There are no long lines at the lift ticket office, no vehicles parked bumper-to-bumper on Highway 2, no parka-clad skiers and snowboarders hopping onto the chairlift for the ride to the top of the mountain. The only signs of life at Mount Waterman this ski season are hawks circling above the tall pines, squirrels running across the highway, and a white-haired man who stands at the base of the lifts looking up at the steep snow-covered mountain face. But just wait until next season, says 85-year-old Lynn Newcomb, the former owner of the long-closed ski resort. Newcomb and Rick Metcalf, a Southern California real estate developer and former Waterman skier, are negotiating to buy back the ski resort, which Newcomb sold in 1999 to a group of Southern California businessmen. “I’m older and shorter now, but I still want to keep a hand in it,” Newcomb said Thursday as he walked across the icy base area. If his plans work out, he and Metcalf hope to improve the facilities, including renovating the resort’s small restaurant, located within the warming hut and the ticket office. They also plan to bring up to standard the three chairlifts, which must pass state inspection. But running Mount Waterman again could be as challenging as skiing down the area’s steep front face. Newcomb decided to get back into the ski resort business after he heard that the U.S. Forest Service had revoked the operating permits for Mount Waterman and neighboring Snowcrest, formerly Kratka Ridge. Under orders from the Forest Service, the current owners must vacate the premises by June or the whole resort could be demolished. Alarmed by that news, Newcomb contacted Metcalf, a Del Mar real estate developer and longtime skier, who had expressed an interest in purchasing the ski area. Newcomb told him there were plans to wipe Waterman out and that something needed to be done, said Metcalf. “I felt like I wanted to save it because it’s such an unbelievable hill and I wanted future generations to enjoy it,” Metcalf said. Jody Noiron, forest supervisor for the Angeles National Forest, confirmed that the Mount Waterman permits were revoked for non-compliance reasons, including a lack of operating permits from the state to operate the chairlifts. The current owners have until the summer to remove all facilities, including the chairlifts, she said. If the facilities are not removed by the deadline, they become the property of the U.S. government. But the owners are still responsible for all the costs involved in their removal, she said. If the owners choose to sell the resort before that time, it will be a private transaction, she added. The Forest Service would get involved again if new owners apply to the agency for special-use permits, she said. Chuck Ojala, one of the current owners, said there have been negotiations with Metcalf, but no deal has been struck. “It’s in a state of flux with nothing decided on,” he said. “All I know is everyone wants to save it because it is a historic Southern California ski site.” The resort dates back to 1939, when Newcomb and his father built the first rope tow at the area, about 34 miles north of La Ca ada Flintridge in the San Gabriel Mountains. They began operating the first chairlift in Southern California on New Year’s Day 1942. Newcomb remained at the helm of the resort for all but a two-year period in the early 1990s, when he sold it to two San Gabriel Valley businessmen. When their ambitious plans for snowmaking and other improvements fell through, the businessmen returned it to Newcomb. He continued running it until 1999, when a new group of about 11 Southern California businessman purchased it and neighboring Snowcrest. The new owners formed a company, Angeles Crest Resorts, and also announced big plans to bring change to the resort, including adding 16 to 17 chairlifts, building up the acreage between Waterman and Snowcrest, installing extensive snowmaking and improving the parking areas. Instead, the resort has not operated since July 2001, mostly because of low snowfall seasons but also because the group did not have operating permits from the state for the chairlifts. Then in January 2005, Barry Stubblefield, a part owner who was digging out Waterman after a snow storm, died in an accident on the hill. Stubblefield and two ski patrol members were skiing when he fell and tumbled out of control, hitting a tree. The loss was devastating to the owners, Ojala said, but they still continued their efforts to get the resort running by this winter. Although they worked last summer to bring the chairlifts into compliance, the effort was not enough to satisfy the Forest Service, he said. “It’s been hard,” said Ojala. “We wanted to bring snow play to Snowcrest and snowmaking to Waterman, but it always seemed like the Forest Service was changing the rules and couldn’t make up their minds.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3028 AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!
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