LONDONDERRY >> A local ownership group is getting ready for the snow, working on an agreement to purchase the Magic Mountain Ski Area in Londonderry.
Ski Magic LLC president Geoff Hatheway, a former marketing director at Magic Mountain, has led the group in a process that has taken more than a year to see through and now there is a 'purchase-and-sale' agreement in the works.
According to a press release, the company will begin its "due diligence" period before formally closing on the transaction and taking operational control which is expected to take 6-8 weeks. However, the purchase agreement has a provision for 2016-17 season preparatory work to begin immediately during the due diligence phase, including repair work to re-open Magic's second summit lift (the 5,000-foot-long Black Triple Chair) which has not operated for the last two years due to insufficient financial resources to complete the work required by the Vermont Passenger Tramway Board.
"This is an exciting opportunity for long-time fans of Magic, including myself, who want a better, stable and enduring future for such a special ski area and community," Hatheway said in the press release. "And, with the targeted investment, our Ski Magic investors are committing to [more than] our initial 5-year business plan. Magic will deliver a much better skiing product to ski enthusiasts in our little corner of southern Vermont — not by changing what Magic's about, but by making its truly fun throwback ski experience more reliable and accessible to customers over a longer season. That means an operational focus on lifts and more snow-making."
Magic Mountain, at more than 700 acres, was originally founded by Swiss ski instructor Hans Thorner back in 1960 after he selected the site on Londonderry's Glebe Mountain, where the many natural fall lines reminded him of the terrain found in his native Switzerland. Magic has long been known for its steep, challenging terrain not found elsewhere in southern Vermont. As one of the three big mountains in the 1960s and 1970s that formed Vermont's famed "Golden Triangle" along with Stratton and Bromley, Magic was a big part of a golden era of New England skiing.
After being sold in the 1980s and eventually combined with Bromley during the first major wave of corporate acquisition and consolidation for the ski resort business, Magic was eventually shut down for a number of years in the early 1990s during the real estate market downturn. It re-emerged in the 1997-98 season, but the ski area has often been under-funded and under-marketed while under divided and disparate ownership and operator structures.
The announcement of a sale to Ski Magic represents a new opportunity to establish a firm, viable market niche for Magic Mountain Ski Area as an alternative to the increasing corporate homogenization of the ski resort industry experience in the East.
"The people who ski and ride here have a passion for the sport and their fellow travelers. It's the first thing I felt back in 2000 when my family started skiing Magic to escape the high-stress, high-priced, overcrowded, less personal environment often found on weekends at major resorts," Hatheway said. "We discovered Magic with its easy going, laid-back vibe; uncrowded feel on the slopes; and the welcoming attitude of its skiers which made us feel instantly at home. But, most importantly, there was the kick-ass ski terrain. We think focusing on what matters, the ski product and the environment to enjoy it together, rather than all the growing high-end distractions away from the sport, will essentially take people back to skiing's golden era here. And, that is where our future lies."
While work begins immediately, Ski Magic LLC will not take over ownership until the deal officially closes in late September or early October. That is when season passes for the upcoming season are slated to go on sale at reduced "early bird" prices normally available in April, and with more family affordable pass options than ever before at Magic Due to the late timing of the deal relative to the upcoming season, and the fact that no work has been done at the mountain since the end of last season in April, all efforts will be focused on preparing the mountain for a December opening, working to bring the Black Summit Chair back to operation and repairing/expanding snow-making coverage. The group will also be tapping into Magic's legendary community of skiers and riders by hosting a number of "Volunteer Days" this fall to help clean-up glades and fix-up the lodge for the upcoming ski season.
For more information about the sale and the new Magic Mountain, go to their website at www.magicmtn.com.