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It’s All Downhill

Geoff Hatheway bought a ski area. Now what?

The new owner of Magic Mountain hopes to have a second chairlift to the summit to ease the burden on its existsing “red chair” lift.
The new owner of Magic Mountain hopes to have a second chairlift to the summit to ease the burden on its existsing “red chair” lift.Courtesy Magic Mountain
Geoff Hatheway skiing a trail at the ski area he now owns.
Geoff Hatheway skiing a trail at the ski area he now owns.Courtesy Geoff Hatheway

Note: This story originally appeared as part of the Globe’s “It’s All Downhill” skiing and snowboarding newsletter. Sign up to receive it by email here.

Geoff Hatheway has been skiing since he was 3 years old, when his parents first clicked him in and took him and his siblings on frequent trips to southern Vermont, mostly Stratton, Bromley, and Magic Mountain.

He recalls a period in the 90s when Magic was closed, but when it reopened, it became a natural destination for him to bring his own family as they sought an alternative to larger, more crowded places. Day trips led to more and more involvement in racing and other skiing programs as well as the Magic community. Hatheway even spent some time as the area’s marketing director.


On Nov. 21, however, his role grew exponentially when he announced on YouTube that the sale of the ski area to an investment group he is leading was complete following a lengthy and complicated process. The next day, he discussed it with me in a phone interview. Here are some of his answers from our conversation:

It took a long time to get this done. Was it worth it?

“It’s definitely worth it. Oh yeah. I mean, you just see the response of people that I’ve gotten over the last 24 hours, and you know what a special place this is to those people, and they have an innate trust in what were going to do with the place. This place quite frankly wouldn’t have been here this year if we didn’t get the deal done, so we don’t want to lose a great natural resource that we have here in Magic.”

It sounds like Magic has a unique charm.

“I think every area has its unique charms, and its own drawbacks, and we’ve got our drawbacks, but I think our charm outdoes our drawbacks. And we’re trying to reduce the drawbacks, quite frankly. That’s what our investor group is trying to mitigate — some of the issues that Magic has faced in the past, and those revolve around all our lifts running, and functional, and approved, and all that kind of stuff, and the other part is having enough snowmaking. People don’t even think we make snow, but we do, and we’ve made it over the years but we need to do a better job of making that snow consistently on more trails so there’s a good feeling that no matter what the weather brings, that Magic’s going to have a good variety of terrain.”


What’s on the to-do list then?

“A huge priority for us is getting this second summit lift going, which hasn’t run in two years. It’s a great old lift, but it’s been neglected. We put a lot of money into the thing and we’re getting close on it.”

What do you envision your first run at your own mountain will be like for you personally?

“It’s going to be very sweet. It’s one thing to have been here all this time and contributed on a volunteer basis, it’s another thing to be absolutely 100 percent responsible for the product that you’ve got out there. The first run is going to be mentally satisfying, physically hopefully challenging, and three, I think there will be a lot of analysis going on, because I’m skiing the product and I’m going to be getting that word out about it, so I’m going to be making sure everything is good.”


What can guests expect at Magic in both the short- and long-term?

“In the short term they’re going to get what Magic has always had, which is a really challenging and interesting ski experience on the trails, and in the glades, and just a really warm, friendly, fun community in the lodge and on the slopes. ... What we do want people to notice is that there’s going to be an improvement in the product. ... [In the long term] we’ve got really good plans for bringing back a mid-mountain lift which will make more beginner and intermediate terrain accessible to more people, but also a beginner conveyor belt, a magic carpet in a whole new area, so we’ve got some really good plans to enhance the family aspect of this mountain.”

Opening day is scheduled for Dec. 17.

MORE OPENING DATES: Last week’s snow and cold temperatures have paved the way for many New England ski areas to open. Wachusett, Loon, Bretton Woods, Sunday River, Cannon, Bromley, Jiminy Peak, and Sugarloaf were among the ones to open this week. Many New Hampshire areas have set projected opening dates. Here’s a list on the SkiNH website.

THUMBS UP: I thought Wachusett came up with a great way to give someone a spot on the first chair of the season, asking its followers to make their pitch on social media using the hashtag #wawafirstchair. The deadline was Nov. 23.


Andrew Santoro/Wachusett

David Coviello of Hubbardston, Julia Hutchinson of Milton, and Tim McCrohan of Worcester won Wachusett’s contest and were first on the lift on opening day Friday. (Photo by Andrew Santoro/Wachusett)

Meanwhile, Ski Butternut also ran a fun promotion last week , giving away free tickets to the first two people to come build a snowman on its Cruiser deck.

Follow Matt Pepin on Twitter at @mattpep15.