The former ski and snowboarding favorite will offer tubing only for the future.

The calendar displays today’s date as July 22, 2008 but one ski resort has already decided when it will cease ski operations for the 2008-2009 ski season. The resort is Hawksnest Ski Resort. The closing date is today – July 22, 2008. In other words, Hawksnest will not offer skiing and snowboarding for the upcoming 2008-2009 season and I am afraid to report that as far as this reporter can discern, we may have seen the last of skiing and snowboarding at Hawksnest – forever. Some skeptics will no doubt offer that this is some kind of political ploy or stab that Hawksnest’s owners are taking against the Town of Seven Devils as yet another move in the seemingly never ending saga of "Hawksnest fights the Town Hall". However, I have come to know Lenny Cottom rather well over the years and I’m not sensing anything other than genuine sincerity coming from the "Cottom camp".

I don’t think any of our readers want to rehash old news, but suffice to say that Hawksnest’s owners have not had things go much their way regarding desired expansion requests, etc and that this dispute has been going on for several years. If you’ve been sleeping under a rock or just came out of a ten year coma and need to come up to speed – feel free to search our website for Town of Seven Devils…or better yet – Google it.

The parties seemed to be "playing nice" about a year or so ago when some people within the town began to express a real desire to work with the Cottoms to get the golf course reopened and as a part of that deal there was some talk of compromising with Hawksnest’s requests to expand their snow operations. That fell through in a huge way and there was even some serious motions towards the Town enforcing eminent domain to force their wishes to fruition.

Recently we received word that the Town of Seven Devils had actually (finally) given the Cottoms approval to do the expansion that they wanted and while that is true, it is also apparent that there were STILL some opposed to what was already approved by the board in general…even to the point that they were pursuing legal roadblocks to prohibit the Cottoms from doing so.

All of the above is a convoluted way of saying that even though the Town of Seven Devils was giving apparent approval to the Cottoms to do some of the expansion they desired to do – there are still parties within the board and community that are willing to fight it in court to prohibit them from doing so. GO FIGURE!

I asked Lenny Cottom for his comments on the subject and he shared, "Mike, I think it just came down to the fact that dad (Leonard Cottom) is just worn out and tired of the fight." He added, "If we had the kind of support like the Town of Sugar provides to Sugar Mountain we’d be all about expanding and providing a product that we feel would compete with any resort in the area. However we simply don’t have that kind of cooperation."

Cottom also stated that operating a ski area is hard enough without being burdened with the kind of fight that they’ve had to withstand from the Town of Seven Devils. Even with the latest "approval" comes the complication of the fact to successfully implement their proposed expansion prior to the 2008-2009 ski season they would need to have started work at the end of this past season and NOT here in July. Imagine the position that places on the Cottom family as they have to consider investing as much as 2.5 to 3 million dollars to expand – only to be shut down somewhere in the middle because of the threatened legal blockades on the part of a chosen few.

Lenny Cottom told me, "Dad is at the age now that he doesn’t have to stay in this business. He’s simply not in the frame of mind to invest that kind of money without everyone getting on the same page."

He also shared the fact that to fully implement everything that they wanted to do at the ski area, perhaps as much as 5 million would have to be invested.

Missing the kind of cooperation that the Cottoms needed from the Town of Seven Devils, and faced with potentially MORE legal blockades that would prohibit them from competing in the marketplace, they made the final decision to close the resort for skiing and snowboarding.

Fans of Hawksnest Ski Resort know that this not the first time that the ski area was closed for skiing. Back in the 90s the ski area was closed by the previous owners and it wasn’t until Leonard Cottom purchased the golf course and subsequently the ski operations that they reopened to the delight of skiers across the region. A few years back, amid some of the most heated arguments between the Cottoms and the Town of Seven Devils, Leonard Cottom decided to close the ski area and open as a tubing-only resort. The truth is that is probably that bit of time that set the table for this final decision on their part to close up for skiing and snowboarding. The Cottoms simply found that tubing was highly popular and simply dictated the need for only 25% of the manpower to operate. That meant fewer headaches, less payroll, easier to maintain and more money under the circumstances.

Lenny Cottom said simply that his father was not like some owners that simply HAD to stay in the ski business. With the climate that exists up on Seven Devils it simply made more since to simply give up the fight and enjoy a slower pace.

I asked Lenny if there were some chance that they would change their minds and open for skiing this season and his answer was very straightforward and strongly implied that not only would they not be opening this season – they would not be reopening for skiing in the future. He stated, "No, its a done deal. We’re done." He added, "I don’t see us changing and going back in the future either."

So unless something remarkable happens in the future, we may be adding Hawksnest to the list of lost ski areas that we’ll never get to enjoy again. For those unaware, this is not uncommon – though disappointing. Literally 17 ski areas within North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia have closed over the years – never to reopen. (18 if you want to add Sky Valley in Georgia to that mix.) In North Carolina – Scaly Mountain ceased ski ops about five years or so ago and operates as a small tubing only area. Mill Ridge operated until the mid 90s and closed up for good. There are some great hiking trails on that property now that will take you to a graveyard of lift wheels, etc. Hound Ears closed their slopes a couple of years prior to that. There was also a small ski area called High Meadows 5 miles north of Roaring Gap, North Carolina. It operated in the late 70s and early 80s. It is now High Meadows Golf and Country Club.

Unless the resort area is sold, and/or a more responsive group of people take over the Town of Seven Devils, we’ll now be able to add Hawksnest Golf and Ski Resort as one of those places that many of us loved to play golf at from April through November – and ski from December into March – as a thing of the past.

We will certainly be updating you guys with more information as we have it, however for now we understand that Lenny Cottom plans to offer 20 lanes of tubing fun with expanded snow tubing terrain for the 2008-2009 season.

Very disappointing… unless you’re r-e-a-l-l-y into snow tubing.

Until Next time…

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