AlpineZone Challenge 2011 – Geoff Hatheway 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. Geoff HathewayDirector of Marketing at Magic Mountain in Londonderry, Vermont, took the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge and provided the following responses on 1/2/2012:

Abubob: I’m glad to hear the red line is painted and ready to go, so I’m wondering about the black line. When, if ever, will the black line be running again?

Geoff Hatheway: The Black will be back in 2012. Should have it when needed for President’s weekend, if not earlier.

bvibert: Can you give us a rundown on the snowmaking improvements going on this summer?

Geoff Hatheway: We’ve done pipe repairs to the aging system and taken the amount of coverable terrain from 33% to 50% with improvements on both the west side and east side. Unfortunately our compressor and water pumping capacity at this point limits the amount of guns we can have going at any one time. That means until we finish capital raising for the Magic Partnership, which will allow upgrades to improve uphill pressure, it means we pretty much have to add trails one at a time. So in years with no help from mother-nature (hmmmm…), it means upping trail count takes a while. All that being said, it’s working better, and along with a new snow cat for better grooming, it’s producing a better product.

bobbutts: How has the Friday – Monday schedule been working out?

Any thoughts or plans about going back to the traditional 7 day week?

Geoff Hatheway: The Friday thru Monday schedule works great because we have the flexibility to open mid-week for big dumps of powder (6″” or more). Skier traffic is focused around weekends anyway and therefore it is more efficient and economical for us to stretch our limited budget and focus it on key needs like snowmaking. But, Magic skiers never miss a powder day at the same time. I’m not sure it makes sense to ever go back to the traditional ski business model if you want to be able to sustain a different, affordable non-corporate style ski area for the long-term. Why mess with what works as long as you provide the skiing when your skiers want it (long weekends, all holidays, and powder days)? Even if we lose a few customers who have to go to Stratton, Bromley, Okemo or Mount Snow for a non-powder day mid-week, we are so different from them in terms of terrain and culture, I’m not sure it is cause for great worry. But we are always open to what our ski community wants–so never say never.

thetrailboss: Can you provide us with an update as to the sale of shares. How many have been sold? How many remain? Are you still planning on proceeding with meeting the initial goals or will you stop, regroup, and attempt to proceed with the number of shares you have sold?

I understand that Timberline is somewhat operational. Any thoughts about someday reviving the area?

Geoff Hatheway: We are at 255 shares sold so we are at 85% of goal. We are pushing to finish our goal this year so we can make much needed enhancements to snowmaking capacity and other infrastructure improvements. A challenging season like this one really shines the spotlight on the urgency to get this done and put the capital to work for our ski community. Currently, there are no plans to proceed with the number of shares already sold because the subscription agreement for shareholders, as it is currently worded, does not allow use of the funds until the 300 threshold is attained.

Timberside is privately owned, and not by Magic. However, we are friendly with the owner, and think that there is mutual interest in re-uniting the two somewhere down the road. At present there are no formal discussions.

billski: How did the Irene floods impact you?

Geoff Hatheway: There was damage to snowmaking pipes on Wizard that required repairs. Rocks and debris had to be cleared from Mystery and Lower Magic Carpet, and the bottom of Mystery might not be skiable this season unless a lot of snow falls (it will come, right?!). Work also had to be done to our snowmaking ponds. Irene cost us valuable man-hours and resources this fall, but, our first concern was the damage to our hometown of Londonderry, and that’s where our initial efforts were focused. So, all in all, our damage was minor compared to the human toll for many others in our state.

Nick: What are the biggest challenges the mountain faces in 2011/2012 and beyond?

Geoff Hatheway: The 2011-12 season has definitely turned into a huge challenge for Magic. Our resources are being stretched to the limit given the warm temperatures and lack of natural snow (snowmaking is very expensive) which leads to the reduced skier visits to New England broadly and Magic specifically (less cash flow into the mountain). While pre-season season pass sales were strong, it is day ticket sales that drive operating budgets as the season progresses. This gives greater urgency to completing the initial tranche of our capital raising for The Magic Partnership. Over the long-term, continued infrastructure improvements to the snowmaking and lift system primarily will be the longer term challenges to tackle to continue to improve product reliability and consistency. The other challenge that continues to amaze is that there are still plenty of people out there who think this mountain with all its awesome terrain has never re-opened, or have yet to even hear about it. The word is getting out, but it’s a stubborn obstacle that remains from the 1990s.

billski: What ever happened to the relationship between Magic and “”Lodge Vermont”"? You can’t get any closer to the hill on a rental! Are there any other relationships in the area that are available?

Geoff Hatheway: We have a fine relationship with the Lodge Vermont, and it is virtually slope-side. We work together toward the same goal of bringing as many people as possible to Londonderry to experience the uniqueness of Magic. We continue to offer ski and stay packages through the Lodge and several other inns in the area.

makimono: I saw that Vermont brewery Magic Hat crafted a special Single Chair Ale in celebration of “”the uniqueness of the Mad River Glen Cooperative Ski Area in Vermont”" which is pretty awesome…Given your shared nomenclature, the uniqueness of Magic Mountain and the fact that Goniff’s Den always has a great selection of native Vermont beers on tap, including Magic Hat…what is the chance of convincing them to brew up something special for Magics’ 50th?

Maybe an Irish Red (chair) of some sort, maybe a Red Chair Double Bock?

Geoff Hatheway: Our bar manager for the re-named Black Line Brew Pub has brewed home-made beer in the past, and it is a passion he’d like to re-kindle at Magic in the future. Thinking of a nice “”Riding Red Ale”" or a “”Blonde Witch”" is getting me thirsty. We’ll check in with the folks at Magic Hat also to see what they might have “up their sleeve”.

Nick: What makes Magic so “”special”" in your eyes? I love the nostalgia and general vibe of the mountain around the red chair, the excitement and watching them get repainted this year was very cool. What is the thing that should make skiers pick Magic this winter?

Geoff Hatheway: First and foremost there is one overriding reason for someone to come to Magic: it’s the best damn terrain in SoVT. But, I agree with you that what makes Magic so special is its “”vibe” which comes directly from our loyal community of skiers and riders. There could always be something to bitch and moan about if that’s your thing–especially this season with the weather–but the folks coming to Magic don’t come with that attitude. They enjoy overcoming obstacles and challenges. This ski area is far from perfect, but the one thing it’s not is fake. It’s as real as it gets, and the focus here is on the sport of skiing and riding while having a good time with “winter friends”, new and old. Yes, we want both Red and Black chairs spinning and never stopping. Yes, we want more snowmaking capacity. Yes, we want some new carpeting in the lodge (really?). Yes, we want more snow to fall from the sky. And most of those are things Magic continues to improve on as we speak (we’ve got to come up with better snow dances, though). But, in the meantime, there is our truly challenging ski hill, a fun, vibrant lodge for après ski, and a supportive and welcoming ski community. People who come and visit here usually notice it right away and it doesn’t take them long get into the “”vibe”", too.

Nick: I know you guys have an open policy for skiing within the Magic boundaries. Any insider tips on good areas to hit within the boundaries that might be undiscovered gems?

Geoff Hatheway: Nick, I have never heard of such a policy and do not know of any good areas to hit within said boundaries other than what is clearly marked on the trail map. (However, my suggestion would be to come, hang at the bar, then ask someone you’ve met there to see if you could tag along…not that there’s anything to find here).

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