Tenney Mountain goes for another run
New owner plans to invest millions to upgrade Plymouth ski area
Steven Kelly and his Timberline Construction Company have numerous projects both on the books and in the works in New England.
Mostly, the Canton, Mass.-based developer’s ventures involve retail, corporate, academic, residential and healthcare projects. For example, it built Puma North America’s new headquarters in Somerville, Mass., the new Legal Seafoods restaurant in Braintree, Mass., various branches for Webster Bank and JPMorgan Chase, as well as Timberland’s headquarters in New Hampshire in Stratham.
But it also has a unique project in its portfolio – the Tenney Mountain ski area in Plymouth – and he recently received conditional approval for improvements to the facility,, including an upgraded ski lodge, costing upwards of $30 million.
Kelly owns the mountain as Northcountry Development Group, having purchased the property in April 2022 for $6.125 million from Tenney Mountain Development Group.
At the March 16 meeting of the Plymouth Planning Board, Kelly and his development team outlined plans for the ski area, including expansion and renovation of the lodge, as well as changes to traffic circulation, accessibility, and stormwater drainage.
Vehicle access to the area was a chief concern of residents living adjacent to the ski area. Planning board minutes indicate general support for Kelly’s project but they had questions about the conditions of roads, including Tenney Mountain Road, Sam Hall Road and Davis Road.
Kelly told the gathering that he’s only owned the mountain for a short time and can’t be held responsible for current conditions of roads.
“We don’t have a schedule yet, we don’t have control of that process yet,” he said. “We will have a plan. Once we see what that plan is, we’ll publish that plan.”
He told Plymouth planners that he will approach the project systematically, concentrating first on upgrading the ski lodge.
Currently, the ski lodge is uphill from the main lift. Plans call for a new bridge connection to the lift and a glass elevator tower will provide easier access. The tower has received Plymouth Zoning Board of Adjustment approval.
The lodge will grow in size from 14,889 to 22,259 square feet. The lower level will focus on skier services, and the upper level will focus on the renovated restaurant with views of the ski trails and a large patio for outdoor seating. Materials would include sustainable timber construction, with the meeting minutes noting that sustainability would be an important part of the project.
Kelly told the group that, while the redevelopment would be expensive, it would ultimately make the mountain best in class and draw skiers from across the country.
Changes of ownership
It’s been an up and down ride for Tenney Mountain over the last several years, mostly down.
Like ski resorts all over New England, it is now largely dependent on the need for snowmaking to build its skiable base, since Mother Nature, her winters here weakened by climate change, can’t produce enough of it on her own.
Kelly spent more than $1 million on snowmaking improvements immediately after taking control of the mountain.
Tenney Mountain’s history dates back to 1960, when Sam Hall, a World War II veteran with the 10th Mountain Division, turned a makeshift ski hill into a ski area with about 1,400 vertical feet on more than 100 skiable acres.
Hall sold the mountain in 1984, and ownership subsequently changed hands a few times over the years. It closed in 2010, reopened in March 2018, then closed again as part of the pandemic lockdown in March 2020.
Condos were built in the immediate area as part of past projects. Those condo developments were not a part of the Kelly purchase.
It’s been a destination spot for back-country skiers who don’t use lifts to get to the top of the hill, they earn their runs down by getting up to the slopes.
Under Kelly’s ownership this past ski season, Tenney reopened in February and stayed open until April 1.
With Plymouth Planning Board approval, Kelly said materials would be ordered for construction to start in April 2024.
The board’s approval includes such conditions as creating escrow accounts for town engineer review, the need for a landscaping plan and Plymouth Village Water and Sewer District review and approval.
Per the planning board, conditions must be met within 12 months of the date of approval and active and substantial development must begin within 24 months of the date of approval, unless an extension is granted.