New owners work to upgrade the mountain without losing the ‘Magic’

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2017 Telegraph Publishing, LLC

With the issuance of an Act 250 permit on top of a successful first season, the new ownership group at Magic Mountain says it’s continuing to repair and upgrade the long-neglected ski resort while being careful to preserve its “throwback” character.

Even with a late start, Magic hit its stride in February and met projections according to Ski Magic, LLC. Photos courtesy of Magic Mountain unless otherwise noted.

Last year, a group of 13 investors bought the 57-year-old ski area, but by the time the deal was closed, there was little time and much to be done to open for the season. The Black Line lift became more of a project than expected as each problem fixed revealed another, unexpected problem. Repairs stretched from fall into winter but the lift got its approval and permit to operate just before the President’s Day weekend.

“We got a late start, not opening the area until late December” said Geoff Hatheway, president of Ski Magic LLC. “But we started to catch up and hit our stride in February.”

Powder under Magic’s Red Line lift in March.

The snow that came on Feb. 9 put the resort on track for its best numbers in 20 years and, as promised, Magic stopped selling tickets when it reached 2,000 skiers for the day on the Sunday, Feb. 19. The closure was to ensure that liftline waits would not be longer than 15 minutes.

“The stoke factor was high,” said Hatheway. “wWe had great crowds.”

According to Hatheway, the mountain reached the projections the new owners had made for the season despite the delayed real estate closing and the difficulties with the Black Line chairlift. And it didn’t hurt that Liftopia users voted Magic Mountain “Best in Snow in January.

Improvements approved

The Act 250 permit issued on Aug. 18 allows the owners to:

  • refurbish and put into service a mid-mountain chairlift
  • install  a 240-foot beginner area surface lift
  • upgrade the snow tubing area lighting and replace the lighted main entrance sign
  • replace the 30-foot by 80-foot base lodge exterior deck
  • install a 12-foot by 20-foot, pre-fabricated ski patrol building at the summit of the Red Chairlift
  • install a 24-foot diameter, guest services yurt at mid-mountain (Sunshine Corner)
  • install an 18-hole disc golf course
  • replace and upgrade 1,500 feet of underground snowmaking pipe

The Green Line lift was partially constructed and never used. It will take skiers to novice and intermediate trails at mid-mountain. Photo by Shawn Cunningham

“Many people see Magic as an experts only mountain, but that’s not really the case,” said Hatheway. “Reducing the intimidation factor of having to go all the way to the top is important.”

With the Green Chair and added snowmaking for reliable, groomed novice and intermediate trails that can be open in November, Ski Magic hopes to attract families and groups of people with different skill levels. The Green Chair is a lift that was partially constructed and never put into service.

Another way of attracting that audience is by moving the beginner slope away from the high traffic area near the base lodge and putting it in a more secluded spot to the west of the Black Chair and adding a “magic carpet” lift.

The replacement of snowmaking pipe will cut down on the leaks that reduce pressure to the snowmaking guns. And higher pressure makes it possible to use high-efficiency guns. Hatheway also plans to make snow on expert trails as well, including Sorcerer and The Black Line.

Magic’s nine hole disc golf course is open and will expand to 18 holes next year.

And when there’s no snow on the ground Magic is offering nine holes of disc golf, which is slated to expand to 18 next summer.

Second permit still pending

A second Act 250 permit is pending, according to Hatheway.  Approval of that permit would allow the resort to bring its snowmaking pond into compliance with Vermont’s Department of Fish & Wildlife and make improvements to the pond’s dam that would result in more than doubling the pond’s volume. According to Hatheway, a number of environmental agencies are working on that permit, so it will take longer to approve, but he expects to be able to get to work on the projects next summer.

Making the Green Line chairs green.

And if that wasn’t enough to do, the resort is making changes to the base lodge including roof repairs, insulation and painting it a shade of red that Hatheway says “can be seen from space.”

“There’s fewer and fewer places like this,” said Hatheway, “where you get the kind of enthusiasts along with a friendly, throwback vibe. But we have to get past the years when people would wonder if Magic is going to be open that season.”

Hatheway said that even with the snowmaking, there will still be plenty of ungroomed, natural snow trails that Magic’s skiers look for.

“The challenge is to deliver consistent snow, earlier, with more trails while keeping that throwback feel,” said Hatheway.

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  1. Max Turner says:

    Let’s not forget the mad props to my man, Matt Cote and his crew for busting their butts year-round to make Magic great!!!