Jul 1, 2012 | Marmot, Summer 2012

Winter Wrap Up

Mount Washington Alpine Resort enjoyed its fourth deepest snowfall in history in 2011-12, but that wasn't the whole story for the Resort’s winter.

The snow season began with some changes to the beginners’ area, leveled out and renamed Easy Acres. Out went the Green Chairlift and in went four covered Magic Carpet people movers

The Magic Carpets were a hit with families, Resort Director of Public Relations Brent Curtain said. ‘The feedback from beginners and families was very strong,’ he added, for both the rejuvenated beginners’ terrain and the carpets.

Curtain, whose son is three years old, discovered from experience how beneficial the Magic Carpets are for families with young children. ‘It was so much easier getting him onto a Magic Carpet vs. going up the old Green Chair.’

Resort President Peter Gibson called the carpets a success, saying he, too, has heard positive feedback from families. Gibson rode the carpets frequently last winter to gauge public opinion.

While the carpets did not cut down on manpower – lift operators were necessary at the top and bottom of each Magic Carpet – they did minimize the number of stops and starts that beginners used to experience in loading and unloading from the Green Chair.

The carpets allowed instructors to move skiers around more smoothly, and make better use of the training area, Gibson added. While there was a learning curve at the beginning of the season, by closing day ‘they were pros.’

Having the covers over the carpets gave skiers and snowboarders a brief break from the weather on inclement days too.

Gibson was particularly impressed with the covered carpets in March, when the Resort had a lot of snow in a short period of time. ‘The engineering held up and we know they can withstand any type of snow,’ he said.

Lifties had to dig things out at some points, and the Snow-Cats were needed to push the snow off the sides of the carpets to allow the snow to slide off the top.

Others in the ski industry have also taken notice. The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) Journal April/May issue featured a Magic Carpet on its cover, the same model that Mount Washington installed last fall. The cover article talked about ways resorts are bringing in new learners, and stated that demand for these types of conveyors continues to grow.

Although Mount Seymour on the Lower Mainland installed one covered carpet, industry personnel have looked to Mount Washington’s experience for advice. Whistler will cover its Magic Carpets for next winter, based on a visit to Mount Washington ‘and looking at what we did here,’ Gibson said.

The carpets will undergo some minor adjustments in the off-season; one will be shortened and one will be lengthened. Overall, though, Resort staff was happy with the general placement of its carpets, he said.

On a lighter note, the Resort had a huge response on its Facebook page to a post that made one of the carpets look like a huge igloo, because it was buried. ‘The only thing you could see (of the carpets) from the Hawk Chairlift was part of the opening,’ Curtain said. ‘The whole thing was buried.’

The snow began falling early, meaning the Resort was able to open in November, a couple of weeks ahead of schedule. However, the heavy snowfall didn’t arrive until the third week of January, which affected Christmas numbers, Gibson said.

The Resort did see some strong numbers from its Discovery Skiing and Snowboarding lessons, despite an industry-wide stagnation. ‘We were able to buck that trend,’ Curtain said.

Enough snow was still on the ground that the Resort was able to open for Father’s Day weekend in June for the third year in a row.

Retail sales were down over last season, but Gibson said the Resort has a number of plans underway to address that trend next winter.

‘Like the rest of the mountain resort industry, there was a decline in visits, but not as bad as in the United States,’ he said. ‘They had a poor winter.’

Only two regions in North America saw increases in visits this year, those being British Columbia (up 1.2%) and Alberta (up 2%). Atlantic Canada saw a 14% decrease in visits, followed by Quebec (down 11%), Ontario (down 10%) and the prairies (down 3.2%).

Job action by B.C. teachers meant the cancellation of school skiing programs last winter, and that was a province-wide concern, Gibson said.

‘It’s interesting times. There are challenges out there and we’re doing all sorts of proactive things to deal with those challenges,’ he said. ‘We’re looking forward to a great year next year.’

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