The owner of Snow Summit and Bear Mountain is seeking a buyer or buyers for the Big Bear area ski resorts.
Houlihan Lokey "will contact various potential buyers, both within and beyond the ski resort industry, informing them of Snow Summit [Ski Corp.]'s attractiveness as an acquisition," reads a release from the investment bank retained by the resort operator.
Snow Summit and Bear Mountain are actually on land in the San Bernardino Mountains leased from the U.S. Forest Service, so the sale would involve the permits, facilities and improvements of both resorts, which are the most successful at attracting skiers and snowboarders in Southern California outside Mammoth Mountain near Bishop.
The San Bernardino Sun, citing county tax records, reports Snow Summit was assessed to be worth $6.14 million in 2012, up from $5.93 million in 2010. Summit bought Bear Mountain for $200,000 in 2003 and that resort was valued at $5.7 million in 2012, according to the Sun.
Bear Mountain has nine chairlifts, Summit has 11 and a single lift tickets provides access to both resorts, with free shuttle rides provided for the two-mile ride between them. They have a combined 1,368 acres, 438 of which is developed.
I first skied Bear Mountain as a teen when the area was known as Goldmine. Ski instructors Fred Goldsmith and Bill Strickland decades earlier had purchased the ski tow area in Big Bear's Moonridge area, where they later built a mile long chair lift to the top of the mountain they renamed Goldmine. The area would expand with additional chair lifts and snow making equipment through 1988, when it was sold to S-K-I LTD and renamed "Big Bear Mountain."
Snow Summit dates its history back to 1950, when sportsman Tommi Tyndall, his wife Jo and her father, the Rev. Alfred Hughes, persuaded friends, relatives, local businessmen and ski enthusiasts to invest in Snow Summit Inc. Two years of negotiation with the Forest Service led to construction beginning in 1952 of a half mile access road, a mile-long chairlift and clearing of Log Chute ski run, some base area slopes for rope tows and the basement of the Summit Inn. The first lift was completed in 1953.
It was the nation's first detachable chairlift, setting the stage for a series of pioneering features at Snow Summit. Man-made snow covered slopes there in 1964. In December that same year, Tyndall died in a tractor accident at age 52.
Jo Tyndall was appointed by the Board of Directors as the resort's general manager, and she appointed her son, Richard "Dick" Kun, as her assistant. More industry-envied lifts, runs and improvements would follow. Kun later took over as president.
Late in 2002, Snow Summit purchased Big Bear Mountain, renamed it Bear Mountain and the two resorts became Big Bear Mountain Resorts.
By then, resorts in the mountains above San Bernardino and elsewhere were experiencing discord between some traditional skiers and those who ride snowboards. Kun and his team came up with the novel (and successful) idea of having Bear cater mostly to boarders and Summit to skiers or families of skiers and boarders.
The sale of the resorts could spell the end of local family ownership there. In his investment bank's release, Kun is cagey about the future.
"Confidentiality is a necessary part of this process, so, at least for now, Snow Summit management and directors will not be able to answer questions that go beyond what has been stated in this release," Kun states.
By the way, you may recall Dick Kun from my February 2007 cover story:
Kun did not appreciate the way he was portrayed in my piece, as he revealed in a letter to the weekly.
But, despite Kun's dim view of "radical environmentalism," his company has been a ski industry leader in recycling, water and energy conservation and other best green practices.
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Kun is an older gentleman (and a helluva skier; he left me in the powder when we skied together). It may just be the time is right to get out of the business.
But one reason for Snow Summit and Bear Mountain's success has been more than 100 inches of annual snowfall. After the last ski and snowboard season ended, climate experts reported that Southern California may be entering an era of even less yearly snowfall, continuing a downward trend.
Hell if I'm going to ask ol' Dick if that has anything to do with the sale.