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Powderhorn ski area uses Opportunity Zone tax credits to lure deep-pocketed investors

Powderhorn's owners hope the Walton family's investment arm ZOMA Capital will help speed improvements at the ski area above Grand Junction

A skier at Powderhorn Mountain Resort. (Provided photo by Casey Day, Powderhorn Mountain Resort)
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Big investment is on tap for Powderhorn Mountain Resort, with its owners hiring a longtime resort management company to take over operations and enlisting deep-pocketed investors to help fund upgrades at the 52-year-old ski area above Grand Junction.

Powderhorn owners — Denver’s Gart brothers Ken, John and Tom and resort veteran Andy Daly — last year hired Pacific Group Resorts Inc., from Park City, Utah, to handle its “Mission: Affordable” season pass campaign that slashed prices to $249.

On Wednesday the owners announced PGRI — which operates Ragged Mountain in New Hampshire, Wisp Resort in Maryland, Wintergreen Resort in Virginia and Mount Washington ski area in British Columbia — would be taking over operations at Powderhorn.

“We really think the way they operate those resorts is the right fit for what Powderhorn is all about,” said Ken Gart, who with his brothers and Daly bought the resort at auction in 2011. “We still own Powderhorn.”

The Garts and Daly also announced they had signed on Denver’s ZOMA Capital, the investment arm of Ben and Lucy Walton, as an equity partner helping to speed up investment plans for the 1,600-acre ski area on Grand Mesa east of Grand Junction.

Colorado’s Opportunity Zones, highlighted in yellow. There are 126 tracts in all. Click the image above for an interactive map. (Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade)

A press release announcing the partnership noted the recent designation of the Grand Mesa as an opportunity zone “is particularly exciting and may be leveraged for incremental investment dollars … to continue to support the regional economic vitality of the Grand Valley.”

The Trump Administration’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act created Opportunity Zones in 18 states where investors can trade tax credits for money poured into redevelopment in areas that are considered economically distressed. These areas typically have family incomes no more than 80 percent of the state average or poverty rates as high as 20 percent.

Gart said the owners were “positioning new investment so we can take advantage” of the tax breaks the come with investment that aligns with the federal requirements under Opportunity Zone rules.

“The new rules just came out. We are structuring it so we can take advantage of it, which I think we can,” Gart said. “But we haven’t done that yet.”


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