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  • A man walks across a suspended bridge in Cranmore Mountain's new Aerial Adventure Park, scheduled to open for the first time in late May for Memorial Day Weekend. Gunstock Mountain recently finalized plans to build a similar park in Gilford.
  • A woman tries out Cranmore Mountain's new Aerial Adventure Park, scheduled to open for the first time in late May for Memorial Day Weekend. Gunstock Mountain recently finalized plans to build a similar park in Gilford.
  • A man walks through Cranmore Mountain's new Aerial Adventure Park, scheduled to open for the first time in late May for Memorial Day Weekend. Gunstock Mountain recently finalized plans to build a similar park in Gilford.
Sunday, March 13, 2011

When chill is gone

As backward as it might seem, the natural progression to expand business in the ski industry appears to be investing in non-skiing activities.

With so many tourists visiting the Granite State in the summer months, many ski areas have expanded their operations to rake in revenue during all four seasons. Gunstock Mountain Resort in Gilford recently approved plans to fall in that line as soon as this year.

The Gunstock Area Commission approved $2.1 million in new summer attractions for Gunstock at a meeting on March 1, bringing a treetop adventure park, the first Segway off-road adventure tour in New England, scenic rides to the mountain summit, and zip lines to the resort this summer.

The new operations are expected to generate more than $600,000 in annual income for Gunstock, according to general manager Greg Goddard, and more could be on the way, if the mountain’s plan for a hotel ever takes shape, once the summer attractions are finished and operational.

“The goal, essentially, is to take advantage of the more than 3.4 million visitors that come to the Lakes Region in the summer season,” Goddard said.

Goddard said he worked with his staff for 18 months to create a master plan, finished in January, to see if it would be possible to make Gunstock a four-season resort.

“There’s a lot of people around here spring, summer and fall that we’re currently not attracting,” he said. “There’s a real need and potential market for active, outdoor, gravity-based natural activities, and we’re the perfect setting to do it.”

The first piece, the Aerial Treetops adventure park, is scheduled to be up and running by Memorial Day weekend. It’s a skills course, Goddard said, with nets, rope swings, bridges, and logs making up the 90 total obstacles that guests will climb over and around.

Cranmore Mountain in North Conway is also scheduled to open an aerial adventure course on Memorial Day weekend, part of $6 million in improvements the mountain’s new owners, Jiminy Peak Resorts, pledged last summer after buying the ski area.

Next, Gunstock will build its ZipTour Mountain Zip Line Adventure. Goddard said through his research, he thinks Gunstock’s two parallel zip lines will be the longest in North America at 3,900 feet.

“It goes all the way from the summit to the base,” he said.

The mountain’s third addition will be off-road Segway tours around the mountain’s alpine and Nordic trails. Guests can rent and learn how to ride a Segway X2 model around the mountain area. The tour will last about two hours and will be led by an experienced guide.

That attraction came about by chance. Goddard said Gunstock was looking into the possibility of adding the tours and then received a call from Segway Inc., which offered its help through offices in Bedford and Manchester.

“It was almost a simultaneous type of thing,” he said.

Goddard said the mountain will continue to look for other activities to add in the future, including an all-weather mountain coaster similar to the ones installed last summer at Cranmore and Attitash in Bartlett.

The timeline is “aggressive,” Goddard said, as the Segway tours should be ready soon after the adventure course opens and the zip lines should be operational by July 4.

“It’s all going to happen very quickly,” he said. “We’ve made a real commitment to jump right in and get something started for this summer.”

The only possible delay to that schedule would be if the Belknap County delegation denies the resort’s request for a $1.5 million bond to be paid over 10 years that will allow the zip lines to be built and installed by July. Gunstock will go before the delegation later this month.

“We’ll know by the end of March whether we can do the full program this summer,” Goddard said.

A few things will have to change to make the resort ready for summer operations, Goddard said, including turning the main lodge into a registration and welcome center, setting up the stockade lodge for daily food service and hiring enough seasonal employees. But Goddard isn’t as worried about checking off those to-dos.

“We’ve been working very hard for months now to get us prepared for this,” he said. “I’m a lot more worried about getting everything built in time than getting it to operate properly.”

Cameron Kittle can be reached at 594-6523 or ckittle@nashuatelegraph.com. The Telegraph and NH.com have launched a website that’s a one-stop place for the latest NH ski news, events and ticket giveaways. The site features a live Twitter feed from the slopes and a map plotting each resort. Visit www.nh.com/skiing to see updates throughout the week.