Eight years ago, Pennsylvania’s Whitetail Ski Resort was born, and remains the youngest ski resort in the nation. The resort instantly became popular, offering the first regional high-speed lift, a 935-foot vertical, and a convenient location only 90 minutes from Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. Since its opening, Whitetail has continued to improve, adding new beginning terrain and a quad lift, as well as summertime activities such as mountain biking and fly fishing. Slopeside townhomes have been under construction, and plans are underway to add a tournament quality golf course.
Everything was going well, until Mother Nature decided to rain on the parade. Literally. The past two winters offered more rain than snow, and resorts close to D.C. had difficulty making snow and attracting skiers and snowboarders. In particular, last winter’s El Niño-inspired winter left resorts such as Whitetail with more brown slopes than white ones. This hit Whitetail particularly hard, since the new resort has had less time to save up for a “rainy winter.”
In an effort to refinance debt and provide capital for continued improvements, Whitetail began negotiating with the Dauphin County General Authority (DCGA) earlier this summer. DCGA is currently under contract to develop and manage Whitetail’s upcoming golf course. The proposed agreement would involve the sale of Whitetail’s land and physical assets to the munical authority. If approved, Whitetail would join numerous other ski resorts in the nation that are county- or state-owned. The deal would be financed through the sale of bonds; no taxpayer money would be involved.
But approval of the deal is now in question. Last week, nearby Ski Liberty and Ski Roudtop, which are both owned by Snow Time Inc., filed suit in an effort to block the sale, arguing that it would result in an unfair competitive advantage. Whitetail is in direct competition with Liberty and Roundtop for D.C. area skiers, and Liberty and Roundtop fear they would have trouble competing fairly against Whitetail if the resort became county-owned.
Whitetail disagrees, arguing that the sale is fair and would be beneficial to Whitetail’s employees, investors, and customers.
“Recreational facilities throughout the country, including ski areas throughout the Northeast and in Pennsylvania, are owned by states and counties,” argued Richard Perl, Chairman of the Whitetail Ski Company.
“Whitetail would have kept its prices at the competitive level, as evidenced by [our] upcoming winter’s brochure. I’m not sure whether this is a case of ‘unfair’ competition or a reflection of Ski Liberty and Ski Roundtop’s concern about the substantially superior quality of experience at Whitetail,” Perl said. He adds that regardless of whether the sale goes through, “Whitetail is preparing for a cold, snowy and exciting ski season,with expanded offerings for our snowboard customers.”
Regardless of the motivations behind Ski Liberty and Ski Roundtop’s objections, Whitetail states that its plans to become a four season resort remain on track.
“At this time, Whitetail and its attorneys are evaluating the situation,” Perl explains. “The deal is not essential to Whitetail’s plans … there are many other approaches to financing Whitetail’s growth, but none which might provide as much benefit to the local community and the region.”
DCSki will provide continuous updates as the situation unfolds.
M. Scott Smith is the founder and Editor of DCSki. Scott loves outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, kayaking, skiing, and mountain biking. He is an avid photographer and writer.
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