The ski resort at Marble Mountain operated last weekend, even though it had closed for the season. It was a command performance: the government removed much of the board of directors, installed new directors, and ordered an Easter weekend of free lift tickets and equipment rentals.
The weekend brought in $31,000 in revenues, but spent $41,000 to make that money.
A private business might call that a loss. The government called it a marketing win. In some ways, both are right, though Liberal cabinet minister and Corner Brook district MHA Gerry Byrne was probably the most vocal supporter, repeatedly parting the clouds to find a silver lining.
Here’s a sample of Byrne’s on-scene tweets, which wound up with: “Customer appreciation/attraction weekend @SkiMarble a huge success! 3500 skier visits, 1100 equipment shares to new skiers $000’s in revenue.”
He started with, “it’s going to be a great weekend.”
Then, “Day1 of Easter customer appreciation/building weekend an incredible success!”
Then, the following tweets, presented verbatim.
“Food and beverage concessions serving it up as fast as customers can line up @SkiMarble Fantastic time on!”
“Snow & skiconditions the best ever @SkiMarble as hundreds come out. The spirit is above and beyond!”
“(L)iterally hundreds come out for Apres-Ski kicking into high gear @SkiMaeble!”
“Incredible snow day!”
“BREAKING NEWS: Best conditions on the Hill are today @SkiMarble Snow is groomed and solid. Happy Easter everyone!”
“And so it comes to a fantastic end @SkiMarble of the 2016/17 season! After three wonderful days, weather role in.”
Byrne toned down his positivity after there was some criticism of his “$000’s in revenue tweet, recasting the outcome somewhat: “Future focused weekend @SkiMarble nets 3,500 skier visits, 1,170 equipment shares to new skiers, generated $31,000. Net cost $3,700/day.”
The hard numbers, of course, are what private businesses look at: can you operate, even for a limited time, with losses in the 25 per cent range? Does a business like Marble have a future if it needs a $306,000 annual subsidy? Could it even come close to operating as a private business?
That, of course, is the difference between spending your own money, and spending somebody else’s.
Oh, and lastly, we know Byrne will take this mild criticism well — or, at least as well as can be expected. As this tweet from him last week shows, he sees us as a necessary evil: “I hate newspapers. If no other reason it’s why you should value them. A level of detail & content not offered elsewhere. I hate newspapers.”