As you may or may not know, the hottest story right now pertaining to Michigan Snowboarding is the mega shit show that is going on with Sugar Loaf Mountain. We’re gonna make this intro snappy because this article is not about what was Sugar Loaf but what Sugar Loaf is about to become… allegedly.
[UPDATE - OCTOBER 25, 2013]
Sugar Loaf is a near fourteen-year abandoned ski resort that was once the jewel of Leelanau County near Traverse City. This is an old resort with a lot of heritage. Since its abandonment, potential buyers have come and gone. Deals have fallen through and in the wake the locals have little confidence in the recent alleged acquirement by an infamous hotelier named Liko Smith. The lack of confidence in Liko is especially strong since in 2010 he attempted to buy Sugar Loaf, but it fell through. A very deep fear is also present within the local community that if the deal does happen, what was once a very beautiful Swiss lodge style resort with all the natural surroundings you could want will turn into a techno rape circus or at very least a Midwest version of Burning Man all season long.
Don’t know who Liko Smith is?
Liko Smith is Don of what was the first snowboarder hotel “The Block” in Tahoe. The Block was known for its raging parties, industry brand themed rooms, stripper poles, drug use and all around debauchery. The Block closed officially in 2009 for unpaid taxes. Liko is no stranger to scandal. There is a barrage of claims and allegations of poor business dealings that follow Liko everywhere. He doesn’t hide it nor does he seem to be ashamed by it. He makes reference to a lot of these past dealings on his website www.theworldsmostextremeceo.com. Liko tries to portray himself as a young business man who isn’t afraid to take chances to get paid, “You can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs” type of deal.
No matter what side of the line your opinions lie on, people are taking up arms. The PR on the Facebook account Rok at Sugar Loaf isn’t really settling things down either. There are very aggressive and borderline insulting statements are being made. The townspeople are in a frenzy. Everyone wants to know what’s up. After having got through to Liko’s cutie of an assistant, we were granted an interview. We did our best to gather what we thought were the most important questions on everyone’s mind and ask them. In this interview Liko makes the statement he is the “owner.” In the past 24 hours another news source has reported this is not the case. Regardless of who, if, or what you believe, this is straight from that man’s mouth…
WHAT LIKO SMITH HAS TO SAY
Everyone is tripping about there just being a purchase agreement and no official buy. Million dollar deals don’t happen overnight. Is the deal in the bag this time?
Yes. Don’t believe the shit you read in the paper, I am already the owner of Sugar Loaf. There’s no application process, due diligence, or financing contingency. I, Liko Smith, own the resort… It’s hard for some people to grasp that, but it’s true… It didn’t happen overnight, far from it.
There is major uncertainty amongst the community. With the previous fall through of 2010 and the many let downs of other potential buys, do you understand why everyone is skeptical?
Absofucking-lutely. However, the place is less than a year from demolition so what causes more anxiety? My buying it and re-opening it or staring at a hole in the ground that used to be Sugar Loaf? If you want certainty, go visit a graveyard. There’s always chaos factor in business, which is why you have to stay focused. People jump on, people jump off, but I’m not going anywhere. I’m here to open the Resort. When I opened the BLOCK, I spent months behind the FD, in the rooms, shoveling snow, with no pats on the back and nobody believed it could be done until it was. It takes guts to be in business, but people are always going to doubt you. And you have to respect why, but then not care at the same time..
Why is this time different? What do you have to say to the locals in response?
Come to Sugar Loaf on November 27, 2014. That’s what I say.
The PR on the Facebook is quite aggressive. Are you just sick of hearing it or what’s with that? Drama spreads, is that the idea? Screenshots of removed comments are all over the place. Care at all?
Benny, sorry don’t go to FB much besides my page where I update my family. Are you talking about The RoK at Sugar Loaf page? It’s updated by a very nice girl, very loyal.
There has been negative descriptions as far as your mannerisms. Smug, uncaring. Are you being misinterpreted? A lot of people assume you are behind the facebook curtain.
See above. I’d have to be one smart and cunning motherfucker to create a curtain of any kind and that is definitely not me. If you piss me off, yes, I am pretty uncaring, smug. I would never characterize myself that way. I’m human, like anyone else, but I can guarantee that I treat everyone exactly the same -the only kind of people that are going to rub me the wrong way are the lazy. I am not cool with Lazy people.
One major concern is if this deal goes through that Sugar Loaf will lose its “heritage”. Is the place getting completely pimped out or is there going to be more of Northern villa style restoration? I mean The Block had Playstations and stripper poles…What do we have to look forward to?
The RoK is going to be exactly what we said, “A Snowboarders Mecca.” That means if you’re a snowboarder, everything in that hotel, resort, bar, restaurant and especially the terrain park are going to be amazing for YOU. I believe that you have to have ONE customer that looks at the business and says “That’s ME!!!” And he or she would crawl through broken glass to get to your door as opposed to “everyone” thinking its an alright place. Everyone in my family snowboards. I love snowboarders, I think it’s because of my time as a grunt in the Army. I like people who are unpretentious, passionate about life, and willing to give up everything else to do what they love most; and it’s a lifestyle. I was one of the best boxers in the world, but I didn’t like the culture. I was an excellent soldier, but I didn’t like the regimentation and nonsensical pomp and ceremony. Being an entrepreneur with independence suits me just fine, and owning a resort like the RoK is the dream of my life. I would rather be dead than not living my life the way that I want. Seriously… I love every second of every day that I am alive, because I’m doing what I want to do. It doesn’t mean I don’t have shitty days, but it means that I respect that I am alive, and living, not slowly dying in some job I hate. As for “Heritage?”, the heritage I think of is the kids that are NOT going to be able to have snowboarding in their childhood if we don’t save Sugar Loaf. They will have the best snow makers on the hill, high speed lifts, beds, pillows, huge flat screens, amazing technology, and bump into pros every time they stay and special events like concerts in the summer, pig-pickin’ parties at the top of the mountain, their first kiss on a sled riding down a hill. This is life man, that’s the future for some kid who without it would be sitting in front of his Xbox every summer. Memories are created by experience. I want snowboarders to have the best experience in the world. Boot Camp for The RoK is brutal, because we’ve created the dream job for these guys and they have to fight for it. But the real payoff is the experience. You can’t buy brotherhood the way graduating from boot camp together does for people. It’s very emotional when they graduate, even for an uncaring guy like me.
And yes, there will be the new playstations and everything else, you can see on the 27th of Nov.
We are aware of your business relationship with the title holders. Is that why this is happening? I mean you’re partially responsible for The Block. Why Michigan? Why Sugar Loaf?
I think Sugar Loaf has a ton of potential. From a purely business standpoint, it’s got a great airport, a great downtown area, great areas of protection (the distance from your site to the nearest business, allowing a captured experience) and it’s plug and play. It has a landing strip for God’s sake, and line to line with golf courses, and it has a beautiful sense of arrival. It’s majestic, and it’ historic and people love it so much because when it was open, it was an integral part of growing up in the area. It’s a living, breathing, entity that’s been asleep too long. From a personal standpoint, I love people from Michigan. No bullshit, very easygoing, and hard to impress. And I also have made great friends in the area. She’s asleep and if we don’t do something, she’s going to die, and nothing would be more tragic than bulldozers destroying that site. The first call I made when I took the property was to the code enforcement officer stating that I was completely against any talk of tear down. He said he agreed, he just wanted to get into the building. And he will, with me standing right next to him. It won’t take much to reopen it besides 100,000 tons of elbow grease, and some very well placed repairs by people that care about the place.
You have had time to think this over. Michigan has something like the most or second most resorts in the United States. Make you sweat at all?
NOT ONE BIT. There will be nothing in the United States like The Rok. We only compete with ourselves. Are we better today than we were yesterday? That’s what the RoK soldiers will ask themselves every day to make it an amazing Snowboarders Mecca.
I don’t know yet; but I can’t wait to find out. The sooner we meet it head on, the sooner we can defeat it, whatever it is.
What are you most excited about renovation wise. Is there a grand idea reaching fruition?
Opening The Rok as a Snowboarders Mecca is everything I dreamed of when I created THE BLOCK.
You described on your site that this will be “The grandest vision of a snow resort in the history of the united states 100% focused on snowboarding”, I mean a snowboard “Mecca”? Talk to us…..
You heard me right- ask anyone that is involved in this project will tell you…we’re going Big for snowboarders.
Any industry backers you can name?
Not yet, we’ll earn that when we earn it and not before.
In an email it said you were working with Burton to spread online personality. How so? How are they involved?
That’s in development. One of my staff is working with someone at Burton. I don’t know the details until Tuesday. I stay out of my peoples way so they can do their jobs so I can keep mine.
Are there any ideas, design/builder wise, for the terrain? Are you going to make effort to hire area workers?
YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST- IF YOU’RE FROM MICHIGAN, YOU GET FIRST OPS FOR ANY JOB AND BOOT CAMP
You fucking live here. Put your shoes on and kick in, get in the game, get some scar tissue and get all of the benefit. You owe it to your state and we owe you first ops because you’ve buried your family on this land. I will be incredibly local. We’re just a bunch of meat sticks from LA with a dream to develop an amazing Snowboarders Mecca but we don’t have history here. I will always give deference to Michiganites… unless they’re lazy. Then I don’t care if you’re a SuperHuman from Planet Zenon, you’re fired.
Proposed reality show that would help? What’s the likelihood of that actually happening?
About 99%..the 1% being my death or incapacitation.
Realistic open date?
November 27th, 2014.
Do you snowboard?
Yes, but not very often..I work 80 to 100 hours a week.
Are you a snowboarder?
What’s right with snowboarding?
Never thought about it.
What’s wrong with snowboarding?
Never thought about it.
Is there anything you want to say? Any links you want shared?