The buyer who offered $926,000 for the shuttered Telemark Resort provided assurances Tuesday that the property would remain open for use by the American Birkebeiner Ski Race, the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival and other events that draw thousands to Bayfield and Sawyer Counties each year.
The positive word for the long-time users of the ski and bike trails on the 975-acre Telemark property came during a meeting with representatives from the various groups and the buyer, who has asked to remain anonymous since making the offer at sheriff’s sale a week ago, according to James Bolen, executive director at the Cable Area Chamber of Commerce.
“We had very positive conversations,” Bolen said. “It was clear that everybody was trying to find the best path forward and the new owners were not trying to close the property to public access.”
“It was very productive,” Popp said. “I’m very excited about the opportunities for a permanent start line and a permanent home at Telemark.”
Crandall expanded: “What I can say is that I’m encouraged by the initial willingness of the new owner to listen to the area events and organizations’ perspectives on what Telemark Lodge and the surrounding property means to them. It appears they are willing to consider suggestions on how to keep Telemark a viable part of our active sports community. How that relates to access or lodge operations is of course yet to be determined, but at least the doors of communication are open.”
Access to the property, especially for the Birkebeiner, may be just as important as the future of the Telemark Lodge itself. The first few kilometers of the race course for the 50-kilometer Birkebeiner cross Telemark land and the 23-kilometer Kortelopet starts and finishes just outside the lodge.
The Birkebeiner has launched a campaign to raise $200,000 to $400,000 to secure permanent access to the start area.
Crandall’s annual Fat Tire race, one of the largest mountain bike events in the country, finishes at the base of the Telemark ski hill.
The Birkie and Fat Tire combined attract roughly 13,000 participants to the Cable and Hayward area, which has a population of roughly 3,000.
In addition, trails developed by the Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association utilize Telemark property, and the North End Ski Trails connect to the world-class ski trails developed during the resort’s boom years in the 1970s. Those trails will be open and groomed during the winter, Bolen said.
While the various events and trail users received assurances at the meeting Tuesday, the future of the iconic lodge remains undecided, according to Bolen and other sources. Telemark, in some form, has been a destination in northern Wisconsin since Tony Wise put up the first ski lodge there in 1947.
The buyer has no interest in operating the lodge, which includes more than 200 hotel rooms and suites, a restaurant, conference rooms and dance parlor, Bolen said. The structure dates back to 1973, has outdated mechanicals, and fell into severe disrepair after the utilities were turned off in spring.
“They are going to look at securing the facility, turning on the electricity and the plumbing, so it doesn’t implode,” Bolen said. “There are some possibilities for the lodge going forward.”
Bolen said one group presented a plan to re-open the lodge, and will work on a deal with the new owner.
“If those talks were to be successful, and amicable, there is the potential for the lodge to reopen at some point in the future,” he said, adding that it’s not likely the lodge would be open in the coming winter.
One other prospect still being discussed involves the creation of an Olympic Training Site operated by the Central Cross Country Ski Association. Representatives from that group also met with the new owners to discuss options for the future use of Telemark.
“The new owners control what happens on the property,” Bolen said. “They could have said we want it torn down and it’s over. They’re not saying that.”
Mystery buyer: Rick Carpenter, who worked for the previous owners of Telemark before the latest foreclosure, represented the buyers at the sheriff’s sale. He has refused to identify the actual buyer, which used the generic name Newco LLC.
Wisconsin Public Radio has reported that the buyer is a member of the S.C. Johnson Enterprises family, which includes the heirs of the company founder and some of the wealthiest people in America. The Johnson family has owned property near Telemark since the 1880s.
The Telemark sale is scheduled to be confirmed in Bayfield County Circuit Court on Monday.