Magic Mtn. buys Stratton quad lift, replaces Black Chair

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Strattons Poma quad chair lift is making the move to Magic Mountain for next season. Photos provided

Magic Mountain’s venerable “Black Chair” ski lift has run its last season on Glebe Mountain.

Next season, according to the mountain’s owners, Stratton’s “Snow Bowl” quad chairlift will replace it as a base-to-summit lift. The new lift at Magic will follow a similar lift line up the Black Line trail to the summit with a slightly higher terminal station in order to access all trails at Magic.

The resort hopes the $1 million capital investment in the new lift by will help attract more skiers and riders looking for  “a classic, old-school mountain vibe” to the Windham County region.

Magic’s “new” Poma quad lift, built in 1986 and installed at Stratton’s Snow Bowl area, comes with 148 chairs, each seating four skiers, increasing the capacity along the Black Line from 620 to 2,000 skiers per hour. According to a press release from SKI MAGIC LLC, which owns the resort, the lift has had an excellent performance and maintenance record at Stratton. By contrast, Magic struggled to get the Black Chair running after years of disuse.

The lift will be dismantled this month and if the permits come through, will be ready by winter

Putting in the new quad is no small task, requiring the removal of all of the Black Chair’s towers and replacing them  with those from the Stratton lift. This will raise the height of the lift, making more of the Black Line trail able to be skied, said Geoff Hatheway, president of SKI MAGIC.

But before the quad can be installed, Magic’s lift mechanics will be completing the work on a base- to mid-mountain-lift. Called the “Green Chair,” that lift was begun in 2003, but never finished. When the Green Chair comes online, it is expected to make Magic more family and beginner friendly. Completion is expected by July 4.

While that work continues, Stratton will dismantle the Snow Bowl lift this month, then Magic will have it transported about 15 miles across the valley to its Londonderry location.

“When we heard Stratton was replacing their Snow Bowl lift with a new high-speed detachable*, four-passenger lift, our investor group jumped on the opportunity to try and purchase their Poma fixed-grip* quad,” said Hatheway. He called the new lift a “huge upgrade” for Magic skiers “that meets and manages our current and future growth expectations…”

Hatheway acknowledged the help of Bill Nupp, president and COO of Stratton, and others in making the purchase happen.

The Green Line lift was built, but never used. When finished this summer, it will take skiers to novice and intermediate trails at mid-mountain. Photo by Shawn Cunningham

“We occupy a very different place in the industry than Stratton, but Bill and his team really wanted to make this possible for us. It’s a true example of the big guy on the block helping the little guy out and supporting the diversity of experiences uniquely available here in southern Vermont — all within just a few miles of each other,” said Hatheway

Hatheway told The Telegraph that the mountain would continue to limit the number of day tickets sold during busy periods to maintain low density skiing, but that the limit would increase from 1,500 to 2,000.

Magic plans to operate the new quad as the primary summit lift every weekend and holiday period, with the famed Red Chair continuing as an additional lift on busy weekends plus pulling main duty on lighter traffic weekdays.

The new lift will require an amendment to Magic Mountain’s Act 250 permit, which Hatheway hopes can be minor. SKI MAGIC also has an amendment pending under which it will do work to the snowmaking pond to bring it into compliance with Vermont Fish & Wildlife and double the holding capacity.

*A note on the terms: A fixed-grip chair is always attached to the cable that circulates from the base to the summit and back.  It must travel at a speed slow enough for passengers to get on and off the lift. A detachable grip allows the chair to release from the cable for slower, more efficient loading and unloading of passengers before re-attaching and traveling at a higher speed than the fixed grip lift.

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