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Tamarack Resort resurrected for ski season

by Jessie L. Bonner
| December 20, 2010 8:00 PM

DONNELLY - When a French developer tried to build a destination ski resort in the central Idaho mountains and it failed, 36-year-old Wolfe Ashcraft was among the casualties.

He no longer had a job as a ski instructor at Tamarack Resort. He also had to shutter his skiing and snowboarding shop in the nearby town of Donnelly after business dried up in the wake of the resort's closure.

But he didn't hold a grudge.

When homeowners still living at the defunct ski resort banded together and persuaded a bankruptcy judge to let skiers and snowboarders get back on the slopes this season, Ashcraft was among the first to apply for a job.

Many of the workers at Tamarack on Friday to prepare for the resort's first lift-service skiing since March 2009 also had decided to return after losing their jobs when the resort closed last year.

"They want to be here for the re-emergence of Tamarack," Ashcraft said.

In Valley County, where unemployment has skyrocketed to 20 percent since development at Tamarack ended, more than 300 people applied for about 70 openings.

Ashcraft, who will manage rentals during the ski season, has a master's in business administration and marketing. One of the workers hired to load the ski lifts is a civil engineer.

Glen Welsh, an alarm installer who has been unemployed since he moved to Idaho in July, dusted snow off a revolving line of lift seats and helped groom the ski hills in preparation for Monday's opening.

"I'm just excited to have a job here," Welsh said over the roar of nearby snow machines peppering the hills with fresh powder.

In the nearby restaurant, chef Larry Morton scrutinized final copies of the menu. At the adjacent bar, called Seven Devils Pub, a health inspector went through his checklist. Nathan Jacobson, a 31-year-old hired to help groom snow on the ski trails, gave a window frame a fresh coat of paint.

The homeowners group agreed to delve into its savings for $250,000 in seed money to get the project started, Flaherty said. It will operate the ski season on a tight, $1.5 million budget, and the resort won't have all the bells and whistles that Tamarack boasted when it first opened.

There's no money to offer day care, and the boutique market will remain closed as well.

The plan calls for skiing until April 3, with the resort open Thursdays through Sundays, though there will be extensions for Christmas, New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President's Day and spring break.

More than 500 season passes had been sold.

The goal: To bolster the value of their property and lure a potential buyer.

"So we can move on with the rest of our lives," Flaherty said.

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