• Wed September 15 2010
  • Posted Sep 16, 2010
By Tom Held of the Journal Sentinel Sept. 12, 2010 Owners of the voted overwhelmingly on Saturday to surrender the lodge and nearly 1,000 acres of land to an investor from Missouri who holds the morttage on the property. Based on the vote, the Telemark Interval Owners Association will start negotiating a "friendly foreclosure" with the lender. As reported earlier, the ownership group has been stressed financially, struggling to make mortgage payments and maintain the resort, which opened in 1947. The group closed the lodge on May 5, after a proposed sale fell through. A “friendly foreclosure” would relieve the owners of the $1.35 million in outstanding mortgage debt and roughly $350,000 to $400,000 in annual maintenance costs, according to Gary Crandall, the president of the interval owners association. The transfer of ownership, however, could keep the American Birkebeiner, the Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association and the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival – the upcoming mountain bike races founded and run by Crandall - from using the property. The Fat Tire has finished at the base of Telemark ski hill for more than a decade, and will do so next Saturday, but there’s no guarantee the mortgage holder will allow such use of the property and access to the trails in the future. The lender is a private investor from Missouri. “It certainly looms large,” said Ron Bergin, the executive director of CAMBA. “It’s a total unknown. “It is ultimately going to come down to connecting with the lender and see if they’ll be generous enough or accommodating enough to permit the continued use of all the trails that come in and out of that place.” Those trails include some of the mountain bike loops that CAMBA opened in 1993. The group has had a trailhead at Telemark throughout its existence. More significantly, the Kortelopet race, part of the American Birkebeiner, finishes on Telemark property, and a portion of the full Birkie course crosses a portion of the resort’s 1,000 acres. Ned Zuelsdorff, executive director of the Birkebeiner, is watching potential ownership change closely. "I’ll try to get in contact with the lien holder and work out an agreement,” Zuelsdorff said. “My hope is they’ll be cooperative, and my assumption is they will be." Anticipating the Telemark Lodge will remain closed through the 2011 Birkebeiner in February, organizers have formed plans to use the Hayward Middle School for its registration activities, including bib pick-up, the skier expo, race information booth and Birkie clothing sales. Crandall, who has dual roles in the Telemark saga, said the Interval Owners group would seek to have easements for use of the property incorporated into the asset surrender agreement. That would ensure use of the trails for his race, the Birkebeiner and other future events, but the inclusion is not guaranteed. Potential sale: The proposal to surrender the property follows the failure of a sales agreement to be finalized in April. The buyers, Telemark Partners LLC, proposed an ambitious $20 million renovation but were unable to secure financing to close the deal. Ric Ahern, a principal in the partnership, said Friday he is working to put together a financial package to follow through on plans to turn Telemark into an Olympic-level training center. Given the state of commercial financial markets, that is not likely to happen soon. “Lenders right now do not want tough, and they don’t want complicated,” he said. “Lenders basically want you to show them that you don’t need their money.” Ahern said the transfer of assets to the mortgage holder may simplify the efforts to buy the resort.

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