No More Skiing or Snowboarding at the Otsego Club?

The Otsego Club, Michigan’s premiere private ski & golf club which has previously hosted Olympic hopefuls and X-games athletes who come to northern Michigan to train on their superpipe, will likely not open this winter season.

The Otsego Club - Gaylord Michigan
The Otsego Club may not open for skiing & snowboarding in 2012


Citing the catch-all “financial reasons”, The Petoskey News reports:

Members of Otsego Club’s liaison committee were informed by Osprey Recreational Properties, LLC, which owns and manages the 73-year-old club, the ski resort and all its amenities would be closed this coming winter.

The Club currently only has about 300 members, while some commenters suggest 1000 is the magic number that would restore profitability. But finding an additional 700 people who are willing to pay about triple the season pass rates of every other ski area in the state (2011/12 published individual rates were $850-1,350) is clearly not an easy task.

Additional factors at play: Michigan has been hit hard by the current recession, and the 2011/12 winter was one of the worst on record for ski resorts here.

Combine these with stagnant membership figures and you’ve got a recipe for closing the ski resort.

Otsego Club superpipe
The Otsego Club's superpipe is a training ground for Olympic athletes and X-games competitors

Is There Any Hope for Otsego Club 2012/2013 Ski Season?

Although the forecast does not look good, a 2012/2013 season is still possible.

Someone else could buy the resort: Osprey is still entertaining offers to buy the property (after a sealed-bid auction failed last year), so it is possible that some investors may buy it and operate under new management. But given the languishing membership base, even if an investor does purchase the property, it seems unlikely Otsego will remain a private club.

Osprey could open the resort to the general public: Two winters ago they experimented with limited public operations (Thursdays and Fridays, I think) which probably weren’t enough given that most skiers and snowboarders commute from 3-5 hours away.  Among members this went over like the proverbial fart in church, so to appease them Osprey did not renew the “public” hours for the 2011/2012 winter season.

If they are unable to find a buyer, membership fallout could conceivably force Osprey’s hand to revisit opening to the public, but the members would have to compromise. I can’t blame them for wanting to keep their private little gem, but it seems short-sighted if they are indeed interested in preserving the Otsego Club ski area. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.

Whatever happens, it looks like change for the Northern Michigan ski community. Either another ski area joins the Michigan Lost Ski Areas list, or it will operate on a radically different business model.

Here’s to hoping they figure out a way to re-open.

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