By Mike Lynch
Big changes could be on the horizon for the Adirondack Mountain Club.
The nonprofit hiking organization is seriously considering purchasing the Cascade Ski Center outside of Lake Placid, while at the same time has listed its Lake George property for sale.
The 1.85 acre property, located south of the village of Lake George, is home to a 11,000-square-foot log cabin building. The structure provides storage and office space for employees and has a retail store. ADK is selling the building and property for $990,000.
ADK Executive Director Michael Barrett said his organization is looking to sell the property and relocate its employees to a smaller building that could draw more foot traffic, perhaps in downtown Lake George, Glens Falls, or Saratoga Springs. ADK hasn’t determined whether it would rent or buy the new property, he said.
Barrett said he came across an old article about the Lake George building, and that the intent when it was built in the 1980s was to have it serve as a meeting place for nonprofits and as a hiker information center.
“I get that concept, but it didn’t pan out,” Barrett said, noting there isn’t a lot of walk-in or drive-by traffic.
Barrett also said the old article stated that ADK thought it could succeed with an info center in Lake George because it was renting space for that purpose at the Cascade Ski Center and seeing positive results.
As it turns out, ADK is exploring the idea of returning to the Cascade Ski Center. This time as the owner.
Coldwell Banker Whitbeck has the Cascade Ski Center listed for sale at $3.25 million. That includes the ski shop, rental area, restaurant and, office space, apartments and 200 acres that include ski trails.
Cascade Ski Center is owned by the Jubin family, which has operated it for decades.
“It really checks a lot of boxes for us,” Barrett said. “We’d be really interested in continuing the ski center, making sure the public had access to the property for skiing purposes. But the rest of the year, when the ski center is not operational, we definitely see the benefits of putting in a strategic hiker information center.”
He said there is plenty of room for educational programing, and there are apartments and offices on the property. Currently, ADK is conducting its educational programs at Heart Lake in yurts that are limited in space. In addition, its staff is crammed into tiny shared offices.
“I’m pretty confident I can double or even triple our educational programing, and it too would sell out,” he said. “The obstacle for us is we don’t have the space.”
He also envisioned the location on Route 73 would allow ADK staff to interact with more hikers looking for advice. He said the center would provide basic needs, including maps, bear canisters, bathrooms, and a charging station.
But as promising as the property looks, Barrett said ADK doesn’t have a deal with the Cascade owners.
“We’re intrigued. We see the potential. We are doing the due diligence at this point,” he said.
He said the ADK board has only approved him to engage in conversations with the ski center owners and list the Lake George property for sale. Nothing more at this point.
ADK’s interest in the ski center property became public last week because Barrett went before the North Elba Town Board to ask for support for a state grant of up to $500,000 that could be used to help purchase the property. The town board voted unanimously to support the project and grant application, which had already been submitted.
The Environmental Protection Fund grant would require ADK to provide matching funds and create an access or conservation easement on the property. Barrett said his organization hasn’t settled on the details of the easement but was definitely open to one and would like to keep the property accessible to the public.
This isn’t the only property that ADK has explored buying recently. Barrett said ADK had interest last year in the Masten House located near the Upper Works Trailhead in Newcomb. The State University of New York’s Environmental Science and Forestry College Foundation sold that building and property for $1 million to a private entity last year.
ADK has also been exploring upgrading its existing infrastructure at Heart Lake. Last year, it received a smart growth grant to reduce erosion and sedimentation to nearby waters from its parking lot. An engineering firm is currently working on designs for the parking lot.
Barrett said that as part of that effort, ADK and the engineers are looking at ways to improve the user experience there and see what it would look like if they added an outdoor education facility on that property, among other things. He said the 200-vehicle parking capacity would be the same as it is now.
“We wanted an engineering firm to reimagine what it would look like,” he said.
But Barrett said ADK would prefer to use an existing facility for education purposes, such as the one at Cascade Ski Center, as opposed to building a new one.
“We definitely see the benefit of spreading out users by having a presence in different locations.”