Babbitt Ranches will be adding Nordic skis and snowshoes to its portfolio of horseshoes and hooves.
Babbitt Ranches said earlier this month it closed a deal to purchase the Flagstaff Nordic Center from 11-year owners Wendell and Jennifer Johnson. The Nordic Center is off Highway 180 about 15 miles north of Flagstaff at 8,000 feet on Forest Service land.
“It’s bittersweet, but it’s a super good fit and takes a little weight off my shoulders,” Wendell said. “It’s kind of a community jewel and I’m happy to see it continued.”
The sale of the Nordic Center will allow Wendell and his wife to dabble in other personal and business interests by taking away the administrative load. Wendell has agreed to remain as manager of the Nordic Center and will help with plans to make the business less reliant on the snow season.
“(Babbitt Ranches) have the resources to ensure a year-round operation, without being so dependent on the weather and snow season,” Wendell said in a press release. “A lot of plans we had will happen sooner, such as expanding operations for year-round adventures, streamlining operations and making improvements.”
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According to Wendell, the Nordic Center became year-round three years ago, but the business mostly relied on the winter season and its cross country skiers, snowshoers and snow bikers.
“Nordic has expanded their uses -- to weddings and camping off-grid -- so now they have the facilities to do that, but Babbitt wants to emphasize that more and share it with the public,” said Bonnie Stevens, spokeswoman for Babbitt Ranches.
Babbitt Ranches is a family-owned business that manages 750,000 acres of private land and grazing leases to raise livestock, manage natural resources and promote science. For many years, they held the grazing permit at the Nordic Center and have coordinated with them in foot races and marathons.
In owning the Nordic Center, Babbitt Ranches said it wants to expand the company’s participation in outdoor recreation and promote their outdoor recreation ethic.
“This is an exciting opportunity to connect more people -- especially youth -- with nature, expand on environmental education and outdoor adventures, promote healthy lifestyles, incorporate technology, reinforce how families are recreating today, and cultivate and nurture a land ethic as we are all part of the broader land community,” said Babbitt Ranches President and General Manager Bill Cordasco in a press release.
Babbitt Ranches plans to organize more public events, expand the trail system, encourage family events such as weddings, and add more recreational opportunities at both the Nordic Center and on Babbitt land.
“The people of Babbitt Ranches have always been responsible recreation mangers and grazing permittees, and we are thrilled with their long-term vision for activities on the Coconino National Forest,” said Pat McGervey, outdoor recreation planner for the Flagstaff Ranger district, in a press release.
The Flagstaff Nordic Center previously had been owned by Arizona Snowbowl. Spotty snowfall at 8,000 feet during the last several winters resulted in fewer skiable days.
“It’s bittersweet, but it’s a super good fit and takes a little weight off my shoulders. It’s kind of a community jewel and I’m happy to see it continued.”
-- Wendell Johnson, former owner, Flagstaff Nordic Center.