Idaho’s state Land Board voted today to keep Tamarack Resort’s lease for state land alive through next June, opening the door to a possible ski season at the ailing Valley County resort this winter. "My only comment would be 'bravo,'" Secretary of State Ben Ysursa said before voting for the lease deal. Click below to read the full story from AP reporter John Miller.
Idaho backs plan for Tamarack skiing this winter
By JOHN MILLER, Associated PressBOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho gave its blessing Tuesday to a plan for a ski season at Tamarack Resort starting Dec. 20, moving the failed vacation getaway a step closer to firing up lifts for the first time since 2009.
The state Land Board, including Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, approved a package to keep Tamarack's lease to 2,100 acres of state land alive until next June.
A federal bankruptcy judge still must approve allowing ski lifts, groomers, cash registers, rental skis and other equipment — all collateral in a $300 million bankruptcy dispute with lenders led by Credit Suisse Group — to be used for the ski operation.
Leaders of the Tamarack Municipal Association, the homeowner group that's joining with the bank to cover for the lease, remain optimistic they'll open the resort 90 miles north of Boise by Christmas. Lifts were shuttered in March 2009 after lenders turned off the money amid mounting losses.
"We're extremely confident," association director Tim Flaherty told The Associated Press after the hearing. "Nobody has said ‘no’ yet. An operating resort only makes sense. It's a benefit for the homeowners, it’s a benefit to the creditors, it's a benefit for Valley County."
Flaherty's group has sold more than 200 season passes for Tamarack, but many skiers are waiting to see if the resort actually opens before paying the $199. The plan is for a 15-week season from Dec. 20 to April 3, Thursdays through Sundays, with extended days during winter holidays.
Tamarack majority owner Jean-Pierre Boespflug missed last January's $250,000 lease payment to Idaho.
According to the package approved Tuesday, Credit Suisse will pay $290,000 to bring that current as well as cover interest that's been building up for 11 months. The Zurich-based bank is chipping in another $45,000, which along with $80,000 from the homeowners will pay the 2011 lease through next June 30.
Idaho relies on the lease money to help bolster funding for public schools. An operating ski hill would also create about 65 jobs and payroll of about $550,000 in economically moribund Valley County, with 19 percent unemployment in September — another big reason why Idaho officials are pulling for Tamarack's survival.
"My only comment would be 'bravo,'" Secretary of State Ben Ysursa said before voting for the lease deal.
The Land Board also includes Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, Controller Donna Jones and public schools chief Tom Luna.
Boespflug is still searching for a buyer for his resort, as he continues efforts to dig the operation from beneath an avalanche of debt triggered in 2007 when the vacation real-estate market soured and he ran out of money to pay contractors and the Credit Suisse-led lender group.
Boespflug, a native Frenchman, is continuing his fight with Credit Suisse, which last month asked a bankruptcy court judge to shift Tamarack from bankruptcy reorganization back into a court where the property could be liquidated. A hearing on that is set for Dec. 6.
Credit Suisse, which supports the homeowners' plan to run lifts this winter provided sufficient insurance for the resort is in place, declined to comment on Tuesday's lease decision.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.