Earlier this month came the official announcement from Bear Valley that the resort has been purchased by Skyline International Development, Canada’s leader in hospitality resorts and destination communities. In this fourth-consecutive dry January when many ski areas around the state are suspending operations, Bear Valley continues to turn out a great skiing experience, thanks to the upgrades made in recent years to their snowmaking and grooming program. Bear also has a loyal and dedicated fan base, which was among the reasons the folks at Skyline see it as one of the best properties in California. We caught up with Benno Nager, Bear’s new general manager to ask about the future under Skyline and what’s next for the Bear Valley Mountain Co-op.
Benno Nager, photographed in October 2014
Nager, who has spent 30 years in the ski and resort development business, sees Bear as a ”unique opportunity; a one of a kind resort where you can have all activities in one place without ever having to move the car – it’s a fantastic spot.”
Along with the sale of the resort were approved master plans for further development of the ski area and village. You may have heard of the long-rumored chairlift from the village to the mountain top – that’s also part of the approved plan, and is definitely top of mind for the new owners. The first improvements, however, will be to the trails themselves to expand skiable terrain and to snowmaking capabilities.
When the resort first came up for sale a group of locals and Bear Valley loyalists from further afield came together to explore the possibility of pooling funds and buying the resort as a cooperative. From this the Bear Valley Mountain Co-op (BVMC) was formed, and for $2500 you could buy into the collective effort to purchase and operate the ski area. When Skyline also stepped forward as an interested party, it was unclear what the role of BVMC – and of the money already put in by its members – would be.
In what may be the first arrangement of its kind, Skyline agreed to partner with BVMC because they were so impressed by the passion and commitment of BVMC members. Through this partnership, BVMC will target membership funding toward specific capital improvement projects and Skyline will match that funding, allowing for more rapid progress. “This is a huge win for Bear Valley, the community, and Skyline,” said Paul Petersen, BVMC board member and owner of Bear Valley Cross Country. “The combined investment and benefits along with community input will deliver on much-anticipated improvements.”
Nager echoes Petersen’s sentiments and hopes anyone with an interest in the Highway 4 corridor join the coop – after all, what better way to ensure improvements happen sooner and that you have a say in the process. “We are very fortunate to have their involvement in helping to shape the future of this magical destination and couldn’t be more excited for what’s in store.”