AlpineZone Challenge 2007 – Mat Lillard of Magic Mountain

The AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge was designed to provide a method for our forum members to get official answers to skiing-related questions directly from a ski area representative. Matt Lillard, Marketing Director of Magic Mountain in Londonderry, Vermont, took the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge and provided the following responses on 10/31/2007:

Greg: I know you mentioned that you would like to offer at least one good bump trail at Magic this season. Has a location been finalized? Have you decided if and how it might be seeded? How much of an effort will be made in maintaining its quality throughout the season (i.e. reseeding after a thaw-freeze or if the lines deteriorate, consistent top-coating with snowmaking, etc.)? A nice long seeded run would go a long way to compliment Magic’s edgy terrain, especially in a lean snow year when all the really good stuff isn’t open as often as we’d all like.

Matt Lillard: Yes, we would like to offer at least one good seeded bump run at Magic this season. I agree that it would really add to our terrain, especially when a lot of the natural terrain might not be open yet. We have discussed possible locations, but haven’t confirmed anything yet. A lot will depend on the weather and the amount of snow we can make. We have hired a new groomer this season with experience seeding bumps. When possible we will seed the bumps with the groomer and then it will be up to skiers to work the lines in. If we do seed a bump run we will make every attempt to keep it in good form. A neglected bump run won’t see much use and can turn dangerous quickly.

roark: Can you provide any details on the revamped snowmaking system?

Matt Lillard: We made strides this off season to improve snowmaking, but to be honest; we weren’t able to accomplish everything we set out to do. Our major project was to rebuild the snowmaking pond to increase our water supply. Unfortunately due to delays with the permitting process we were only allowed to complete Phase I of the project. Phase I included rebuilding the dam which had been condemned by the state since a major flood in 2004. Phase II will be completed next June and will result in at least four times as much water as the current pond.

We were able to patch and repair our snowmaking lines to improve efficiency. Most importantly, we acquired the assistance of a reputable snowmaking engineering firm to complete a comprehensive assessment of our current system as well as a “road map” for future improvements. The assessment also included recommendations and assistance that will allow us to improve the amount and quality of the snow our current system can produce. We are confident that given favorable conditions we will be able to blow as much if not more snow than previous years and do so in a manner that will allow faster expansion of terrain.

2knees: What trails will you be capable of making snow on this year. I know in the past I’ve seen stats that 87% of your trails have snowmaking coverage. I’m not sure how accurate that number really is. Do you have the capability to blow some snow on Master Magician? I know people love the all natural terrain but that trail is so steep and exposed, it seems like snowmaking is almost a requirement to get it open with any regularity.

Matt Lillard: The past figure of 87% was not accurate. We took a much closer look at our capabilities and are comfortable with the new stat, 70%. We can blow snow on Upper and Lower Magic Carpet, Trick, Medium, Talisman: , Upper and Lower Wizard, Show Off, Hocus Pocus, Wand, Sorcerer, Witch, Black Line, Carumba and a few others. We can’t blow snow top to bottom on Magician, but we are hoping to be able to blow snow from Upper Wizard onto the top of Magician to get it open on a more regular basis. This will depend greatly on favorable wind direction.

Talisman: When do you anticipate the Phoenix (Blue) Lift being completed?

Matt Lillard: Unfortunately due to a long list of regular maintenance uncovered this summer on the Red and Black lifts we were not able to complete the installation of the Phoenix (Blue) Lift for the 2007-2008 season. We hope to be able to complete the installation next summer.

roark: What are the plans for the beginner area near the condos?

Matt Lillard: We realize the importance of reopening the beginner area near the condos and are hoping to begin the process of reopening the entire area next summer. We are anticipating reopening the area with a Magic Carpet type lift first, followed by a chair lift. If all goes as planned, we hope to be utilizing the area by the 2008-2009 season.

Mike Trainor: What is the lift plan for the future? Phoenix chair, Beginner chair, etc? Also in a previous challenge a long term plan was extending the Black Chair, is that still on the master plan?

Matt Lillard: First, as mentioned above we plan to complete the Phoenix (Blue) lift and install some sort of Magic Carpet in the beginner area next summer. After that is completed we have some tough decisions to make in regards to our next steps. The Black Chair is showing its age and we hope to replace it and possibly extend the new lift higher up the mountain. Discussions on what type of lift we put in are ongoing and there is much debate between a high speed quad vs. a newer fixed grip. Opinions vary greatly in this regard. What would you like to see? We have no plans to replace the Red Chair at this time. The Red Chair is a workhorse and a true classic that we don’t envision changing for years to come. Among many other qualities it might be one of the only lifts in Vermont that can handle sustained high winds. Beyond those measures we have lots of ideas including a lift that begins somewhere on Lower Wizard and services the more challenging West Side of the mountain, but nothing has been decided.

Talisman: Do you anticipate making a little snow on Lucifer this year on at least the head walls? I know in past years there was some snow made on Witch, but lack of cover on the Lucifer head walls made skiing it core shot city.

Matt Lillard: In short, yes, if we have favorable conditions and are able to open up all of the other terrain first we will attempt to blow snow on Witch and Black Line. As with blowing snow on the top of Magician, this is dependant on favorable temperatures and our ability to open the standard terrain (Trick, Medium, Upper and Lower Wizard, Upper and Lower Magic Carpet, Wand, Show Off, Hocus Pocus, Talisman: and Sorcerer) first.

On a side note, we took a close look at our trail map in the off season and made some changes. One of these included changing Lucifer to Black Line. The section of trail formerly named Black Line is now Black Magic. The new trail map will be updated on our website shortly and is printed in our new brochure and new trail map. A further explanation of the changes will accompany the updated trail map on We think the new map more accurately reflects the trails at Magic and provides a much more user friendly look.

snoseek: Have you ever considered joining forces with another area(s) for passes to compete with the big guys? Or maybe just smaller areas banding together for marketing purposes kind of like the Colorado Gems card?

Matt Lillard: Yes, we have considered it and have been speaking with a couple of areas that are in line with our philosophy and commitment to a true skiing and riding experience. At this point I am not at liberty to go into details, but we are excited to possibly join forces with another resort or two to add value to our passes.

deadheadskier: What realistically, can a Magic skier expect in improvements to justify a fairly significant increase in lift ticket costs, especially weekend/holiday ticket rates?

Matt Lillard: Simply put, Magic’s pricing over the past couple of years has not been sustainable. For that reason we had to take a close look at the product we offer and make changes where necessary. Admittedly, the increase might seem high this season, but we believe we are now on the road to creating a sustainable atmosphere at Magic. We believe that our pricing still offers a value compared to neighboring areas. For example, our weekend/holiday pricing is still approximately 15% below our nearest competitor and up to 25% below other neighboring resorts. In regards to the midweek price increase we believe that our terrain justified increasing the rate significantly over the $25.00 of years past. We feel that skiers and riders come to Magic for the classic terrain and atmosphere, not a ticket priced below sustainable levels. To that end, here is what you can expect from Magic this season to justify the price increase:

- Increased snowmaking and/or at the very least increased efficiency to open more terrain faster
- Better grooming! We purchased a new (to us) 2005 Bombadier 350 and hired a very experienced groomer to run the machine. This will equate to better grooming mountain wide. We will still leave some trails ungroomed for those looking for more natural conditions, but on the trails that we do groom there will be a very noticeable difference in the amount and quality of grooming. Specifically, trails will be groomed from side to side, groomed flat without any “mystery” bumps/troughs, and groomed evenly within the natural features of the trails.
- Increased services in the base lodge. Goniff’s Den bar will be open 7 days a week and serving Apres Ski food on weekends and holidays. The cafeteria will be open daily beginning 30 minutes before the lifts open and closing at 4pm.
- Increased presence of Ski Patrol on the slopes ensuring the safety of everyone on the mountain.
- Increased lift usage. The Black Lift will operate every weekend and holiday as well as midweek based on demand.

trtaylor: With the new lift ticket pricing structure, has their been any thought given to instituting a customer loyalty program? An example would be Hunter’s Big Lift Card, where the purchaser gets various discounts on ticket purchases.

Matt Lillard: Yes, we have given it some thought and plan on instituting a frequent skier/rider program in the 2008-2009 Season. For this season we are offering a multitude of ways to save on lift tickets. Some of these include:

- Car Pool Wednesdays: Your entire car load skis all day for $75.00 on non-holiday Wednesdays throughout the season.
- Magic Mondays: Holders of another areas season pass can ski or ride Magic on any non-holiday Monday throughout the season for $30.00.
- Share the Magic: Season pass holders can bring a friend on non-holiday Sundays throughout the season for only $40.00.
We will be offering other ways to save throughout the season. The best way to check for savings is to check out the “Discounts” section on

In closing, thank you for your continued support of Magic. We had a tough first year at the helm of Magic, but are committed to providing a classic Vermont skiing and riding experience with the ideals of the skier and rider as the basis for our decisions moving forward. As we look back over our first year at Magic we realize that many of our goals were a little too ambitious. We have accomplished a lot, but there is still a long way to go. We have spent a large amount of time analyzing, with the help of a resort planning firm, Magic Mountain and building a multiple phase plan to bring Magic back to the area it can and should be. This process has led us to the conclusion that we need to raise significantly more capital than we had originally envisioned. The capital raising campaign has proved both difficult and time consuming, but we are confident that we will soon have Magic on a properly planned and financed path to success. We look forward to seeing you this winter. If you have any questions, concerns or comments please don’t hesitate to contact us.

To view forum comments on this Challenge and the Challenge Results, please visit the following page: width=