An arsenal of snowmaking guns sit poised and ready as they await colder temperatures at Gunstock Mountain Resort on Wednesday morning. (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
Gunstock plans Dec. 1 opening for 80th anniversary
By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILFORD — There appeared to be as much mud as snow on Gunstock Mountain as a steady rain fell Wednesday morning, but hope springs eternal in the heart of a ski area marketing director.
Mike Roth is looking forward to a Dec. 1 opening for the resort's 80th anniversary ski season.
“That's what we're still aiming for,” he said, standing on the wooden platform of the Panorama high-speed quad lift, which takes skiers from the 800-foot base to the 2,267 summit.
He expressed optimism as he looked at the rain falling on snow.
“It's not melting,” he said. “This kind of rain will filter right through. It will run right off.”
The first ski runs to open will be those lower on the mountain.
“I spoke to our mountain operations manager and his goal is four lifts and 10 runs in operation on Dec. 1,” Roth said.
The ski area has 55 trails, 12 percent rated novice, 61 percent intermediate and 27 percent expert. In addition to Panorama, it has two quad lifts, two triples, two conveyors and one handle tow. The total lift capacity is 12,400 passengers per hour.
Roth said a good day would be 5,000 people and a good season would see as many as 250,000 visitors. He rated last season average with about 180,000 guests.
The year before that was one of the worst, general manager Greg Goddard has said. Warm weather limited skiing to just 93 days of skiing and 117,648 skier visits.
Net operating loss for the year was $954,145, compared with a net operating profit of $495,904 for the previous year at the Belknap County-owned resort.
Snowmaking machines are used as much as possible, but they are dependent on temperatures low enough so that water sprayed into the air at high pressure turns into snow.
Roth said the machines have been upgraded to energy-efficient units, which saves money.
“During that cold stint we were able to run 160 or 170 guns and we were saving maybe $200 an hour on energy consumption now that they've all been upgraded,” he said.
Power bills are second only to personnel expenses for a ski area.
In addition to completion of the upgrade on the snow-making machines, Gunstock has also upped its game on ski passes.
A radio-frequency identification system is now used on ski passes. A sensor at the lift detects the pass in skier's coat pocket and opens a gate allowing the skier to proceed to the chair.
A lift attendant will be nearby with a hand-held device to detect the pass if needed. A camera will be employed to make sure only one person is using that pass.
This is meant to be more convenient for skiers than the old system in which the attendant would have to use the hand-held device each time.
“It was a little bit of a personal invasion of space,” Roth said. “The attendant would have to get in close with the gun, the skier would be fumbling around to find the pass. This let's you have a little more personal space.”
People will be encouraged to keep their passes, because they can be loaded remotely for those who want to buy additional days of skiing.
The visitor center has been upgraded as well with computer pads replacing the paper system for renting skis and signing liability waivers.
With all the changes, the one constant with this ski area is the emphasis on family.
There's an area for riding inner tubes, or the “mountain coaster” ride for those who may not ski but want to be near family members who are on the slopes. There's night skiing and evening activities.
The senior discount, once for those 65 and above, has been lowered to start at age 60. The years for the youth discount have been extended as well.
The lodge was completed in 1937 by the Works Progress Administration, and generations of local families have been coming to the area during the winter and summer, when a camping area and zip lines are a major draw.
“I met a gentleman from Honduras,” Roth said. “He was watching his kids playing soccer and Frisbee.
“He said, 'My wife and I came here 35 years ago and got married. We had four daughters. There they are with their families.'”
As they celebrate their 80th anniversary year Gunstock Mountain Resort will be implementing a new RFID card system to improve visitors experience for the upcoming 2017/2018 ski season. (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
- Written by Ginger Kozlowski
- Category: Local News
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