News Roundup: Early August

News Roundup: Gunstock & More

News Roundup: Contract Awards

Gunstock Shuts Down Following Management Resignations

New Hampshire ski area Gunstock ceased most operations today following a contentious public meeting last night. The county-owned resort’s management resigned en masse, citing treatment by a group of citizens appointed to oversee the ski area. Tom Day, Gunstock’s President and General Manager, tendered his resignation along with other managers including the Chief Financial Officer, Director of Human Resources, Director of Marketing, Director of Resort Services, Director of Snow Sports and Director of Facilities. One of five Gunstock Area Commissioners also resigned. The Laconia Daily Sun reported employees’ exits from the property were overseen by the Belknap County Sheriff’s Department this morning.

The five Gunstock Area Commissioners are appointed by Belknap County’s State Representatives. The Commission has become increasingly involved in day-to-day operations of the ski area in recent years. “Obviously there’s been a lot of change and a lot of you think you can do the job to be able to run the resort,” said Day at the beginning of the meeting. “I know there’s been some discussion about what my role is as far as who runs the ski area and who doesn’t. I feel that my role here is diminished and you probably don’t need me,” he said, offering to stay for two weeks to facilitate a transition.

The ski area, which features five chairlifts and a 1,600 foot vertical drop, has not required taxpayer funds for operations the last 12 years and remits 1.75 percent of its revenue to the county. Just last year Gunstock reported record revenue and season pass sales and announced a major expansion project including new terrain and lifts.

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, himself a former ski resort general manager, criticized the commission and offered support to employees. “Gunstock is truly one of the jewels of the lakes region, but what has been happening over the last year surrounding the Gunstock Area Commission’s inability and unwillingness to work collaboratively with the management team at Gunstock is deeply concerning,” the Governor wrote. He went on to offer employees jobs at state-owned Cannon Mountain or the Parks Department should a resolution not be reached at Gunstock.

The mountain’s summer activities, which include lift rides on the Panorama Express, a mountain coaster and zip line, are closed until further notice. “We truly apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our guests,” said a notice posted on Gunstock’s social channels and signed by Gunstock Mountain Resort Employees.

Update: Thursday afternoon the Gunstock Area Commission issued a statement condemning staff members for resigning and pledging to reopen as soon as possible. “At the Gunstock Area Commission’s monthly meeting last night, the GAC planned discussions with management about ongoing expansion plans. Instead of discussing those plans, the GAC was met with an unsolicited and spontaneous resignation by senior managers and a commissioner,” the statement read. “In light of last night’s unprecedented actions, the GAC is developing plans to ensure Gunstock’s continued operations as seamlessly as possible. Gunstock has an important legacy in the ski industry’s history and the GAC intends to maintain that legacy,” the Commission wrote.

News Roundup: Any Day Now

News Roundup: Flying High

Gunstock Presents Ambitious Expansion Plan

New Hampshire’s Gunstock Mountain Resort started December with a bang, unveiling a major expansion proposal last night. Gunstock worked with SE Group on the master plan for up to five new chairlifts servicing more than 30 new trails. The resort also wants to build its first hotel, upgrade lodges and develop more parking to serve an increasing volume of guests. Claire Humber, Director of Resort Planning for SE Group, told the Gunstock Area Commission and gathered crowd the plan would boost the 85 year old ski area’s comfortable carrying capacity by 70 percent to 6,360 skiers.

County-owned Gunstock saw its highest-ever skier visits, season pass sales and revenue last season with signs pointing to further growth in 21-22. Despite the success, Gunstock leadership noted the mountain faces significant competition from the likes of Waterville Valley, Loon Mountain, Bretton Woods and Mt. Sunapee, all of which are privately operated with significant capital improvement plans. “In order for Gunstock to remain competitive, continuous capital investment in ski improvements is essential for attracting and maintaining a loyal customer base,” said Tom Day, Gunstock’s President and General Manager. “We want to protect and grow our market share in a very competitive New England marketplace while at the same time preserving the natural beauty of the area.”

The likely first phase would see the installation of a detachable quad running from the bottom of the current Ramrod quad to the top of the Tiger triple. Consolidating these lifts would create a more attractive alternative to the Panorama Express, which sees a disproportionate level of ridership due to its status as Gunstock’s only detachable.

Next could be an Eastside expansion with a second summit detachable. This lift would service 70 acres of new intermediate terrain on the Pistol side of the mountain. Lift, trail and snowmaking development for this pod would cost an estimated $15.3 million if built today.

Another expansion opportunity is Alpine Ridge, once home to a small ski area separate from Gunstock. This advanced-intermediate pod would include a fixed grip triple chair and require the extension of the Penny Pitou quad for access. Because the trails would be shorter than the Eastside and serviced by fixed grip lifts, this expansion would only cost about $7.4 million to construct.

The third expansion area lies beyond Gunstock’s existing property line on the backside of the mountain. Dubbed Weeks, eight new trails would be serviced by a fourth detachable quad. The lift would combine with the new Ramrod-Tiger chair to create a third summit access route. This big ticket project would cost an estimated $17.3 million.

While the room was filled with optimism, officials noted none of these major projects are going to happen tomorrow. For one thing, Tom Day noted Vail’s huge 2022 lift plan and said there are “no lifts available” for next year. “If we are thinking about doing this, we need to think about making plans to move in a year or so when we can put our order in,” he added.

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News Roundup: Life Behind Lifts

News Roundup: Settling Up