Last updated: March 27. 2013 11:22PM - 623 Views
By ANDREW M. SEDER



AIMEE DILGER/TIMES LEADER FILE PHOTOSkiers arrive earlier this year at Snö Mountain, an area ski resort and summertime water park that might welcome guests this Memorial Day under new ownership, a source says.
AIMEE DILGER/TIMES LEADER FILE PHOTOSkiers arrive earlier this year at Snö Mountain, an area ski resort and summertime water park that might welcome guests this Memorial Day under new ownership, a source says.
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An investment group is close to finalizing a deal to buy Snö Mountain ski area and water park and reopen it under the previous Montage Mountain name in time for Memorial Day, according to one of the investors.


Montage Mountain Resorts LP, which includes Montgomery County real estate developer Charles Jefferson, is in negotiations with DFM Realty, an affiliate of National Penn Bank, a Boyertown bank that bid $4.6 million at an auction last month to secure the bankrupt property that includes 440 acres and all amenities. The bank was the largest secured creditor.


Jefferson, 47, said the group has “a deal in principle.” It will spend about $8.3 million, including a purchase price of about $5.1 million, on the property. That total includes upgrades and improvements. A closing is expected by the end of April.


“I think there’s an opportunity there,” said Jefferson, who noted the goal is “to make sure the place doesn’t skip a beat” and seamlessly transitions into another season.


Mark Verrastro, the general manager of Snö Mountain, said he has spoken to Jefferson and is excited that an investment group with local ties is interested in acquiring the resort. Jefferson’s company, Jefferson-Werner, was involved in the $23 million conversion of the Connell Building on North Washington Avenue into the Connell Lofts and invested $8.6 million to rehabilitate the former Scranton Chamber of Commerce Building on Mulberry Street. Both are now mixed-use residential and commercial complexes.


“The future is bright,” Verrastro said, adding, “I’m excited to see the future.” Staff members also are anxious to see what will happen to the property, he said.


As the bank and the investment group negotiate, he is confident the mountain will reopen this year under the name it hung on its banner from its opening in 1983 until Lackawanna County sold it in 2006.


“It’s going to be Montage Mountain,” Verrastro said. “Basically, Montage is back.”


Jefferson said the decision to pull the Montage Mountain name out of mothballs wasn’t a hard one.


He said people have fond memories of the resort with that name and to drive past the Montage Mountain Road exit off I-81 gets that resort name into people’s mind.


Verrastro said the mountain’s customers will respond. He has already received calls about tickets for the water park season at what has been called Snö Cove, he said. That name is likely going to be abandoned and renamed Montage Mountain Water Park or something like that, he said. He is telling people the park, under whatever name it will have, is expected to reopen May 25.


That’s something Jefferson concurs with.


“There’s no doubt in my mind we’ll be open May 25.”


The drama behind the scenes with bankruptcy, auctions and soon a potential sale, took attention away from what Verrastro said was one of the resort’s better seasons in recent years. “I think the year was great. We were very fortunate with the weather,” said Verrastro, who did not have access to the financials to give detailed data because of the bankruptcy issue.

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