The announcement earlier this month that Ski Bluewood would open was great news for skiers and snowboarders -- and even those who don't enjoy winter sports.
Ski Bluewood is a huge piece of the local economy, particularly for Dayton, which is just 21 miles away from the ski resort. Having a top-notch ski resort just an hour away from Walla Walla has been critical in attracting people to relocate to the area. It has also likely been a factor in keeping folks here.
When Stan and Nancy Goodell announced plans to retire and sell Ski Bluewood, it looked possible that no buyers would emerge and there would be no skiing in Southeastern Washington this winter.
But investors came together to form a group to buy the facility. Mike and Kelly Stephenson of Kennewick will serve as the managing partners of a newly formed limited liability company. Mike Stephenson has been a ski instructor on the mountain for more than 15 years and is currently the training director at the ski school.
"It's the best of all news," said Duane Wollmuth, executive director of the Southeast Washington Economic Development Association. "We've made it through some down years when there hasn't been a lot of snow and haven't had a lot of open days. The communities have survived, but obviously it has an economic hit on lodging, food establishments and the surrounding areas."
Wollmuth, who served on two committees focused on finding a way to keep the resort running, and economic development officials from Columbia County explored as many options as possible for the operation. They looked at forming a nonprofit organization to run the business to the possibility of a government-managed operation. But Wollmuth said a private buyout made the most sense.
It certainly does. Private ownership should bring long-term stability to the ski area.
Ski Bluewood is one of the attractions that enhances the quality of life in Walla Walla, Columbia and Garfield counties.