Why leasing Cannon would be bad for N.H.
As the general manager at Cannon Mountain Ski Area and Franconia Notch State Park, I think it's time for the public to hear our official position on the leasing amendment attached to the state's 2012-13 budget recently approved by the Senate. Our mission since 2007 at Cannon has been very simple: rebuild the company from the inside out; establish and maintain a long-term plan for profitability while providing a value-based recreation experience for in-state and out-of-state visitors; and vigilantly protect the character and integrity of Franconia Notch.We've made vast improvements upon our terrain diversity, our management and marketing, our snowmaking and grooming, our service and infrastructure, and our community relations and business partnerships.The public has responded very well, and the numbers don't lie. Our skier visits, season pass sales, total revenue and net profits have risen steadily, and we've turned a nearly $1.5 million deficit into a nearly $1 million surplus within just four years - a 250 percent improvement.We've also revitalized Mittersill and added 50 percent more terrain to the ski area. We've done all of this with value in mind and have scored the top ranking in the East for value for four years running in the Ski magazine readers' poll.We've been successful thus far, and we aim to continue. We have a lot to do over the next few years before we've maximized upon our potential, and we relish the challenge. Our goal is to attract 25 percent more visitors to the Notch over the next several years while maintaining its pristine character.Many of us on the management team have either come to work in the Notch or returned here for the same reason - we love it here, and we're privileged to work in what we feel is "New Hampshire's most beautiful office."We operate Cannon Mountain and Franconia Notch State Park as a singular operating unit, with shared assets, resources, personnel, costs, maintenance and infrastructure. Cannon/FNSP operates unlike any other park within the state's Division of Parks and Recreation, and it generates nearly 60 percent of the annual revenue of the entire park system.Cannon is the epicenter of New Hampshire's flagship state park, and to separate the ski area from the state park would have negative long-term operational, logistical and financial effects on both the park and the division.With due respect toward the effort and support offered to the state and its residents by the Legislature, we feel the leasing of Cannon Mountain Ski Area is not what's best for the overall long-term health of Cannon/FNSP, the Division of Parks and Recreation or Franconia Notch itself - and that it's not what's best for New Hampshire.John DeVivo is general manager of Cannon Mountain Ski Area and Franconia Notch State Park.