GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WJHL) — Yee-Haw Brewing founder Joe Baker and two partners have purchased the Ober Gatlinburg Resort from the family that founded it 60 years ago and plan to expand recreation offerings at the year-round site that’s home to Tennessee’s only ski area.
Baker, who founded Ole Smoky Distillery in 2010 before establishing Yee-Haw in Johnson City in 2016, paid homage to founder Claude Anders’s vision in a news release.
“He saw that the greatest views of the Smokies exist up there, high above town, and made it someplace special,” said Baker, who grew up in Gatlinburg and whose family have been entrepreneurs there for several generations.
“His sons have carried on his legacy, and we’re looking forward to celebrating their heritage and continuing their vision.”
Mark Adams has left his role as CEO of Gatlinburg’s Convention and Visitors Bureau to become the resort’s president and CEO. He told News Channel 11 the new owners plan to leverage the multiple attractions and add to them “to make it even more appealing to families and more specifically family adventure people.”
Potential new attractions under discussion include downhill mountain biking, new ziplines and adventure courses for children. In addition to skiing and snow tubing the resort, which tops out at a viewsite about 3,500 feet above sea level, Ober Gatlinburg currently has, among other features, an alpine slide (its top attraction), ice skating, a mountain coaster, a carousel and ice bumper cars.
“Ober’s always going to be family friendly and we want multiple generations to be our guests,” Adams said.
As the alpine slide reaches 50 years in operation and the resort hits 60, the founding family has decided to sell to a like-minded group.
“Instead of the family selling to a big corporation from Denver or Salt Lake City or New York, Joe Baker is from here,” Adams said.
“He and his wife love the area, love East Tennessee — it’s one historical family from East Tennessee selling to another East Tennessee historical family.”
Claude Anders built Gatlinburg’s aerial tramway in 1973, which allowed people to ride from town up to the ski lodge. The family took over the ski lease there in 1975 and merged the tramway and the lodge to officially create Ober Gatlinburg in 1977.
Kent Anders is one of five sons of Claude who all worked at the resort during various times in their lives. He said the Baker family — Joe Baker’s wife Jessi also grew up in Sevier County — care deeply about the community.
“Families have been making memories here for over 50 years, and we’re excited to see the opportunities that this transition will offer our guests and employees,” Anders said in the release.
Adams said the new owners plan to invest significantly in the resort as they branch out into new offerings for guests.