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Ski resort sold

August 24, 1999|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - The owners of Ski Liberty and Ski Roundtop resorts in Pennsylvania said Tuesday they are buying the financially strapped Whitetail Ski Resort near Mercersburg for an undisclosed sum.

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Eric Flynn, spokesman for Snow Time Inc., one of four final bidders for the 600-acre resort, said Whitetail will open for the upcoming ski season.

The selling price will be announced after final documents are signed, Flynn said.

He said the purchase of Whitetail won't conflict with or compete for skiers with operations at Ski Liberty in Fairfield, Pa., and Ski Roundtop in York County. "The Washington/Baltimore market is plenty big enough for everyone. On a good Saturday in January all three resorts are full to capacity," he said.

Flynn said adding Whitetail to Snow Times' holdings will enhance the skiing experience for its customers.

"Most skiers like to ski at different resorts," he said.

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The company may offer season passes good at all three resorts, he said.

Whitetail normally has 40 full-time, year-round employees and up to 850 part-time workers during ski season, said Rachel Nichols, the resort's spokeswoman.

In June, all but eight workers, including Nichols, two fly-fishing instructors and employees of the resort's mountain bike facility were laid off.

Flynn would not say what changes, if any, would be made at Whitetail or if any of the furloughed employees will get their jobs back. "We haven't put together our management structure yet," he said.

He said Snow Time supports the overall growth plan for Whitetail, including the housing developments, golf course and convention center, and possibly an equestrian center. "We're excited to be part of that master plan," he said.

Mercersburg Borough Manager James Leventry said the Mercersburg General Purpose Authority has been talking with the Dauphin County General Purpose Authority in Harrisburg, Pa., about buying the 250-acre, 18-hole golf course under construction near Whitetail.

"There is interest at both ends," Leventry said.

Serious negotiations won't begin until construction is completed sometime next year, Leventry said. Seeding of the course is expected to begin next month, he said.

Leventry said any deal would hinge on whether the Mercersburg authority can sell revenue bonds to pay for the property. Dauphin's initial plans for the golf course include a convention center.

The golf course and convention center were supposed to have been part of the ski resort until Whitetail developed financial woes following three years of mild winters.

The golf course was not part of the most recent bid package for the ski resort, nor were developments being built around Whitetail, including townhouses, apartments and single-family vacation homes.

Earlier this year the Mercersburg General Purpose Authority attempted to buy the ski resort and the golf course for $42 million. The effort was dropped in June when the Authority failed to attract enough investors to buy its revenue bonds.

The owners of Whitetail, a Japanese family, then decided to put the resort up for auction and accept sealed bids. The bid deadline was July 30.

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