Magic Mountain aims to upgrade while keeping 'throwback' vibe

LONDONDERRY, Vt. (WCAX) It's a busy time for ski areas as they get ready for the first tracks of the season. And that includes smaller independent mountains that are doing what they can to compete.

Courtesy: Magic Mountain

The snow is not the only thing flying at Magic Mountain this week. The self-described 'throwback mountain' is in the midst of a major upgrade.

In just six hours this week, a helicopter from Canada lifted 19 lift line towers into place at the locally-owned Londonderry ski area. It's part of a $2 million investment which includes additional snow making. The new fixed-grip quad, when fully operational, will give more skiers and riders the Magic Mountain experience.

"It basically doubles out capacity. We've been growing and we want to keep the lines to a minimum and this is the way to do it," said Geoff Hatheway, the ski area's president.

Magic first opened in 1960 but closed for several years during the 1990's after struggling to make ends meet. In 2016 a group of local investors breathed new life into the aging business. They say the upgrades are essential for moving forward.

"We kind of look at is as going back to the future. So, even while we are upgrading, how we upgrade is still maintaining that throwback vibe," Hatheway said.

It's a vibe Karen Turner, the operator of 1st Chair Sports, knows very well. "Everything they do is gong to benefit, not only the people that own the mountain, but the people that work here," she said.

Her new rental and apparel shop at the base of the access road sat empty for years after being flooded during Tropical Storm Irene. Along with newer shaped-skis, Turner is also planning to rent the old-school models as a way to celebrate the past.

Her parents met at Magic decades ago and got engaged in the base lodge tavern. She started skiing there as a toddler. "If you learn how to ski Magic as a kid, you can ski anywhere in the world," Turner said.

And judging by the weather on this day, it appears that ski season will be in full swing soon. "Whatever Mother Nature brings, we are ready to deal with it, but it is getting colder, and the snow is coming," Hatheway said.

Mountain officials say the new chair should be ready for skiers and riders by mid-January, just in time for the busy Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.