Warren County

West Mountain looking to create slopeside resort

The northern part of West Mountain ski area in Queensbury is shown last week. A resort is envisioned there. 
PHOTOGRAPHER:

The northern part of West Mountain ski area in Queensbury is shown last week. A resort is envisioned there. 

QUEENSBURY — With an extensive and expensive replacement of infrastructure complete, the owners of West Mountain ski area are now looking to build a ski-and-stay slopeside resort.

After informal discussions and presentations with town officials, co-owner Spencer Montgomery said Wednesday he plans to bring a more formal proposal before the Town Board in October. He’s optimistic he’ll gain Planned Unit Development approval later this year, which then clears the way for the many steps that must come before anything is built.

“I’ve been talking about this for some time now,” Montgomery said.

It would be a huge next step in the transition the family-oriented ski area has undergone since he and partners bought it out of bankruptcy in 2013.

All the major infrastructure — lodge, snowmaking system, chair lifts — has been replaced or updated at a cost of roughly $15 million, Montgomery said.

Minor work continues. Explosives were recently used to flatten out the top of the bunny hill, for example. But the major work is done, which allows West to be pitched as a fully modern ski area worthy of investment.

Tentative details of the resort include:

  • A 174-unit mix of luxury condos, duplexes and custom houses;
  • A 60- to 80-room hotel and conference center;
  • A spa, athletic club and infinity pool;
  • A plaza with stores, restaurants and a ski shop;
  • A new lodge.

The price tag would be more than $50 million, and potentially more than $75 million, Montgomery said. Buy-in prices on the residential buildings are not determined at this point.

The site is zoned recreational/commercial and the proposal is within the allowable density, he said, but he’s nonetheless seeking the planned unit designation, so that the entire picture is in public view and, hopefully, gains town approval. 

That way each phase doesn’t need separate approval, and the development partners can be assured of what they’re investing in.

Montgomery said he has no report telling him there’s a market for this kind of high-end project.

There was one a few years ago just for a hotel, but that was a more limited plan.

“I have not done a formal study other than talking to developers and Studio A,” he said, referring to the Saratoga architecture/engineering firm that has drawn up a conceptual plan.

What convinces Montgomery that the project is viable is that ski-and-stay destinations are popular but there aren’t any in this part of the state. Also, it’s in close proximity to Interstate 87, the major north-south route in eastern New York and a pathway to the ski-and-stay resorts in Vermont.

Part of the business model would include short-term rentals, which Montgomery acknowledged are not always popular with neighbors, but West Mountain would be managing them, he said, and that should limit any problems.

A number of people have been concerned that lift ticket prices would increase to subsidize the resort, Montgomery said, but the ski operations and the resort would be financially independent of each other. If anything, chairlift passes sold to people at the resort would be a boost to the ski area, he added.

However, he said, the resort would continue a transition that has already begun at West Mountain, which opened in 1962 as a family ski area.

Montgomery, who grew up skiing there, said it remains a family ski area — “West is still West, I like to say” — but the local residents on the slopes on weekdays are increasingly joined by out-of-towners on weekends.

“These changes have to happen for it to survive long-term,” he said.

Categories: Business, News

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