The provincial government's decision to reopen Marble Mountain for the Easter weekend and offer free ski passes was a rousing success, according to one of the hill's managers.
Tony Abbott, operational manager and interim chair of Marble Mountain Development Corporation, said skiers and snowboarders came out to the hill in droves over the holiday.
"It was amazing. It was an eye opener for me, I was very surprised to see the numbers. We had 3,500 people show up this weekend on Marble Mountain," he said.
"That's as good as you're going to get on a weekend, especially on Friday — Friday was exceptionally busy. Sunday was a little bit slower because of Easter, but overall picture, it's about on par with what we normally do in mid-season."
Abbott said there were plenty of returning skiers and first-timers hitting the slopes.
"I've been here a long time, so [this weekend] I've seen a lot of faces I haven't seen in eight, 10, 12 years for sure. A lot of new faces, a lot of families," he said.
The boom came after the provincial government reopened the hill following the board's controversial decision to close April 2 — while conditions were still favourable.
The reopening included free lift tickets and equipment rentals.
Despite the large crowds, however, Abbott said the hill still lost $10,000 during the Easter weekend, spending $41,000 and bringing in revenues of $31,000.
Abbott said the financial hit was worth it to create buzz around the resort and to increase spending throughout the region.
"We've had good reports that it was very, very busy. Basically, that $10,000 is good marketing, again, it's an eye opener for me to understand better what people want," he said.
"But, most importantly, it's the money that's going back to the taxpayers through the taxes and the food concessions and everything else that people enjoyed that weekend. It was a very successful weekend and I was quite pleased with it."
More to be done
Abbott said more work needs to be done to help the mountain succeed. For instance, he wants to develop better travel packages for visitors from the east coast of the island.
"I've got a lot of friends in St. John's and they're telling me the same story. It's very expensive to come to Marble Mountain and I can understand where they're coming from," said Abbott.
"It will be my target to get a much cheaper package put together."
Abbott said he also hopes to expand shops, restaurants and entertainment at the base of the mountain to entice visitors, and he hopes for it to become "a mini George Street."
"What's the point of coming to Marble Mountain if you don't have nowhere in the nighttime to wine and dine and things for kids to do?"