Upgrades at Marquette Mountain
Ski hill sees big changes since end of last season
By AMY GRIGAS
Journal Staff Writer
MARQUETTE — If you have ever driven south out of Marquette down winding Marquette County Road 553, chances are you have driven by Marquette Mountain. The mountain has been around since the late 1950s and is often referred to as “the hill” by locals. It was only a few years ago that the 60th season was celebrated.
“A lot has changed during that time, but fundamentally this ski hill has made it through a lot, and I think we are all here to make sure it continues moving forward. There are going to be ups and downs,” Andrew Farron, general manager of the mountain, said. “There are going to be different periods but it has made it a long, long way and we have lots to be proud of to date. I think we can use that as a foundation moving forward to continue to have this place for future generations.”
Farron was hired as the GM in February and he brings with him a background in engineering, project management and a love for the mountain.
“I’m most proud of the community’s support to date. I wrote a letter to the community on my first day here that simply said, ‘I’m one of you and I hope you can trust me to do everything I can to make this place better.’ From that point on, the whole tone has changed. I can’t explain how meaningful that trust and confidence really is,” Farron said.
Since starting as the general manager, there have been many obstacles to overcome. Unfortunately, last year was not the best year for the mountain, but Farron hopes to change that.
“I think we are all here for the same reason, I really do. We all share a huge passion for this hill and my whole intention of this presentation and event is to let you guys know that you guys will be heard. Under my management of the hill, I think it’s very important that you guys understand and feel that I’m listening to you, and I do listen to a lot of feedback that you guys have provided,” Farron said during the public forum.
Farron used the first hour to present the logic behind some of the changes that are being made and to show many of the improvements as well. Chairlift reliability, parking, highway traffic, seating, snowmaking, and reducing operating costs have been the main priorities. During the question and answer session people were able to be supportive and reasonable as well as voice their concerns and be listened to.
“It may have seemed a bit negative from an outsider’s perspective but again, I think this is part of the whole process,” Farron said by email. “I’d like to try to host a forum at this time every year. I think it’s incredibly important for us to hear from those who have decades of experience at this hill. It also ensures everyone that I am directly receiving their feedback and most importantly — taking it into consideration. There will be changes made due to the input I received last night. I don’t know exactly what those changes will be yet, but I can assure you that we had a ton of good ideas presented that make complete sense for us to implement.”
This summer has been a busy one with the new snowmaking pumps and piping repairs being a huge project in order to get ready for the 2019-2020 winter season. This summer, two of the mechanics went to chairlift school at Gogebic Community College in order to better prepare the lifts for the winter season and to be able to efficiently fix the lifts should they encounter any problems this winter.
“I haven’t been here for a snowmaking season so to design, purchase, install and test a whole new system in a matter of months was a huge feat. It may not be perfect, but it’s sure going to be a huge improvement from what we’re used to seeing here at MM,” Farron said.
Farron has a lot to take into consideration. He wants to please as many patrons as possible but also needs to run a sustainable business that will be around for people to enjoy. They are going to be trying some new hours that are very similar to other ski hills in the Upper Peninsula.
“Long-term, I’m really looking forward to year three or year five where hopefully the projects start to slow down, our reputation is repaired and we can start to think outside the box,” he said. “Whether it’s a new marketing strategy or a new summer offering, I’m very excited for the time where we are operating smoothly enough to get creative.”
Weddings, mountain biking, volleyball and fall color tours are just a few of the things being done at Marquette Mountain to try to make it a year-round venue.
“We’re also still over two months away from ski season,” Farron said. “I purposely wanted to hear this feedback now so we had time to make any changes we felt were necessary. I’m obviously looking forward to this coming season. Better snowmaking, better chairlift reliability, better attitudes.”
Amy Grigas can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.