Steamboat Grand's future is a mystery

ASC won't say if hotel and conference center is part of pending ski area sale

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— American Skiing Company officials declined this week to say whether the Steamboat Grand Hotel and Conference Center will be included in the pending sale of the Steamboat Ski Area.

The company is advertising for sales people and pushing ahead with plans to finish the interiors of penthouse units that were not complete when the hotel opened in October 2000. Chief Executive Officer B. J. Fair said those developments should not be interpreted as a sign the company anticipates operating the hotel beyond the sale of the ski area.

ASC's top real estate executive, Hernan Martinez, said the company has $4 million in quartershares of units at the Steamboat Grand Hotel, poised to close.

Martinez said thus far, his company has closed on $37 million in sales at the resort hotel. The sales totals did not change during the fourth fiscal quarter (ended in July) because the hotel's sales were frozen by liens placed on the hotel by the general contractor who built it.

The liens were cleared in mid July as the result of a financial restructuring undertaken by ASC. Closings since then have come in at a modest pace. One burst of activity came between Oct. 11 and 17, when five quartershares valued at a total of $941,900 were recorded. Those individual sales prices ranged between $134,500 and $217,500.

American Skiing took a different approach Nov. 3 with its Grand Summit Hotel at Attitash, N.H. ASC auctioned off 147 of the remaining 167 units in the hotel for a combined $3.8 million. That means each quartershare averaged about $25,000 in value at auction.

ASC's Chief financial Officer Mark Miller said the auction will allow the company to apply about $3 million to its outstanding real estate debt.

Martinez acknowledged the quartershares at Attitash sold at a significant discount, but the auction sales were in line with the company's expectations.

Attitash units had languished on the market far longer than similar quartershare hotel projects ASC has built in New England, like Mount Snow, he said.

"The sale was very much in line with what we projected," Martinez said. "The units were moving very slowly and we determined it was much more important to reduce debt," than to continue attempting to sell the units at full market value.

ASC officials have consistently said their western Grand Summit hotels were built to higher construction qualities than their new England resorts.

Martinez said that in the future, if ASC were to take on a project of similar magnitude to the Steamboat Grand, it would probably be undertaken in phases, rather than as a single large phase.

Last spring, just before contractor liens froze sales at the Steamboat Grand, ASC was already reporting disappointing sales after skier visits in March failed to meet expectations. ASC was marketing the Steamboat Grand units aggressively to visiting skiers.

Records at the Routt County Courthouse showed American Skiing Company closed 49 different transactions involving interval ownership at the Steamboat Grand Hotel during the four month period beginning on Jan. 1 and ending April 30.

Those transactions, ranging from quartershares to multiples of quartershares, totaled $6.6 million.

Steamboat Grand sales are reflected as warranty deeds stored in a database in the Routt County Clerk's office.

American Skiing Company was originally approved by the city for 232 condominium units. Multiplied by four quartershares available for each unit, that would yield more than 900 shares for sale.

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