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Intrawest's Idaho gamble starts to pay off

By Brendan McEvoy, Contributor

Anyone who says they used "golf" and "Idaho" in the same sentence is probably lying, unless that someone worked for Intrawest Golf. While it's not E.F. Hutton, Intrawest Golf carries enough cloutto make people listen when it approaches an off-the-wall idea.

Intrawest's partnership with Tamarack Resort in Donnelly, Idaho, the first new golf and skiresort to be built in the United States in the past two decades, is a natural fit. In addition toIntrawest's propensity for taking calculated risks - such as the high-end, daily-fee Raven at SouthMountain thriving in urban Phoenix - it manages 30 golf courses and 11 ski resorts.

"We're looking at one of those few untapped markets in the States and Canada," said JimMcLaughlin, vice president of operations for Intrawest Golf. "From a golf aspect, it's exciting.But it's a real four season club. We can leverage everything we're about here."

Located 100 miles north of Boise, the $1.5 billion resort tallied record Phase-I real estatesales. Since the current developers and Intrawest came on board, the first-available lots soldinstantly. Two earlier efforts to pull off a similar project failed.

"You never know until that first sales launch," McLaughlin said. "When you figure this area hadtwo previous lives in this exact spot, and the other developments tried and failed, I think thatalone makes it quite a gamble."

Real estate sales generated $46 million for Tamarack, while total sales eclipsed $106 million.Tamarack boasts that those numbers mark the largest resort real estate launch ever in the UnitedStates. Lots were priced between $231,000 and $803,000. And after the first phase sold 104 lots inthe blink of an eye, McLaughlin said Tamarack moved the first day of the second phase to May. Itwas originally scheduled to begin next fall. The number of available lots has not been disclosed.

"People who were on the fence were jumping off with more than they intended to buy," McLaughlin said. "There was a lot of joy [at Intrawest] when the real estate sales hit. It validated the wholerisk."

The golf course, which will open in the summer of 2005, is a Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design. It will include an 18-hole championship layout, a nine-hole par-3 course and a large practice facility.

"It's on a really nice piece of property at the bottom of the ski slopes in the foothills,"McLaughlin said. "It's kind of at the foot hills, so there are nice undulations, and it crosses through a meadow and through the pines. I think Trent Jones is excited about it. He's done some great mountain designs."

Tamarack will also be the hot spot for outdoor enthusiasts with more than 60 hiking and bikingtrails, a mountain bike skills area and water activities on Lake Cascade. But those seeking rejuvenation indoors can check out the health spa. The ski slopes offer 28 kilometers of Nordic skiing and 600 acres of groomed Alpine skiing that starts at elevation over 7,000 feet and ends at4,900 feet.

Brendan McEvoy, Contributor

Brendan McEvoy spent five years with Times Community Newspapers, a Reston, Va.-based chain of 18 weekly newspapers covering the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

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