Andy Daly knows a thing or two about carving successful turns in the rocky terrain of the Colorado ski business. He’s worked in the state’s ski industry for more than 40 years, served as president and chief executive of Vail Associates Inc., and been involved with a half-dozen other ski areas in Colorado.
Now his ski-industry acumen will apparently be put to the test in operating Powderhorn Ski Resort, which he and two partners acquired Thursday in the public auction of the ski area on the flank of Grand Mesa.
That doesn’t guarantee Powderhorn’s constant financial struggles have ended, or that the community-oriented ski area will soon join the ranks of top-tier ski areas like Vail or Aspen.
However, Daly’s deep roots in the Colorado ski business certainly appear more promising than if an out-of-state investor with little background in the ski business had purchased it. Powderhorn went through that in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and it nearly led to the ski area’s demise.
Furthermore, Daly is partnering with Ken and Tom Gart, members of the family that operated Gart Brothers sporting goods stores and other sports-related retail businesses in Colorado for many decades. The family has a history in Colorado business dating back to the 1920s. It has been serving the needs of Colorado skiers for almost as long. Longtime fans of Powderhorn — this newspaper among them — hope those combined deep roots point to a desire by the new owners to see Powderhorn flourish for the long run.
Sellers Steve Bailey and Dean Skalla have been good owners of Powderhorn for the past 13 years, keeping it operating in difficult times, maintaining its community atmosphere and its relatively low ticket prices.
But it’s long been argued that if the local ski area is to prosper — compete for destination visitors who can make a ski area profitable — it needs to grow up. It must modernize, expand and provide more year-round activities.
We hope Daly and his partners will be able to invest to upgrade the lifts to high-speed, comfortable people carriers, and continue the expansion of runs that began under Bailey and Skalla. Perhaps they’ll use the 700 acres they acquired just below the ski area to develop for more year-round attractions.
In any event, we welcome Daly and the Gart brothers to Mesa County. Daly called Powderhorn “a diamond in the rough” at Thursday’s auction. We hope the partners’ combined Colorado business experience and their resources will provide them the wherewithal necessary to polish that jewel.