WAITSFIELD, Vermont ??вЂќ On Saturday night at the Mad River Glen Cooperative’s annual shareholders meeting, the mountain’s skier-owners voted overwhelmingly to approve a $1.4 million plan to refurbish the ski areas iconic single chair lift. After much research, deliberation, hard work and deep soul searching, the Mad River Glen Shareholders decided, by an overwhelming majority (81%) to approve their Board of Trustee’s recommendation on the project slated for completion the summer of 2006.
“Isn’t it great that this key decision was not made by some ‘corporate executive’? It was made by the folks with the most at stake, the skiers,” noted Mad River’s President Jamey Wimble. “They know that the best course for Mad River Glen is to maintain our niche by preserving and protecting the unique experience we offer.”
In this age of high-speed detachable lifts where the installations of new double chairs are rare, the idea of building a single chair could be viewed as ludicrous. But, since its inception nearly 10 years ago, the skier-owned mountain has beaten all the odds by disregarding all conventional ski industry wisdom. Mad River Glen is the only major ski area in the nation owned by a cooperative of loyal skiers. Like their attitude towards high speed lifts the mountain forsakes snowmaking as just another “ski industry” fad. While grooming does take place on the “Ski It If You Can” mountain, it only happens on the novice and intermediate trails, while the legendary expert terrain is left to the whims of Mother Nature. Add to this the fact that Mad River Glen is one of only four ski areas in North America that does not allow snowboarding, and you have a place that stands in stark contrast to mainstream ski world.
Throughout the process the Co-op’s elected Trustees reviewed a wide variety of possibilities ranging from a refurbished single chair, a brand new single chair, a new double of varying uphill capacities along with numerous other possibilities. Based upon on a detailed engineering study, feedback from shareholders and guidance from the Co-op’s by laws and the strategic plan, the Board of Trustees unanimously recommended the refurbished single chair option. Over the past two years the co-op shareholders have had several informational meetings to gather input and to update progress on an issue that is the most critical the co-op has faced in its nearly 10 years of existence.
The refurbished single chair will have the same lift capacity (approximately 500 skier per hour) as the current single chair. It will look almost identical to the existing lift to the untrained eye, but will have all new components. The only existing equipment to be re-used will be the wire rope and the lattice towers and return station framework. The towers and framework will be removed, sandblasted, re-painted, and re-installed on new bases. Other features of a refurbished single chair include brand new single chairs built to the exact design of the originals, a new electric drive with diesel backup, new sheaves, new tower bases, and new safety systems.
The only open question at Mad River is how the $1.4 million project will be financed. The Co-op has already squirreled away $425,000 over the past 5 seasons in their “Single Reserve Fund”. The Co-op’s financing plan once finalized will include a combination of new Co-op share sales, charitable fundraising, bank financing and the sale of the old chairs.
The preferred method of financing is new share sales says Marketing Director, Eric Friedman. “This is a great opportunity for skiers who have considered buying into the Co-op to do so when it is needed most. Every share we sell is that much less we will have to go to the bank for.”
The old chairs will be offered to the shareholders first and if any remain they will be offered to the general public. A price and mechanism for selling the chairs will be announced in the Fall as the Co-op makes preparations for it’s 10th Anniversary. For more information about the Mad River Glen Cooperative visit their website at www.madriverglen.com.