First Trax

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Today’s updates include updates on the following:

Fall Color Update
Phoenix Mountain Update
Weather & More

So read on!

Why I Love the Mountains! – I have always been partial to the mountains. Having been born in the Low Country of Charleston, South Carolina and raised in the heat and humidity of Columbia, SC I always found the mountains a great getaway. My parents made annual excursions over to Gatlinburg, Tennessee and it was always a family favorite. One year we decided to forego our normal trip to the mountains in favor of Daytona Beach, Florida and after four or five days of sun and fun SOMETHING just didn’t feel right. Mom and Dad called a family meeting and after seemingly "clearing things" with the kids we packed up the old, nine-passenger station wagon and headed to the higher elevations of Gatlinburg. Upon arriving in Brevard, Looking Glass Falls or somewhere close to Cherokee – my mother would break into something akin to Julie Andrews’, The Hills Are Alive with the sound of…, except that mom’s version was cooler. It wasn’t the Sound of Music; it was something like, "I’m so pretty, oh so pretty…" and she’d sing it in a little girl voice. While it might SOUND creepy…it was actually pretty cool, because it expressed how excited she was at being back in her favorite mountains.

So maybe its just IN ME to like the mountains. As an adult, nothing changed that. While I did Myrtle Beach, Daytona Beach, Wrightsville Beach, Emerald Isle, etc… we always included trips to the mountains in our vacation plans. In the late 80s I began visiting here so often (two to three weekends a month) that John Huffman up at Fred’s General Mercantile thought I was rich! My wife and I both would comment about how we "just felt that we were HOME" every time to visited. We finally succumbed to the pull of the High Country and moved here in October of 1990.

I am often reminded of WHY we love these hills so much; but NOTHING can illustrate it better than this past weekend. I was in Columbia to see U.S.C. and Kentucky play. It was warm and muggy to begin the day and when the sun broke through at about 3pm, it was miserable. By the fourth quarter people were melting all around us. When the occasional cloud blocked the sun, you could literally HEAR the moans of relief. Then LESS than 24 hours later, after a three hour drive, I am in Linville, NC. We decided to pull in at the Italian Restaurant and my girls wanted to eat out on their patio. The temperature was 64° and because we were all still in shorts and tees…the breeze there made it cool enough that three of us needed jackets. People were walking around in WINTER jackets, etc. THAT, among a thousand other reasons is why I love these mountains…and why THEY WILL PLANT ME HERE SOME DAY.

Fall Colors are popping out! – The colors are really kicking in. It is a little hard to tell how brilliant this Autumn color display will be. Typically by this time in October, we begin to worry whether or not the fall colors will last through the peak, mid-October time frame. This year things seem to be a little late coming in. The weather has been unusually warm and we haven’t had those low 40s and upper 30s quite yet to trigger the brilliant color. However, driving in yesterday, we noticed quite a lot of yellows and golds kicking in.

This week’s temps should be in the 60s with lows only around 50° so we might see Autumn lasting a while around here this year. The colors are developing just in time for the big festival weekend this coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Both the Woolly Worm Festival AND The Valle Fair are going on this weekend. The weather is looking a little "iffy" with a 30% chance of showers in the forecast. One look at the national weather map shows a rain (and snow) creating front that is moving slowly across the middle of the country. Our weekend weather is looking like it will depend on how fast that little weather-maker gets through. We’ll update you as the week goes along.

YES, MORE on Phoenix Mountain! – I wrote late last week about the "discouraging news" about Phoenix Mountain probably becoming more of a residential development sale…than a potential ski resort. I also alluded to the fact that I wouldn’t be writing anymore about Phoenix until I spoke with "THE MAN" (Eric Hunter) himself.

That happened Thursday evening. Eric Hunter called me and we spoke for a bit. I informed him about the fact that in conversations with reps of Sheldon Good & Company AND that on the website that they had ceased promoting the area as a ski resort. His comment? Hunter stated, "That will change in the morning."

When I commented about his own statements in local newspaper articles, wherein he changed HIS OWN words to a more open-minded, "I am confident that we’ll have a resort on Phoenix Mountain"; he responded: "No I am really, really confident that we will have a ski resort on Phoenix Mountain."

Eric and I are meeting at some point this week or next to walk the land, take some photos and discuss the Phoenix Project in more detail. Until then, I’m going to take the man at his word and say – Phoenix Mountain will happen.

It should be noted that Sheldon Good & Company has now delivered an in-depth, Financial Model for Phoenix Mountain. They have also inserted some low key information on the website about how Phoenix is a "one of a kind, last development if its kind in North Carolina…which, oh by the way is the best possible place for a ski resort in the Southeast."

The NEW Financial Model includes updated information that is based on the fact that the Town of Jefferson HAS approved a water agreement that will support Phoenix as a ski resort. The Financial Model also, interestingly enough, includes FOUR models for interested parties to consider. TWO of those models are for a ski resort and two models are for a residential community.

The big news is how they changed the expected land values AFTER the water was approved. It now shows the land value at $31,000/ac or $15 million to buy the some 477 acres. That is a substantial increase of just a few weeks ago.

It is also interesting that the ski resort models project the ski resort to be 40 acres of skiable terrain. THAT would make it about 42% of the size of Ski Beech and 35% of the size of Sugar…which is a little disappointing…but still larger than Appalachian and Hawksnest which ski on 17 and 20 acres respectively.

These models suggest 24 trails and 6 lifts and a 120 day season which is 10 days less than Sugar’s but would be about the same as Ski Beech. The pricetag that they put on the "finished" project? $33.5 Million. That includes the following breakdown:

$15.0 Million for the land.
$1.1 Million For Land Clearing
$3.0 Million For a Lake
$3.5 Million For Snow Making Equipment / Groomers
$4.8 Million For Chair Lifts
$3.1 Million For Spa, Pool, Fitness and Dance Center
$2.3 Million For a Lodge
$ .4 Million For Ice Rink

They project a return on investment JUST through the sale of a hotel site, 40 one-acre home sites and 510 villa sites to be around $55.2 Million. They even provide YEAR ONE revenue of $8.3 Million versus operating expenses of $7.3 Million…or a first year profit of $1 Million.

So the race is on. Let’s see if these guys get across the finish line. Eric Hunter and whoever he gets involved in this mix have the right people to work with. With players such as Chase Manhattan, JP Morgan and Sheldon Good & Company on his team…he shouldn’t have any problems seeing his dream come through from a management or financial standpoint. The problem is STILL that of "someone to share his dream". He seems to think it will happen and until we see otherwise, I guess we’ll take him at his word.

November 15th is now the target date and Hunter stated that there were some players in the sealed bid process so let’s see what happens in the next thirty days.

Email me at: [email protected]

Don’t forget to visit: https://www.skisoutheast.com


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