kathryn Reed

A dismal real estate market is forcing Kirkwood Mountain Resort to examine how it’s going to pay for future on mountain improvements.
The plan for years was that real estate sales would fund the resort improvements. Approval last year of the resort’s master plan was the last hurdle to adding lifts, lodges and other amenities. Or so management and owners thought.
Real estate sales at Kirkwood have tumbled and therefore created an unexpected financing hurdle. To overcome that obstacle the resort is looking to generate cash.
Mountain Springs Kirkwood is the umbrella corporation that operates Kirkwood Mountain Resort, Kirkwood Mountain Realty, Mountain Utilities and Kirkwood Development.
With public hearings under way for Kirkwood Mountain Utility District to acquire Mountain Utilities, it was a logical time to look at other aspects of the company.
“If you are going to play with certain pieces of the portfolio, it has other impacts on the portfolio,” said David Likens, CEO of Mountain Springs Kirkwood. “There are always options to ski resort operations. Nobody in our area is thinking about taking over another local ski resort. Right now we are still having discussions. We are exploring all of our opportunities. We are constantly looking at the right way to structure our equity and debt capital.”
Both Tim Cohee, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Mountain Springs Kirkwood, and Likens say the resort is not for sale. But the structure may be different in the near future. Cohee said before the ski season and maybe as soon as Halloween the financing changes will be in place.
“One of the options we are looking at is the option where the company creates a financing relationship where the resort becomes a management company,” Cohee said. “The way it worked at Booth Creek (owners of Northstar and Sierra-at-Tahoe) is they sold the resorts so they could be leased back to the current management. That would not affect the other businesses like Mountain Utilities and the real estate company.”
When the changes took place at Booth Creek a couple years ago guests did not notice any difference in how things were operated. If something like this occurs at Kirkwood, Cohee said the current management team will stay in place.
Even though the resort is looking at all of its options, a household name is not expected to be the final player in the financing deal.
“The beauty of it is this positive financing would allow us to move forward. We would be in a terrific position when we see the real estate business rebound,” Cohee said.
Cohee is now splitting his time between real estate and marketing the ski resort. Allon Cohne, who had been head of marketing, left earlier this year for the East Coast.
Other news at Kirkwood – season pass sales are up 200 percent over last year; the Tri-county Technical Advisory Committee had a meeting Sept. 5 (too late for deadline) about permitting the propone fired micro plant in Amador County.

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