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Whitetail Resort ready for good season

November 26, 1999

Whitetail gears upBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Buoyed by new ownership and the financial support that goes with it and hopeful of a cold, snowy winter, Whitetail Resort is looking forward to a better ski season than it has had in the last three winters when warm temperatures nearly ruined the business.

Snow Time Inc., which owns Ski Liberty in Fairfield, Pa., Ski Roundtop near Harrisburg, Pa., and Ski Windham in New York's Catskill Mountains, bought Whitetail at auction on Sept. 29 for $13 million.

Donald MacAskill, general manager at Whitetail, said the target date for opening the 1999-2000 season is Dec. 11. The season normally runs through March.

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Much depends on the weather. MacAskill said the prognosis from forecasters is that this winter will be colder with more snow. Temperatures can't be higher than 32 degrees for the snow-making machines to operate. Optimum temperatures for the best skiing on Whitetail's 16 slopes is around 20 degrees, MacAskill said.

Earlier this year the Borough of Mercersburg's General Purpose Authority announced that it was going to buy the resort for $42 million. The deal fell through when the authority could not sell the bonds. The financially strapped ski resort was then put on the auction block. The purchase price includes $11.1 million for the resort itself plus another $1.9 million for 900 undeveloped acres around it, MacAskill said.

Not included in the purchase are some townhouse, condominium and hotel developments around the resort owned by private developers. The Dauphin County, Pa., General Purpose Authority is building a 250-acre golf course near Whitetail. The Mercersburg General Purpose Authority has expressed interest in buying the golf course if it can float the bonds, borough officials have said.

Snow Time is owned by Irving Naylor. He started in the ski resort business 35 years ago when he built Roundtop from scratch, MacAskill said. He bought Ski Liberty 10 years ago and two years later acquired Ski Windham, he said.

MacAskill said it bodes well for Whitetail that it was bought by Snow Time, a company with experience and depth in the industry and in snow-making. "Snow-making is more challenging in this area than it is in New England or the West," he said.

Snow Time's purchase of Whitetail is already beginning to pay off. MacAskill said the company is investing $1 million in renovations and upgrades.

Included are replacing snow-making machinery, upgrading and painting the resort's five ski lifts, renovations in all of its buildings including remodeling, new carpet and new paint in the base lodge, improvements to the ticket booth and guest services facility, the purchase of 400 new snow boards and 400 sets of skis for the rental store, new telephone and computer systems, additions to the fleet of snow-grooming machines and improved advanced sales programs.

Whitetail is offering advantage cards for individuals and families for the first time this year. The cards offer discounts and can be used at Ski Liberty and Ski Roundtop as well, MacAskill said. Sales of the cards and seasonal passes have exceeded 2,000 so far, he said. Flexible skiing hours will also be offered, MacAskill said.

The sale of Whitetail to Snow Time has also saved many of the resort's 35 full-time jobs, including MacAskill's. Many year-round workers left to find new jobs instead of waiting out the anxious months until the resort was sold. At the time of the sale only a handful were still working. MacAskill said many former employees have returned since Snow Time took over.

The resort is busy recruiting the 750 seasonal workers it expects to hire for the upcoming ski season. Interested applicants can call Whitetail at 717-328-9400 Ext. 3541.

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