GILFORD — Building a toll road to the top of Gunstock Mountain — a la Mount Washington — is one idea that will be under consideration in a planning process for making the ski resort more attractive to visitors.
Other ideas include a privately run hotel and a new restaurant, but the first thing would be to improve the ski area itself with more acres of terrain and new trails, including some steeper runs.
Gunstock President and General Manager Tom Day spoke to the Gunstock Area Commission Wednesday evening about some of these ideas.
In an interview Thursday, Day said he did a lot of hiking this summer and came away thinking there should be ways to enlarge the skiing area at the county-owned resort.
“I think you grow the mountain and then the buildings to absorb the increased skier visits,” he said. “There is so much terrain here, and some of it is steeper than existing terrain.”
A contractor can do a computer analysis to determine what is possible. Gone are the days when someone would go through the woods with a hatchet, tape and a topographical map.
Part of the examination would also look at the existing chair lifts to determine whether there is a way to get skiers where they need to go faster and more efficiently.
Gunstock has 227 acres of skiable terrain and a vertical drop of 1,340 vertical feet, compared to Loon Mountain with a 2,100-foot drop and 370 acres, Cannon Mountain with a 2,180-foot drop and 282 acres and Waterville Valley with a 2,020-foot drop and 265 acres.
While Gunstock could likely increase its skiable terrain, it can’t realistically do anything about its vertical drop. The top of the mountain is 2,267 feet and the base elevation is 867 feet.
The idea of building a toll-road to the top of Gunstock Mountain is intriguing, said Brian Gallagher, a member of the Gunstock Area Commission.
This could attract visitors outside of the winter months who would be treated to a view of mountains, forests and Lake Winnipesaukee.
“Folks could drive up to the top, enjoy the view and have a bite to eat up there,” he said.
He said Gunstock is in a competitive market and it needs to adapt.
“We want to slowly start the process of making it more adventurous and more attractive,” he said.
Improvements in ski terrain could draw more skiers from Boston and elsewhere.
“Then, a hotel, restaurant and parking options would give folks the ski-and-stay ability right there on the resort grounds,” he said. “We wouldn’t be asking taxpayers to float bonds or provide money for this.”
The resort and the county could benefit from the revenue associated with new amenities at the mountain. A private entity could also draw revenue after helping with construction and management of facilities on county-owned land.
“Look at some of the big venues out there now that are funded by private capital,” Gallagher said. “The vision would be to partner with a company or corporation that knows how to do this.”