Sugar ‘Loafers’ Excited About Possibilities for Former Leelanau Ski Resort

Sugar Loaf has new owners with ties to Leland

Community members are excited about the possibilities, now that a shuttered ski resort in Leelanau County is showing new signs of life.Sugarloaf Now 3

Sugar Loaf Resort near Cedar hasn’t seen skiers since 2000. But after 20 years sitting empty, it once again has new owners. That has loyal “Loafers” (as they’re affectionately known) and other  community members very optimistic.

Dan Bodamer was part of the Sugar Loaf Ski Patrol from 1980-2000. “I ski patrolled there for 20 years. I was Assistant Patrol Director for most of those. A fabulous place to ski. It was wonderful. The camaraderie. The ski teams we had. The fun. It was just an excellent, excellent place.”

Sugarloaf Ranve Martinson

Photo Courtesy: Ranve Martinson

In its heyday – Sugar Loaf Resort welcomed tourists and locals by the thousands. Linda Murphy Jacobs was also on Ski Patrol. “I was there from 1975 until they closed, as a member of the National Ski Patrol. During the early days it was massive amounts of crowds, and it was a real fun destination. Lots of large groups and lots of skiing going on.”

Less than 20 miles from Traverse City, Sugar Loaf was a big attraction that brought big dollars to the local economy. Bodamer says, “For the 20 years I was there, it rock and rolled for 10,12, 15 years. But then new owners come in. (Eventually) we were watching the whole thing go way down. (Shutting down) was not a surprise to us.” But, he says it was still a blow to the community. “It was killer. It was terrible. Now what are we going to do?”

Sugar Loaf Resort

Photo Courtesy: John L. Russell

Now he keeps the memory alive with Sugar Loaf t-shirts and other memorabilia, and there’s an active Facebook group for the Friends of Sugar Loaf. Bodamer says, “I hate being negative. I’d love to see somebody super rich that would come in and buy the thing and make it a ski area. Because it’s a fabulous hill.”

Sugar Loaf has changed hands more than half a dozen times since it closed, each time with a new owner or ownership group eyeing the possibilities for the site. That includes liens, foreclosures and Sheriff’s sales. Jacobs says, “It was bank owned and managed and had several different managers – and different owners. Six maybe? It’s hard to tell. I’m not sure we knew some of them when it changed hands.” But each time those goals have fallen through, and the property has been in decline ever since.

Sugarloaf Lindsay Rae

Photo Courtesy: Lindsay Rae

Jacobs says word of a local tie to the new owners is reason to be positive. “I’m optimistic I think. If somebody’s willing to look at it with their eyes open. The property is a gorgeous property. It seems to me it could be something that could help employment and the economy in Leelanau County.”

Sugar Loaf is now owned by SPV 45, with a local address in Leland. However, the new property deed registered with the county doesn’t have a specific name or list of names attached to it. 9&10 has reached out to the real estate broker involved in the deal – but so far – no comment on the plans for the future.  Jacobs says, “Local, I think is a great idea. I would think the local folks really know what needs to happen out there and the area is screaming for some recreation in the winter that’s affordable… and can grow it back.”

Whoever it is that’s behind the purchase, and whatever their vision is for the property, they have a lot of work ahead of them. Local government officials have already said – years ago – that demolition of existing buildings may be a necessary first step.Sugar Loaf Now 1

Bodamer has heard that as well. “I’m sure it would take $24 (M) million dollars in infrastructure to get the thing going. In fact that’s what one of the estimates was. And that was before the chairlifts were taken out.”

Jacobs also knows there’s work to be done. “I don’t know, there’s a lot to do out there. It’s a derelict property right now that’s not doing anybody any good. If somebody put condos in there then they’d have a heck of a sledding hill.”

Sugarloaf Mike Clay

Photo Courtesy: Mike Clay

Bodamer says anything is better than what’s crumbling at the property now. While he doesn’t know the future, he knows one thing for sure. “I know it’s only 9 miles from my house and I’d love to go skiing there again.”