Bousquet Ski Area sold to Mill Town Capital; will remain operational

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PITTSFIELD — A private investment group from Pittsfield has purchased the venerable Bousquet Ski Area and plans to keep one of the country's oldest ski resorts operational.

Mill Town Capital purchased Bousquet from Tamarack Ski Nominee Trust and owners Sherry and P.J. Roberts, who had owned the ski area on Dan Fox Drive since 1981.

The sale, finalized Friday, includes 115 acres spread across four parcels on Bousquet Mountain, including the summit of Yokun Ridge, 22 trails, multiple buildings and operational equipment.

Bousquet, founded in 1932, had been listed at $3.2 million two years ago  and had been on the market for 10 years, according to Sherry Roberts. Both parties agreed to not publicly disclose the purchase price, but the property sold for $1.07 million, according to documents filed at the Berkshire Middle Registry of Deeds in Pittsfield. Mill Town did not obtain a mortgage.

Mill Town also has entered into a collaboration agreement with Jon and Jim Schaefer, who own two other local ski areas — Berkshire East in Charlemont and Catamount in Egremont. The management of those two ski areas will advise Bousquet's new owners on capital and operational decisions and investments. The Schaefers have made a significant capital investment in the ski operations at Catamount since they purchased that ski area for $3 million in May 2018. The Schaefer family has owned Berkshire East since 1975.

"They are going to provide us with operational support," said Mill Town CEO and managing director Tim Burke. "It will be a joint effort. Obviously, they have a lot of experience where we don't, so, we were looking to have their support."

Burke grew up in Pittsfield before returning to the Berkshires from the Boston area in 2017, when he founded Mill Town Capital with business partner David Mixer.

"We're currently doing an analysis of the condition of the lodge and the ski infrastructure," he said.  "Our immediate plans are make sure access to the mountain and the lodge is safe and high quality. We have a plan. We're not ready to release it yet, but over the next few weeks and months we will be very transparent about what we're doing."

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In a statement, the Schaefers said Bousquet will become the third mountain in "Berkshire Pass," a new season ski pass program that will include Berkshire East and Catamount. More details on the ski pass plan will be released soon.

"We think there is a great future here," the Schaefers said. 

Mill Town has made numerous investments in downtown Pittsfield; it owns several properties along North and Tyler streets and became the venture capital partner for the Berkshire Innovation Center in October. The company's recent focus has been on outdoor recreation projects, providing funding for the Berkshire Natural Resources Council's Trails App development, rehabilitating the trail network in Pittsfield's Springside Park through a partnership with Greenagers, and supporting free outdoor recreation programming for Pittsfield's 10x10 Upstreet Arts Festival.

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“We know that the Berkshires are home to some of the region’s best opportunities for people to get out and enjoy the outdoors in a number of ways,” said Caroline Holland, also a managing director at Mill Town. “We are working to make these outdoor experiences more accessible and to highlight our natural environment as a driver for a great quality of life in the Berkshires. Bousquet is a huge part of that strategy as it encapsulates so many rich mountain activities right here within the city confines.”

Roberts was the longtime life partner of the late George Jervas, who purchased Bousquet in 1981. She took sole ownership of the ski area after Jervas died suddenly in August 2012. Although Bousquet had been on the market for a while, Roberts said Mill Town didn't approach Tamarack about purchasing the property until this winter. 

"I will tell you that P.J. and I are very excited," Roberts said about the sale. "This will be nice news for the community with everything else going on. ... Mill Town will be very invested in making it a success. The group is dynamic and has a young group of people and tremendous resources.

"One of the people involved with Mill Town came to ski here a couple of years ago and reminisced about bringing his family there and the great memories that he had growing up in the Berkshires. Everything [Mill Town] said was community-oriented, and that really touched my heart.

"I just truly believe they are going to make it a destination for young families," she said. "I had made a commitment when George passed that my goal was to find someone to continue it as a ski area."

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"Through the years, Bousquet has entertained generations of families in Pittsfield, throughout the Berkshires, and beyond," Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer said. "Thanks to Mill Town Capital, I am thrilled to know that Bousquet will remain a staple of enjoyment in our city and will continue to be home to countless memories.”

The late Clarence J. "Clare" Bousquet founded the ski area in 1932 when the mink farm he operated on the property went under during the Depression. In 1936, Bousquet and a group of engineers from General Electric invented night skiing when they mounted floodlights on the slopes so they could ski on Christmas Eve.

Bousquet also invented the rope tow gripper, a device that protects the arms and hands of people riding on rope tows. The device made it easier for skiers to go up hills so they could ski back down.  Bousquet marketed the device — it was patented in 1941 — and sold 500,000 units.

In the 1930s, ski trains from New York City deposited skiers right at Bousquet. Five future U.S. Olympic downhill skiers, including Pittsfield natives Kim and Krista Schmidinger and Heidi Volker, all have been members of Bousquet's Ski Racing team.

Bousquet also was sold in 1955 and 1967. A proposed $2.7 million sale of the ski area in 2007 later fell through after running into legal problems. In 2009, a Berkshire Superior Court Judge removed a restriction of the sale that allowed the Berkshire Natural Resources Council to purchase 80 acres on the top of Bousquet Mountain.

Jervas originally purchased Bousquet in July 1981 as part of a four-way partnership but was the ski area's sole owner with Roberts for 15 years before his death. 

Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-281-2755.


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