Tenney Ski Area sold and will reopen as area development plans get a new look

By DAVID BROOKS

Monitor staff

Published: 05-15-2022 1:00 PM

Tenney Mountain Ski Area should be up and running again next winter as a new owner takes a fresh look at long-simmering development plans around it.

“We have a ways to go on master planning … over the next year,” said Steven Kelly, CEO of telecommunications and development firms that operate in New Hampshire, who recently purchased roughly 900 acres on and around the ski area. “There’s been a lot of different versions of things going on. We’re taking a clean slate, meeting with all the key stakeholders – PSU (Plymouth State University), town of Bristol, town of Plymouth. … This is a multi-year, phased approach.”

Michael Bouchard, who brought Tenney Mountain Ski Area back from the dead in 2016 after it had been closed for six years, and who has kept it available for backcountry skiers even as the pandemic shut down its chairlifts and ticket sales, remains part of the operation. He said the ski area, just west of Plymouth, will be fully operational again this coming winter.

Tenney is a medium-sized ski area. It’s roughly 40 trails and 1,400 vertical feet of skiing are virtually identical to Gunstock Mountain Resort in Gilford. While Tenney has easy access off Interstate 93, it is lacking in the chairlift department, with relatively slow triple and double chairs. Modernity aside, Tenney holds a nostalgic spot for many local skiers as the place where they learned or enjoyed family day trips.

It cost more than $4 million to reopen Tenney the first time, Bouchard said, as he had to replace everything from the snowmaking systems to chairlifts and buildings had to be fixed or replaced. It appears the sale recouped that; Bouchard said his original purchase price was $1.25 million and it sold for about $6.3 million. The sale does not include existing condominiums adjacent to ski runs.

From the start Bouchard, a physicist who cofounded an engineering firm in Nashua and was knighted by the Knights of Malta, pitched the ski area as the centerpiece for years of development in what has been zoned as an opportunity zone, providing potential tax benefits.

He has listed the possibility of hotels, homes, condominiums, research facilities and student housing associated with PSU, plus retail and commercial buildings along a stretch of Route 3A.

“The first phase resurrected the ski area. COVID allowed us to transition to phase 2, to find a large developer, with deep pockets and skills to know how to handle a large project,” Bouchard said.

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Kelly is head of Timberline Construction and Timberline Communications of Canton, Mass., both of which do business throughout the state, and has a home on Lake Winnipesaukee. He said he has been looking for development opportunities in New Hampshire.

“I see Tenney as a huge opportunity,” he said. The infrastructure’s there, the land is there, to do a lot of great things, to boost the economy for the whole community.”

“We have a ways to go on master planning,” Kelly said, indicating that it might be next year before proposal details come out.

“First we have to get things approved, then design it, then build it,” he said. “It’s a process.”

Tenney Mountain Ski Area dates to 1960, building on a tradition of downhill skiing on logging roads. It floundered in the 1980s as then-owners refused to pay for any snowmaking and financial problems arose from the construction of adjacent condominiums.

The ski area went through four owners in the following decades with different names and business plans, including  efforts by a Japanese firm to make artificial snow inside a gia nt refrigerator. It closed in 2010 and Bouchard purchased it in 2014.

  (David Brooks can be reached at 3 6 9-3313, dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

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