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Businessman Otten unveils 'spectacular rebirth' plan for Balsams

Union Leader Correspondent

May 22. 2014 11:53PM
Former ski industry executive Les Otten on Thursday announced "the spectacular rebirth" of the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in Dixville Notch. (FILE)

WEST STEWARTSTOWN – Saying he hoped the project would have $100 million worth of investment by 2016 and continue to grow in phases, former ski industry executive Les Otten on Thursday announced "the spectacular rebirth" of the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in Dixville Notch.

Otten, who oversaw the growth of the Sunday River ski area in Maine and was a founder and former CEO of the American Skiing Company, is currently leading a development group that includes Dan Dagesse and Dan Hebert.

In 2011, Dagesse and Hebert, who are both from Colebrook and who both worked at the Balsams in their youth, bought the legendary resort -- which includes the historic hotel as well as a golf course and ski area on more than 7,000 acres of land in and around Dixville Notch – for $2.3 million from the Tillotson Corp. of Lexington, Mass. and the Neil Tillotson Trust.

When the men couldn't resurrect the Balsams themselves, they turned to Otten, who on Thursday evening told attendees at the North Country Chamber of Commerce's annual dinner held at The Spa Restaurant's Outback Pub that the new Balsams would be a year-round resort that would attract a world-class clientele.

Phase 1 of the project would entail renovation of the existing golf course; adding five new lifts at the ski area; building a 400-key hotel; and renovations to the Dix and Hampton houses, said Otten.

He added that the new resort would appeal to "Gen Xers" whom he called the economic drivers at resorts for the next 25 years and who enjoyed a variety of activities, including motorized sports such as snowmobiling and riding ATVs.

The resort would also continue to attract people who wanted the traditional grand hotel experience of superb food and attentive service and skiers who demanded snow and conditions that rivaled the best of the west, said Otten, adding that toward that end, the resort would bring in water for its snow guns from the Androscoggin River.

The Balsams would create a brand that allows locally-grown produce and locally-made crafts to be used sold at the resort and online, said Otten, who noted that the transformation of the Balsams would be the biggest economic development project in Coos County since the Brown Paper Co. opened for business in Berlin in 1866.

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