ROXBURY — The embattled Granite Gorge Ski Area is unlikely to reopen its slopes, according to owner John Baybutt.

The business, which closed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and didn’t open last winter, could still offer tubing if someone else runs that operation, he said Sunday.

But Baybutt, 66, said his late brother, Fred, was the “driving force” behind Granite Gorge when they owned it together. After Fred died last year, the elder Baybutt said he’d prefer to focus on his farm in Bennington and enjoy retirement rather than reopen the ski area.

“I’ve pretty much decided to move on from it,” he said.

Granite Gorge had been slated for sale by its mortgage-holder two years ago, but a foreclosure auction for the property was later canceled, The Sentinel reported at the time.

Baybutt, who purchased the business — the former Pinnacle Mountain — with his brother in 1999, declined to say Sunday whether he wants to sell it. He said the ski area isn’t facing any significant financial issues, explaining that when closed, its main costs are a small electrical bill, insurance and property taxes.

Baybutt said he’d found someone earlier this year to run tubing at Granite Gorge, which it has offered in the past along with a terrain park, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. But those plans have not yet come together, he said.

“Right now, we’re kind of on hold,” he said. “So that’s kind of unfortunate.”

Pinnacle Mountain opened in 1959 — offering a day pass for $3 in its early years — but closed in the late 1970s, according to a previous Sentinel report.

After purchasing the 144-acre property just before the turn of the century, the Baybutt brothers reopened Granite Gorge in 2003, according to Fred Baybutt’s obituary, which says he served for many years on the board of directors of Ski New Hampshire, a nonprofit industry group based in Conway. The ski area had more than a dozen trails and offered lessons as well as a popular youth program that drew as many as 150 local kids one year, John Baybutt said Sunday.

“We saw them go from knee-high to off to college,” he said. “Some of them became incredible freestyle skiers.”

But the business, which also faced foreclosure in 2013 along with multiple other properties tied to the Baybutts’ Keene-based construction firm, had been embroiled in controversy for much of the past half-decade.

A mechanical issue in January 2016 caused a chair on the ski area’s double chairlift to slide backward down the lift and collide with the next chair, which was carrying two children. The adults in the defective chair were taken to Cheshire Medical Center and later released with no major injuries, while the kids were unharmed, authorities said at the time.

State regulators also proposed a $24,000 fine on Granite Gorge LLC, which owns the ski area, in 2019, a year after revoking the license of a summer camp there over reported safety violations. After a parent complained that campers were poorly supervised, the N.H. Department of Environmental Services found that kids were swimming without lifeguard supervision and that the camp’s co-directors, who were 21 and 17, didn’t have the requisite experience for that role.

The agency dropped its proposed fine last year after lawmakers revised the statute that was the basis for the alleged infractions.

Granite Gorge’s auction listing in 2019 valued the property — which includes a lodge, a bar and grill, and a rental center — at close to $544,000. The listing said more than $13,000 in unpaid taxes were owed on the site, The Sentinel reported at the time.

But the auction was canceled, Fred Baybutt told The Sentinel, after the ski area met the bank’s terms and paid those taxes.

Keene High School’s alpine ski team left Granite Gorge for Pats Peak in Henniker two years ago, according to coach Sean Graves, who took the helm that same year.

Still, Graves, a Spofford resident who also used to help run an adult-racing program at Granite Gorge, said much of the team grew up skiing the local hill. Its likely closure, he said, is a “huge loss.”

“I think the community really misses it,” he said, noting that the closest ski areas are now Pats Peak and Crotched Mountain in Bennington. “... A lot of the skiers that are on the team right now did cut their teeth at Granite Gorge.”

John Baybutt said Sunday he remembers fondly all the kids who grew up skiing there.

“It was a good thing while we were doing it,” he said. “It provided a lot of opportunity for the youth of the Keene area.”

Caleb Symons can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1420, or csymons@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @CalebSymonsKS.