What’s Next for The RoK at Sugar Loaf? [Interview]

Earlier today I had a chance to speak briefly with Liko Smith’s personal assistant, Dana Telles, who is working with Liko on the RoK at Sugar Loaf development.   Smith granted authority for Ms. Telles to answer these questions on his behalf.  The text of this Q&A is presented with minimal editing, and without editorial commentary.  

Sugar Loaf Ski Resort, Cedar, MI

Sugar Loaf Ski Resort, Cedar, MI

As a Michigan native, and someone who’s been an avid snowboarder since the early/mid-1990s, I was about as excited as anyone when this news broke over the weekend, and I was happy to announce the RoK project after the initial press release. Despite a very aggressive timeline, I was looking forward to following the story to see the next great ski/snowboard park in Michigan.

Since this story broke, there’s been a ton of speculation both from people who are skeptical, and others who are optimistic about the project. A perceived lack of transparency has fueled some negative comments and skepticism; is there any more information you can share to assuage those concerns?

[No answer given]

Given the locals’ initial reaction was predictably skeptical, the project seems off to a rocky start. Not insurmountable, but it’s always good to have the local support.  With that in mind, what’s in store for the property’s look & feel? And how do you plan to strike a balance between catering to snowboarders, without alienating other demographics? 

We are not trying to re-invent the wheel, just innovate it. All resorts since the inception of snow sports have always catered to skiers. We simply want a resort that has it’s focus on Snowboarding. Back when snowboarding got started, it was considered a fad, dangerous and was banned from most resorts; even today there is still a ban at 3 resorts in the US. We want skiers to come as Skiers and boarders we’re able to find a way to co-habitat. Now you have integration of split boards, you have many people who are crossovers and do both. Again, we are not trying to alienate one specific group; we simply want to create a resort with specific emphasis on Boarding. Simply its about creating an environment that is the most pleasurable for everyone, one of the most basic boarder mentalities is to do what you love and if you love the mountain it doesn’t matter how you ride it.

A press release yesterday [October 3] indicates some consultants have been retained to  handle the property’s environment assessment for the first phase of development.  How long do you anticipate the assessment may take?

That is very hard to say, he’s hired what I believe to be very qualified, local firms, that understand the desire to get this resort open again. They understand the time sensitive nature of this project and are working diligently at getting our assessment completed as quickly as possible.

When do you anticipate “breaking ground” on the project?

Again, this hinges on our consultants getting our assessment completed. He’d like to break ground now. I’m as anxious as everyone involved and look forward to seeing the project at its different phases.

What’s the biggest risk in missing the opening deadline? And do you have any contingency plans for a partial open/etc.?

Purchasing a resort that needs a complete overhaul is a risk. The opening will happen, its not focused on missing the deadline. Even if a deadline is missed it is only to ensure that The RoK is exactly as we promised the mecca for all boarders. Mr Smith’s focus is reaching our goals on a day to day basis. Realistically  we anticipate there to be some bumps in the road, however Liko at the helm of a project that is massive in scope and I have to keep my people positive and motivated as well as myself.

In the next phase of development, thinking forward to terrain design, is this still in the exploratory stages? Or has a company been chosen to building and maintaining the terrain parks at the RoK? If so, can you say who?

We are working with an amazing team, however, I’m not at liberty to discuss answer this question.

Will the RoK facility provide for any off-season activities such as dryslope training, trampoline/foam pit, or airbag training?

We have discussed the off-season and airbag training is certainly a huge possiblity.

Liko has claimed an ownership interest in the property at Sugar Loaf (and re-iterated that claim in an interview late yesterday), but reports indicate that only a preliminary purchase agreement is in effect at this time.  Has the property in-fact changed hands?

We are not going to address any speculative reporting done by various media outlets. We really have to keep moving forward and keep our focus on getting this resort up and running. Its as if everyone keeps losing the focus, what we are trying to do is bring life back to a place that once was the heart of a community.

Liko Smith, owns the property…that is the honest truth.

If Smith or an affiliated group the owns the property, can you furnish a copy of the deed to corroborate this?

Since this resort has stood dormant for over a decade, ownership shouldn’t be everyone’s fixation. Getting this resort up and running again is most interesting part of this equation. Creating jobs and reviving an area with so much history should be were the people’s attention is spent.

Final Comments?

What we’re doing for Leelanau County is going to boost the economy, and bring in tourism, save the hill, and most of all create a really cool brand called The RoK.  I feel good coming to work every day knowing that not only do I get to work in a sport that I am crazy about, but I also help the community revive itself and bring back the passions and memories that they’ve lost since Sugar Loaf was closed down for over a decade.

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One thought on “What’s Next for The RoK at Sugar Loaf? [Interview]

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