Tahoe ski resort owner buys Montana mountain | SierraSun.com

Tahoe ski resort owner buys Montana mountain

RED LODGE, Mont. (AP) ” Red Lodge Mountain Resort, a ski and golf destination about 65 miles southwest of Billings, has been sold to a California real estate investment firm.

The deal between Red Lodge Grizzly Peak Corp. and buyer JMA Ventures of San Francisco closed Wednesday. The terms were not disclosed.

“We are very excited to be a part of the Red Lodge community,” said JMA President Todd Chapman. “This is a very exciting time.”

The resort, known as Grizzly Peak when it opened in 1960 with one chair lift, now has seven lifts plus a beginners’ tow, and snowmaking equipment. Most of the ski area, including a lodge, is on Custer National Forest land used under a government permit. Red Lodge Mountain Resort acquired an 18-hole golf course in 1994.

JMA’s operations include retail and residential projects and two California ski areas: Alpine Meadows and Homewood, both in the Lake Tahoe area.

JMA purchased Homewood in June 2006, adding a new high-speed chairlift and snowmaking operation, and made plans for a residential development at the base of the mountain.

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“We were always a small, family oriented area, but in the last 10 years we’ve barely been able to keep our heads above water,” Kent Hoopingarner, general manager of the Homewood Mountain Resort, told KTVQ-TV in Billings. “JMA came in, and they’re fun to work with. They sank a tremendous amount of capital into the place. They’ve pretty much turned us around.”

The change in ownership at Red Lodge Mountain takes effect immediately. An after-hours phone call to Red Lodge Mountain was not answered.

“There’s been a significant amount of buy and sell in the ski industry over the last few years,” said Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association in Lakewood, Colo.

Among those deals was the purchase of Intrawest by New York-based Fortress Investments Group. Intrawest resorts included Whistler-Blackcomb, a British Columbia venue for the 2010 Winter Olympics, and an array of U.S. properties, among them Colorado’s Copper Mountain and Winter Park.

For buyers, warm weather and other concerns about the ski industry are more than offset by the knowledge that “they just aren’t building more ski resorts right now,” largely because the approval process is too complicated, Berry said.

“If you look at the number of really desirable ski resorts in the country, they’re limited in number,” he said. The United States has about 480 resorts, 100 to 120 of them “recognizable brands,” he said.