Sunlight for sale for $50 million |

Sunlight for sale for $50 million

Dennis Webb
Special to the Daily/Kara K. Pearson Lift chairs hang empty Thursday amid the changing leaves at Sunlight Mountain Resort, which is for sale for $50 million.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The owners of Sunlight Mountain Resort are offering it for sale for $50 million, and hope the buyers will make improvements including a 700-home base village.Sunlight general manager Tom Jankovsky said upgrades, which he said also could include faster lifts and more snowmaking, are necessary for the resort’s future.”To be competitive, there needs to be capital infusion into the area,” he said.Sunlight is owned by Sunlight Inc., a Colorado corporation with 34 shareholders, about a third of them local, Jankovsky said. He and his brother Rob, who runs Sunlight’s retail ski and bike shop in Glenwood Springs, are among them. Some minority owners still have ties to the resort’s founder, John Higgs of Chicago, Jankovsky said.

The resort’s majority owners each own about a third of the company. One is Leonard Lorentson, a manufacturer living in Indiana. The second is Michael Bodnar, a restaurant owner and developer in the Southeast.Combined, the two own the resort’s controlling interest, and Sunlight’s president and chief executive officer, Richard Schafstall, is their liaison, Jankovsky said.Sunlight created a base village master plan several years ago.”We spent quite a bit of money back in the late ’90s trying to get investment partners,” Jankovsky said.He said the resort’s owners were about ready to go to Garfield County to seek approval to develop 400 acres when they decided they were ski area operators and didn’t want to get into the development business.

Some prospective investors initially looked at Sunlight, but over time finding a development partner proved difficult, between the dot-com bust, the Sept. 11 attacks and recession, Jankovsky said.With today’s improved economy, Sunlight’s owners think the time may be right to simply seek a buyer.Besides its 400 privately owned acres, Sunlight has a U.S. Forest Service permit for 2,081 acres, including 470 acres of skiable terrain and 67 trails. Its assets also include four lifts, a base lodge, the Sunlight Ski School and Children’s Center, a food and beverage operation, a snowmobile tour company, and rental and retail outlets.Last year the resort opened late and had about 72,000 skier visits. It has previously topped 100,000 skier-days, however.Sunlight has long-term designs on expanding its terrain to Williams Peak, which already is within its boundary. But for now, the base village and on-mountain improvements are higher priorities.

Jankovsky said it would probably take $10 million or more to make the lift and snowmaking improvements the mountain needs. A high-speed lift alone probably would cost $4 million, he said.Even with a base village, Sunlight probably wouldn’t exceed 350,000 annual skier visits, compared to around 1 million visits for major resorts, he said. And unlike mountains with 4,000 vertical feet of drop, it has 2,000 feet.”Because of the size of our mountain we’re always going to be a smaller Colorado mountain resort,” he said. Vail, Colorado

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