Outdoors

Troubled Tamarack still a treat for skiers

The perception many have about Tamarack is one of a resort on the brink of failure. After following its ongoing saga of financial distress in the news for the past six months, I wanted to see first hand how Tamarack’s economic challenges have affected the experience there.

Since I had last been to Tamarack, the rapidly expanding resort near McCall, Idaho, ran out of credit and landed in receivership. Investors are reported to be interested, but a buyer has yet to emerge. A foreclosure hearing has been scheduled for March 2010.

In the resort village, partially completed buildings are wrapped in Tyvek – winterization efforts by the receiver to preserve the value of Tamarack’s assets while the resort is marketed to investors.

My impression from reading the news about Tamarack was that construction had been suspended completely. Ken Rider, Tamarack’s director of marketing and sales, said that’s wrong.

“It’s disheartening to hear those stories, but it’s absolutely not true,” he said. “It’s a lot slower than it used to be, but things are getting built. We’re also actively marketing and selling the resort to guests and those efforts are bearing fruit.”

Rider said construction crews were doing more than wrapping up buildings. I noticed carpenters and cranes working on a snowfront building that will house Tamarack’s children’s center, snow sport school and guide services desk. Construction is also under way on several estate home properties.

One building that has been finished for a while is the Inn at Osprey Meadows, a luxury slopeside lodge where impressions of financial distress disappear.

“As we go through challenging times we’re focusing on guest services more than ever,” Rider said. “Osprey is one of 120 lodging properties on the mountain we manage. Our staff is working a lot harder to anticipate our guests needs and desires.”

After a cushy night at Osprey Meadows, I picked up my freshly tuned skis and joined Rider for a day on the slopes, where it’s business as usual.

We caught a rapid ride to the summit over impeccably groomed, virtually untouched rolling terrain. From the lift, Tamarack appeared to be the intermediate cruising mountain most people I know believe it to be – another wrong impression.

Rider showed me that Tamarack skis bigger than its 2,800 feet of vertical over 1,100 acres. Even the blue cruisers can be intense. I skied myself scared on runs like Bliss, a top-to-bottom roller coaster of perfect corduroy. The velvet surface and wide avenues encourage velocity. Flying over blind rollovers at high speed is both unnerving and exhilarating.

We found steep drops off the summit and challenging, stair-step routes through Tamarack’s Wildwood area. One of the most memorable experiences was The Grove, a vast glade of perfectly spaced, telephone-pole Tamaracks.

The guest experience at Tamarack remains intact. The people running it day to day carry on as if it will ultimately succeed. The resort does have world-class potential. California and Northwest cities along with Denver, Chicago and Salt Lake City are a single flight away.

“It does hurt to be slowing down a bit, but we also have enjoyed some great successes,” Rider said. “There’s a solid foundation to build on here. Once construction cranks up again we’ll be nine months to a year from completing the village. Plans are still alive to expand further once certain things happen.”

From what I’ve seen, I’m looking forward to the possibilities.

Bill Jennings can be reached at snoscene@comcast.net


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