A deal to secure the future of the Telemark Resort in Cable has stalled once again, creating uncertainty for organizers of the American Birkebeiner ski race and residents counting on jobs and income from Telemark.
The closing scheduled for Friday was postponed indefinitely, and the parties are back to negotiating, according to sources involved in the deal.
“I am hoping that great minds will prevail over the next two or three or four days and the closing scheduled for Friday was just an April Fool, and we will close in the next four or five days as planned,” said Dick Short.
Short, a developer from Missouri, controls the property via the mortgage he holds on the lodge and roughly 1,000 acres that surrounds it.
The current owners, the Telemark Interval Owners Association, closed the lodge in the fall and voted to surrender the property to Short via a friendly foreclosure.
Meanwhile, the Telemark Partners LLC, has been negotiating to buy Telemark and renovate it into an Olympic-level training center.
That’s the deal that stumbled on Friday, creating another twist in the 64-year history of the iconic lodge, home of the country's largest cross-country ski race. For now, Telemark is closed.
Mike Kocon, the president of the TIOA Board of Directors, said the purchase agreement presented to his group wasn’t acceptable.
“We need to have that purchase agreement rewritten, and it’s just taken some time,” Kocon said. “I’m optimistic that we’re going to get this done."
For the Birkebeiner, sooner would be better than later.
Anticipating a record 9,000 skiers for the races in 2012, the Birkebeiner needs to secure permission to use the Telemark lodge and the sections of Birkebeiner trail that crosses Telemark land.
Without that in place, organizers would have to pursue an alternate course option, possibly starting at Highway OO outside of Seeley, said Ned Zuelsdorff, executive director of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation.
“We can’t be waiting months for an agreement to roll around,” Zuelsdorff said Monday.
“I don’t think we have any desire to leave Telemark,” he said. “The question is can we reach an agreement with whoever is in control of the property in the near future.
“I think we need an agreement within weeks.”
James Bolen, the executive director of the Cable Area Chamber of Commerce, said Telemark’s survival depends on all parties committing to contribute.
“Telemark is a storied property with great potential,” he said in an email.
“Unfortunately, it has fallen into a state of repair that will require a new owner to commit millions of dollars to make it competitive again.
“If such an owner could be found, I firmly believe the potential for a profitable business is there. The property has so much to offer and an entrepreneur would have the ability to highlight those assets and turn them into significant revenue.
“The sale price is not the issue. The monies need to renovate the facility are.
“Unfortunately, most people have been looking for what they can take from Telemark not what they can give to it. No-one appears willing to negotiate in good faith. All sides are looking for what they will get once the facility re-opens but remain unwilling to 'give' or commit to financially assisting with expenses.”
Telemark Lodge. Photo by Tom Held