A ski resort is coming back to life in South Dakota this year. Unfortunately for locals, while public access will be available as capacity allows, its next life will mostly be as a private real estate community.

The Rapid City Journal spoke with Keating Resources, who plan to reopen Deer Mountain as a private four-season resort. Back in 2021, Keating Resources purchased the property and aimed to reopen in December 2022. But cutting through the red tape was more difficult than expected, according to Gerard Keating, who is the CEO of Keating Resources:

“We had a few false starts because we didn’t understand the challenge of building infrastructure at 6,000-plus feet; it’s much more difficult than anything I’ve ever done. Because of the weather here you really only have a five-month construction season, so it’s very difficult and very expensive.”

So far, lots of money has been spent to get the project off the ground. $3 million was put towards new pipes and a water tower at the summit to supply the ski resort. $5 million was invested to link the Deer Mountain Sanitary District to the local community network. They have also added roads, municipal water, high-speed fiber optic cables, and electricity to the real estate development.

The project will be built out in phases. The first phase will be completed at the end of this year with the mountain biking trails opening in October, and the ski resort is expected to reopen in November. In October of 2024, the west side of the mountain will reopen for mountain biking and then skiing during that winter. In addition, the new clubhouse for members, which will feature a heated pool, spa, and courts for various sports, is scheduled to open in October 2024. The last phase will see the construction of a 92-room hotel at the summit of the mountain.

While the area will mostly be for the residents and members, Deer Mountain Village says on its website that it’ll be offering public access if capacity allows. This means lift ticket sales for skiing, tubing, and mountain biking are likely, but not guaranteed during peak periods.

Deer Mountain, also known as Mystic Miner, opened back in 1967. It closed in 2017 after financial issues led them into foreclosure and bankruptcy proceedings. The mountain features a variety of beginner, intermediate, and advanced terrain. The main project that’s currently underway at the ski resort is renovations to their two chairlifts, which has cost them $1 million.

During the summertime, the main draw will be their mountain biking park. The initial buildout, which will feature 25 miles of trails, will have a range of difficulties. Bike carriers are also being added to the two chairlifts. The bike park is expected to open in October.

Uriah Steber, who is the owner of Benchmark Trails, is collaborating with Deer Mountain Village on the mountain biking experience. Steber originally tried to buy the property but was beaten out by Keating Resources. After being frustrated about missing out, he decided to team up with Deer Mountain Village:

“It just kind of pissed me off enough that I found out who he was and called him and pitched how my idea could fit in. They hadn’t heard what a bike park was and they loved the idea. That was two years ago and now we’re here.”

In terms of how much it cost to be a member at the Deer Mountain Village, it may be a good time to grab a calculator. A lot of land costs between $300-500k plus an annual assessment fee, with the home needing to be at least 2200 square feet. Then there are the HOA membership fees, which come to $5400 a year. There’s also a Mountain Club fee, which is $15,000 each year, along with an assessment fee. This obviously doesn’t factor in construction costs for building your home. If you don’t want to buy a lot, the initiation fee is $30,000 plus an annual assessment.

In spite of all these fees, this private club will have one thing going for it. The one strength of living in South Dakota is the lack of taxes. The state has become known as a tax haven for the rich due to not having any income, inheritance, or estate taxes. So while it doesn’t have the terrain like the Yellowstone Club or Wasatch Peaks Ranch, it will have a tax advantage for homeowners. In addition, it’s only a five-minute drive away from Terry Peak, which is another South Dakota ski resort.

Gerard Keating described the potential of Deer Mountian Village to the Rapid City Journal:

“I can’t tell you how many people have told me things like ‘That’s where I learned to ski’ or ‘That’s where I met my wife’ or ‘That’s where we went tubing with Grandpa.’ We are inheriting a lot of goodwill which is very special. And when it is done, this project will be special too.”

Will this succeed? Who knows, but one thing is certain: private ski resorts are on the rise.

Image Credits: Deer Mountain Village, Skimap.org

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