Okemo owners propose expansion at Mt. Sunappee ski resort

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(Host) Mt. Sunapee ski resort in New Hampshire has presented its five year plan to Granite State officials. Operated by the Muellers of Okemo Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont, Mount Sunapee is proposing 75 acres of new trails and up to 250 new condominiums. But a group of citizens who live near the mountain oppose those plans.

From New Hampshire Public Radio, David Darman reports.

(Darman) Mt. Sunapee ski resort’s managers say they want to build the trails on the west side of the mountain in the next five to 10 years. Jay Gamble of Okemo/Mt. Sunapee is the ski area’s general manager. He says a new trail system will keep skiers coming back.

(Gamble) “A third top-to-bottom summit lift and trail network will add a lot of variety of skiing, enhance the skiing experience at Mt. Sunapee and I think for the next 40 years keep Mt. Sunapee as one of the leaders of New Hampshire skiing.”

(Darman) To create the trails, the ski area’s managers are asking state officials to approve expanding the area the company leases in Sunapee State Park. Okemo/Mt. Sunapee signed a 30-year lease with the state back in 1998. If the state grants the lease variance, Okemo/Mt. Sunapee promises to donate 100 acres of conservation land on the mountain in return.

Okemo/Mt. Sunapee managers are also planning to build 175 to 250 condominiums on land they own at the bottom of the proposed ski trails. The development would be entirely within the town of Goshen. The real estate development has catalyzed opposition to the project from some residents of Goshen and other nearby towns. About 100 neighbors have formed the Friends of Mt. Sunapee, and executive director Tom Eliot says the state should not approve the project.

(Eliot) “Why is this in the public interest? Why are the people of New Hampshire going to sacrifice their state park for this company to make more money? And I don’t think there’s a good answer to that, and we’re going to find that out this summer.”

(Darman) But Mt. Sunapee’s managers say the expansion would mean economic benefits for the state. Jay Gamble says business could increase 25 percent with the new trails. And he says expanded business means more money for state and local governments.

(Gamble) “There are business profits taxes. There are rooms and meals taxes, local municipal and property taxes. We provide a significant revenue stream to the state as well as, I think, locally. We’re a very strong environmental citizen as well as a good corporate citizen with local giving.”

(Darman) The Mt. Sunapee ski trail expansion cannot go forward without state approval.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m David Darman.

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