The Balsams is a step closer to getting their reconstruction and ski resort expansion projects off the ground. The Colebrook Chronicle and the Berlin Sun report that the Balsams project received conditional approval and a financing plan from Coos County. These are pivotal steps, albeit not the final ones needed to start construction on reopening the hotel and ski resort.
According to the Caledonian Record, the first phase of the Balsams development could include the “expanded ski area (conditionally approved by county planners on March 15), a new Dix/Hampshire House, a new Lake Gloriette House hotel, a retail marketplace, and a Planned Unit Development of up to 4,600 lodging or residential [condo and townhomes] units.”
For skiers, the major point of interest is the expansion of the Balsams Wilderness. Prior to its closure in 2011, the Balsams was pretty tiny compared to its competitors in Northern New England. When it last operated, it only has 100 skiable acres and a 978-foot vertical drop. Their end game is ambitious: 22 lifts, 1250 skiable acres, and a vertical drop of 2050 feet.
The first phase of this plan is for seven new lifts and 250 acres of skiable terrain. A gondola would go from the hotels at the Balsams to the ski resort. At the end of the day, skiers would reach the hotel by going across a skier bridge over Route 26. If the skier bridge isn’t ready, the plan is to have a shuttle service transport skiers to and from. The new base lodge will be the Lake Gloriette House, which will be rebuilt. Construction for the first phase of the massively expanded ski resort is expected to take two years.
Will these plans ever come to fruition? It’s pretty hard to tell if this will be successful, as we could be heading into a recession this year, and a build-out like this is complex. Other people have legitimate concerns about a project, including where they’re going to find the workers, and whether people would drive past a bunch of popular ski resorts to go to The Balsams.
One potential concern for the project is the location of a wind turbine, which is situated near one of the proposed slopes. The Balsams have reached out to the energy company for compliance for when the ski resort reopens, but they are currently refusing to oblige. During the wintertime, the ice from the windmill could land on the trail.
Les Otten, who is the leader of this project, has pulled off some wild developments in the ski industry before, like at Killington, Sunday River, and the Canyons, so completing this would be an epic addition to his legacy. I’d say this latest news story about this conditional approval could lead to the start of construction this year, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up. I’ll say this as a New Hampshire resident though: I really want to see them pull this off.