White Pine co-op idea moves forward
White Pine co-op meeting
Concerned citizens met in the Lovatt Room of the Pinedale library to discuss ideas for keeping the ski area open. Photo taken Feb. 28, 2012.
Need more skiers
Needing more skiers was one of the arguments describing the stuggles for the little ski area. Pinedale Online file photo.
by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online!
February 28, 2012
Approximately 60 citizens showed up for a public meeting to determine interest in the possibility of forming a co-operative to take over running White Pine Ski Area. The meeting was held in the Lovatt Room of the Pinedale Library. Organizers were happy to have to pull out more chairs than original set out to accommodate the number of people who came for the meeting, which was arranged by Ward Wise and Pam McCullough.
Wise said a mission statement was critical to get the process started. He suggested, "To operate White Pine Resort for this and future generations as a summer and winter resort." He said a co-op was the preferred organizational structure because as a non-profit 501c-3 designation it would be eligible for more funding sources than a private business would be.
"No one is looking to make a return in dollar terms. With the resort being community owned, the leverage of the citizens can be utilized when dealing with other entities such as the Forest Service, County, Schools, etc," Wise said. "This is not about making money, or getting a return in financial terms, this is a community minded endeavor."
Wise said the co-op would have some initial dollar investment amount, unknown at this time, plus an annual shareholder purchase requirement, plus some requirement of an investment in labor time to help out the operations. There would have an elected board of directors to oversee the co-op. Employees would likely be a general manager, an administration person, several lift operators, and some ski patrol personnel.
Ward suggested the Sublette County Ski and Snowboard Association (SCSSA) might be the logical choice for the co-op organization since they are already a 501c-3 non-profit. They would need to make some tax paperwork changes and amend their by-laws and Articles of Organization to be able to do it.
Paul Jensen said it was critical to work out the finances and economics and create a serious business plan.
Matt David, a former outfitter, said we donít have the needed population base here to run a ski hill and keep it alive, and outside sources were needed to make it work.
Monte Skinner, who has been involved with the ski area for decades, said, "You canít operate the ski hill like we did back in the 50s" on volunteer labor. He added that the cost of lodging and food in Pinedale was very expensive to other ski towns that work to create cheap deals to attract skiers.
Stuart Thompson, former of White Pine said, "The biggest misconception in our community is that White Pine is a local ski area. It is not." He explained, "The ski hill does not make money. It simply is a matter of ticket sales. It cannot survive just on Sublette County skiers. It costs too much to run the ski hill to survive on what is here locally." He added that a million dollars might be enough to buy the ski hill, but it wasnít enough to buy it and operate it.
The only representative from the current owners, Bonnie Chambers of Citizens to Save White Pine, who told the group she felt the co-op was a good idea, and done as a growing process, was "totally do-able". She said their structure as a private company was a big stumbling block in making the business work, and there would always be a need for operating funds.
Sublette County Commissioner John Linn attended the meeting, but did not offer any comments either as a citizen or on behalf of the County Commissioners. The Citizens to Save White Pine met with the County Commissioners on several occasions over the past fall and winter with proposals hoping the Commissioners would ultimately buy the ski area and run it at taxpayerís expense. The Commissioners declined the outright purchase requests, but have offered help with plowing the road into the ski area during the winter. They have held the position that they cannot put taxpayer dollars into a private business enterprise. The Citizens group has said they did not have time to set up the non-profit organizational entity, so operated as a for-profit commercial business.
The group agreed they needed to put together a group of interested people to do further research to find out the answers to the many questions. Several members of the group offered to serve on a committee with Ward Wise to put something together and then come back for another public meeting to discuss what was learned.
The next steps would be:
1. Research the finances needed to make the operation work.
2. Meet with the current owners to discuss specifics on the facilities.
3. Speak with the SCSSA to determine their level of interest.
4. Meet with the Forest Service to discuss the possible switchover to a co-op ownership, management for the permits, and what to do about the condo cabins.
5. Create a business plan and get legal advice.
6. Determine share structure and specifics on the finances.
Wise said, "We cannot let this community asset fall through the cracks under this generationís watch." For more information about the proposed White Pine co-op, please contact Ward Wise at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here for the meeting handout (PDF, 6 pages, 257K)
White Pine Ski Resort listed for $1.4 Million Pinedale Online, Jan. 23, 2012
More talks on White Pine ski area Pinedale Online, Oct. 3, 3011
Talks on White Pine continue Pinedale Online, Sept. 28, 2011
Commissioners keep White Pineís glimmer of hope alive Pinedale Roundup, Sept. 22, 2011
Sublette Commissioners meet with Citizens group to discuss White Pine ski area Pinedale Online, Sept. 16, 2011
Citizens to Save White Pine purchase proposal
White Pine to be closed this winter Sublette Examiner, September 15, 2011