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Couple prepare Oak Mountain for busy season

October 22, 2012
By JOHN BORGOLINI , The Leader Herald

SPECULATOR - New owners Matt and Laura O'Brien are preparing for a busy season at Oak Mountain Ski Center.

Since the 90-day limit for the state to reject the sale passed on Aug. 3, the husband and wife team has been improving previous entities and creating new ones while aiming for a Dec. 2 opening.

"We have remodeled the main lodge, and that includes revamping the bar, repainting the ballroom and carpeting the whole lodge," Laura said. "We also have been working on the general trail crew maintenance, created an overlook up top and have been working on mountain bike trails - at this time we have six that are downhill and cross country."

Besides also working on drainage, general maintenance and making enhancements, the two also have hosted private parties, a festival and are staging events for weddings.

Since running the ski resort as mountain managers two years ago, the couple moved to Maine and then moved back because they missed the area.

When they heard other companies were interested in purchasing only the tower or leasing out the resort to other owners, they had to act before the 14-trail resort shut down.

The Hamilton?County Industrial Development Agency also received offers for the center from Grain Communications Group, based in Sarasota, Fla., and Independent Towers Holdings, based in Latham.

Grain offered to buy just a communications tower on the property for $602,000.

Independent Towers Holdings offered $651,000 - $601,000 to the IDA and $50,000 to an escrow account, for the ski area. The company also proposed to lease Oak to a mountain manager.

The O'Briens chose to leave the communications tower and two of the three lots at the site out of their purchase proposal.

The O'Briens have a $50,002 three-year lease to buy the center. They are scheduled to pay $1 each of the first two years and $50,000 the third year.

"We ran it two years ago. We loved it," Matt said. "We tried to get the process going two years ago, but it didn't work out. [This time], we didn't want to see it close. We wanted to give it a whirl and see how it goes. We have a lot of hope and potential, and a lot of people want to see it do well."

Laura said the two already have events in place that she hopes will bring a family interest back to the resort.

Laura said a lot of people in the area learned how to ski there, and she hopes more children will have the same experience.

"We have over 20 years of experience in this industry," she said. "We also managed this [two years ago]. We have a great passion for the sport, a love for the community and area, and a great desire to succeed."

The couple said they are trying to expand the resort's clientele - which normally comes from Amsterdam, Gloversville, Johnstown, Saratoga and Utica - by reaching out to the Albany area.

Matt said they will bring an FM radio station to the resort, run by a private company out of Amsterdam, which will reach out to the Utica and Albany markets.

"A success to me would be making this place a three-season resort," Matt said. "I think a three-season resort would be a success in our mind and the community's mind."



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