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Suitor seen for Alpine ski area

A deal is in the works for new ownership at the Bear Valley Mountain Resort.

Bear Valley managing partner Greg Finch this week confirmed a sale is imminent but declined to say who is angling for the Highway 4 operation.

He said it won’t involve any big shots wearing mouse ears.

“It’s not Disney,” said Finch, executive for Colorado-based Dundee Resort Development, referring to a pervasive rumor Disney Resorts was the suitor.

“That would be wonderful, though, wouldn’t it? I don’t know how that started … but it’s a great rumor. I almost hate to squelch it.”

Finch said he’s “hopeful” a transaction will close in the next 60 days but remained vague as to whether it is a full sale by partners Dundee, San Jose-based developer Toeniskoetter, Breeding & Halgrimson and Palo Alto-based Radar Partners, a venture capital firm, or an addition of an investor to the existing partnership.

“It’s in a confidentiality phase. I’m optimistic this is going forward. I think the community is going to be very pleased with … new parties coming in with new capital,” Finch said. “They have all the things you would want, especially some experience with Bear Valley and some familiarity with Bear Valley.”

The 1,700-acre ski resort went on the market last year. Included in the offering are slopes leased from the U.S. Forest Service, the 53-room Bear Valley Lodge hotel, restaurants and retail shops in Bear Valley Village, a 9,000-square-foot employee housing complex and 11 acres identified for condominium development.

After about seven years of planning and environmental review, Alpine County approved a development plan in December 2012 that will permit construction of more than 300 condominiums, a new lodge, a chair lift from the village to the mountaintop and an outdoor amphitheater.

Bear Valley owners have previously stated an infusion of millions of dollars in capital through either a sale or investment partnership will be necessary to advance the plans.

“Everybody’s going to be sitting down and doing some serious planning,” Finch said, once a deal is finalized. “The plan is ready to go.”

If a sale occurs, the special use permit must be transferred from the current ownership to the new one, according to Dave Vosti, acting public service program leader for the Calaveras Ranger District of the Stanislaus National Forest, where Bear Valley is located.

The current owner must relinquish its permit while the buyer requests a new one, good for 30 years, Vosti said. To acquire it, the Forest Service must get a copy of documentation of the transfer of private property like the lodge that sits on federal lands and make a financial ability determination, which typically takes a couple months or so, he said.

“(Transfer time) really is dependent upon how long the financial ability determination takes,” Vosti said.

In simplest terms, Vosti said the deeper pockets a buyer has, the quicker the process will be, whereas a permit applicant who meets minimum qualifications undergoes more scrutiny.

Finch said timing is important, as an annual operation plan has to be submitted prior to opening for the season in November or December, and new owners will need some lead time to be able to submit changes.

Last year, the Forest Service set an Oct. 15 deadline for that plan but Calaveras District Ranger Teresa McClung said it varies.

“It’s usually in October,” McClung said, but added the only real “drop-dead” deadline is prior to opening for ski season.

In addition, numerous safety inspections from the Forest Service and state regulators have to take place on chair lifts and other equipment prior to opening, Vosti said.

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