(This story is by Cherise Madigan of the Bennington Banner, in which it first appeared Aug. 21, 2017.)
LONDONDERRY — Vermont’s Natural Resources Board has approved a permit authorizing multiple projects in Magic Mountain’s capital improvement plan, expected to total approximately $2 million over five years.
The ski area was purchased by a group of 16 investors in 2016, consisting primarily of friends who spent their youth skiing southern Vermont. Through these improvements, the new owners hope to revitalize Magic Mountain while enriching the economy of the surrounding region.
“We’re putting the money in this because we think that Magic has lagged behind over the last few decades, and needs some real basic things done to realize its full potential,” said Geoff Hatheway, president of Ski Magic LLC. “In doing so, we hope to make this mountain, and therefore Londonderry, much more viable for a larger set of individuals to come and experience a type of ski area that’s different from other resorts.”
While the team behind the mountain’s new image hopes to emphasize its unique character, Hatheway says this effort will benefit other establishments in southern Vermont as well.
“We want to improve the quality, without changing the character that makes Magic unique in the marketplace,” said Hatheway. “We’re trying to create a much more viable niche for Magic to really add to what the region offers, which is a great variety of mountains including Stratton and Bromley among so many others.”
To begin the renovations, Ski Magic LLC is required to gain permits through Vermont’s Act 250, enacted in 1970 to balance the environmental and social impacts of major developments. The Natural Resources Board granted many of those permits last week, though improvements to the mountain’s snow-making pond are still being considered.
Matt Cote, operations director for Magic Mountain, said that although not all the approved projects will be completed this year, “our customers will see an immediate impact on a more accessible and better-quality snow experience.”
The approved projects include the refurbishment and placement of a base-to-mid-mountain chair lift for novice and intermediate skiers. A conveyor surface lift for the mountain’s new beginner area, known as the Nelson Family Learning Area, also has been approved.
“We’re putting money strategically into making the mountain more accessible to families, beginners and intermediates,” said Hatheway. “We’ve always had an expert-oriented profile in terms of terrain, but we hope to augment that by improving the lifts and snow-making.”
The construction of new buildings was also approved in the permit, including a new 30-by-80-foot exterior deck for the base lodge, a 12-by-20-foot prefabricated ski patrol building, and a 24-foot guest services yurt mid-mountain.
Magic Mountain will also upgrade the lighting for the snow tubing area and main entrance sign, replace approximately 1,500 linear feet of underground snow-making pipeline in the base area, and install an 18-hole disc golf course.
“This Act 250 permit represents a good portion of our capital commitment over the next couple of years,” said Hatheway. “Other commitments, like a fleet of modern low-e snow-making guns, variable frequency drives and pumps to upgrade our snow-making system are also critical capital expenditures we’ve made to improve the quality, energy-efficiency and output from Magic’s snow-making system.”
A separate permit process is underway to improve the mountain’s snow-making pond, a project that is expected to begin next year. Magic says it will work closely with the state to finalize the design of the project, which should protect the quality of the water coming into the tributary system while improving Magic’s access to water withdrawal.
“We’re very excited,” said Hatheway. “These types of improvements to the area will benefit not only the mountain and our investor group, but they will make Magic a much more viable economic resource for the whole area.”