Magic deal finally closes; new owners take over

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Repairs are being made to the chairlifts ahead or recertification.

Repairs are being made to the chairlifts ahead of re-certification. Telegraph photos

The journey begins,” said Geoff Hatheway, “as an operating company, not just an investment.”  Sitting in an office that looks out on the slopes of the Magic Mountain ski area on Thursday Nov. 3 Hatheway looked forward to the ski season ahead but cautioned that the closing was several days off and that anything could happen.

It did. And after having rescheduled the closing several times, today he announced that the deal was done and that the Londonderry ski slope is now owned by SKI MAGIC, LLC. and that – at last – season passes are on sale.

Hatheway’s office is emblematic of the state of things at the mountain. It shows the wear and tear and deferred maintenance that comes with years of operating on a shoestring, but at the same time it shows signs of progress. Large sheets of easel paper sport lists of tasks. There’s a “snowmaking” list, a “lifts” list and “lodge & other” list all written in an urgent looking red marker.

“There’s a lot of progress, but we are playing catchup,” said Hatheway. “We’ve had three volunteer days and gotten a lot done. We’ve been clearing the glades and they’ve never been better. We’re mowing on the trails now so they’re really tight and will ski well even with a small amount of natural snow. We’ve done a lot of painting in the lodge and fixing up restrooms. It’s still a little rough around the edges, but we are trying to soften it up.”

“And fixing the roof isn’t too sexy, but it needed to happen,” said Hatheway.

Magic Mountain will get to use its snowmaking pond this season but will take if "off stream" next year.

Magic Mountain will get to use its snowmaking pond this season but will take if ‘off stream’ next year.

The closing came more than a month and a half later than Hatheway anticipated when he spoke with The Telegraph in September  due to a number of snags, including finding that there was no permit in place to use the snowmaking pond. According to Hatheway, the pond’s permit had expired and the prospective owners found that they could not operate without the OK from state regulators.

At issue was the cold mountain runoff warming in the pond, then draining into the Thompsonburg Brook, which would make that stream less habitable for fish.

In the end, an arrangement was worked out allowing the ski area to operate the pond this season then work to take the pond “off stream” by using the runoff to fill the pond, but not allowing the pond to drain into the brook. When the pond is full, all of the mountain runoff will be redirected right into the brook.

The solution will create a large unplanned expense next year, according to Hatheway, but the new owners believe they can absorb the expense by adjusting budgets and getting an agreement to lower the purchase price to reflect some of the expense.

“It’s doable, but it does hurt,” said Hatheway. “These are some significant added costs, but we won’t be using all of our resources and we’ll still have operating reserves, but it’s definitely a hit.” Hatheway said they are looking into ways to finance the work.

“At the same time, a lot of things keep going right,” laughs Hatheway.

Improvements to the snowmaking system make it possible to make more snow faster at Magic

Improvements to the snowmaking system make it possible to make more snow faster at Magic

The new owners have been working with Efficiency Vermont to improve the efficiency of snowmaking. There are new pumps and motors and new, more efficient guns that allow the area to use more guns on the trails at one time, making more snow, more quickly. Hatheway said the mountain would begin making snow late in November or early December.

“When we go, we’ll do it more aggressively,” said Hatheway. “People will see a real difference.”

SKI MAGIC, LLC is also working to get its two chairlifts certified for use. “We’re making progress on the lifts, but there’s still a lot of work to do,” said Hatheway.  “But now that we are taking over, we can throw more money and people at the problems.”

The new owners have also received a lot of cooperation from neighboring ski areas. “We reached out to area mountains and the response has been great,” said Hatheway. “Okemo Mountain gave us four features that they are not using in their terrain park anymore. That will be great for some of our younger customers.”

While the past few weeks have been stressful, Hatheway looks at the bright side. “I’ve got nothing but good things to say about the people we’ve worked with to get to this point. from ANR and the Department of Environmental Conservation to (state Rep.) Oliver Olsen, Gov. Shumlin’s office and the ski area association and its members. They have all been helpful.”

After today’s closing Hatheway said “We’re looking to restore a little luster to an legendary mountain.”

Season passes are now on sale with reduced prices throughout November at the Magic Mountain website.



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