August 25, 2003

Officials with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are closing in a deal with Bohemia Limited to get out of the ski business.

Porcupine Mountains Downhill Ski Area is the only ski hill owned by the state and it's been a consistent loser when it comes to financing. Last year, the hill lost the state some $140,000. In mid July, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy issued an article essentially calling for the privatization of the ski area.

The Center noted that "at Indianhead Ski Resort, tickets are $36 on weekends or holidays; at Boyne Mountain, they cost $43 on Saturday and $45 on holidays. At the Porkies, the price is $28, and the price last year was $25. Indianhead charges for children older than six; at the Porkies, children ski free until age 12."

The Center's article raised the question: "Is ski resort ownership and management a proper function of state government?"

Apparently officials of the DNR answered the question and the answer was no.

According to Brad Wurfel, DNR spokesman, the state is presently very close to closing the deal on turning over management of the ski hill to the private company that runs the Mount Bohemia Ski Area on the Upper Peninsula's Keweenaw Peninsula.

"It was state government's only ski hill and I don't think anybody thought we ran it the way it should be run," Wurfel noted. "Customers will be better served."

Wurfel added that nothing in the park is going to change, but that new management will likely make improvements to the ski area.

Currently, the Porcupine Mountain Downhill Ski Area is a natural snow hill, there is no snow machine. As a result the skiing is subject to the whims of Mother Nature. One possible improvement new management could make is to bring in a snow machine to better groom the hills.

"The sense I've gotten from our folks is that the negotiations have gone very well," said Wurfel.

Copyright 2003 Michigan Information Research Service.

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