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Terry Cowgill
Skiers ponder their options after descending the mountain at Ski Butternut.

Ski Butternut acquires Otis and Blandford ski areas

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By Tuesday, Nov 7, 2017 News

Great Barrington — Ski Butternut, one of the largest ski mountains in southern Berkshire County, has acquired two nearby ski mountains: the Otis Ridge and Blandford ski areas.

Dillon Mahon, Ski Butternut’s marketing director, confirmed the purchases in a brief interview Tuesday, adding that the deals were consummated “within the last few months.” Mahon said Butternut would issue a news release on Wednesday or Thursday and declined to provide additional comment until then.

Youngsters gather for a ski lesson at Ski Butternut. Photo: Terry Cowgill

One of the acquisitions, the Blandford Ski Area, appeared to have been teetering on the edge of insolvency. No one answered the phone at the ski area Tuesday, but media reports indicate Blandford was experiencing financial difficulties over the course of the last few years.

An emergency meeting was held July 18 to decide the fate of Blandford, which is in neighboring Hampden County and had been owned by the 300-member Springfield Ski Club since 1936, two years after it opened. It is thought to be the oldest continuously operating club-owned ski area in North America.

Dave Fraser, the club’s marketing and publicity chairman, told MassLive in July that memberships and visits were down from the previous year, blaming poor weather and changing lifestyles.

At the July meeting, the club voted to enter serious negotiations to sell all of its assets, including its 132-acre property, to SkiButternut owner Jeffrey Murdock. The property at 41 2nd Division Rd. is assessed at $520,000, according to Blandford town records.

In the spring of 2017, the club’s board notified membership that “Blandford Ski Area is financially insolvent,” owing to member enrollment dropping from a high of about 5,000 down to 1,426 in 2014–15, according to a report in newenglandskiindustry.com.

The club told its members Blandford “does not have the money to continue operations” and that, if the area were not sold, it would be closed. On July 25, 2017, Murdock formed Blandford Properties LLC to acquire the ski area for $269,000. Subsequently, hundreds of thousands of dollars of mortgages were discharged, newenglandskiindustry.com reported.

Skiers prepare to embark on a journey up the mountain on Ski Butternut’s quad lift. Photo: Terry Cowgill

Blandford’s website has been rebranded from the Blandford Ski Area to “Ski Blandford” and has added a logo similar to Ski Butternut’s. An announcement on Ski Blandford’s Facebook page says: “Massive area improvements are underway and are planned to continue throughout the next several years, including, grooming and snowmaking equipment upgrades, chairlift maintenance, Wi-Fi upgrades, and lodge and deck renovations.”

A person answering the phone at Otis Ridge said no one was available to answer a reporter’s questions. Otis opened in 1946 and has changed hands several times since then, according to newenglandskiindustry.com.

All three ski areas are popular destinations for families with children, so they appear to be compatible as a cluster under the same ownership.

The latest major consolidation of the ski industry in the Berkshires occurred in 1999, when Jiminy Peak, the largest ski mountain in the Berkshires, acquired neighboring Brodie Mountain in New Ashford. Jiminy closed Brodie in 2002.

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