Midd Hunt has a ski house, but don't call him hoping for a free bunk one weekend. He runs it like a Rehobeth Beach house and has 19 paid roommates.
Although the house, a farm house that was once a clubhouse for the Pittsburgh hunt club, has three bedrooms and a convertible sofa in the living room providing regular sleeping space for 12, it has been known to hold as many as 21. ("We split mattresses and box springs and things like that," Hunt said.)
Hunt's house is one of thousands of overpopulated dwellings around area ski resorts. Most of them are year-round vacation homes, many built by the resort developers themselves and managed as rental units for the private owners. By and large they do not pay their own way, although there are exceptions.
Ski houses are what Hunt calls "fun investments." You have to be prepared to buy the house for your own use and count any rental income unexpected bonuses.
Hunt's situation is a little unusual. His house, six miles from the summit of Blue Knob, just outside Pavia, Pa., was a steal. He doesn't want the price he paid 3 1/2 years ago published, but it was considerably less than the $30,000 or so you'd have to pay these days for a small A-frame on the mountain at Blue Knob. And Hunt's house comes with 15 acres, not a quarter-acre plot.
The $110 each house members pays Hunt a season just covers his mortgage payments. Hunt lays out the money for regarding the driveway each fall, repairing the roof, leveling the porch and adding niceties such as furniture and a $1,200 fireplace.
Hunt's place is run fairly casually. Each member is given a key and allowed to come any time. (There are 14 men and five women in the group this year; last year there were nine men and six women.) Each member is allowed to bring a guest any time unless 16 members have registered intentions to use the house by 9 Wednesday evening. The members take turns coordinating beds, food and carpools.
All the members are single this year. Last year a couple joined - or, rather, one person joined and brought along his spouse every weekened. Hunt decided taht was not fair and will not allow it again.
Hunt says having a regular group has a great advantage over renting the house to strangers or even friends on a week-by-week basis. For one thing, everything gets to know everyone else and is willing to share driving and food preparation. Hunt has a party in his Arlington apartment each fall to introduce group members before the season starts.
For another thing, "continuity breeds cleanliness," Hunts says. "The group each weekened feels obliged to clean up for the group coming up the following week." Hunt doesn't employ a maid.
Hunt says he puts his groups together by advertising in a ski club magazine or placing notices on bulletin boards in ski shops.
"This year I didn't even have to advertise. With word of mouth and people who were members last year, I was filled up by the end of October," he said.
Hunt doesn't go to his house every weekend. In fact, he hasn't been there since Christmas and does not intend to return until the end of the month.
"The members like to ski other places, too."
Why did he choose Blue Knob? Hunt had skied the mountain for a long time, and it was in his estimation the best in the area.he did not buy his house solely as a ski house, though.
"I use the place year round. I like the spring and the fall, but especially the fall." Hunt, a photographer, often goes up to the house to shoot outdoors photo assignments.
Would he advise others to buy a ski house?
"You have to be prepared to put money into it," Hunt said. "It costs me twice as much as I make (on it) each year. The upkeep is considerable. Also, I like to improve the inside when I can. When I got it, the house was rather stark. I am always looking for things to furnish it with."
Yet Hunt does not consider a ski house a bad investment.
"The value keeps appreciating, and I am enjoying it. I am a part of a group each season, and I like that."
Not all ski houses are alike, however. The houses built on ski area land tend to be smaller but more luxurious than old farm houses. Although they come on small plots, they are usually newer and designed for skiers. They usually cost more.
In many ski areas you can now find townhouses or condominiums built by the developers and available carpeted and even furnished. At other areas, you can still buy rather large parcels of undeveloped land where you can build the ski house of your dreams.