More foreign investment 'imminent'
The Great North Regional Center's first investment offering will happen by the end of this month, and it will support development of more than 100 new lodging units at the Dover resort, executives said last week.
Meanwhile, the resort's first EB-5 offering is bearing fruit: Mount Snow opened earlier than usual this year due to the EB-5-funded West Lake snowmaking project, and Thanksgiving weekend's skier visits were up 70 percent over last year.
"The West Lake project has even surprised us in terms of how quickly the public has grasped what we've been able to do at Mount Snow and how significant a change this is going to make, because it really changes the paradigm up there," said Tim Boyd, president and chief executive officer of Mount Snow parent company Peak Resorts.
Boyd was speaking during Peak's quarterly earnings report. The Missouri-based company's financial news wasn't much to write home about, as the quarter ending Oct. 31 is typically the slowest part of the year in the ski business.
So Boyd instead spent much of his time talking about recent EB-5 happenings at Mount Snow. The federal EB-5 program allows foreigners who invest in qualified U.S. job-creating projects to gain visas and permanent residency. The initiative has come under scrutiny due to allegations of massive fraud at Jay Peak Resort and the potential termination of Vermont's state-run EB-5 regional center.
The former director of the state's regional center, Brent Raymond, subsequently managed EB-5 projects at Mount Snow. But the resort and its parent company had no connection to the Jay Peak scandal. In fact, Mount Snow and Peak administrators have spent much of the last year working to further distance themselves from that scandal by establishing their own, privately run regional center to coordinate foreign investment for future EB-5 projects.
That paid off last month with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approving creation of Peak's Great North Regional Center. It's designed as a multi-state center, and Peak has tied the initiative to its resorts in Vermont, New York and New Hampshire.
"This center, which we will manage, will help us to further leverage EB-5 investment sponsor opportunities by providing us with greater flexibility, control and oversight," Boyd said. "It also provides us with the ability to tap this attractive source of financing to support organic growth initiatives across all of our Northeast resorts including Mount Snow, Hunter, Attitash and Wildcat."
Christopher Bub, Peak's chief financial officer, said the company has "capacity for development at many of our Northeastern resorts, and (we) are evaluating a number of potential investments that can further transform these resorts into destination facilities."
One definite EB-5 project that's upcoming is the creation of 102 new ski-in, ski-out housing units at Mount Snow's Carinthia base area.
Dick Deutsch, a Peak executive who also serves as Mount Snow's president, didn't say how much money the resort is seeking for that project. But he told investors that an EB-5 offering to support the project is "imminent."
"We do plan on getting it to market by the end of this month," Deutsch said.
Fundraising for the housing project is expected to take 12 to 18 months, with construction planned for spring 2019, Boyd said. The project may be complete the following year.
"We have already commenced the planning and permitting process, as research indicates there is significant demand for this type of lodging at Mount Snow and across southern Vermont, with demand often exceeding supply during the peak season," Boyd said.
Administrators are hoping that peak season will bring more skiers to Mount Snow than before due to the recent completion of the resort's first EB-5-funded project - the 120-million-gallon West Lake reservoir. That reservoir, combined with several new pump houses and new snow guns, has significantly boosted Mount Snow's ability to cover more trails more quickly. The resort opened Nov. 11, a dozen days earlier than in 2016, "and we did so with significantly more skiable terrain," Boyd said.
Of course, snowmaking remains weather-dependent. But Boyd said Mount Snow "has always operated at a disadvantage because of our water situation," and administrators have said the West Lake project caps a decades-long search for sufficient water for snowmaking operations.
Boyd predicted that West Lake also will give Mount Snow "a leg up" by offering more skiable terrain during the critical Christmas season.
Another EB-5-funded project, the 42,000-square-foot Carinthia Lodge, is scheduled for completion next year at Mount Snow. Boyd said the $22 million building will have seating for 600 people and will "provide a variety of skier services and amenities" including a restaurant, cafeteria, two bars, a rental shop and a ski school.
"In addition, the lodge will allow us to drive several new revenue streams related to conferences, weddings and other events," Boyd said.
Carinthia Lodge also will offer "additional parking and serve as a hub from which we will be able to more efficiently get guests on and off the mountain," Boyd said. "It will also be the focal point of our planned lodging and residential expansion at Mount Snow."
Mike Faher can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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