© Star file photo
Marble Mountain base lodge is seen in an undated photo.
The chair of the Marble Mountain Development Corporation says criticism from the ski hill’s users will be taken seriously by his group.
Bob Pike said Friday he has viewed comments on the recently formed Marble Mountain Accountability Coalition on Facebook.
Among the issues being debated on the page include the decision to close the hill last weekend despite the amount of snow still on the slopes, as well as concerns about the feasibility of running Marble as a four-season resort.
An avid skier himself, Pike said the board reviews all comments and suggestions from users and, while he understands much of the frustration, he said it didn’t make sense financially to keep the hill open any later this year.
“I love the hill, I love to ski and I’d love for it to be open forever,” Pike said. “But you have to make some business decisions sometimes and decide when it makes sense to be open and when it doesn’t.”
He said it’s also unfair to compare Marble’s situation to that of larger resorts in the country where spring skiing remains an option.
“There’s no way you can make the similar comparisons to those situations because it’s all about volume, really,” he said.
He admits usership is down in recent years from the heyday of the Humber Valley Resort. But he said that decline has been stemmed and usership is now on the upswing.
The board has also partnered with Go Western Newfoundland to secure the services of Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners Ltd., a mountain resort planning firm based in Whistler, B.C. Pike said the group will visit the region looking at ways to grow Marble into a true four-season resort.
In a story published Friday in The Western Star, long-time skier Joe Dicks said this four-season mandate is coming at the expense of skiers and snowboarders. While it’s a notion Pike said he’s heard from some users, he said the focus remains on maximizing Marble’s potential primarily as a ski hill.
“One is not drawing from the other,” he said. “Anything in the summer is helping the bottom line in a positive way and not at the expense of the main ski focus at Marble Mountain.”
Ian Colbourne, one of the founders of the coalition, said his goal isn’t to criticize or attack the board, but rather to ask tough questions about how to boost usership and make operations more efficient.
Among the suggestions is the notion of extending or shortening hours according to available daylight, as well as shutting some lifts during the week when volume is typically at its lowest.
“The numbers have been dwindling year after year,” Colbourne said. “Part of this group is to find why this is happening and trying to get Marble to address this. We want to improve overall customer satisfaction. There’s a possibility for big changes to be made, it’s just a matter of following through.”
Colbourne said since the group was launched earlier this week, most comments have been positive and have come from a wide range of concerned users.
For now, he said the group plans to continue gathering suggestions from the public before eventually submitting something formal to Marble’s board of directors and potentially the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.