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Attendance and revenue down at western Newfoundland's Marble Mountain in 2019

Attendance and revenue was down at Marble Mountain in 2019. STEPHEN ROBERTS / THE WESTERN STAR
Attendance and revenue was down at Marble Mountain in 2019. - Stephen Roberts

Stakeholder Hal Cormier believes changes are needed

STEADY BROOK, N.L. —

Despite efforts to mitigate costs, Marble Mountain faced another year of financial losses in 2018-19.

The Marble Mountain Development Corporation released its annual report for 2018-19 in the fall and it shows further declines in attendance and overall revenue.

The number of skier visits per ski day was down 17.44 per cent from the previous season in 2018-19.

The total number of ski visits continued a three-year downward trajectory, with an 18.5 per cent drop from the year before.

The report indicated, despite efficiencies and cost-saving measures, general revenue fell due to lower skier visits.

Sales revenue was just over $2 million, down 18 per cent.

The business ran an overall deficit of $1,084,659, an increase of over $200,000 from the 2018 deficit.

Marble Mountain’s total net debt, at the end of the year, was just over $1.5 million.


Visits by Season

Skiers ascend Marble Mountain in Steady Brook. - SaltWire file photo
Skiers ascend Marble Mountain in Steady Brook. - SaltWire file photo

2015-16

  • Skier Visits – 63,870
  • Ski Days – 74
  • Average Visits Per Ski Day – 863

2016-17

  • Skier Visits – 63,176
  • Ski Days – 92
  • Average Visits Per Ski Day – 687

2017-18

  • Skier Visits – 59,402
  • Ski Days – 73
  • Average Visits Per Ski Day – 814

2018-19

  • Skier Visits – 48,383
  • Ski Days – 72
  • Average Visits Per Ski Day – 672

Source: Marble Mountain Development Corporation Annual Report 2018-19


The report attributes the season’s primary challenge to disruptions caused by windy weather.

For Hal Cormier, the president of the Marble Mountain Ski and Ride Club, the numbers are concerning.

He believes some profound changes need to come.

Cormier identified aging demographics, population decline, increasing cost of living leaving less disposable income, a poor economy, more outdoor recreation competition, and the management of an interim board of directors over the last two years as a few of the reasons why Marble Mountain is seeing a decline in numbers.

The interim board appointed by the provincial government nearly three years ago, in April 2017, is still in place and Cormier wants to see local representation back at the table.

The Marble Mountain Development Agreement, signed in 1988, specifies a development board would be created to oversee the operation. The document also specifies the Marble Mountain Ride and Ski Club, the Town of Steady Brook, and the City of Corner Brook would be guaranteed one representative on the board.

But this hasn’t been the case while the interim board remains in place.

“It’s a bunch of bureaucrats out of St. John’s,” Cormier told The Western Star. “I believe that’s one of the direct reasons why we’re seeing the numbers decline drastically over the last two years. They’re non-skiers, they got no vested interest in the mountain to see it succeed, other than collect the provincial paycheque.”

Eric Humber, a spokesperson for the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation, released a statement to The Western Star indicating no board changes were anticipated, pending the outcome of the request for proposals to develop the ski resort's base area. Humber said the interim board remains optimistic about the outcome of the 2018 request for proposals issued in the summer of 2018, which seeks private sector development interest.

According to the development corporation’s report, three responses are currently under assessment.

Neither Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation Minister Bernard Davis nor board chair Carmela Murphy were made available for an interview.

Changes

One thing Cormier would like to see is more attention paid to electricity rate mitigation.

He believes the best way to go about this is for Marble Mountain to have its own hydro plant.

“So, basically, you can create your own energy to run your own product, thus reducing your overall cost to operate,” he said. “If electro rates go where they say they’re going to go, it’s going to get extremely expensive for Marble to operate.”

However, Cormier feels the province hasn’t shown any interest in making that investment for Marble Mountain.

He also believes the resort needs to be made more affordable for the local market.

One big obstacle to overcome, in this respect, is the cost of travel within the province.

According to Cormier, it costs more to fly from St. John’s to Deer Lake than from St. John’s to Quebec.

He believes if the mountain is going to draw more customers from within the province, these kinds of rates need to be more affordable.

Correction: This story was edited Jan. 8 to correctly identify the tourism minister.


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