Foxhunt at Sapphire Valley: Enjoy the view

This month’s resort profile features Foxhunt at Sapphire Valley, located in Sapphire, N.C. This beautiful resort is situated among the Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Smoky Mountains, providing owners and guests with the comforts and luxury of a vacation retreat while offering spectacular beauty and natural wonders, including numerous lakes, hiking trails, rivers and waterfalls.

Jennifer Gainey is Foxhunt’s general manager, and she told us that everyone enjoys the numerous waterfalls in the area. Visitors can walk behind Bridal Veil Falls or Dry Falls without getting wet, children enjoy taking the plunge down Sliding Rock, and the more adventuresome may enjoy tubing or sliding down “Bust Your Butt Falls.”

“Of course, snow skiing is a popular activity in the wintertime, and we have a handful of slopes from which to choose. Amenities available to Foxhunt guests through the Sapphire Valley Master Association include access to their very own Sapphire Valley Ski Area and Frozen Falls Tube Park. With the numerous activities in the area, there is something for everyone,” said Jennifer.

Foxhunt at Sapphire Valley was developed around 1981 by Fairfield, and Fairfield Lake is named after them.

“Once guests check in at the main office located at Village Square, they make the drive up to the resort, winding through the mountains and enjoying the views,” explained Jennifer. “Some of the first things people notice are the beautiful trees in the fall, and the rhododendrons and flowers blooming in the spring. Upon arriving at the resort, guests make their way to one of 15 buildings. The first five buildings are on the lake and have a lake view. The other buildings have a mountainous view. Guests can drive right to the unit and park their car. Each building houses four townhomes.”

The interiors in each unit were renovated between 2006 and 2008. “Almost everything in the units was replaced, including all new furniture, hardwood floors, fresh paint, carpet and other flooring, bedding and linens, light fixtures, bathroom fixtures and accessories, dining room tables, entertainment centers, kitchen cabinets, granite countertops and more. Just recently, the resort upgraded all housewares to include new coffee makers, toasters, dishes and flatware.”

According to Jennifer, exterior renovations are in progress. Work already completed includes new roofing, deck boards, exterior painting and landscaping. Half of the buildings have received this work and the second half of the buildings are expected to be completed by the end of 2011.

Lanse McColl is regional vice president of operations for SPM Resorts, the company that manages the resort, and he told us that Foxhunt at Sapphire Valley is a member of the Sapphire Valley Master Association, an association of 21 resorts in the area. “As a member, guests of Foxhunt have access to the association’s community center and other amenities. Guests can enjoy one of two outdoor pools, a park with a picnic area, an 18-hole PGA golf course, eight clay and two hard-surface tennis courts, a health club with an indoor pool, whirlpool, wet and dry saunas and exercise equipment, miniature golf, canoeing on Fairfield Lake, gem mining, snow skiing, snow tubing, hiking and fishing. The Foxhunt check-in center also provides a free USA Today to each guest. Other activities include horseshoe pits, track and playground, boat rentals or swimming at the lake or at Horse Pasture River. Guests can also schedule a facial, massage or tanning session at the recreation center,” Lanse said.

Within the amenities complex, the on-site restaurant is the Four Seasons Grill in the ski lodge. Mica’s Restaurant and Pub is located at the entrance to the complex, and Sapphire Brewing Company is located at the 18-hole golf course. Ashby’s Restaurant serves breakfast or lunch, and is a short distance from the resort. Gamekeeper’s Tavern is within a mile-and-a-half of the resort and is known for its dinner and late-night atmosphere. The nearby towns of Cashiers and Highlands offer endless options for dining.

We asked Lanse if the current economy has changed Foxhunt’s sales and marketing strategies. “Our resort does not maintain an active sales program, so in that regard the economy has not changed our sales strategies. Any owner wishing to resell their week is advised to look for a reputable resale company or online auction, such as eBay, to advertise their week. Because of the numerous scams in the marketplace, we strongly encourage our owners to never pay any money up front to sell their timeshare week.

“For marketing, we are beginning to ramp up our rental program. We have had rentals in the past, but we do not get much walk-in traffic like a beach property. Therefore, we are in the process of developing a new website that is more search engine-friendly and can take reservations online. Additionally, we are working with SPM Resorts’ inventory manager, Andrew Graziano, to utilize online travel agents such as Expedia and Orbitz. We are proud of Foxhunt and want to share it with as many people as possible,” Lanse continued.

“In this economy, I think everyone looks for ways to maintain your current standard while at the same time cutting expenses,” Jennifer told us. “We have started to really watch our overtime expenses and hard costs. While we have always watched these items, we are focused on them even more now.”

We asked Jennifer to tell us about Foxhunt’s staff. “We have a great staff. Upon check-in or check-out, guests will meet Debbie Sherman or Anna Sitton, our guest services representatives. Debbie and Anna work to prepare the check-in materials and ensure everything is prepared for each visitor. Jef Farrior is the assistant general manager. Jef and I work together to help manage Foxhunt, as well as the Sapphire Valley Master Association. Danny Handley is our maintenance supervisor, and Terry McFarland and Chad Thomas are our maintenance technicians. The staff at Foxhunt is employed by the management company, SPM Resorts. SPM also manages the Sapphire Valley Master Association, governing the amenities areas.

Each day Jennifer goes around to every department to make sure they have everything they need to be successful in their jobs. “I assist maintenance with prioritizing needs and requests. I meet with housekeeping to address any concerns or issues they have come across while cleaning the units. I support the front desk staff with any check-in, check-out or preparation needs. We throw ideas back and forth, talk about positives and negatives from the day and discuss ways to make things more efficient. I also jump in if they are short staffed. I have found that being there to help employees and letting them know they have support is very important in having them feel valued in their roles.”