March 29, 1996 in City

Silver Mountain Closes This Weekend Staff Fired As Resort Looks For Buyer; Annual Concert Series Still On For Now

Eric Torbenson Staff writer
 

Silver Mountain Ski and Summer Resort will shut down this weekend like other area ski resorts do in early April.

But until new owners cut a check for the Kellogg ski hill, the Silver Valley’s grand experiment in tourism will stay closed.

Silver Mountain fired 20 of its permanent staffers last week. The resort will keep general manager Terry Turnbow and three others to help keep the resort functional until someone buys it.

While crucial preparations for the 1996-1997 ski season won’t need to be made for several months, Silver Mountain’s popular summer concert series and activities remain in doubt.

“We’ve done about half the planning for the summer season,” Turnbow said. For now, the resort plans to go ahead with a summer season, he said.

Turnbow said the resort’s broker, Murph Yule of Boston’s Finch Group, believes a deal to sell the ski hill is likely by May 1. Yule did not return calls Wednesday or calls placed by the Spokesman-Review earlier in the month.

Silver Mountain has attractive qualities for a ski resort such as new equipment and a fancy gondola, but is saddled with high operating costs, partly from maintaining the gondola.

Created by a combination of government money and bonds from Swiss manufacturing conglomerate Von Roll AG, Silver Mountain hasn’t made much money in its 6 years of operation.

This year was particularly bad, with poor snow conditions delaying the start of the season and also during crucial holiday periods. Initial estimates show revenues off 15 percent from last year, with other ski resorts in the area reporting similar or larger drops.

If the resort remains without a staff into the summer, next year’s ski season could be in doubt.

With sales and marketing director Tim Newhart losing his job, marketing efforts that take months of planning figure to lag behind. Newhart, who attended a tourism summit in Post Falls Thursday, said the sale might take longer than his former bosses believe because of its complexity.

Silver Mountain’s 200 seasonal employees will also go home after Monday, although the season would have ended anyway, Turnbow said.

Permanent employees were given one week’s notice and were given no severance, said one former Silver employee.

Yule, the resort’s broker, has said in the past that a deal was imminent to sell the resort. Von Roll, which manufactured the gondola on the mountain, has had the resort on the block since early 1995.

The city-owned resort’s asking price is between $3 million and $4 million, according to a proposal prepared by Spokane’s Alliance Financial Group Inc., which later did not bid for Silver Mountain.

The resort’s poor financial results make the asking price that low, lower than even the salvage value of the gondola and other equipment on the mountain, which is estimated to be around $7 million.

Von Roll will likely swallow the difference between Silver Mountain’s sale price and the $17 million of bonds that it backed to help create the resort.

, DataTimes MEMO: IDAHO HEADLINE: Future of Silver Mountain in doubt

IDAHO HEADLINE: Future of Silver Mountain in doubt


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