The Storm Skiing Podcast #4 | Download this episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, and Pocket Casts | Read the full overview at skiing.substack.com.
Who: Geoff Hatheway, Founder and President, Ski Magic LLC
Why I interviewed him: Because Magic might be the best story in skiing. Born in the sixties, purchased and expanded by Bromley in the 80s, abandoned for six winters in the 90s, the mountain has improbably risen from the dead to become the go-to glades-and-steeps bomber among the local hardcore. Operate on stats alone, and this one is easy to overlook in a crowded southern Vermont echoing with the twin marketing bullhorns of Alterra (Stratton) and Vail (Okemo and Mt. Snow). It’s a bit shorter and a bit smaller than those neighbors, and it lacks an inauthentic authentic base village. But the mountain is so good, and people who run it are doing so many things right, that it doesn’t matter even a little bit. They offer what may be the best menu of pass options (scroll down after the click) in the country. They limit the number of daily lift tickets sold. They are finally replacing the unreliable Black Chair. They’re amping up snowmaking capacity. While it has been apparent for about 30 years what needed to be done to transform the place, all of these efforts have accelerated since Geoff took over in 2016. I wanted to talk to him about this ongoing renaissance.
What we talked about: How the mountain battles the big boys by evoking the spirit of skiing’s low-speed past; how glade-thinning and other volunteer days contribute to Magic’s sense of community; the logic behind the daily ticket limit and why it will remain in place even after the new Black Chair comes online; the story of how Magic bought the Black Chair from Stratton and how that’s the old Snow Bowl lift because Stratton needed like a 90th high-speed lift or whatever (they actually did); if you like lift lines that’s cool they have them elsewhere but Magic won’t have them here once the new lift opens sorry; but Magic will never – and I mean NEVER – have a high-speed lift and some people won’t like that but hey that’s just not Magic’s demo and we’re cool with that; the Red Chair will continue to run this season; Black Chair is likely to operate mostly on weekends and holidays; why the humble Green Chair was so important in opening the mountain to those who don’t zipper-line bumps; why Magic is more like northern Vermont radsters Mad River Glen or Stowe than its overbuffed neighbors; snowmaking coverage should pass 50 percent this year with the expanded snowmaking pond; the two trails that will receive snowmaking starting this year; long-term the goal is to operate from Thanksgiving to the first week of April; Geoff is tired of hearing you say that you only ski Magic on a powder day; why one of Geoff’s first projects when he took over was repositioning the bar in the Black Line Tavern; how they renovated the upper part of the bar for $90,000 instead of $9 million and why doing things like that is the reason Magic should continue to exist for the foreseeable future; the mountain rental program; Magic loves uphill skiers; why the Green Chair was engineered for downloading; season pass sales and skier visits are both soaring – Geoff gives numbers; how the Vail-Alterra Axis of Skivil is driving Magic’s popularity; why Magic joined the Freedom and Indy Passes; hey did you know that there’s another, abandoned-and-now-privately owned ski area on the backside of Glebe Mountain, which Magic sits on? And that that ski area, Timber Ridge, used to be part of Magic back in the 1980s? And that you can in fact ski from the top of Magic to that ski area and shred those trails and all you have to do is figure out how to get yourself back to Magic’s lifts because it’s not like there’s a shuttle or even a cattrack back? I also