Skiing, snowboarding still the driving force behind Marble: chair

Jamie Bennett
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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.

Organizations: Marble Mountain Development, Marble Mountain Accountability Coalition on Facebook, Humber Valley Resort Go Western Newfoundland Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners Newfoundland and Labrador Department of

Geographic location: Whistler, Western Star, Marble Mountain

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Recent comments

  • A. Aguathuna
    April 19, 2014 - 21:57

    The driving force behind this ski bunny paradise is, as always, government money and lots of it

  • Tracey
    April 19, 2014 - 17:30

    My question is directed to the chair of the board and his reference to the "heyday of Humber Valley Resort" ... perhaps an argument can be made for a peak in skier visits during those few years, however the reality is those visitors bought lift tickets and other services while they were here. It is common knowledge that because of the inadequate system or no system in place for checking passes, hundreds of people have availed of Marble Mountain for years without purchasing lift tickets. The other question that should be addressed if the decline in local membership. I personally know dozens of people who turned away form Marble Mountain due to the everyday running of the facility and the continued rising cost without justification for those rising costs. If I lost a chunk of my regular customers, I would certainly question why and how I could get them to return. To my knowledge there has never been such an effort on behalf of Marble Mountain.

    • taxpayer
      April 22, 2014 - 07:26

      Tracey I believe the prices have risen due to inflation. Gas and electricity prices keep rising, its how everything works.

  • rod
    April 17, 2014 - 14:49

    I wonder if Mr colbourne has any concern for the workers when he mentions cutting hours or lifts during the week at the expense of a few extra weekends of skiing in April.

    • a busines man
      April 18, 2014 - 08:54

      rod, I do not have any concern for my workers when I cut their shifts. They are my employees, they are not my children. As per the law, workers are entitled to wages, safe working conditions, and paid breaks. they are not entitled to concern, so they get none for me. They same should apply to every business.

    • rod
      April 19, 2014 - 15:42

      Really? Any reason why you aren't man enough to use your real name?

    • Chris R
      April 19, 2014 - 16:15

      Too bad we didn't know what business this guy runs......if so we could all avoid it.

  • Dan Murphy
    April 14, 2014 - 09:31

    When operating any facility one has too look at the operational costs for an "average " season. Long seasons are rare and when it does happen an extension is supported by the "average" pool of funds and in the case of Marble that is usually determined by annual life pass fees. An extension would be be viable if it attracted outside clients, but at this time of the year the majority of people have spring and summer activities on their mind. Regarding government support of Marble one has to look at the "regional" economic impact of the facility. If you analyze the books from that perspective you would find that the annual investment into the facility is returned to the government coffers indirectly. This is actually a good model when it doesn't compete and where there isn't the population for outside client base to support a large private recreation venture.

    • david
      April 16, 2014 - 09:44

      Ah, the cluelessly socialist philosophy on "guvment money". Tell you what....when any government here figures out how to first provide all the basic services it is legally charged with, including providing an adequate hospital (hmmmm.....) and driveable roads and safe drinking water and a few other, boring stuff, maybe then they could turn their attention to esoteric things like operating a ski hill at a huge loss for completely alleged and uncalculated benefits for less than 1% ( ie. less than 5,000 people) of the taxpaying population. But don't hold your breath.

    • a busines man
      April 18, 2014 - 08:56

      David, thank you for the brilliant post!

    • david
      April 19, 2014 - 10:53

      BM: Your support actually diminishes whatever merits my post has. Go away.

  • david
    April 13, 2014 - 10:43

    Marble Mountain is not a viable business. It is a government-provided service, and therefore suffers form the same attitudes and lack of accountability that all government services do. Especially in Newfoundland, where a governemtn job is simultaneously expected, unappreciated and even resented. The money is "free", the customers are "lucky" to get anything at all, management is made up of a largely unqualified group of political toadies. Not a formula for achievement or results.....but it is the standard formula for everything in Newfoundland.

    April 12, 2014 - 13:15

    the money taxpayers have sunk into that place they should be able to shower it with hundred dollar bill instead of snow

  • Alex Lockyer
    April 12, 2014 - 09:28

    This seems like a very cool grassroots movement happening amongst the user base, and can only result in positive change. It's great to hear that the BOD is willing to listen to the user base.