WATERTOWN — After 40 years as owners, Timothy L. and Deborah H. McAtee have sold the Dry Hill Ski Area.
They announced in a news release Wednesday that a Belleville couple, Boo Wells-Jareo and her husband, Patrick R. Jareo, purchased the ski resort in the town of Watertown.
The purchase price was not disclosed.
Mr. McAtee said “it is time to pass the torch to someone else,” and that they were excited to sell it to the Belleville couple.
The ski resort had been on the market for a couple of years.
Mr. Jareo said Wednesday morning that he and his wife “will absolutely continue” to operate Dry Hill as a ski area.
They will not make any changes during the first season, but plan to make some improvements.
“We’re definitely going to make the food and beverage aspect a priority,” Mrs. Wells-Jareo said.
She’s planning on having an adult-themed menu with sandwiches, soups, loaded nachos and other items. They also plan to have live music on Friday nights. They are already preparing for the season.
She said they want people to get out in the winter and to get on skis.
The last couple of years have been difficult for the ski industry, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the unpredictably of enough snow falling and mild weather during recent ski seasons.
Last year was the 40th year that Mr. McAtee, a Watertown Town Board member, owned Dry Hill. But the 40th year of skiing almost didn’t happen. Mr. McAtee considered not opening for the season, but knew he had to open to celebrate the milestone, he told The Times last December.
Mr. Jareo said Mr. McAtee had received a couple of other offers, but chose him and his wife because he had faith in the way the couple would operate the business. They started talking about the potential deal last winter and finalized it last week.
“I have been asked to assist with the transition, and I am more than happy to be able to do that,” Mr. McAtee said. He also thanked his multi-generational customers over the past four decades for their support.
Mrs. Wells-Jareo owned and operated the Farm House Kitchen Catering and Cooking School in Sackets Harbor until her retirement. An avid skier still, she learned to ski soon after she learned to walk, moving to Breckenridge, Colorado, after college to pursue a career in “ski bumming.”
She moved to the north country after growing up in Connecticut and living in Colorado. Her kids grew up at Dry Hill. Mrs. Wells-Jareo started working at Dry Hill to be with her kids.
She’s been a ski instructor on and off since college, most recently instructing at Dry Hill. She also taught in the culinary and hospitality department at Jefferson Community College for several years.
“It’s a vital community resource, so many of the area’s families have learned to ski and have wonderful memories here,” Mrs. Wells-Jareo said.
Her husband is a civil engineer and has been one of two partners of P&T Supply and Services Inc., Watertown, since 2003.
He’s also vice chair of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators. He’s been a legislator since 2014, representing the towns of Hounsfield, Henderson and Ellisburg.
With Mrs. Wells-Jareo’s hospitality experience and Mr. Jareo’s mechanical experience, the pair is uniquely equipped to operate a ski resort, they said.
Mr. Jareo has a military background, so he sees the need for making sure that the ski area also continues for the Fort Drum community.
“It gives soldiers and their families a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the winter experience” Mr. Jareo said.
Over the years, there’s been many changes at Dry Hill. Two trails were added, lights were installed on Suicide Hill for night skiing and snow tubing was offered. The gas-engine-based snowmaking system was converted to electric. The rental shop was expanded and a major upgrade was recently completed to the chair lift.