FINDLEY LAKE - Despite a mild winter, the Scott family is still excited about purchasing Peek'n Peak Resort & Spa.
Scott Enterprises, of Erie, Pa., was the highest bidder last August at a court-ordered bankruptcy auction. The company, which owns Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park and a string of hotels and restaurants throughout the area, expanded its operation to include the 1,150-acre ski and golf resort.
The first year owning the Peak led to a crash-course experience in how to operate a ski resort, according to Nick Scott Jr., Scott Enterprises vice president.
One of the newly renovated rooms at Peek’n Peak Resort & Spa.
Golfers prepare to tee off.
The new outdoor fire pit.
"I equate it to throwing a dog in water to teach it how to swim. That is what happened to us this past winter as far as learning how to run a ski resort," he said about Western New York's warmer-than-normal winter.
"What it did was force us to learn the business real quickly," Scott continued. "We learned the biggest challenge is, when it comes to a ski resort, we are really tied to the weather."
Scott said the family-operated business, which includes his father, Nicholas Scott, president; his brother, Chris Scott, vice president; and his sister, Alison Scott, marketing strategist; discovered the resort is like running a restaurant or hotel. Scott Enterprises operates more than 20 hospitality locations in the area.
"It is similar because it is a people business. It is hospitality and that is what we do," he said. "If you take care of people and give them a good experience it is worth repeating. Then they tell their friends about it and then they will tell others about it, too."
Scott said operating the new business venture was made easier by the staff they inherited when buying the resort.
"We have a great team that came with the Peak and we were been able to leverage their knowledge and strengths to make the season successful, even with the difficult weather issues that came with the mild winter," he said.
In July, the renovation process for more than 100 hotel rooms was completed at the resort's Tudor-style lodge. The renovations took about three months and is part of the $4 million investment Scott Enterprises has spent in updating the resort. Scott said the hotel's rooms were gutted, with new wall coverings, carpets, beds, ceilings, flat-screen televisions and furniture being added.
"After purchasing the resort, which had unfortunately been put in a position of deferred maintenance, it needed some updating. We attacked the biggest challenge, which were the hotel rooms. We took the hotel rooms from what you would see in a Motel 6 and turned them into rooms you find at a Marriot or Ritz-Carlton."
Scott said the hotel renovation has led other people, who own property around the resort, to do the same.
"We have a lot of condos on the mountain and we've seen owners making improvements to them," he said. "People are taking a renewed interest in their investment because they know traffic is increasing."
Scott said the renovation process will continue with interior public space improvements. He said they will be finished by the time ski season starts. Additional renovations made included replacing roofs, improving the air conditioning, heating and ventilation system, refurbish waterlines, enhancing Internet capabilities, changing the phone system and purchasing a new snow groomer. For the golfers, new golf carts were purchased and the courses were fertilized for the first time in three years.
To enhance the experience of vacationing at the resort, Segway scenic adventures were added so visitors can navigate their way around the Peak.
"This year we added the Segways and that has been popular. It is a unique experience you can't get at home," he said. "In the big picture, this gives people more things to do at the resort, which gives more reason for corporate groups to have retreats with us. It gives families more to do."
Also, Scott said improvements will be made to the Peak's restaurant and plans are being made to add an adventure course with zip lines.
Scott said when plans for improvements were being made, company officials held brainstorming sessions to discuss all aspects.
"We were asking ourselves questions like 'Do we want to change the name of the resort?'" he said. "We believe Peek'n Peak, the name, is an established brand and we kept the name."
PEAK REGIONAL IMPACT
One of the aspects that surprised Scott the most about operating the resort is its importance to many people in the region. He said from those who live there to those who vacation there to those that ski and golf there, people have a special connection to the Peak.
"Even though we own it, the resort belongs to the people in the region," he said. "It was upsetting to see the condition of the resort and how it was let go. We are very honored to take this jewel, that is a part of so many people's lives, and enhance it for them."