Chairlifts to run next winter … the long wait is over!
Sugar Loaf, the long shuttered ski resort in the heart of Leelanau County, has been acquired by a consortium of nonprofits—including the Traverse City-based Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities—and will become a cutting edge solar energy park. Its new name will be “Solar Loaf”.
Groundwork’s solar czar Dan Worth confirmed the news during a phone call Saturday morning. He was at the top of Sugar Loaf mountain investigating the best locations to install solar panels that will harvest the energy of the sun at maximum hours per day.
“It’s gonna happen, man,” Worth said, betraying a smile that stretched from cheek to cheek. “We’ve been in secret talks with Sugar Loaf’s current owners, and they see the future potential of solar energy. They want to see ‘Solar Loaf’ reopen and become a shining example for the entire Midwest on how an all-season resort can run on 100% renewable energy.”
Sugar Loaf’s chairlifts, moribund and rotting after 17 years of sitting idle, will be retrofitted and repurposed to run on solar energy. They’ll carry skiers and snowboarders to the top of the mountain again beginning in December.
The reopened resort is expected to provide an economic boost to Leelanau County, particularly Cedar, Maple City, Lake Leelanau and businesses around Lime Lake. Before closing in 2000, Sugar Loaf’s was the largest year-round provider of jobs in the county.
In anticipation of Sugar Loaf’s new solar focus, two local restaurants plan to add solar-themed items to their menu: at Big Cat Brewing, brewmaster and chef Aaron Ackley plans to add a solar-powered wheat beer on draft (“this will send Oberon back to the stone ages,” boasted Ackley), and Sugarfoot Saloon—known for its Midwestern-Mexican fare—will add a solar burrito.
Worth confirmed that half a dozen solar panels would be erected on different parts of the property, which includes the ski hill, a lodge, townhouses, and airstrip. Those panels would power the lifts, all electricity used on the premises, and probably offer a surplus of energy to the townspeople of Cedar.
Groundwork executive director Hans Voss was ecstatic about the news.
“Big props to my man Dan Worth for getting this done!” Voss said with his telltale boyish enthusiasm. “We’re gonna turn Sugar Loaf into the greatest solar ski resort in the world! And we’re gonna show the entire nation how the sun rays will power us in the 21st century!”
Worth couldn’t disclose details about how he convinced current Sugar Loaf owner Jeff Katofsky (a hotelier, lawyer and minor league baseball team owner in California) and previous owner Remo Polselli (who currently holds the mortgage) to part with the resort. But Worth said, “those guys understand the energy of tomorrow.”
Slipping into his native Bostonian accent, Worth did extrapolate about his persuasive strategy. The New England native (who studied at University of Michigan) and joined the Groundwork Center a year ago, said that he both massaged Katofsky and Polselli with a “Haaa-vard” sophistication, and alternately slipped into a “Southie” tough-Irish accent to play “haaad-ball with them.”
Whatever he did, it worked.
Worth couldn’t confirm rumors that clean energy magnate Elon Musk was among the investors in Solar Loaf. Musk’s private jet was seen last week at the landing strip next to the ski hill, and he was seen tooling around the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in a solar-powered car.
Since closing in 2000, Sugar Loaf has hosted a game of musical chairs of would-be owners—the most colorful, and controversial of which were Polselli, a hotelier in Detroit and California, and Liko Smith, a former Samoan boxer. Neither Polselli nor Smith “Google well”—see for yourself. Donald Trump was reportedly also interested in acquiring Sugar Loaf last April (and opening “Trump Loaf”), but his surprise political victory put those plans on hold.
Happy April Fools Day, everyone! Sorry, but if you believed this story … well, you better look at today’s date.