On March 4, 2023, Wolf Ridge Resort posted a Facebook message that was titled, “BIG NEWS” as a press release. The press release itself was odd in the sense that it was “date forwarded” for March 10th (yesterday) and there was odd spacing. Our SkiMail inbox started getting flooded with doubters. That is not hard to understand as this would not be the first time that the resort was “SOLD” only to see Orville English remain in control. Emailers also shared that Wolf’s own website shows NOTHING about any sale. In fact, the ABOUT US still shows Orville English as the owner.
As THE go to resource for all things skiing and snowboarding in the Southeast for 25+ years now, we figured we’d pick up the phone and call to congratulate the new ownership. Terry Spaulding is listed as “General Manager” and the press release directed interested parties to contact him for more information.’
I did just that. I called and left messages and emailed. I received no call back and the email response was odd as well.
“Good morning Mr. Doble,
Thank you for reaching out & we appreciate your interest in the Wolf Ridge press release. At this time, we are not interested in an interview but certainly may reach out in the future to engage with you, and appreciate the invitation. I don’t have direct insight on previous potential sales of the property but can confirm that Mr. & Mrs. Hatley have indeed finalized the purchase and intend on enhancing the presentation, functionality, and comfort of this beloved destination.”
I reached out to a couple of local Madison County community business owners and contacts and their response was kind of like many of those who are hitting our skiMail. “They will believe it when they see it.” Some expressed doubt. Others said that the news was making the rounds locally, but most brushed it off as hearsay.
Actually We Think Wolf Has New Owners
While things may feel a bit “off” about this news – it certainly seems that Deborah Hatley, who is listed as CEO of Coffee Ridge, which is another project that the couple is involved in – HAS INDEED purchased the ski area.
While SkiSoutheast.com has not been granted any interviews, Mrs. Hatley (@debhatley on Instagram) has been the face of the organization and in the news on both WCYB and WJHL television stations talking about buying the ski area and wanting to keep it much the way it is – with improvements planned in phases. (Portions of this post are compliments of WJHL digital.)
According to WJHL, Hatley and her husband David met Wolf Ridge owner, Orville English several years ago when they bought 300 acres of undeveloped mountain land in Unicoi County, just across the state line in Tennessee, where they’re building an exclusive resort mentioned above.
The Hatleys and English hit it off, and he began talking to them about his readiness to sell the ski resort he’d owned since 1992, as long as it went to the right people.
With that in mind, the Hatley’s evidently paid English $10M and they’re planning to invest another $10M in renovations, equipment and improved snowmaking capabilities before the start of the 2023-2024 ski and snowboarding season.
Mrs. Hatley was quoted as saying, “David and I had the privilege to purchase this incredible family’s ski resort, Wolf Ridge. Orville is a one of a kind, mover and shaker & self made man. He and his family put their heart and soul into this property for 30+ years; we feel honored to take over the history and to help bring this mountain to its full potential! Here’s to a new adventure and learning how to become a snow farmer! We have big plans in store for this place and look forward to adding another destination to our beautiful region!”
The upgrades will include about $3 million this year ahead of the next ski season for a makeover of the existing lodge and adding to older snow making equipment, among other things.
“Really trying to make sure that we can amp that process up and get the whole mountain covered as fast as we can whenever we can take advantage of those lower temperatures,” Hatley said. “Capitalize on the ways we can make snow and make it fast.”
Hatley said she and her husband plan to keep a majority of employees and add others.
“Orville English, his son Andy and daughter Kim, they’ve been a part of the building of this business since they were 6, 10 years old, so they actually are eager to stay on and they’re going to be a wealth of knowledge,” she said.
“We’re newcomers and we’ve got a lot to learn. We think they want to stay on because they believe in what we’re doing, that we’re not here to change that overarching concept of feel. We’re not here to make this place a commercialized area.”
So despite seeming to want to keep the news quiet around the ski community, it DOES appear that Wolf Ridge Resort has new owners. Many on social media posting in response to Wolf’s “BIG NEWS” seem to be asking how much different or improved things might be with the same people running it. Here are a few of the more colorful posts on Facebook:
“The whole thing feels fishy to me. So Orville was tired and ready to sell the place. They give him $10M and he’s going to stay on and run the place?” – Denis L
“Can you imagine if Perfect Slopes had purchased Timberline Resort and kept the crazy Herz family and crew on? Something doesn’t add up on the one.” – Maggie S
“Wolf Ridge is my favorite place but Orville and their guys just don’t make snow when every other resort makes it. What will make this any different if it’s the same people running it?” – John D
“I guess the question NOW becomes, can Orville English and Johnny Goins drive a Rolls Royce? If the Hatley’s are bringing in the cash to create a better Wolf, can Orville and Johnny make it purr? I’m sure hoping so, but I’m thinking the Hatley’s are a whole lot more interested in those 344 acres and the 300 single building lots. That’s where the money is.” – Rick B
In closing, Social Media can be harsh, but we’ve seen this movie before. Hound Ears, Mill Ridge, and Hawksnest closed and even Beech and Timberline had similar “dark periods” before they corrected course. We’re happy to share the news that Wolf Ridge is going to see an infusion of money and fresh thought. Speaking for Johnny Goins, I’m also certain that it is invigorating to know that the cavalry or help has arrived.
We’ve even heard some chatter that they could be a rebranding. Timberline Resort rebranded to Timberline Mountain. Ober Gatlinburg recently rebranded to Ober Mountain. ANYTHING would be better than SkiWolfRidgeNC.com, right? We checked and www.WolfRidgeResort.com IS available to purchase from GoDaddy! Go get it Deborah!
Here’s hoping we get an interview soon!
Here is a link to the story and video interviews with Deborah Hatley. (Permission granted WJHL)
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