Tiffindell Ski Resort has been sold for a knock-down price of R5.5-million on Thursday.
At an absolute auction, where there is no minimum price so anything can be offered, local skier and businessman Lew Campbell jumped in the air and did fist-pumps as the auctioneer’s gavel crashed down for the final time.
He now owns South Africa’s only ski resort, and the highest pub in the country. "I used to go to Tiffindell all the time, and I’m part of this special community of skiers in South Africa," he said. He currently runs Ski Deck, a Ferndale-based company that specialises in selling ski equipment and training.
And while the resort will take "quite a bit of renovation before it can open", he wants this to happen as soon as possible. He said that the aim is for next winter, but realistically he wants people flying down the slopes by 2014.
Given the support it has always enjoyed, and the extended interest after all the seasons it has been closed, he knows it will do well. Ivan Van Eck, part of the family that founded the resort in 1993, has high hopes for an owner that is interested in working with the local community. The auction also represents the end of an awful journey for his family.
"It's been a nightmare to now. We built it up over 15 years and watched it get destroyed," he said.
Now he hopes to get involved in the resort again, after being evicted when his family sold Tiffindell in 2007. "I want to help make it work again," he said. With the resort in good nick, he said it could be working by the next season if the owner spends an extra R3-million.
"It’s all there, waiting for someone to start it up again," he said.
The auction ends a five-year battle over the resort. In 2007, two businessmen – David Taylor and Andre le Roux stepped onto the snowy slopes on the border of Lesotho and bought the resort’s holding company. But the debt piled up and they tried to sell it. This failed and the debtors kept hounding them.
Eventually the issue went to the Supreme Court of Appeal and last year its ruling opened the way for the resort to be liquidated and sold at auction. After being sold for a rumoured R22-million in 2007, Campbell is chuffed that he got it at such a low price.