Despite fraud investigation of owner, Burke Mountain is back

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EAST BURKE — One of two ski resorts owned by a Miami businessman accused of massive fraud has reopened for the mountain biking season and its new hotel is slated to open in the fall.

The Friends of Burke Mountain, a nonprofit group focused on assuring the long-term success of Burke Mountain, celebrated the start of the mountain biking season and future hotel opening with a party at the resort last weekend.

However, still looming is the fate of Ariel Quiros, owner of Burke Mountain and Jay Peak, accused by Vermont and the Securities and Exchange Commission of misusing about $200 million raised from foreign investors through a special visa program.

Also accused is Bill Stenger, president of Jay Peak.

Quiros also is accused in the civil complaints of diverting about $50 million for his personal use, including the purchase of Jay Peak, Burke and a luxury condo in New York and the payment of personal income taxes.

Both men say they will be cleared of any wrongdoing.

A federal receiver has been appointed to oversee operations at both resorts and has said he expects them to be sold eventually. Leisure Hotels and Resorts, a Kansas-based management company, is now running Burke and Jay, where a hotel and conference center and indoor water park are open, as well as a golf course for the warmer season.

"What other people see as a bad thing, we see as a good thing," said Michael Sher, president of the Friends of Burke Mountain. "It is ripe for purchasing by hopefully the right kind of buyer, the buyer who understands the community."

It's not the first challenging time for Burke. Since the ski area was established in 1956, it's had at least seven owners and gone through several bankruptcies, according to Jessica Sechler, marketing manager.

"That's really our message, no more bankruptcies, no more receiverships, no more roller coasters, this is an opportunity to save Burke for good," Sher said.

The management company is working with Friends of Burke Mountain and Burke Mountain Academy, the renowned ski school, which are coming up with a plan to make improvements to the lift system and snowmaking capabilities, said Steve Olson, chief executive officer of Leisure Hotels and Resorts.

Burke Mountain Academy also has broken ground on a $2.8 million indoor training center that it plans to open in the fall. It's named after Burke graduate and US Ski Team prospect Ronnie Berlack, who was killed in an avalanche in Austria in January 2015.

"For the area, it shows the confidence we have in the mountain and commitment to the town and the area," said outgoing headmaster Kirk Dwyer.


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