Magic ‘Best in Snow’ again, continues work on upgrades

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

More than a foot of snow last Tuesday was an auspicious sign for the Magic Mountain ski area just days before opening, as its new owners continued to refurbish and upgrade the 57-year-old ski area in their second season of operation. But the news that came this past Monday was nearly as welcome as the snow.

The Magic Mountain base lodge on a beautiful day last season. Photo provided.

For the second year running, Magic Mountain in Londonderry was named  Best in Snow in North America by Liftopia, a ski and snowboard ticketing portal, according to a press release. Liftopia takes reviews from thousands of skiers who use its services to see which resorts are best in a number of categories, including Beginner Friendly, Family Friendly, Most Challenging and Least Crowded. The results are weighted by the number of users so smaller areas are not swamped by mega resorts.

Magic was ranked No. 4 in the Beginner Friendly category, No. 3 in Family Friendly and No. 1 in both Most Challenging and Best Value. Only two other areas in the East made it into the Top 10 overall and both of those are in Vermont: Mad River Glen was ranked No. 3 and Jay Peak No. 7.

“We’re proud and humbled to be in the company of such great ski areas,” said Magic President Geoff Hatheway, noting the presence of Alta and Snowbird in Utah and Mad River Glen. “It says a lot about the passion of our customers have for skiing and for a place like Magic.”

More snowmaking, features for beginners

Workers race the weather to install a length of snowmaking pipe before winter sets in. Photo by Shawn Cunningham

The ski area was purchased last year by a 13-member group of Magic skiers whose goal is to bring the down-at-the-heels mountain back and make it both sustainable and profitable.

Between seasons, the group has added 1,500 feet of snowmaking pipe and repaired existing plumbing to improve the pressure in its snowmaking system. With 20 percent more pressure, Magic can make snow at the top of the mountain with its new high-efficiency snow guns.

The Act 250 permit to do a long list of work on the mountain — including the snowmaking piping — came through late in the summer so several projects were completed while, others will wait until next season.

Among the changes that were finished is a new beginner slope — away from the high- traffic area at the base —  and featuring a surface lift to make learning to ski easier and less intimidating.

A carpet lift during its recent installation in the new beginners area. Photo provided

A new ski patrol hut was constructed at the top of the Red Chairlift, but a guest services yurt at mid-mountain will have to wait until next year as will completion of the Green Chairlift to mid-mountain.

Initial construction for the Green Chairlift was done back in 2003, but never finished. As another step in making the sport more accessible and less intimidating to novices and intermediate skiers, Magic had planned on finishing the project, but the illness and subsequent death of the George Kruger of Ski Lifts Unlimited – the mountain’s lift mechanical contractor – pushed that project into next year.

Uphill skiing

Alpine touring equipment allows skiers to climb a mountain and ski down as well as do back country skiing. Photo provided

Magic also recently announced a partnership with ski manufacturer Salomon to offer demonstrations and rentals of Alpine Touring – uphill skiing – equipment. Using special equipment that allows the heel of ski boots to be loose and maneuverable on the way up and locked on the way down, uphill skiers can climb the mountain rather than using the lifts. The equipment can also be used for ski touring and there are split boards available for uphill riders. “Skins” are slipped over the skis to give traction on the way up and removed for downhill skiing.

With the increasing popularity of this style of skiing, ski resorts have struggled with regulating it. Especially during the years when Magic was either not open or minimally open, it became a place for uphill skiing and it has evolved  some of the most liberal uphill policies in the industry.

Magic’s Learning Center will offer programs to introduce skiers to uphill travel and guided gladed, sidecountry and backcountry tours, as well as clinics.

Improved lodge, other amenities

Hatheway also noted that Magic spent the summer and fall replacing the roof and painting the base lodge a bright red that he said could be “seen from space.”

The sprucing up continued on the interior of the base lodge where woodwork that had grown dark with age in the Black Line Tavern was removed and reversed,  revealing the original light color. Crews also removed drop ceilings for an airier feel and sprayed in insulation for better  energy efficiency as well as comfort.

Some of the exterior work covered by the Act 250 permit – including improved lighting for the tubing area – was completed this fall, but other projects – like replacing the 30- by 80-foot base lodge deck – will have to wait until next season.

Hatheway also noted that 11 new features have been added to the terrain park.

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